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RITA MORENO, ¡QUE VIDA!

Rita Moreno: A Memoir - Rita Moreno

A few minutes ago (it is now 6:16 PM EST August 16, 2018 as I write this), I finished reading this candid and compelling memoir of a most remarkable woman. Rita Moreno I had known about first-hand since the 1970s, from having seen her on the TV shows 'The Electric Company' and 'The Rockford Files.' She struck me then as a cool, attractive woman who was sure of herself and had class. Aside from that, I never gave much thought to Rita Moreno the person beyond the TV studio, movie set, and stage. 

But in reading 'RITA MORENO: A Memoir', I was able to look into the life of someone who wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She had to fight for everything she got. That strength came from her mother who brought her at the age of 5 to New York from Puerto Rico (which she describes in such rich and colorful detail from her childhood memories) to make a new life for them both. Rita's father had abandoned them sometime earlier. They lived for a time in a shared apartment in the Bronx. Her mother took on odd jobs such as cleaning the homes of white families, saving up money til she was able to move both herself and daughter Rita into their own apartment in Manhattan. Rita was a very spirited, energetic little girl and one of her relatives in New York suggested to her mother that she get dancing lessons for Rita. (Her teacher was Paco Cansino, who was "not only a Spanish dance teacher; he was the ultimate Spanish dance teacher. He was the teacher and uncle of Rita Hayworth.") This marked the beginning of what would be an almost 70 year career full of fantastic highs (such as Rita Moreno winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Anita in "West Side Story") and frustrating lows. 

Rita Moreno is one of the few surviving actresses today who started out in the era of the studio system in Hollywood. She first worked for MGM (where she had a small role with Gene Kelly in the musical "Singing in the Rain") before going on to work at 20th Century Fox. 

There is so much more to Rita Moreno than meets the eye. That's why I would encourage the reader of this review to take some time and read deeply into the life of a person who traveled quite a journey through life, worked with some of the most famous and distinguished figures in the world of cinema and stage, had a loving family, and managed to stay true to herself all the while.