Yet as director Mariem Pérez Riera’s crisply made movie makes clear, for the little lady who moved from Puerto Rico to New York together with her mom as a baby, fulfilling that dream meant overcoming all the impediments thrown at her, and enduring the indignities that went with being an actress of shade — even one who consciously sought to resemble Elizabeth Taylor when she auditioned as a teenager — throughout these years.
Moreno met with studio mogul Louis B. Mayer at age 16, impressing him sufficient to land a studio contract. But these years got here with being “treated like a sex object,” as she recollects, which included being despatched on “pretend dates” with actors by the studio’s publicity division and being solid in an assortment of “native girl” roles that prompted her to good an all-purpose accent.
“I wanted to turn the parts down, but that’s all that was offered,” Moreno says, noting that the message from her bosses got here by way of “loud and clear: Shut up and be sexy.”
Unlike Rita Hayworth, who masked her cultural identification, Moreno turned it into an asset with “West Side Story,” though even her acclaimed function in that film did not open the floodgates as one may need anticipated. The paucity of worthwhile components pressured her to hold reinventing herself, from her Tony-winning stage function in “The Ritz” to TV work starting from kids’s sequence “The Electric Company,” whose album earned her a Grammy, to the grim jail drama “Oz.”
Off display screen, Moreno engaged in activism that included the civil-rights motion and endured a prolonged and poisonous romance with Marlon Brando. Clips from her function reverse Brando in the 1969 film “The Night of the Following Day” tackle a totally different hue listening to her talk about their dysfunctional relationship and the emotional scars she bore from it.
The web impact is a tribute to all that Moreno achieved over the course of a 70-year profession, tempered by an equally bittersweet asterisk: How excessive would this “girl” have flown, given her skills, with out dealing with these formidable headwinds?
“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” premieres in theaters on June 18.