Born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo López-Negrete at the turn of the century (that’d be the twentieth century), Mexican actress Dolores del Río was one of the very first silver screen icons. Having started in silent film — often dubbed the female Rudolph Valentino — she seamlessly made the move to the talkies and later still returned to her home country where she worked in Golden Age Mexican classics. Remembered as one of the most beautiful faces to ever grace the silver screen, she worked for over five decades. She made her screen debut in 1925’s Joanna while her final screen credit was 1978’s The Children of Sanchez, where she starred opposite Anthony Quinn and Lupita Ferrer. Crossing over from the U.S. to Mexico (and at point being denied entry back to America due to her apparent sympathies with communists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera), del Río remains a fascinating figure of Mexican and American cinema.

In her lifetime, she worked with the likes of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Elvis Presley, Orson Welles, Henry Fonda, and Pedro Armendáriz. With such a varied career, there are endless films we could point you to if you wanted to have a del Río primer. And to boil our choices down to merely 5 performances was no easy feat, particularly when we wanted to make sure you could screen these from the comfort of your own home. (Yes, this is a PSA to make sure we can soon get films like Maria Candelaria (1944) and Journey Into Fear (1943) on streaming sites across the web!). And so, find below five representative roles that give you a sense of why del Río was the first crossover Latin American actress in Hollywood.

1

The Trail of '98

Production Year 1928

Available to stream on iTunes, YouTube, Google Play.

Synopsis

A black and white silent film — prepare to read some inter-titles! — this action adventure flick chronicles the famed Alaskan gold rush of the turn of the century. When a ship from Alaska arrives at the San Francisco harbor with plenty of men boasting about their golden finds up North, it encourages men and women alike to begin their trek up to the Klondike in search of fortune. Based on the 1910 Robert W. Service novel by the same title, The Trail of ’98 features, among others, Dolores del Río, Ralph Forbes and Karl Dane.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Clarence Brown
Country United States
Genre Adventure Action Drama
Writer Benjamin Glazer
Producer Clarence Brown
Production Year 1928
Running Time 87 minutes
2

Flying Down to Rio

Production Year 1933

Available to stream on FilmStruck, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play.

Synopsis

Best remembered now as the first on-screen pairing of Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire, Flying Down to Rio actually gave top-billing to Dolores del Río. As Belinha, the Mexican actress played the foreign beauty who dazzles Astaire’s Fred. A bandleader in Miami, Fred eventually follows the woman he becomes infatuated with all the way to Rio where he’s set up an engagement for him and his band (which includes Rodgers’ Honey). In between musical numbers — which include the Oscar-nominated “Carioca” as well as one classic Astaire tap-dance— this black and white studio film is a paean to the talent of its lead trio.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Thornton Freeland
Country United States
Genre Musical Romance Comedy
Writer Cyril Hume H.W. Hanemann Erwin S. Gelsey
Production Year 1933
Running Time 89 minutes
3

La malquerida

Country Mexico
Production Year 1949
La malquerida
Courtesy of Pantaya
La_Malquerida_8
Courtesy of Pantaya
La_Malquerida_9
Courtesy of Pantaya

Available to stream on Pantaya

Synopsis

Raymunda (Dolores del Rio) is a widow about to be married to Esteban (Pedro Armendáriz). At first, her daughter Acacia (Columba Domínguez) rejects her new stepfather, thinking all he was after was their family money. But as the years go by, her rejection turns to the kind of illicit love that melodrama films are made of!

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director Emilio Fernández
Country Mexico
Genre Romance Drama
Writer Emilio Fernández Mauricio Magdaleno
Producer Francisco Cabrera
Production Year 1949
Running Time 86 minutes
4

La casa chica

Country Mexico
Production Year 1950

Available to stream on Pantaya.

Synopsis

This black and white Mexican melodrama follows the doomed love affair between Fernando (Roberto Cañedo), an eminent doctor, and Amalia (Dolores del Rio), his colleague. Despite the obvious bond and chemistry between them, there is one obstacle that seems insurmountable: Fernando is engaged to be married to Lucila (Miroslava), a woman intent on staying with him at all costs. Framed as the memories of an elder Amalia, La casa chica (The Love Nest) takes its title from the way these two lovebirds manage to keep their love alive over the decades — by keeping it safe in the small apartment they end up sharing.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
The Love Nest
Director Roberto Gavaldón
Country Mexico
Genre Romance Drama
Writer José Revueltas
Producer Gregorio Walerstein
Production Year 1950
Running Time 115 minutes
5

The Fugitive

Director John Ford
Production Year 1947
Henry Fonda and Dolores del Rio in John Ford’s THE FUGITIVE (1
Henry Fonda and Dolores del Rio in John Ford’s ''The Fugitive' (1947). Courtesy Film Forum via Photofest.

Available to stream on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube.

Synopsis

One of director John Ford’s most abstract and self-consciously ‘artsy’ films, The Fugitive follows the travails of a Catholic priest desperately avoiding execution in an unnamed Latin American country where religion is outlawed. While considered a difficult film for fans of Ford’s more straightforward work, it was one of the director’s personal favorites and cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa contributed immensely to the film’s powerful visual style.

Andrew S. Vargas

Film Details

Director John Ford
Country United States
Genre Drama
Writer Dudley Nichols
Producer Merian C. Cooper Emilio Fernández John Ford
Production Year 1947
Running Time 104 minutes