Trailblazer of the Day | Tuesday, September 17, 2013
There were thriving film industries in Latin America dating back to the 19th century, particularly in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. But it wasn’t until José Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac – 1950) and Rita Moreno (West Side Story – 1961) that Latino performers took home the Oscar.
After being nominated for his supporting role in Joan of Arc (1948), Puerto Rican-born José Ferrer won the gold for Cyrano de Bergerac, making him the first Latino to win an Oscar.
In 1961, Rita Moreno won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in West Side Story, a role she had also played on Broadway. Born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Moreno is the only Latino to win all four major entertainment awards: Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy.
Due to an anti-Latino bias in Hollywood in the 1940s, both of these stars played non-Latino roles. Ferrer played French and Turkish characters; Moreno had Indian and Asian roles.
Two other Latino have won Oscars, Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata! (1952) and Lust for Life (1956), and Benicio del Toro for Traffic (2000), which co-starred, oddly, Jose Ferrer’s son Miguel. Quinn was also nominated for Wild is the Wind and Zorba the Greek, and Del Toro for 21 Grams.
Other Latinos with Oscar nominations include Katy Jurado (Broken Lance), Edward James Olmos (Stand and Deliver), Salma Hayek (Frida), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Gladiator), Andy García (The Godfather: Part III), Catalina Moreno (Maria Full of Grace) and Adriana Barraza (Babel).