Rita Moreno is an actress, dancer, and singer. She has won four major entertainment awards with a career spanning over 70 years, including Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and Tony. Additionally, she was the first Hispanic woman to receive an Oscar. She has also been awarded numerous other honors and recognitions, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in America.
Dancing and Broadway
Moreno took up dancing when she was nine and recorded voices for US child stars in Spanish-language films. She was a professional dancer in New York nightclubs. She made her Broadway debut at 13 in the drama ‘Skydrift’ at the Belasco Theatre, co-starring with Arthur Keegan and a young Eli Wallach. Moreno made her big-screen debut with the movie ‘So Young, So Bad’ in 1950. Initially, she was credited as Rosita Moreno, but soon after, she took Rita’s name. Throughout the 1950s, she portrayed a variety of roles, usually small ones. Moreno appeared on the cover of Life magazine in March 1954, with the caption “Rita Moreno: An Actress’s Catalog of Sex and Innocence.” During that time, she would be plagued with the stereotype of the sexpot. She felt that most of her roles during this period were stereotypical, so she disliked most of her film work. She also appeared in several other films during the 1960s, including ‘Summer and Smoke (1961)’. In 1964 Moreno returned to Broadway, appearing in ‘The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window.’ After a few years on the stage, she won the Tony for her role in ‘The Ritz’ as Googie Gomez. She reprised the comedic role for the 1976 film adaptation.
Rita Moreno appeared on many television shows in the 1980s, including the ‘Love Boat,’ ‘The Cosby Show,’ ‘George Lopez,’ ‘The Golden Girls’, and ‘Miami Vice.’ She is best known for starring in the children’s educational television show The Electric Company, where she coined the catchphrase “Hey, guys! “. In 1972, she won a Grammy Award for her contribution to the soundtrack album of the show. She became the third person to win an EGOT after winning an Emmy for her appearance on The Muppet Show in 1977. In 2000, Moreno released an album of nightclub songs on the Varèse Sarabande label, with liner notes by Michael Feinstein. She played Amanda Wingfield in Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s revival of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ in 2006. She was a recurring character in ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent as Detective Robert Goren’s dying mother. She played the family matriarch on the short-lived 2007 TV series Cane.’ Since then, Moreno has continued to work in film, including a small role in the 2014 film ‘Rio 2. She has also appeared in the American romantic musical drama film ‘West Side Story (2021). The film is scheduled to be released on December 10, 2021.
Moreno married a cardiologist and her manager, Leonard Gordon, in 1965. The couple remained together until Gordon died in 2010. They have one daughter, Fernanda Gordon Fisher, and two grandchildren. She was romantically involved with actor Marlon Brando. She also committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills after an abortion arranged by Brando. Below are some glamorous photos of Rita Moreno when she was young.