Rosa Dolores Alverío Marcano, affectionately referred to as "Rosita" was born on December 11, 1931, in Puerto Rico. Before she turned the age of five, Rita's mother moved herself and Rita to New York, leaving her father and younger brother behind. By the time she was thirteen, Rita was acting, singing and dancing on Broadway. It was there, while acting in Skydrift, that she caught the attention of Hollywood talent scouts. From the moment she moved to California, Rita worked steadily being cast in small roles.
Over time, she appeared in numerous films, generally portraying the stereotypical Latina girl. She was a member of the cast of Singin' in the Rain and played Tuptim, a Burmese slave given to the king of Siam in The King and I. In 1961 she landed the coveted role of Anita in the film adaptation of the Broadway Musical, West Side Story, and ended up winning the Oscar for best supporting actress. She has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of Hollywood and the film industry from the 1940s to the present day. Now, seven decades in the making, her documentary, Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided to Go for It, opens in theaters this week.
The film starts almost at the beginning of Rita's life as she discusses moving to New York with her mom. Rita describes her love of show business and how it became a way to help support her and her mother. She talks about what it was like working in Hollywood, the stereotypical roles she was cast in and the rampant sexual harassment she faced, not only on set but at industry parties as well. Long before the #metoo movement, Moreno experienced the discrimination and persecution of women and Latinos in the movie business.
Moreno is candid and open as she talks about the men in her life. She discusses her tumultuous relationship with Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire), whom she met on the set of The Night of the Following Day. She discusses her intense love for him and him demanding she get an abortion, which were illegal at the time, when they found out she was pregnant with their child. Moreno speaks about her relationship with her husband, cardiologist Leonard Gordon, and their forty-five-year marriage. She discusses the ups and downs of her marriage, her family – she and Leonard had one child, Fernanda - and how her career affected both.
The filmmaker, Mariem Perez Riera (Lovesickness), intertwines Morena and her family with Industry members Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Whoopie Goldberg (Ghost), Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives), Singer Gloria Estefan (Music of the Heart) and Norman Lear (All in the Family) to name a few. They tout Moreno's accomplishments, including making great strides inequality, and discuss her as a colleague and friend. They review her work and identify her as someone who made great contributions to furthering Latinas in show business.
Moreno has had a long and distinguished career and, in many ways, has been a trailblazer for all who have come after her. She is a staple in Hollywood, taking roles in both film and television, and has just added producer to her long list of credits as she is part of the team bringing an updated version of West Side Story to theaters in the next year. Showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, Moreno has created an eclectic portfolio and delighted audiences for several generations.
Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided to Go for It is an honest look at this triple threat and how she navigated her way through life, love, and Hollywood.