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The Invention of Dolores Del Río

The Invention of Dolores Del Río

Joanne Hershfield
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    The Invention of Dolores Del Río
    Book Description:

    The Invention of Dolores del Río explores the intersection of ethnicity, gender, and stardom in American popular culture through the lens of del Río’s successful and unusually lengthy career, which included international stardom and work with Hollywood’s top directors and leading men.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5282-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    WhenPhotoplayconducted a search in 1933 for the “most perfect feminine figure in Hollywood,” using “medical men, artists, designers” as judges, the “unanimous choice” of these selective arbitrators of female beauty in the United States was the Mexican actress Dolores del Río.¹ The question posed by the fan magazine’s search and the methodology it employed to find “the most perfect feminine figure” reveal a number of parameters that defined femininity and female beauty during that particular moment in U.S. history. At the same time, the selection of Dolores del Río presents an enigma: Given the particular environment of social...

  5. 1 Inventing Dolores del Río
    (pp. 1-16)

    Dolores del Río was twenty years old when she was “discovered” in Mexico by Hollywood producer and director Edwin Carewe. At Carewe’s urging, del Río came to Hollywood in 1925 with her husband, Jaime. The del Ríos were part of a diverse and massive wave of Mexican immigration to the United States between 1910 and 1930. This exodus from Mexico was motivated by the social and economic turbulence of the Mexican Revolution, encouraged by the absence of U.S. immigration quotas on Latin American immigrants and fueled by the demand for low-wage workers in agriculture in the southwestern region of the...

  6. 2 Race and Romance
    (pp. 17-32)

    In March 1928, a number of Hollywood’s most popular stars gathered in Mary Pickford’s United Artists bungalow. Pickford and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were joined by Charlie Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, John Barrymore, D. W. Griffith, and Dolores del Río. The occasion was a national radio program, organized by United Artists president Joseph Schenck, that was “designed to prove to millions of fans that their idols had voices, ‘speaking’ voices, good enough to meet the challenge of the talkies.”¹ Del Río, currently starring in the role of Ramona, sang the popular title song from that film in English.²


  7. 3 Uncomfortably Real
    (pp. 33-51)

    In the 1930s, del Río starred in a number of films that fell into the category of the “Latin American musical.” As Ruth Vasey has suggested, after the introduction of sound, “‘foreignness’ became less clearly associated with particular ethnic and national groups and became abstracted into an amorphous category of the alien…. Even geography became less distinct.”¹ The Latin American musicals clearly situated their narratives south of the border. At the same time, the films blurred national and cultural distinctions among various Latin American nations, so that Brazilians wore Mexican sombreros and spoke with Cuban accents while Mexicans danced Brazilian...

  8. 4 “Nuestra Dolores”
    (pp. 52-69)

    While her Hollywood career flourished in the 1920s and 1930s, del Río refused requests to perform in Mexican films.¹ Her reluctance can be ascribed to multiple factors: her success in Hollywood, the instability of the Mexican film industry, the relatively low salaries stars in Mexico commanded, and her concern about her reputation in Mexico.

    Mexicans who emigrated to the United States were often denounced in Mexico. The derogatory labelpochobranded those who were perceived to have abandoned their Mexican heritage and assimilated themselves into U.S. culture.² Del Río was not unaware of the strained relations between Mexicans and Mexican...

  9. 5 Mexico Is a State of Mind
    (pp. 70-85)

    In 1947, at the age of forty-four, del Río accepted an offer from John Ford to star inThe Fugitive, a Mexico-U.S. coproduction based on Graham Greene’s novelThe Power and the Glory.¹ The film tells the story of a priest, played by Henry Fonda, who attempts to flee an unnamed Latin American country during a violent confrontation between government forces and the Catholic Church. Del Río’s character, a young unwed mother named María Dolores, helps the priest to escape after he baptizes her fatherless child.

    Although U.S. film critics panned the film, they applauded del Río’s performance, praising her...

  10. 6 Race on the Range
    (pp. 86-102)

    After two successful decades in Mexican cinema and theater, del Río returned to Hollywood in the 1960s to star as an Indian woman in two westerns:Flaming Star(1960, Don Siegel), with Elvis Presley, and John Ford’sCheyenne Autumn(1964).¹ Outside of a few appearances on American television, del Río had been out of American public life for more than a decade, and she was no longer considered a Hollywood movie star. Obviously, she did not enjoy the same kind of celebrity she had savored thirty years earlier.² Close to sixty when she portrayed the Indian squaw Neddy Barton in...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 103-110)

    Dolores del Río provided an enigmatic fascination for Hollywood filmmakers and film audiences for more than fifty years. Her racialized female body always, and necessarily, evoked anxieties about interracial sexual relations and miscegenation. In order to understand her “meaning” in films and in American culture, I have worked in the preceding chapters to clarify the links among what Richard Dyer has referred to as the “central relations between stars and specific instabilities, ambiguities and contradictions in the culture.”¹ My purpose in this book has been to articulate the historically specific ways these relations were reproduced in del Río’s star text...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 111-142)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 143-152)
  14. Index
    (pp. 153-165)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 166-166)