Jul 22, 2013
actor, singer, dancer, author and educator Rita Moreno has been named the 50th
recipient of SAG-AFTRA's
highest tribute – the SAG
Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian
accomplishment. Given annually to an actor who fosters the "finest ideals
of the acting profession," the SAG Life Achievement Award will join
Moreno's rare catalog of preeminent industry and public honors, which also
includes an Oscar®, two Emmys®, a Tony®, a Grammy®, the Presidential Medal of
Freedom and the National Medal of the Arts. Moreno will be presented the
performers union's top accolade at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild
Awards®, which will be simulcast live on TNT and TBS on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, at 8 p.m.
(ET), 7 p.m. (CT), 6 p.m. (MT) and 5 p.m. (PT).
Howard, SAG-AFTRA Co-President
said, "I am simply delighted that Rita Moreno is the 50th recipient of our
SAG Life Achievement Award – the most prestigious honor we bestow. She is an
extraordinarily versatile, talented and generous actor whose career is notable
for its courageous choices and for the breadth, depth and quality of her many
demanding and commanding roles. She is a magnificent actor, and I am honored to
join all SAG-AFTRA members in recognizing the incomparable Rita
Reardon, SAG-AFTRA Co-President
said, "No one is more deserving of this honor than the fabulous and
accomplished Rita Moreno, an iconic talent whose excellent work includes hit
movies, highly-rated television series, landmark public television programs and
award-winning recordings. She is emblematic of the broad reach and diverse
coverage of our new, merged union. She is an inspiration in every effort, but
never more so than with her civil rights activism, promoting equality and
diversity while ushering in a more representative depiction of the
American scene on screen."
81, Rita Moreno continues to embody the creative diversity that has been the
hallmark of her nearly 70-year career.
One of only 11 artists and the only Hispanic performer to have won
the entertainment industry's four top competitive awards, she earned her Oscar
in 1962 for her iconic portrayal of saucy Anita in West Side Story, a role which drew on
memories of the racial taunts she endured as a young Puerto Rican immigrant
living in a Bronx "barrio." Her 1972 Grammy honored her performance
on The Electric Company
Album, based on the long-running PBS children's literacy television
series on which Moreno played multiple roles in a memorable cast that included
Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman. The Tony came for her 1975 satiric turn as
flamboyant, talentless Puerto Rican bathhouse singer Googie Gomez in Broadway's
The Ritz. A
six-time Emmy nominee, she won her first of the Television Academy's honors in
1977 for one of her many guest appearances on The Muppet Show. The following year, she
earned a second Emmy for her dramatic guest performance on The Rockford Files.
the decades, Moreno has collected dozens of other show business honors,
including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995. A favorite of Chicago
audiences and critics, she received that city's coveted Joseph Jefferson Award
in 1968 as Serafina in The
Rose Tattoo and in 1985 was awarded the prestigious Sara Siddons
Award for her comic portrayal of Olive Madison in the female version of The Odd Couple. In 1998
she received the first of two National Council of La Raza ALMA awards for her
role as Sister Peter Marie Reimondo in the gritty HBO prison drama Oz, as well as the
organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
was born Rosita Dolores Alverio in Humacao, a small town near the El Yunque
rain forest in Puerto Rico. She lived in nearby Juncos until age 5, when her mother
Rosa Maria, a seamstress, moved with her to live with relatives in New York
City. Her exuberant dancing around their crowded apartment led to dance lessons
with Spanish dance master Paco Cansino, an uncle of Rita Hayworth. While still
a child, the young Rosita entertained departing troops with the USO, performed
in radio plays and dubbed English-language films in to Spanish.
made her Broadway debut at just 13 in Skydrift,
starring Eli Wallach. After making her film debut under the name Rosita Moreno
in the 1950 independent reform school drama So
Young So Bad, a talent scout arranged for her to meet MGM mogul
Louis B. Mayer. With her mother's help with wardrobe and make-up, Moreno aptly
transformed herself into what Mayer saw as a "Spanish Elizabeth
Taylor." He immediately signed the teen to a contract.
Hollywood career advanced steadily, with early films co-starring such actors as
Richard Widmark, Esther Williams, Mario Lanza, Susan Hayward, Tyrone Power and
Gary Cooper. She appeared as silent screen vamp Zelda Zanders in the now
legendary musical Singin' in
the Rain, starring Gene Kelly. A 1954 photo shoot that was supposed
to focus on a TV series pilot starring Ray Bolger instead landed Moreno on the
cover of LIFE Magazine,
with the provocative headline "Rita Moreno: An Actress's Catalog of Sex
and Innocence." It drew the attention of 20th Century Fox head Darryl F.
Zanuck, who signed her to her second studio contract.
Fox, Moreno was featured as the tragic Tuptim in the classic The King and I, with Yul
Brynner and Deborah Kerr. For the film, she spoke with what she had come to
call her "universal ethnic accent". The King and I marked Moreno's first film
with choreographer Jerome Robbins, who later cast her in West Side Story.
significant film appearances include The
Night of the Following Day, with Marlon Brando; Marlowe, with James Garner; Popi, in which she
played Alan Arkin's girlfriend; and in Mike Nichol's production of Carnal Knowledge. She
reprised the role of Googie Gomez in the film version of The Ritz, followed by Alan
Alda's The Four Seasons,
the award-winning independent film I
Like it Like That and the comedy-drama Angus, with George C. Scott and Kathy Bates.
She starred opposite Ben Gazzara in Blue
Moon and as an Italian widow in the indie feature Carlo's Wake, with
Christopher Meloni. She also appeared in the highly acclaimed movie Pinero, starring Benjamin
Bratt, and in John Sayles' Casa
de los Babys. Still one of industry's busiest stars, Moreno will
next be seen in the film version of Six
Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.
long stage career has included starring roles on both sides of the Atlantic. In
London, she appeared in Hal Prince's 1962 production of She Loves Me and in the
1997 West End run of Sunset
Boulevard. In New York, she has starred in Lorraine Hansbury's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window,
opposite Robert Shaw in Gantry
and with Jimmy Coco in The
Last of the Red Hot Lovers. She received a Tony Award nomination
for her role in The National
Health in 1974,
followed by her 1975 Tony win for The
Ritz. Other New York credits include Anne Meara's After Play; Wally's Café, with Jimmy
Coco; Circle Rep's Size of
the World; and, more recently, the female version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.
her early film roles sometimes found her typecast as a Mexican spitfire or
Indian maiden, Moreno has since broken the Latina mold many times. Her diverse
regional theatre roles include Lola in Damn
Yankees, Annie Sullivan in The
Miracle Worker, Doris
in The Owl and the Pussycat, the proper Englishwoman
Charlotte in The Magistrate
and Mama Rose in Gypsy. At
Berkeley Repertory Theatre, she received rave reviews for her interpretation of
Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's play Master
Class in 2004. Two seasons later, she received similar acclaim for
her portrayal of Southern belle Amanda Wingfield in Berkeley Rep's production
of The Glass Menagerie. And
last fall, she returned to the Berkeley stage for the premiere of her
autobiographical play, Life
current role as Fran Drescher's mother in TV Land's Happily Divorced, is the latest in a long
roster of television performances dating back to a panoply of television
anthologies in the early 1950s and continuing throughout her career with
numerous guest roles between films and stage appearances. In 1982-83, she
starred in her own TV series based on the film 9 to 5. Additionally, she played opposite
Burt Reynolds in B.L.
Stryker and was a series regular with Bill Cosby on NBC's The Cosby Mysteries. And
in 2007, she starred in the CBS series Cane.
performs concerts across the country, often appearing as a guest artist with
symphony orchestras, as well as in more intimate cabaret settings. In January
1993, she was invited to perform at President Clinton's inauguration and later
that month sang at the White House. In 2002, she appeared as the guest artist
with the San Francisco Symphony in a production of Candide. On Jan. 20, 2013, she joined Chita
Rivera, Eva Longoria, Jose Feliciano, Raul Esparza and many others in
headlining In Performance at
the Kennedy Center, an event honoring Barack Obama's second
Presidential inauguration and Latino arts and culture.
addition to film, stage, television and concert commitments, Moreno fills her
spare time by lecturing to various organizations and university audiences. She
speaks on such varied topics as The
Value of Diversity to our Culture, The Power of Language, Getting Older Without Getting Old and
A History of the Arts in Film
TV & Theatre.
her Oscar® win, Moreno came to realize that being a public figure could give
voice to important causes. She was among the Hollywood luminaries mobilized by
Harry Belafonte to take part in the historic March on Washington on August 28,
1963. She has since been involved with many civic, cultural and charitable
organizations and events supporting such important causes as racial equality,
hunger, early childhood education, higher education for minority students
through such organizations as The Jackie Robinson Foundation and health issues
like HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Her longtime interest
in fitness led to her producing the 1992 exercise video Rita Moreno: Now You Can! Fit and
has served on The National Endowment for the Arts and as a Commissioner for The
President's White House Fellowships. She has also served as a member of The
President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
a White House ceremony in June 2004, Moreno was awarded The Presidential Medal
of Freedom by President George W. Bush. The medal is the highest honor bestowed
upon a civilian and ranks only second to The Congressional Medal of Honor as
the nation's highest award. It is conferred on individuals for a lifetime of
2007, Moreno was inducted into the California Hall of Fame by Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger. In 2010, she was awarded The National Medal of Arts by
President Barack Obama as well as the Here I Stand Award for activism in the
arts and the HOLA Lifetime Achievement Award. In June 2013 she was inducted
into the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame in Indianapolis, where she was
honored along with Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Webb.
autobiography, Rita Moreno:
A Memoir, was published in March 2013 and instantly became a New York Times bestseller.
An edition in her first language, Spanish, will be published in August.
the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards®
The 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards
presented by SAG-AFTRA will be produced
by Jeff Margolis Productions
in association with Screen Actors Guild Awards®, LLC. Jeff Margolis and Kathy Connell are the
executive producers, with Margolis also serving as director. JoBeth Williams, Daryl Anderson, Scott Bakula, Shelley Fabares and Woody Schultz are
producers for SAG-AFTRA. Gloria
Fujita O'Brien and Benn
Fleishman are supervising producers. Rosalind Jarrett Sepulveda
is executive in charge of publicity. Jon
Brockett is awards coordinating producer. And Maggie Barrett Caulfield
is talent producer.