Maria Africa Antonia Gracia Vidal de Santo Silas later known the world over as Maria Montez was born in Barahona, Dominican Republic to a Spanish consul and his wife. Montez landed a contract with Universal Studios after a successful stint as a model. Although Universal is best known for its horror vehicles it turned also toward fantasy when American minds needed distractions from the War. After a few bit roles Universal found the perfect fit for Maria Montez in inexpensive, colorful adventure stories that audiences loved. Montez’ career was relatively short, but she made an impact evidenced by the monikers she earned, which ranged from ‘The Queen of Technicolor’ to ‘The Caribbean Cyclone’ to ‘The Female Victor Mature’ as you can see from the article included below.
Maria Montez’ was discovered dead of a heart attack on the 7th of September in 1951 at the age of 39. Despite her early death, however, Montez remains a beloved figure of classic Hollywood. She is so admired in her native Dominican Republic that the international airport at Barahona is named Maria Montez International Airport.
For this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month and the #dePelicula campaign I’m co-hosting with Raquel of Out of the Past I wanted to pay tribute to Montez, but I know little about her. What I did instead was ask a friend and colleague who happens to be a huge Montez fan to write a few lines…
By Marina Collado:
“Maria Montez was the first famous Hollywood personality born in the Dominican Republic. I am also Dominican and when I learned that Maria Montez was Dominican I felt very proud. I remember watching Technicolor films when I was a child growing up in Union City, NJ. How entertaining and full of life those films seemed. John Rawlins‘ Arabian Nights was one of my favorites. It presented a faraway land enriched by exotic costumes and customs unknown to me. Maria played the lead alongside Jon Hall. The two protagonists were deeply in love overcoming difficult situations in their inviting distant place of unlimited possibilities. The enclosed space of my over-crowed fifth floor apartment disappeared as I immersed myself in the beautiful gardens and tents where Maria and Jon met and fell in love.
After the two lovers overcame many hardships they were able to finally love one another and live happily ever after. In one scene Maria danced beautifully – hypnotizing and seducing the enemy to her will. I did not realize then the lasting effects Arabian Nights and other Maria Montez films would have on me. I am honored and pleased that Maria Montez was Dominican.
Today I love adventure and travel. Although these activities are in line with those of others of my generation I feel that having experienced these movies awoke curiosities in me that might not have existed otherwise.”
Before you peruse through the following Montez gallery check out this terrific write-up at The Last Drive In on The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) “Every man knows what sort of a woman she is!”