Hispanics in Hollywood

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: September 15 to October 15

Jose Ferrer

During the early years of the film industry in Hollywood, Hispanic actors were cast as bandits and dangerous women. Some male Hispanic actors were typecast as “Latin Lover.”

In those days Mexican actor Dolores Del Rio was the only Hispanic actor to escape typecasting. Thus, it was a breakthrough when Puerto Rican actor Jose Ferrer received in 1950 the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance of the leading role in “Cyrano de Bergerac.”

Things have changed since Hispanic actors like Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Cansino) and Anthony Quinn (born Antonio Quinn Oaxaca) felt compelled to change their names. In order to succeed in Hollywood, some Hispanic actors had to change more than their names. Hayworth’s agent had her die her dark brown hair copper red, and she attained fame as a red head.

Today actors like Benicio del Toro, Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria are not compelled to change their names, and are offered film roles far more varied than those offered in the past to Ramon Novarro and Rita Moreno.

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, we are sharing some resources from the University of Minnesota Libraries on the history of Hispanics in Hollywood and featuring Hispanic actors. These include:

  • Colin Gunkel’s Mexico on Main Street: Transnational Film Culture in Los Angeles Before World War II (at Wilson Library under call number PN1995.9 .M49 G86 2015).
  • Luis Reyes’s and Peter Rubie’s Hispanics in Hollywood: A Celebration of 100 Years in Film and Television (a reference work at Wilson Library under call number PN1995.9 .H47 R49 2000).
  • The documentary “Latino Beyond Reel: Challenging a Media Stereotype” (at Walter SLC under call number PN1995.9 .H47 L38 2012), in Walter Library’s collection of DVD films.

(Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons and publicdomainreview.org)

—Rafael E. Tarrago
for the Libraries Diversity Leadership Committee

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