Who was Dolores del Río?

Dolores del Río, born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete, was a Mexican actress, dancer, and singer. Known for her work in films such as Joanna, Resurrection, Devil’s Playground, Wild Flower, and The Unloved Woman, Dolores del Río was one of the first major female Latin stars who became a Hollywood star in the 1920s and 1930s. With an illustrious career spanning over five decades, Dolores del Río is often regarded as one of the most influential female figures in the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.

Dolores del Rio
Dolores del Rio Biography

Quick facts

Full nameMaría de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete
Known asDolores del Río
BirthdayAugust 3, 1904
Sun signLeo
Place of birthVictoria de Durango, Durango, Mexico
Date of death11 April, 1983 (aged 78)

Fun Facts

  • Dolores del Río was one of America’s first Latina film stars. She moved to Hollywood at the age of 21. 
  • Dolores had a longstanding feud with actress Lupe Velez. On one occasion, Velez called Dolores a “bird of bad omen”. Likewise, Velez would often imitate Dolores in public as a way of mocking the Joanna actress. As a result, Dolores was terrified to meet Velez. 
  • The Mexican starlet was known not only for her acting and dancing abilities but also for her timeless beauty. Describing her elegance and beauty, George Bernard Shaw once said, “The two most beautiful things in the world are the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Río.”
  • Dolores was discovered by filmmaker Edwin Carewe who convinced her that she could become a Hollywood star. Carewe, who worked as Dolores’s agent, manager, producer, and director in Hollywood, was obsessed with her and was determined to win her over. 
  • The Mexican diva’s beauty regimen included lying flat on the floor for extended periods of time every day. She referred to this practice as her “first beauty rule.”
  • Dolores del Río was the first actress to wear a bikini on screen. She flaunted a bikini in the film, Flying Down to Rio.

Dolores del Río Birthday and Personality Traits

Dolores del Río was born on August 3, 1904. She was born in Victoria de Durango, Mexico. Her sun sign is Leo. People having this sign are known for their humorous, optimistic, and generous nature. However, they also tend to be inflexible, stubborn, and arrogant.

Height and Appearance

Regarded as a quintessential representation of the female face of Mexico in the world and a mythical figure of American and Mexican cinema, Dolores del Río was known for her beauty and elegance. The Latin bombshell stood at the height of 5 feet and 3 inches.

Known as having the perfect face, her eyes were dark brown. Likewise, she had brown-colored hair.

Nationality, Religion, and Ethnicity

Born in Victoria de Durango, Mexico, Dolores del Río was a Mexican citizen. When it comes to her religion, Dolores was a Mexican Roman Catholic. However, she belonged to Spanish ethnicity.

Dolores del Río Early Life, Parents, & Upbringing

Dolores del Río was the daughter of and Antonia López Negrete. She came from a family of wealthy farmers and was the granddaughter of the director of the Bank of Durango.

The actress was from one of the wealthiest families in Mexico, whose lineage can be traced back to Spain and the viceregal nobility. Jesús Leonardo Asúnsolo Jacques and Antonia López Negrete were members of the Mexican aristocracy during the Porfiriato.

Despite being born in an aristocratic family, Dolores’s family lost all its wealth during the Mexican revolution. As a result, her family decided to escape since the insurrection threatened the Durango aristocratic families that Pancho Villa was leading in the area.

Dolores’s father, Jesús Leonardo Asúnsolo Jacques fled to the United States. However, Dolores and her mother Antonia López Negrete escaped to Mexico City disguised as peasants.

Fortunately, they were able to reunite in 1912. After their reunion, Dolores and her family lived in Mexico City under the protection of then-president Francisco I. Madero. Madero was a cousin of Dolores’s mother, Antonia.

Recollecting her memories of meeting the president, Dolores once said,

“I was very young when my mother brought me to the capital to meet her cousin Don Panchito, as she affectionately called him, Madero, then President of the Republic, who would sit me on her knees and would give me a huge red balloon.”

Dolores studied at Saint-Joseph Convent. During her time there, the nuns at her school would force all the students, including Dolores, to speak French at all times.

On one occasion, Dolores’s mother took her to one of the Russian dancer’s Ana Pavlova performances. Dolores was quite impressed by the performance, after which she decided to become a dancer.

Dolores del Río Relationships and Dating History

Jaime Martínez del Río

At the age of fifteen, Dolores del Río got married to the millionaire writer and law degree Jaime Martínez del Río. Jaime Martínez del Río was eighteen years older than Dolores.

Dolores del Río with her first-husband Jaime Martínez del Río photo

Dolores’s marriage to Jaime Martínez del Río helped her in many ways. The Mexican bombshell got her artistic surname from her husband. But, likewise, the marriage allowed her to continue enjoying the aristocratic pleasures that she was used to growing up.

After their marriage, Dolores and Jaime Martínez went on a two-year-long honeymoon. The newlyweds toured through Europe. During one of their stops in Spain, Dolores gave a fantastic dance performance for the kings of Spain, who were in awe of her after seeing her perform a dance for the soldiers of the war in Morocco.

After returning to Mexico, Jaime began focusing his time and energy on the growing cotton at Hacienda Las Cruces in Nazas, Durango. Unfortunately, due to the crash in the world cotton market in 1924, the couple faced a massive financial crisis.

Jaime and Dolores relocated to Mexico City and began living with their respective families since they could no longer support themselves economically. Similarly, Dolores had to sell her jewelry to meet her and her husband’s financial needs amidst the ongoing crisis.

Moreover, during this time, Dolores was pregnant. However, owing to unavoidable complications, she suffered a miscarriage. The doctors advised Dolores not to get pregnant again since it would be life-threatening.

As Dolores del Río’s Hollywood career continued to rise in the late 1920s, her marriage with Jaime Martínez turned sour. Jaime struggled to accept his new identity as the husband of the movie star, Dolores.

Likewise, after Dolores’s miscarriage, the couple faced many marital troubles. As a result, Jaime and Dolores separated briefly. Shortly after, Dolores filed for divorce. The couple parted ways in 1928. Six months after their divorce, Jaime died in Germany.

Cedric Gibbons

In 1930, Dolores del Río met art director Cedric Gibbons at a party at Hearst Castle at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. They soon began dating, and on August 6, 1930, the couple tied the knot.

In the early 1930s, the del Río-Gibbons were the focus of the media attention. Regarded as one of the most famous Hollywood couples of the times, the del Río-Gibbons famously organized ‘Sunday brunches’ in their Art Deco house at 757 Kingman Avenue in Pacific Palisades.

Not too long after walking down the aisle with Gibbons, Dolores del Río became severely ill with a severe kidney infection, after which she was advised long bed rest. Owing to this, del Río’s career suffered a major setback.

Despite her husband’s efforts to help del Río’s failing career, Dolores was put on a list entitled “box office poison” by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Distraught by her declining career, Dolores del Río found solace in actor and filmmaker Orson Welles whom she met at a party organized by Darryl Zanuck.

Sparks flew instantly, and despite Dolores’s marriage to Cedric Gibbons, the couple began an affair. Eventually, the affair ended del Río and Gibbons’ marriage. The pair divorced in 1941.

Orson Welles

Dolores del Río and Orson Welles’ relationship became the talk of the town. The pair dated for four years, from 1939 to 1943.

Dolores del Río accompanied Welles during the shooting of his film Citizen Kane. Similarly, even when the film became the focus of media scandal for openly criticizing the media magnate William Randolph Hearst, del Río stood by Welles.

Unfortunately, when Orson Welles was hired as a goodwill ambassador to visit South America by Nelson Rockefeller, their relationship changed forever. During his time in South America, Welles was involved in filming the Rio de Janeiro carnival.

The filmmaker allegedly behaved promiscuously there, and the news soon reached the United States. Dolores del Río ended her relationship with Welles through a telegram to which the actor never responded.

According to Orson Welles’ daughter Rebecca Welles,

“My father considered Dolores the great love of his life. She is a living legend in the history of my family.”

Until the end of his life, Welles was obsessively in love with Dolores del Río.

Lewis A. Riley

In the early 1950s, del Río met the American millionaire Lewis A. Riley in Acapulco. Even though Riley was involved in an affair with Bette Davis, he ended the relationship and began dating del Río.

Dolores del Río and Lewis Riley
Dolores del Río and Lewis Riley

Nearly ten years after beginning their romance, Dolores del Río and Lewis Riley got married in New York in 1959. The couple was married until del Río died in 1983.

Some unofficial relationships of Dolores del Río

The Mexican actress was rumored to be in a relationship with actor Errol Flynn, filmmaker John Farrow, writer Erich Maria Remarque, film producer Archibaldo Burns, and actor Tito Junco.

Dolores’s beauty and elegance enamored many men. Mexican filmmaker Emilio Fernández admitted that he appeared as an extra in several films of her Hollywood films just so that he could be near her. The filmmaker once said:

“I fell in love with her, but she always ignored me. I adored her… really I adored her.”

There were also strong rumors about Dolores del Río’s alleged bisexuality. The Devil’s Playground actress was allegedly one of the lovers of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Dolores del Río Career

In early 1925, the painter Adolfo Best Maugard and American filmmaker, Edwin Carewe, visited del Río and her first husband, Jaime Martínez del Río. Carewe convinced Jaime that his wife could be a movie star and invited the couple to work in Hollywood.

Jaime believed that this offer would help the couple overcome their financial troubles and also thought it would help fulfill his dream of becoming a screenwriter in Hollywood. So, going against their families’ wishes, the couple traveled by train to the United States to start Dolores’s Hollywood career.

Upon arriving in the USA, Carewe began to act as Dolores’s agent, manager, producer, and director. In an attempt to bring Dolores to the public’s attention, Carewe made a report in the major magazines in Hollywood which read:

“Dolores del Río, the heiress and First Lady of the High Mexican Society, has come to Hollywood with a cargo of shawls and combs valued at $ 50,000 (is said to be the richest girl in her country thanks to the fortune of her husband and her parents). She will debut in the film, Joanna, led by her discoverer Edwin Carewe.”

Here is the list of every Movie, Television, Theatre, Short film, and Documentaries that Dolores del Río was part of.

Dolores del Río Filmography:

1925 – 1929:

YearTitleRoleDirectorOther cast members
1925JoannaCarlotta Da SilvaEdwin CareweDorothy Mackaill, Jack Mullah
1926High SteppersEvelyn IffieldEdwin CareweMary Astor, Lloyd Hughes, Rita Carewe
1926The Whole Town’s TalkingRita RenaultEdward LaemmleEdward Everett Horton, Trixie Friganza
1926Pals FirstJeanne LammontEdwin CareweLloyd Hughes, George Cooper, Edward Earle
1926What Price Glory?Charmaine de la CognacRaoul WalshVictor McLaglen, Edmund Lowe
1927ResurrectionKatyusha MaslovaEdwin CareweRod La Rocque, Rita Carewe, Vera Lewis
1927The Loves of CarmenCarmenRaoul WalshVictor McLaglen, Don Alvarado, Carmen Costello
1927No Other WomanCarmelita de GranadosLou TellegenDon Alvarado, Ben Bard, Paulette Duval
1928The Gateway of the MoonChela (Toni)John Griffith WrayWalter Pidgeon, Leslie Fenton
1928The Trail of ’98BernaClarence BrownRalph Forbes, Tenen Holtz
1928RamonaRamonaEdwin CareweWarner Baxter, Roland Drew
1928The Red DanceTasiaRaoul WalshCharles Farrell, Ivan Linow
1928RevengeRaschaEdwin CareweJames A. Marcus, Le Roy Mason
1929EvangelineEvangelineEdwin CareweRoland Drew, Alec B. Francis

1930 – 1942:

YearTitleRoleDirectorOther cast members
1930The Bad OneLitaGeorge FitzmauriceEdmund Lowe, Don Alvarado
1932Girl of the RioDolores RomeroHerbert BrenonNorman Foster, Leo Carrillo, Andrea Palma
1932Bird of ParadiseLuanaKing VidorJoel McCrea, John Halliday
1933Flying Down to RioBelinnha de RezendeThornton FreelandGene Raymond, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Raoul Roulien
1934Wonder BarInézLloyd BaconAl Jolson, Kay Francis, Ricardo Cortez, Dick Powell
1934Madame Du BarryMadame DuBarryWilliam DieterleReginald Owen, Victor Jory
1935In CalienteRita GómezLloyd BaconPat O’Brien, Edward Everett Horton, Glenda Farrell
1935I Live for LoveDonna AlvarezBusby BerkeleyEverett Marshall, Don Alvarado
1936The Widow from Monte CarloDuchess of RyeArthur Greville CollinsWarren William, Colin Clive
1936AccusedGaby SeymourThornton FreelandDouglas Fairbanks Jr., Florence Desmond
1937Devil’s PlaygroundCarmenErle C. KentonChester Morris, Richard Dix
1937Lancer SpyDolores Daria SunnellGregory RatoffGeorge Sanders, Peter Lorre
1937Ali Baba Goes to TownBrief cameoDavid ButlerEddie Cantor, Gypsy Rose Lee
1938International SettlementLenore DixonEugene FordeGeorge Sanders, John Carradine, June Lang
1940The Man from DakotaEugenia SanfordLeslie FentonWallace Beery, John Howard
1943Journey into FearJosette MartellOrson WellesJoseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Ruth Warrick, Agnes Moorehead

1943 – 1959:

YearTitleRoleDirectorOther cast members
1943Wild FlowerEsperanzaEmilio FernándezPedro Armendáriz, Emilio Fernández, Miguel Angel Ferriz
1944María CandelariaMaría CandelariaEmilio FernándezPedro Armendáriz, Miguel Inclán, Alberto Galán
1945Las AbandonadasMargaritaEmilio FernándezPedro Armendáriz, Victor Junco, Arturo Soto Rangel
1945BugambiliaAmalia de los RoblesEmilio FernándezPedro Armendáriz, Julio Villarreal, Stella Inda
1945La Selva de FuegoEstrellaFernando de FuentesArturo de Córdova, Miguel Inclán
1946La OtraMaría Méndez / Magdalena MéndezRoberto GavaldónVictor Junco, Agustín Irusta
1947The FugitiveMaría DoloresJohn FordHenry Fonda, Pedro Armendáriz, Ward Bond, Leo Carrillo
1948Story of a Bad WomanMrs. ErlynneLuis SaslavskyMaría Duval, Francisco de Paula, Alberto Closas
1949The Unloved WomanRaymundaEmilio FernándezPedro Armendáriz, Columba Domínguez, Roberto Cañedo
1950La casa chicaAmaliaRoberto GavaldónMiroslava Stern, Roberto Cañedo, Domingo Soler
1951DesiredDeseadaRoberto GavaldónJorge Mistral, Anabel Gutiérrez
1951Doña PerfectaDoña PerfectaAlejandro GalindoEsther Fernández, Carlos Navarro, Julio Villarreal
1953ReportajeMaria CristinaEmilio FernándezArturo de Córdova, María Félix, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante
1953El Niño y la NieblaMarthaRoberto GavaldónPedro Lopez Lagar, Alejandro Ciangherotti Jr., Eduardo Noriega
1955Señora AmaDominicaJulio BrachoJosé Suárez, Ma. Luz Galicia
1958Where Are Our Children Going?RosaBenito AlazrakiTito Junco, Martha Mijares, Andrea Palma
1959La CucarachaIsabel, the WidowIsmael RodriguezMaría Félix, Emilio Fernández, Pedro Armendáriz
Dolores Del Rio photo
Dolores Del Rio photo

1960 – 1978:

YearTitleRoleDirectorOther cast members
1960Flaming StarNeddy BurtonDon SiegelElvis Presley, Barbara Eden, Steve Forrest, John McIntire
1961El Pecado de una MadreGabrielaAlfonso Corona BlakeLibertad Lamarque, Enrique Rambal, Pedro Geraldo
1964Cheyenne AutumnSpanish WomanJohn FordRichard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, Gilbert Roland, James Stewart, Edward G. Robinson
1966La Dama del AlbaLa PeregrinaFrancisco Robira VeletaJuliette Villard, Yelena Samarina
1966Casa de MujeresGilda “La Doña”Julian SolerElsa Aguirre, Fernando Soler, Elsa Cárdenas, Carlos López Moctezuma
1967More than a MiracleQueen MotherFrancesco RossiSophia Loren, Omar Sharif
1978The Children of SanchezGrandmaHall BartlettAnthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Lupita Ferrer, Lucía Méndez

Dolores del Río Short films:

YearTitle
1926WAMPAS Baby Stars of 1926
1930Screen Snapshots Series 9, No. 14
1930Screen Snapshots Series 9, No. 23
1930Screen Snapshots Series 19, No. 24
1935A dream comes true: The Making of An Unusual Motion Picture
1935A Trip Thru a Hollywood Studio
1937Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 7
1937Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 8
1939Screen Snapshots Series 18, No. 10
1940Meet the Stars # 1: Chinese Garden Festival
1941Meet the Stars # 2: Baby Stars
1954Screen Snapshots: Hollywood goes to Mexico
1967Río Blanco
1968Mexico ’68: Instantaneous /Dolores del Río’s Mexico
1983Zelig

Dolores del Río Documentary:

YearTitle
1928Die Filmstad Hollywood
1956Torero!
1961Hollywood: The Golden Years
1969Hollywood: The Selznick Years
1971The American West of John Ford
1976Salsa
1979Mexico de mis amores
2002The Bronze Screen: 100 Years of the Latino Image in American Cinema
2003Dolores del Río: The Mexican Diva of Hollywood
2012Arena : Screen Goddesses

Television Series:

YearTitleRoleDirectorOther main cast members
1951Trio by the LamplightPaul Tripp
1951The Kate Smith Evening HourHerselfKate Smith (host), Victor Borge
1957Schlitz Playhouse of StarsHerselfJohn BrahmLeon Askin, Cesar Romero
1958The United States Steel HourTheresa TaillenRobert StevensJohn Baragrey, Alexander Clark
1960The Dinah Shore Chevy ShowHerselfRolando AguilarGilbert Roland, Ricardo Montalban, Tito Guízar
1965The Man who Bought ParadiseMonaRalph NelsonBuster Keaton, Paul Lukas, Angie Dickinson
1966I SpySeritaRichard C. SarafianRobert Culp, Bill Cosby, Victor Jory
1966BrandedAntonia MolineraWilliam WitneyChuck Connors
1966A Bob Hope Comedy SpecialHerselfJack SheaBob Hope, Michael Caine, Cantinflas, Glenn Ford, Gina Lollobrigida, Jayne Mansfield, Merle Oberon, Silvia Pinal
1968Dolores del Río (T.V BIography)Herself
1970Maratón Rosa MexicanoHerself / HostMaría Félix, Libertad Lamarque, Raphael, Carmen Montejo, María Elena Marqués
1970Marcus Welby M.D.Carlotta Lopez de GuadalupeDaniel PetrieRobert Young, James Brolin, Janet Blair

Dolores del Río Theatre:

YearPlayRoleTheatreOther notable cast members
1941The Mercury Wonder ShowMany rolesCalifornia State FairOrson Welles
1956AnastaciaAnastacia RomanovFalmouth Playhouse, MassachusettsLili Darvas, Alan Shayne, Stephen Elliott, Boris Tumarin
1958Lady Windermere’s FanMrs. ErlynneTeatro Virginia Fábregas, Mexico City / Teatro Nacional de Buenos Aires, Argentina(México) María Rivas, Carlos Navarro, Joaquín Cordero, Anita Blanch, Tito Junco, (Argentina) Alberto Closas, Ana Luisa Peluffo
1959The Road to RomeAmitisTeatro de los Insurgentes, Mexico CityWolf Ruvinskis, Raúl Ramírez, Jorge del Campo, Rosenda Monteros
1961La despedidaHerselfMillion Dollar Theater, Los Angeles, CaliforniaJorge Martínez de Hoyos
1962GhostsMrs. Helen AlvingSala Chopin, Mexico CityJulián Soler, Adriana Roel, Jorge del Campo,
1963Dear Liar: A Comedy of LetterMrs. Patrick CampbellTeatro de los Insurgentes, Mexico CityIgnacio López Tarso
1964La Vidente (La Voyante)La VidenteTeatro de los Insurgentes, Mexico CityFernando Luján, Jacqueline Andere, Marilú Elízaga, Blanca Sánchez, Narciso Busquets, Magda Donato, Tamara Garina
1967The Queen and the RebelsAlgiraTeatro Hidalgo, Mexico CityIgnacio López Tarso, Narciso Busquets, Patricia Morán
1970The Lady of the CamelliasMarguerite GautierTeatro Hidalgo, Mexico CityCarlos Bracho, Marilú Elízaga, Germán Robles, Angélica Aragón

Dolores del Río Awards:

YearFilmResultAwardCategory
1944Las abandonadasWonSilver Ariel AwardBest Actress
1946La OtraNominatedSilver Ariel AwardBest Actress
1949La Casa ChicaNominatedSilver Ariel AwardBest Actress
1951Doña PerfectaWonSilver Ariel AwardBest Actress
1953El Niño y la NieblaWonSilver Ariel AwardBest Actress
1975Honorific AwardWonGolden Ariel AwardContribution to the Mexican Cinema

Honorary awards:

YearAwardCategory
1926WAMPAS Baby StarsA promotional campaign sponsored by the United States Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers honored thirteen young actresses each year they believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom.
1943Instituto de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas de MéxicoBest Actress (Flor Silvestre)
1957Asociacion Nacional de ActoresMedal for her outstanding scenic work abroad.
1952Neiman Marcus Fashion AwardMedal for the best dressed woman in America
1961Hollywood Walk of FameMotion Pictures (Location: 1630 Vine Street)
1965Sarape de Plata (PECIME)Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the talkies in Mexico.
1967Organization of American StatesMedal for her cultural contribution to the peoples of America
1974Diosa de Plata Award (PECIME)Motion Pictures Contribution
1975Mexican Legion of HonorDiploma for artistic merit
1978Mexican American Institute of Cultural RelationsAward for artistic merit
1982George Eastman AwardGeorge Eastman House established the George Eastman Award for distinguished contribution to the art of film
1993The Four LadiesThe Four Ladies of Hollywood gazebo at the western border of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The domed structure is held aloft by four caryatids sculpted by Harl West to represent the Mexican actress Dolores del Río, African-American actress Dorothy Dandridge, Asian-American actress Anna May Wong and the multi-ethnic, Brooklyn-born actress Mae West.

Dolores del Río Death

The Latin bombshell faced many health issues towards the end of her life. In 1978, she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis. Similarly, in 1981, she was diagnosed with hepatitis B.

Moreover, del Río suffered from arthritis. After her hepatitis led to cirrhosis, del Río was admitted to Scripps Hospital in 1982.

Unfortunately, del Río succumbed to her illness on April 11, 1983. She passed away at the age of 78 in Newport Beach, California. After her funeral, her ashes were moved from the United States to Panteón de Dolores, Mexico.

Dolores del Río Net Worth

The Bird of Paradise actress had an estimated net worth of USD 1.6 million at the time of her death. Owing to such impressive net worth, there is no doubt that Dolores del Río lived a lavish lifestyle.

However, the actress originated from an aristocratic family and had her fair share of financial struggles. First, her family lost all its assets during the Mexican Revolution. Then, after her marriage to Jaime Martínez del Río, the del Ríos lost all of their fortunes due to the world cotton market crash in 1924.

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