Sara Montiel, the first Spanish actress to make it in Hollywood and best known for her roles in international blockbusters such as “Vera Cruz”, died today at home in Madrid, aged 85, her family said.
Sara Montiel also known as Sarita Montiel was born on 10 March 1928, in Campo de Criptana in the region of Castile–La Mancha in 1928, as María Antonia Abad (complete name María Antonia Alejandra Vicenta Elpidia Isidora Abad Fernández). After her unprecedented international hit in Juan de Orduña’s “El Último Cuplé” in 1957, Sara Montiel achieved the status of mega-star in Europe and Latin America. She was the first woman to distill sex openly in Spanish cinema at a time when even a low cut dress was not acceptable. Sara Montiel was the most commercially successful Spanish actress during the mid-20th century in much of the world. Miss Montiel’s film “Varietes” was banned in Beijing in 1973. Her films “El Último Cuple” and “La Violetera” netted the highest gross revenues ever recorded for films made in the Spanish speaking movie industry during the 1950s and 1960s. She also played the role of Antonia, the niece of Don Quixote, in the 1947 Spanish film version of Cervantes’s great novel.
Sara Montiel started in movies at 16 in her native Spain where she filmed her first international success playing an Islamic princess in the 1948 film “Locura de Amor” (“The Mad Queen”). Later she conquered Mexico, starring in a dozen films in less than five years. Hollywood came calling afterwards, and she was introduced to United States moviegoers in the film “Vera Cruz” (1954) co-starring with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, and directed by Robert Aldrich. She was offered the standard seven-year contract at Columbia Pictures, which she quickly refused, afraid of Hollywood’s typecasting policies for Hispanics. Instead she free-lanced at Warner Bros. with Mario Lanza and Joan Fontaine in “Serenade” (1956), directed by Anthony Mann, and at RKO in Samuel Fuller’s “Run of the Arrow” (1957), opposite Rod Steiger and Charles Bronson.
The unexpected success of “El Ultimo Cuple” (1957) turned her into an overnight sensation both as an actress and a singer. From then on she combined filming highly successful vehicles, recording songs in five languages and performing live all over the world. Among the films that kept her immensely popular during the 1960s and early 1970s were “La Violetera” (1958), “Carmen, la de Ronda” (1959), “Mi Ultimo Tango” (1960), “Pecado de Amor” (1961), “La Bella Lola” (a 1962 version of Camille), “Casablanca, Nid d’espions” (1963), “Samba” (1964), “La Femme Perdue” (1966), “Tuset Street” (1967), “Esa Mujer” (1969), “Varietes” (1971) and others.
In 2000, Montiel published her autobiography “Memories: To Live Is A Pleasure”, an instant best seller with ten editions to date. A sequel “Sara and Sex” followed in 2003. In these books Montiel revealed other relationships in her past including one-night stands with writer Ernest Hemingway as well as actor James Dean. She has been married four times: Anthony Mann, American Actor; Film Director, in Beverly Hills, 1957-1963, divorced. José Vicente Ramírez Olalla, Industrial Attorney, in Rome, 1964-1978, annulled. José Tous Barberán, Attorney-Journalist, in Palma de Mallorca, 1979-1992, Tous’s death. Antonio Hernández, Cuban Videotape Operator, in Madrid, 2002-2005, divorced. Sara Montiel passed away on this Monday, 8 April, at 85. The cause of death wasn’t revealed. According to “El Mundo” she died from a cardiac crisis. Vaya con Díos, divina Sara…
La Violetera, from “La Violetera”, 1958: . Los Piconeros, from “Carmen La De Ronda”, 1958: .
La Vie en Rose, from “Noches de Casablanca”, 1963: .