Rita Moreno discusses starring in Spielberg’s West Side Story
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Rita Moreno (real name Ruby Dolores Alverio) is best known for her legendary performance in West Side Story six decades ago. Yet few know the inside story on the relationship she described as “poison”, which lasted right up until the year she began filming for the Oscar-winning flick.
[Marlon] never ‘made love’ to me. He didn’t know how
In her documentary, Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, the 90-year-old reminisces on her earlier life as a Puerto Rican hungry for fame in Hollywood, while describing her experiences with misogyny, unfaithfulness and even rape, inflicted on her by an agent at the tender age of 17.
Yet perhaps the most dramatic moments of all were those of her troubled relationship with Marlon Brando, a man she claimed “didn’t know how” to love.
Rita, then 22, met the 30-year-old actor, a legend for his role as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, in 1954 and claims that the star “sent my body temperature skyrocketing”, bringing on “the sort of rush that inspires poetry and songs”.
However, that didn’t mean that the heartthrob was kind or generous.
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“He wasn’t giving – or, for that matter, loving,” she told The Telegraph adamantly.
“He never ‘made love’ to me. He didn’t know how.”
She added: “It was a very tempestuous, very sexual relationship, but by no means was it loving. It only became loving after it was over.”
She claims that their relationship was characterised by infidelity, sexual jealousy and passion, with “luminous, incredible” experiences in the bedroom.
However, she alleges that Marlon was repeatedly unfaithful, driving her into the arms of Elvis Presley in a bid to make him jealous.
She told the TV show The View of the trauma: “I found lingerie in his house and, of course, I was heartbroken, and I went home in tears. Really, I was naïve – and I was angry too, just furious.
“The next day, the phone rings, and I hear, ‘This is Colonel Parker, my client is Elvis Presley, and Elvis spotted you at the 20th Century Fox commissary, and he liked what he saw. And he would like very much to meet you. Would you like to meet him?’
And I thought of those panties, and I said, ‘Yes, I would.’”
However, she ultimately found the 1950s sex symbol “boring”, describing him to The Telegraph as “more like a baby brother who couldn’t make interesting conversation”.
She also recalled his lack of passion beyond his famous dance moves, once noting that he had more interest in a peanut butter and bacon sandwich than in her.
It was Marlon who flamed the fires of passion for her, yet who she described as “the daddy that I couldn’t please”.
Ultimately returning to her ill-fated romance with him, things took a turn for the worst when she fell pregnant and Marlon arranged a clandestine illegal abortion.
In her self-titled memoir, Rita recalled: “I almost died from loving him… We were locked in the ultimate folie à deux, a crazy love that lasted for years, until one day I quite literally was forced out of a coma and had to choose life over him.”
After the botched abortion, in which the foetus died but remained lodged inside her, leaving her bleeding “profusely”, she was rushed to hospital for an emergency procedure.
Marlon, on the other hand, was merely ranting of the botched operation that he wanted his money back.
The traumatic episode spelt the end of their intense affair and she started to receive therapy, though she claims she remained “in love with him for a long time after it ended”.
“I knew this man was poison,” she reflected. “My doctor told me he was poison. I could never see him again.”
However, success of another sort was brewing for her as, the year that she broke up with him, the filming began for West Side Story – and now, 60 years on from its original release, Rita will appear again in Steven Spielberg’s remake.
Although it might seem as though her real-life story is even more of a blockbuster than the fictional romance the movie portrays, interested viewers can catch it at the cinema now. Meanwhile, her documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, is available for digital download on Netflix.
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