Octogenarian Rita Moreno still remains one of the busiest stars in show business.
Rita stars in the critically-acclaimed Latino remake of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom, One Day at a Time on Netflix. Prior to that, Rita appeared in guest-starring roles in primetime TV series such as, Getting On, Jane The Virgin, Grey’s Anatomy and Grace and Frankie.
In December 2015 Rita received the Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime Contributions to American culture. She served as the Grand Marshal of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City and released her ‘first ever’ all Spanish language album, Una Vez Más, produced by her good friend, Emilio Estefan.
Rita currently lends her voice to the character, “Abuelita” in the children’s animated series, Nina’s World, which airs on NBC-TV’s Sprout Network. She also was the voice of “Aunt Mimi” in the animated film, Rio 2. Her first book, Rita Moreno: A Memoir, published by Celebra Books, instantly became a New York Times Bestseller. In 2011, she premiered her one-woman show, Life Without Make-up, an original stage production about her life and appeared as a season regular on the TV Land series, Happily Divorced, playing Fran Drescher’s mother.
Such creative diversity has been the hallmark of Ms. Moreno’s 70-year career. She belongs to an elite group of only 12 living performers who have won entertainment’s grand slam of the industry’s most prestigious awards: The Oscar, The Emmy, The Tony and The Grammy. Her Oscar came in 1962 when she starred as the Latina spitfire, Anita in West Side Story for which she also won The Golden Globe. The Tony win was for her 1975 comedic triumph as Googie Gomez in Broadway’s The Ritz. The Grammy was for her 1972 performance on The Electric Company Album, based on the long-running children’s television series. She won not one, but two Emmys–the first for a 1977 variety appearance on The Muppet Show and the following year for a dramatic turn on The Rockford Files.
Over the decades, she has collected dozens of other show business awards, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995. A favorite of Chicago audiences and critics, Ms. Moreno received that city’s coveted Joseph Jefferson Award in 1968 as Serafina in The Rose Tattoo and in 1985 was awarded the prestigious Sara Siddons Award for her hilarious portrayal of Olive Madison in the female version of The Odd Couple.
Ms. Moreno was born Rosita Dolores Alverio in Humacao, a small town near the Puerto Rican rain forest. At age 5, she moved to New York City with her mother where the precocious child soon began dance lessons. She made her Broadway debut at just 13 in Skydrift, starring Eli Wallach. Then in true Hollywood tradition, a talent scout spotted her and arranged for the teen to meet MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, who signed her to a film contract.
Her Hollywood career advanced steadily, including early films with stars such as Richard Widmark, Esther Williams, Mario Lanza, Susan Hayward, Tyrone Power and Gary Cooper. She appeared in the delightful Singin’ in the Rain starring Gene Kelly and was featured as Tuptim in the classic The King and I with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. Although early roles sometimes found her typecast as a Mexican spitfire or Indian maiden, she also broke the Latina mold playing an Irish teacher, an Italian widow, a female evangelist, a proper Englishwoman and a Southern belle. After her Academy Award for West Side Story, Ms. Moreno was acknowledged as a major big-screen talent.
Other significant film appearances include: The Night of the Following Day with Marlon Brando in 1967; with James Garner in Marlowe; as Alan Arkin’s girlfriend in Popi; and in Mike Nichol’s production of Carnal Knowledge. She reprised the role of Googie Gomez in the film version of The Ritz, followed by Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons, Columbia Pictures’ acclaimed I Like it Like That and Angus with George C. Scott. More recently she starred in the indie feature Carlo’s Wake with Christopher Meloni and in Blue Moon opposite Ben Cazzara. In addition, she appeared in the highly acclaimed movie Pinero starring Benjamin Bratt and in John Sayles film, Casa de los Babys.
Her long stage career has included starring roles on both sides of the Atlantic. In London, she appeared in Hal Prince’s 1962 production of She Loves Me and in the 1997 West End run of Sunset Boulevard. In New York, she has starred in Lorraine Hansbury’s The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, opposite Robert Shaw in Gantry and with Jimmy Coco in The Last of the Red Hot Lovers. She received a Tony Award nomination for her role in The National Health in1974, followed by her 1975 Tony win for The Ritz. Other New York credits include: Anne Meara’s After Play; Wally’s Café with Jimmy Coco; Circle Rep’s Size of the World; and more recently the female version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.
Ms. Moreno’s diverse regional theatre roles include Lola in Damn Yankees, Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, Doris in The Owl and the Pussycat and Mama Rose in Gypsy. At Berkeley Rep, she received rave reviews for her interpretation of Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s play Master Class in 2004 and, two seasons later, she received similar acclaim for her portrayal of Amanda Wingfield in that company’s The Glass Menagerie.
Ms. Moreno has guest starred on a wide variety of television productions in the U.S. and abroad. She is proud to have been a featured artist for many years on The Electric Company, the highly regarded educational show for children. She starred in her own TV series based on the film 9 to 5. Additionally, she played opposite Burt Reynolds in B.L. Stryker and was a series regular with Bill Cosby in the NBC Cosby Mystery Series. In 2007, she starred in the CBS series Cane and most recently she was one of the leads in the highly acclaimed HBO series OZ.
She performs concerts across the country and often appears as a guest artist with symphony orchestras. In January 1993, she was invited to perform at President Clinton’s inauguration and later that month sang at the White House. In 2002 she appeared as the guest artist with the San Francisco Symphony in a production of Candide. Ms. Moreno’s latest endeavor has been in cabaret where she has met with great critical success.
In addition to film, stage, television and concert commitments, Ms. Moreno fills her spare time by lecturing to various organizations and university audiences on such varied topics as The Value of Diversity to our Culture, The Power of Language, Getting Older without Getting Old and A History of the Arts in Film TV & Theatre. She is also involved with a number of civic and charitable organizations and events.
Ms. Moreno has served on The National Endowment for the Arts and as a Commissioner for The President’s White House Fellowships. She has served as a member of The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Rita was also recently honored by her peers as the 50th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.