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Rita Moreno is a Puerto Rican actress and performer best known for playing Anita in West Side Story. In her 70 years in the industry, Moreno has established herself as one of the most influential and critically acclaimed Latina performers.
See the fact file below for more information on Rita Moreno or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Rita Moreno worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Rosa Dolores Alverío was born on December 11, 1931, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, to Rosa Maria Mercano and Paco Alverio, who was a farmer.
- After her parents divorced, Rita’s mother moved to the United States to work as a seamstress, partly due to the pressure caused by Puerto Rico’s rapid industrialization. Rita was left under the care of her relatives.
- Known by her nickname “Rosita”, she lived in Juncos, Puerto Rico, before moving to New York to join her mother at the age of five. Shortly after, she began taking dance lessons.
- At the age of eleven, Rosa booked a professional job recording the Spanish versions of American films. At the age of thirteen, she debuted on Broadway as “Angelina” in Skydrift. She decided to drop out of school to focus on her blossoming career.
- After catching the attention of talent scouts and Hollywood agents, Moreno signed a seven-year contract with Louis B. Mayer’s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. At the age of seventeen, she adopted her stepfather Edward’s surname and took the stage name Rita Moreno. She made her film debut in So Young, So Bad (1950).
- Moreno worked in the entertainment industry during the later years of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She initially did small roles in films throughout the 1950s, such as a feature role in The Toast of New Orleans (1950) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952).
- During this time, she disliked the roles she had, believing that they were stereotypical or sexualized portrayals of Latinas.
- Despite being Puerto Rican, she was asked to act as different Asian ethnicities, most notably as a Burmese character in The King and I (1956).
- In 1961, she was offered the role of Anita in the film adaptation of West Side Story. This would remain to be one of her most iconic roles throughout her career. For her portrayal, Moreno won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
- Even after receiving accolades for her performance, she continued to be limited by stereotypical role offers. This greatly upset Rita, who took a break from the industry for the next seven years.
- Moreno returned to the industry in the late 1960s. She starred in The Night of the Following Day (1968), Marlowe (1969), and Carnal Knowledge (1971) to mark her return to film.
- From 1971 to 1977, Rita starred in a children’s television series called The Electric Company. In 1972, she was given a Grammy Award for the show’s soundtrack.
- In 1975, a few years after winning her Grammy, she starred in the Broadway production of The Ritz as Googie Gomez. For her performance, she won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress.
- Rita’s appearance on The Muppet Show in 1977 won her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
- She became the third person and first Latina to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony, making her one of the few “EGOT” winners.
- In 1978, Moreno won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Drama Series for her role on The Rockford Files. She is also known for voicing Carmen Sandiego on Fox’s cartoon series Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? (1994-1998)
- From 1997 to 2003, she starred in HBO’s Oz. For her performance, she won an ALMA Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series in 1998, 1999, and 2002.
- She continued to star in films and television shows throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, mostly in guest or recurring roles.
- Her most recent work includes Netflix’s acclaimed series One Day at a Time (2017-present). She is set to appear in the 2021 movie remake of West Side Story.
PERSONAL LIFE AND IMPACT
- In 1965, Rita married Dr. Leonard Gordon, a cardiologist. He also worked as her manager. They remained married until Leonard passed away in 2010 at the age of 90. Their daughter, Fernanda, was born in 1967. Fernanda married David Fisher in 1996. Rita has two grandchildren named Cameron and Justin.
- In 1995, Rita was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2004, she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President George W. Bush. This is the highest civilian award given by the United States.
- Former President Barack Obama awarded Rita with the 2009 National Arts Medal.
- With several lifetime achievement awards and over 100 film, television, and theater credits to her name, Rita Moreno is known as one of the most versatile and successful performers. She also helped gain more recognition and opportunities for Latina and Hispanic performers.
Rita Moreno Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Rita Moreno across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Rita Moreno worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Rita Moreno who is a Puerto Rican actress and performer best known for playing Anita in West Side Story. In her 70 years in the industry, Moreno has established herself as one of the most influential and critically acclaimed Latina performers.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Rita Moreno Facts
- She’s On A Roll
- Who’s Who?
- Island Hopping
- Decoding Rita
- Back In My Day…
- Rita: The Triple Threat
- Thank You, Thank You All!
- In Her Own Words
- West Side Story
- Now Showing!
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Use With Any Curriculum
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