A leading lady of Mexican cinema, Katy Jurado also found fame in Hollywood in the 1950s as a sultry supporting actress in such films as High Noon (1952) and Broken Lance (1954). Rather than abandoning her native country, however, Jurado remained a star of Mexican film as well as an esteemed character actress north and south of the border until she retired from movies in 1998.
Born into a wealthy family, Jurado spent her early childhood in luxury until the family's lands were confiscated during the revolution. Nevertheless, her domineering grandmother continued to adhere to "aristocratic ideals," including staunch disapproval of Jurado's desire to become an actress after director Emilio Fernandez discovered her at age 16. Marrying actor/writer Victor Velazquez to escape her family's control, Jurado made her movie debut in No Maturas (1943). The talented sloe-eyed beauty quickly made her mark in the Mexican movie industry, winning three Ariels (Mexico's equivalent of the Oscar), including one for Luis Buñuel's El Bruto (1952). A divorced mother of two by her twenties, Jurado worked as a radio reporter, bullfight critic, and movie columnist between acting jobs to support her family. Spotted by Budd Boetticher and John Wayne at a bullfight, Jurado was subsequently cast in her first American film while on a trip to Hollywood, Boetticher's matador drama The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951). Though her English was still limited, and she learned her lines phonetically, Jurado garnered great critical acclaim for her second Hollywood picture, High Noon (1952). As upstanding marshal Gary Cooper's fiery ex-girlfriend, Jurado unforgettably locked horns onscreen with Cooper's prim bride Grace Kelly, and won a Golden Globe award.
Refusing to be pigeonholed by signing a Hollywood studio contract, Jurado went home to Mexico between American roles, and continued to star in such Mexican fare as melodrama Nosotros Los Pobres (1957) during the 1950s. Nevertheless, she was still a frequent presence in Hollywood movies, particularly in Westerns. Jurado earned a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her performance as cattle baron Spencer Tracy's Indian wife in Broken Lance (1954) -- and lived up to her sexy image when she noted on the red carpet that her underwear was the same color as her crimson Oscar gown. She also appeared in Man From Del Rio (1956), Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks (1960), courtroom drama The Trial (1955), and Burt Lancaster's circus extravaganza Trapeze (1955). Jurado's life became Hollywood tabloid fodder when her relationship with her Badlanders (1958) co-star Ernest Borgnine blossomed into a brief, rocky marriage. Married in 1959, Jurado had separated and reconciled with Borgnine amid accusations of spousal abuse by 1961; after wrangling over alimony, the divorce became final in 1964. Having moved to the U.S. to be with Borgnine, Jurado acted less often during the 1960s, including roles in the glossy Barabbas (1961), the Spanish film Un Hombre Solo (1964), the TV Western series Death Valley Days (1964), and the Elvis Presley flick Stay Away, Joe (1968). After attempting suicide in 1968, Jurado moved back home to Mexico for good.
Although she worked occasionally in American films shot in Mexico, including co-starring with John Huston in The Bridge in the Jungle (1970) and a supporting role Sam Peckinpah's Western elegy Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), Jurado focused on Mexican movies, including El Elegido (1977) and Arturo Ripstein's La Seducción (1980), aging gracefully into a prominent character actress. After appearing alongside her former mentor Fernandez in Huston's somber drama Under the Volcano (1984), Jurado began to work behind the scenes in the Mexican industry, promoting her home state of Morelos to filmmakers. Even as she started garnering career laurels from the Santa Fe Western Festival in 1981 and the Mexican Film Promotion Trust in 1992, Jurado remained active, albeit infrequently, onscreen. After winning a special Ariel for lifetime achievement in 1997, Jurado made her last film, playing the leader of a religious cult in Ripstein's Buñuel-ian satire El Evangelico de Las Maravillas (1998). Still the pride of the Mexican film industry, Jurado passed away in 2002. She was survived by her daughter; her son was killed in a car accident in 1981.