Born: December 11, 1931
Birthplace: Humacao, Puerto Rico, U.S.
Rita Dolores Moreno (born Rosa Dolores Alverío; December 11, 1931) is a Puerto Rican-American actress, dancer and singer. Her career has spanned over 70 years; among her notable acting work are supporting roles in the musical films The King and I and West Side Story, as well as a 1971-77 stint on the children's television series The Electric Company, and a supporting role on the 1997-2003 TV drama Oz.
Moreno is one of twelve performers to have won all four major annual American entertainment awards: an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony. She is also one of 23 people who have achieved the so-called Triple Crown of Acting, with individual competitive Academy, Emmy and Tony awards for acting; and one of only two people who have achieved both distinctions, the other being Helen Hayes. She has also won numerous other awards, including various lifetime achievement awards. Moreno also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor.
Moreno, was born Rosa Dolores Alverío in Humacao, Puerto Rico, to Rosa María (née Marcano), a seamstress, and Francisco José "Paco" Alverío, a farmer. She was originally nicknamed "Rosita". Moreno, whose mother was 17 at the time of her birth, was raised in nearby Juncos. Rita's mother moved to New York City in 1936, taking her daughter, but not her son, Rita's younger brother, Francisco. Rita later adopted the surname of her first stepfather, Edward Moreno, Rosa Maria's second husband.
Rita began her first dancing lessons soon after arriving in New York with a Spanish dancer known as "Paco Cansino", who was a paternal uncle of film star Rita Hayworth. When she was 11 years old, she lent her voice to Spanish language versions of American films. She had her first Broadway role—as "Angelina" in Skydrift—by the time she was 13, which caught the attention of Hollywood talent scouts.
Moreno acted steadily in films throughout the 1950s, usually in small roles, including in The Toast of New Orleans (1950) and Singin' in the Rain (1952), in which she played the starlet "Zelda Zanders". In March 1954, Moreno was featured on the cover of Life Magazine with the caption "Rita Moreno: An Actress's Catalog of Sex and Innocence".
Moreno disliked most of her film work during this period, as she felt the roles she was given were very stereotypical. One exception was her supporting role in the film version of The King and I as Tuptim.
In 1961, Moreno landed the role of Anita in Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins' film adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's and Stephen Sondheim's groundbreaking Broadway musical West Side Story, which had been played by Chita Rivera on Broadway. Moreno won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for that role.
After winning the Oscar, Moreno thought she would be able to continue to perform less stereotypical film roles, but was disappointed:
|“||Ha, ha. I showed them. I didn't make another movie for seven years after winning the Oscar.... Before West Side Story, I was always offered the stereotypical Latina roles. The Conchitas and Lolitas in westerns. I was always barefoot. It was humiliating, embarrassing stuff. But I did it because there was nothing else. After West Side Story, it was pretty much the same thing. A lot of gang stories.||”|
Moreno had a major role in Summer and Smoke (1961), released soon after West Side Story. She did appear in one film during her self-imposed exile from Hollywood - Cry of Battle (1963) - although it had been filmed directly before and after she won the Academy Award.
She made her return to film in The Night of the Following Day (1968), and followed that with Popi (1969), Marlowe (1969), Carnal Knowledge (1971) and The Ritz (1976). Another notable role was in the hit film The Four Seasons (1981). She has continued to work in film since then, including a small voice role in the 2014 film Rio 2, perhaps her most commercially successful film.
From 1971 to 1977, Moreno was a main cast member on the PBS children's series The Electric Company. She screamed the show's opening line, "HEY, YOU GUYS!" Her roles on the show included Millie the Helper, the naughty little girl Pandora, and Otto, a very short-tempered director.
Rita Moreno appeared in the variety series The Muppet Show, and she has made numerous guest appearances on television series since the 1970s, including The Love Boat, The Cosby Show, George Lopez, The Golden Girls, and Miami Vice.
One notable guest appearance was a three-episode arc on The Rockford Files in 1977 as former call girl Rita Kapcovic. For her portrayal, Moreno won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress - Drama Series. As a result, she became the third person (after Richard Rodgers and Helen Hayes) to have won an Oscar (1962), a Grammy (1972), a Tony (1975), and an Emmy (1977).
She was a regular on the first three seasons of the sitcom version of Nine to Five (based on the film hit) during the early 1980s.
During the mid-1990s, Moreno provided the voice of Carmen Sandiego on Fox's animated series Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?
In the late 1990s, she gained exposure to a new generation of viewers when she played Sister Pete, a nun trained as a psychologist in the popular HBO series Oz, for which she won several ALMA Awards. She made a guest appearance on The Nanny as Coach Stone, Maggie's tyrannical gym teacher, whom Fran Fine also remembered from her school as Ms. Wickavich.
She had a recurring role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as the dying mother of Detective Robert Goren. She played the family matriarch on the short-lived 2007 TV series Cane, which starred Jimmy Smits and Hector Elizondo. She played the mother of Fran Drescher's character in the 2011-13 TV sitcom Happily Divorced.
In 2014, Moreno appeared in the NBC television film Old Soul, alongside Natasha Lyonne, Fred Willard and Ellen Burstyn. The film was intended as a pilot for a television series, but it was not picked up.
Moreno co-starred, as the matriarch of a Cuban-American family, in the Netflix sitcom One Day at a Time, a remake produced by Norman Lear of Lear's own 1975-84 sitcom One Day at a Time. The first season was released in January 2017. Critics overall praised the show, and especially the performances of Moreno and the series' star, Justina Machado.
Moreno's Broadway credits include Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1969), the very short-lived musical Gantry (1970) and The Ritz, for which she won the 1975 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress. She appeared in Chicago in the female version of The Odd Couple, for which she won the Sarah Siddons Award in 1985.
In 2006, she portrayed Amanda Wingfield in Berkeley Repertory Theatre's revival of The Glass Menagerie.
In September 2011, Moreno began performing a solo autobiographical show at the Berkeley Rep (theater) in Berkeley, California, Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup written by Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone after hours of interviews with Moreno.
In 1993 she was invited to perform at President Bill Clinton's inauguration and later that month was asked to perform at the White House.
She released an eponymous album of nightclub songs in 2000 on the Varèse Sarabande label, with liner notes by Michael Feinstein.
Moreno had an eight-year-long affair with actor Marlon Brando. In an interview with Good Day LA, Moreno stated that Elvis Presley was not a good lover. They dated for quite some time, but whenever the opportunity presented itself to take the relationship to another level, Presley backed off. Moreno would later confirm that she only dated Presley to make Brando jealous.
On June 18, 1965, Moreno married Leonard Gordon, a cardiologist who was also her manager. He died on June 30, 2010. They have one daughter, Fernanda Luisa Fisher, and two grandsons, Justin and Cameron Fisher. Moreno once considered leaving her husband but could not because she did not want to break up the family.
Among Moreno's awards and recognition are the following:
|1950||So Young So Bad||Dolores Guererro||Credited as Rosita Moreno|
|1950||Toast of New Orleans, TheThe Toast of New Orleans||Tina|
|1950||Pagan Love Song||Terru|
|1952||The Ring||Lucy Gomez|
|1952||Singin' in the Rain||Zelda Zanders|
|1952||The Fabulous Senorita||Manuela Rodríguez|
|1953||Fort Vengeance||Bridget Fitzgibbon|
|1953||Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation||Soubrette||Uncredited|
|1953||Alaméin, ElEl Alaméin||Jara|
|1954||The Yellow Tomahawk||Honey Bear|
|1954||Garden of Evil||Cantina Singer|
|1955||Seven Cities of Gold||Ula|
|1956||Lieutenant Wore Skirts, TheThe Lieutenant Wore Skirts||Sandra Roberts|
|1956||King and I, TheThe King and I||Tuptim|
|1956||Vagabond King, TheThe Vagabond King||Huguette|
|1957||The Deerslayer||Hetty Hutter|
|1960||This Rebel Breed||Lola Montalvo|
|1961||West Side Story||Anita||
|1961||Summer and Smoke||Rosa Zacharias|
|1963||Cry of Battle||Sisa|
|1968||Night of the Following Day, TheThe Night of the Following Day||Vi|
|1976||The Ritz||Googie Gomez||
|1978||Boss' Son, TheThe Boss' Son||Esther Rose|
|1979||Anatomy of a Seduction||Nina||TV film|
|1980||Happy Birthday, Gemini||Lucille Pompi|
|1981||Four Seasons, TheThe Four Seasons||Claudia Zimmer|
|1991||Age Isn't Everything||Rita|
|1994||I Like It Like That||Rosaria Linares|
|1995||Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business||Herself||Documentary|
|1998||Slums of Beverly Hills||Belle Abromowitz||Nominated—ALMA Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film in a Crossover Role|
|1999||Carlo's Wake||Angela Torello|
|1999||Puerto Ricans: Our American Story, TheThe Puerto Ricans: Our American Story||Herself||Documentary|
|2003||Casa de los Babys||Señora Muñoz|
|2003||Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico||Dona Dolores and Woman #3 (voice)|
|2003||Beyond Borders: John Sayles in Mexico||Herself||Documentary|
|2004||King of the Corner||Inez|
|2006||Play It By Ear||Ruth|
|2014||Rio 2||Mimi (voice)|
|2014||Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks||Ida Barks|
|1958||Father Knows Best||Chanthini||Episode: "Fair Exchange" (24 November 1958)|
|1960||Bourbon Street Beat||Manuela Ruiz||Episode: "Suitable for Framing" (16 May 1960)|
|1963||Burke's Law||Margaret Cowls||Episode: "Who Killed Julian Buck?" (18 October 1963)|
|1971-1977||Electric Company, TheThe Electric Company||Carmela
Otto The Director
Pandora the Little Girl, Millie the Helper
|1974||Dominic's Dream||Anita Bente|
|1974||Out to Lunch||Various||Nominated—Emmy Award for Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in Variety or Music|
|1976||Muppet Show, TheThe Muppet Show||Herself||
|1978||Rockford Files, TheThe Rockford Files||Rita Capkovic||
|1979||Anatomy of a Seduction||Nina|
|1979||Muppets Go Hollywood, TheThe Muppets Go Hollywood||Herself/Host||Special|
|1981||Evita Perón||Renata Riguel|
|1982-1983||9 to 5||Violet Newstead||
|1982||Portrait of a Showgirl||Rosella DeLeon||Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie|
|1986||Golden Girls||Renee||Episode: "Empty Nest"|
|1987||Cosby Show, TheThe Cosby Show||Mrs. Granger||Episode: "You Only Hurt the One You Love"|
|1989-1990||B.L. Stryker||Kimberly Baskin||2 episodes|
|1994||Nanny, TheThe Nanny||Miss Wickervich/Mrs. Stone||Episode: "The Gym Teacher"|
|1994-1998||Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?||Carmen Sandiego (voice)||Nominated—Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer In An Animated Program (1995, 1996, 1997)|
|1994-1995||Cosby Mysteries, TheThe Cosby Mysteries||Angie Corea||16 episodes|
|1995||Wharf Rat, TheThe Wharf Rat||Mom|
|1995||Magic School Bus, TheThe Magic School Bus||Dr. Camrina Skeledon (voice)||Episode: "The Busasaurus"|
|1997-2003||Oz||Sister Peter Marie Reimondo||
|1998||The Spree||Irma Kelly|
|2005||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Mildred Quintana||Episode: "Night"|
|2005||Law & Order: Trial by Jury||Mildred Quintana||Episode: "Day"|
|2006-2007||Law & Order: Criminal Intent||Frances Goren||3 episodes: "Endgame"; "The War at Home" and "Brother's Keeper"|
|2007||George Lopez||Luisa Diaz||Episode: "George Testi-Lies for Benny"|
|2007||Ugly Betty||Aunt Mirta||Episode: "A Tree Grows in Guadalajara"|
|2007||Cane||Amalia Duque||13 episodes|
|2010||In Plain Sight||Rita Ramirez||Episode: "Coma Chameleon"|
|2011||Special Agent Oso||Abuela (voice)||Episode: "For Tamales with Love/Pinata Royale"|
|2011-2013||Happily Divorced||Dori Newman|
|2013||Welcome to the Family||Lita||Episode: "Date Night"|
|2013||Nicky Deuce||Tutti||TV movie|
|2014||Old Soul||Rita||TV movie|
|2015||Getting On||Sister Lily Claire||Episode: "Reduced to Eating Boiled Magazines and Book Paste"|
|2015-2016||Jane the Virgin||Liliana De La Vega||4 episodes: "Chapter Eighteen", "Chapter Thirty-Three", "Chapter Thirty-Two", "Chapter Thirty-One"
Online Film & Television Association Award for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
|2015||Nina's World||Abuelita (voice)|
|2015||A Gift of Miracles||Beverly||TV movie|
|2016||Grey's Anatomy||Gayle||Episode: "Odd Man Out"|
|2016||Grace and Frankie||Lucy||Episode: "The Vitamix"|
|2017-present||One Day at a Time||Lydia||Main cast|
Rita Moreno supports the following charitable cause: Animals.