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Hollywood, Latin actresses and Ana de Armas

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Ethnicity is one of the slippery topics in Hollywood. The primary two Latin actresses to do the crossover were Mexican Dolores del Río (1904-1987) and Lupe Vélez (1908-1944) throughout the silent film era. Each embodied the image of a mute Latin, but from different angles, beyond the “exoticism” radiated by their respective figures.

Vélez was the “mean wild Mexican cat” and Del Río the “good Spanish lady,” a call conditioned by the Anglo constructs then in force. “Anglo-Saxon perceptions of Spanish and Mexican women in Nineteenth-century California,” argues one study, “were based on gender, race, and sophistication. Each stereotypes revolved around sexual definitions of ladies’s virtue and morality.… Elite Californian women were seen as European and superior, while mass Mexican women were seen as natives and inferior.”

If nearly all of Mexicans were assumed and represented within the narrative as racially inferior beings, the landowning women united with Anglo-Saxons were represented in a positive way, each in society and in the flicks of that point. They were, in effect, the “good Latinas.” The others, to say the least, were seen and represented on the screen as vulgar, femme fatales, sex in its purest form, an attraction made for the heterosexual consumer in a world marked by the traces of that foundational puritanism that will start being challenged within the “roaring Nineteen Twenties,” particularly by jazz club flappers and Prohibition speakeasies.

Dolores del Rio and Lupe Vélez. Photo: Archive.

But this conditioning of the image of Latinas wouldn’t be exempt from the policy, particularly that of the Good Neighbor, advanced for Latin America by U.S. President F. D. Roosevelt after a protracted period of military and gunboat interventions. Their portrayal par excellence on movie show screens was not strictly a Latin American woman, but a European, emigrated to Brazil: the Portuguese Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, higher generally known as Carmen Miranda (1909-1955), the Bahian.

It was a slightly sweet proposal, but empathic, stuffed with colours, tropical fruits and exotic music, particularly samba, a rhythm that the actress contributed to spread powerfully throughout the U.S. culture of the time and that will find yourself opening greater spaces for Latin culture on which other actresses and actors like Desi Arnaz and Anthony Quinn and even Pérez Prado’s mambo settled down, an epidemic that within the Fifties was called mambo craze.

Carmen Miranda. Photo: IMDb.

A counterexample to the primary trend is Margarita Carmen Cansino, documented in film records as Rita Hayworth (1918–1987). Born within the New York Bronx to a Spanish father and an American mother of Irish descent, Hayworth was whitewashed by studio executives until she was made a WASP. She got here to this after the film In Caliente (1935) — by the best way, with Dolores del Río — and after a process through which she played, indistinctly, the roles of an Argentine, Egyptian or Russian girl.

The studio executives argued that her figure was too Mediterranean and that this is able to only be enough for her to play small ethnic roles. And her last name, in fact, was “too Spanish.” It was then that the bombshell was born, first with red hair after which blonde, the one which captivated several batches of Americans and that will function a paradigm for new wave actresses equivalent to Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) and Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967).

Rita Hayworth. Photo: Archive.

Hayworth was the very image of sexuality and the femme fatale as of the film Gilda (1946). Essentially the most desired woman on this planet. “The Hollywood Goddess of Love.” “All the lads I do know sleep with Gilda, but they get up with me,” Hayworth once said. She had an intense cinematographic life sharing leading roles with actors equivalent to Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Tyrone Power, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Robert Mitchum, James Cagney, Glen Ford and Orson Welles, one among her husbands, who gave her the leading role in The Lady from Shanghai (1947).

But sexuality had come to stick with the doorway to the celluloid world of actress Jo Raquel Tejada, higher generally known as Raquel Welch (1940). She didn’t debut holding Mediterranean, Hispanic, or ethnic credentials, but slightly as an expression of a phenomenon called melting pot. Born in Chicago, the daughter of a Bolivian engineer and an American of British origin, Welch was, definitely, one of the powerful sex symbols of the Nineteen Sixties and Nineteen Seventies.

Rachel Welch. Photo: Archive.


Currently, the doorway to Hollywood of the Cuban actress Ana de Armas was not marked by ethnicity, that’s, her status as Cuban/Latina didn’t determine her inclusion within the solid of the film Knock Knock (2015), a psychosexual thriller by director Eli Roth with Keanu Reeves within the lead through which she plays Bel, one among the 2 co-stars within the story (the opposite is actress Lorenza Izzo within the role of Genesis). Her first film in that position was Exposed (2016), through which she played a Puerto Rican woman who’s raped (Isabel de la Cruz) alongside Keanu Reeves himself.

Then in War Dogs (2016) she played a non-Latin supporting role as Iz, the wife of an arms dealer, but in Hands of Stone (2016) she played the wife of Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán in a movie starring Robert DeNiro and Rubén Blades.

Ana de Armas with Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling in “Blade Runner 2049” (promotional poster). Photo: YouTube.

The next 12 months got here Blade Runner 2049 (2017), through which she also played a supporting role, albeit a robust one: Joi, the protagonist’s holographic girlfriend. The film featured performances by Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Here, De Armas was in a position to proceed within the footsteps of Knock Knock and War Dogs, through which she learned her lines phonetically since she didn’t master English well enough. One critic wrote about her work: “The heat and optimism she [Ana de Armas] brings to the screen were essential to the film’s success. This makes seeing her acting on this film a must for many who don’t know her work.”

A bit later was Overdrive (2017), by director Antonio Negret, the story of two automotive thieves where she plays the girlfriend of one among them (Andrew Foster, characterised by Scott Eastwood), a movie that went unnoticed through the box office and critics. A 12 months later, she would play “ethnic” roles again in Corazón (2018), a bilingual enterprise by director John Hillcoat, through which she plays Elena Ramírez, a Dominican prostitute with a heart condition. Yesterday (2019), by Danny Boyle, was a standard romantic comedy.

Ana de Armas with Daniel Craig in “Knives Out.” Photo: The Voice.

But there have been two movies that, definitely, placed De Armas in a qualitatively different place, again following the trail of the “ethnic.” The primary, Knives Out (2019), by director Rian Jonhson, a detective story structured on the death of the novelist Harian Thrombey, through which De Armas plays the role of his nurse of Ecuadorian origin, Marta Cabrera. She wasn’t literally a number one role, but she was in a position to hang around with actors like Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer. And the truth is, as a result of her very vital role within the plot, her character went beyond being a “Latina caretaker,” a indisputable fact that led her to not reject the character after a careful reading of the script. If Blade Runner 2049 put the Cuban actress on the radar, Knives Out was a world success that will earn her a Golden Globe nomination. And that earned her the award for Best Supporting Actress on the Saturn Awards.

Within the second, No Time to Die (2021), she plays a job specially designed for her by the film’s director and co-writer, Cary Joji Fukunaga. There she is a “Bond girl,” the second actress of Latin origin to be one after New Yorker Talisa Soto (1989), and she or he embodies the character of Paloma, a Cuban CIA agent involved in spectacular actions in Santiago de Cuba along with to the everlasting 007 (Daniel Craig), created greater than half a century ago by novelist Ian Flemming. It wasn’t a number one role either (just quarter-hour on screen), however it earned her a nomination for best actress in an motion film from Critics’ Selection Superawards.

A Latina playing an icon of American culture, equivalent to Marilyn Monroe, is unprecedented in Hollywood history, at the least so far as I do know. That’s precisely Blonde (2022). Chosen by director Andrew Dominik and producers equivalent to Brad Pitt, and with the endorsement of actresses equivalent to Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first leading role in Hollywood, Ana de Armas took on the big challenge of embodying a living legend with the peculiarity of succeeding, aside from the restrictions of the script and the direction of a movie weighed down from the start by its ideological assumptions.

Ana de Armas in “Blonde.” Photo: Netflix.

The film marks the transition from actress to star, but her outstanding work doesn’t authorize her to be considered “the very best Latin actress of all time” simply because she is the primary Cuban with the potential for an Oscar nomination. Affirming it means ignoring a history of greater than 100 years, ignoring the presence of screen divas equivalent to those noted in the beginning (amongst others), and even the longer term acting roles of Ana de Armas, who has loads of time, on a regular basis.…

Avatar photo Alfredo Prieto

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