Rita Moreno

Active - 1950 - 2021  |   Born - Dec 11, 1931 in Humacao, Puerto Rico  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Musical, Adventure

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Biography by Andrea LeVasseur

Energetic dancer, singer, and actress Rita Moreno was born Rosa Dolores Alverio in Puerto Rico to a family of independent farmers. She moved to New York City with her mother at age five and went on to become one of the few people to win an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy, and a Grammy throughout her long career. At age 13, she took her vibrant stage presence and star quality to Broadway, and by the next year she had made it to Hollywood, where MGM studio executives suggested she change her name to Rita.

Mostly appearing in musicals, her most notable roles of the '50s include Zelda Zanders the Zip Girl in Singin' in the Rain and Tuptim in The King and I. During this close-minded time period in American cinema, she was showcased for her "exotic" qualities in films like Pagan Love Song, Latin Lovers, and The Fabulous SeƱorita. She also starred in the costume drama The Vagabond King as well as various adventures and Westerns, usually providing the musical entertainment. Her big breakthrough came in 1961 with her role as the spitfire Anita in West Side Story, winning her an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. During the '60s, she took her talents back to the stage and got married, but she did appear in the films Carnal Knowledge with Jack Nicholson and Popi with Alan Arkin. As a mother during the '70s, she turned to television and got involved with the PBS children's series The Electric Company, which led to a Grammy award for her recording contribution to the soundtrack album. She also won Emmy awards for her work on The Rockford Files and The Muppet Show. Meanwhile, she reprised her Tony-winning Broadway role of entertainer Googie Gomez for the 1976 film version of The Ritz. In the '80s, she appeared in the TV sitcom 9 to 5, the detective series B.L. Stryker, and several made-for-TV movies. In the '90s, she provided the voice for the title character in the PBS educational program Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? She started making features again, taking supporting roles in independent comedy dramas, including Slums of Beverly Hills. In 1997, she turned to confrontational drama as Sister Peter Marie Reimondo on the HBO prison drama Oz. Since 2000, she has been a leading advocate of osteoporosis awareness and has appeared in the John Sayles ensemble feature Casa de los Babys in 2003.

In 2007, Moreno appeared in a cameo role on the hit series Ugly Betty, playing the title character's aunt. Later that same year, she joined the cast of the drama series Cane, a show about a Latin family and their trials and tribulations running a family owned business. In 2011 she was cast as one of the leads on the sitcom Happily Divorced alongside Fran Drescher.

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  • Moved from Puerto Rico to New York with her mother when she was 5.
  • Made her Broadway debut in November 1945 in Skydrift, opposite Eli Wallach, when she was only 13 years old.
  • One of the few people to win all four major American entertainment awards (Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy).
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2004.
  • Developed and starred in the autobiographical play Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup in 2011.
  • Has received accolades from the National Osteoporosis Foundation for working to increase osteoporosis awareness.