Inspiration November 14, 2016
Mexican-American actress Lupita Tovar, who was best known for her starring role in the Spanish-language “Dracula,” died on November 12th from a heart ailment. She was 106. To commemorate her long life and contributions to the film industry, here are the some of her greatest accomplishments.
NAME: Guadalupe Natalia “Lupita” Tovar
LIFETIME: July 27, 1910 – November 12, 2016
WHAT’S SHE’S KNOWN FOR: Lupita Tovar was a groundbreaking Mexican-American actress who not only starred in the 1931 Spanish-language “Dracula,” she also played lead actress in the 1932 “Santa” – “The Saint” – one of Mexico’s first narrative sound films. “Santa’s” commercial success in Mexico made her an icon in her home country, where she became known as “the sweetheart of Mexico.” And because the film became such a cinematic landmark in that country, the Mexican government issued a postage stamp of Tovar to memorialize her “Santa” role as an innocent woman whose life unravels after being seduced and abandoned by a soldier.
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Her arrival into Hollywood happened as films transitioned to sound. However, her limited training and heavy accent prevented her from greater Hollywood stardom. Instead, her skills were used in the Spanish-language versions of Hollywood horror classics. These films were made at Universal Studios and the Spanish-speaking crew worked in the evening, after the English-language cast left for the day. Aside from “Dracula,” Tovar also had leading parts in Spanish-language versions of “The Cat Creeps” (1930) and “Then Cents a Dance” (1931).
WHY WE LOVE HER: Tovar was the eldest of nine children and spent her earliest years impoverished during the Mexican civil war, but she didn’t let that stop her. Robert Flaherty, a documentarian, discovered her at a dance class when she was 17. Tovar was invited to a screen test competition and won the prize of a 6-month probation period followed by a 7-year contract with Fox.
And despite not becoming an English-language actress, many critics have come to prefer the Spanish “Dracula” for its “less static camerawork, livelier acting and more pronounced eroticism,” says The Washington Post. For example, in film historian David J. Skal’s “Hollywood Gothic,” Skal wrote that Tovar seems “sexually animated as the vampire overtakes her” while Helen Chandler, the English-language actress, “seems merely dazed.”
FUN FACTS: Lupita Tovar is a matriarch to an enduring Hollywood dynasty. Her family has been involved in filmmaking for three generations. Her daughter, Susan Kohner, is an Oscar-winning actress for her role in “Imitation of Life” (1959). Her grandsons, Chris and Paul Weitz co-directed films like “American Pie” (1999) and “About a Boy” (2002). Alex Kohner, another grandson, is also an entertainment attorney for Morris Yorn in Los Angeles.
And although Lupita Tovar didn’t establish herself in the long list of film greats, her 31 credited roles over 16 years has sparked renewed interest among movie aficionados and scholars. Now, her legacy lives on with her classic roles and her family’s careers in entertainment and media.
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