October 24, 2011

"When I got the part, I thought, 'Dear God,' because she sings, 'island of tropic diseases'..."

"... and I thought, 'I can't say that about my beautiful little island'... island of tropic diseases? Whew!"

Rita Moreno won an Oscar for playing Anita in "West Side Story," but she felt bad about having to trash Puerto Rico — you ugly island.
There were other issues, too. Co-directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins wanted a big contrast between the warring gangs, the Sharks and the Jets.

"So the white kids had to have their hair bleached and have extra-pale makeup," Moreno recalls, "and we had to wear all one-color makeup, almost the color of mud — and it felt like it. We all had to have accents — many of us who were Hispanic did not have them. I asked the makeup artist, 'Why do we have to be one color? Because Hispanics are many different colors.'"....

During the filming of West Side Story, she created her own Puerto Rican character with an amusing, exaggerated accent: Googie Gomez. "One day I hiccupped her," Moreno says, before singing, a la Googie: "'I had a drean, a drean about chu, bebe.'"
Here that is on YouTube, from "The Ritz," which as a Broadway show won Rita Moreno a Tony. Of course, Moreno had to fight off the accusations that she herself, with this Googie Gomez character, was trading in offensive ethnic stereotypes. Her answer seems to be: No, because it was so funny and because it was an exaggeration of a particular type of person that people recognize. Make sure you understand how to distinguish and an actual offensive ethnic stereotypes.


A. Shmendrik said...

For a woman of her age, she's hot.

John said...

On the other hand, here in Puerto Rico today most people have never even heard of West Side Story.

I once had to explain it to my kids (Born mid-70s). They figured it was just some old timey shit from the past.

They did not see the relevance.

On the other hand, it was pretty racist and offensive.

Wasn't Leonard Bernstein supposed to have a soft spot in his heart for downtrodden minorities?

Oh, yeah. Except when he could make some money out of trodding them down even more.

Fuck you Bernstein.

John Henry

MisterBuddwing said...

"I played a Siamese girl from Thailand, I played an Arabian girl, I played a lot of American Indians," Moreno remembers.

I once spotted Ms. Moreno in an episode of "Father Knows Best" in which she played an Indian exchange student. Maybe there just weren't any actresses of South Asian ancestry around.

Had the pleasure of seeing Rita Moreno in "The Ritz" on Broadway. Her character, Googie Gomez, was so totally over the top, that of course it wasn't offensive.

WV: whilu

Sixty Grit said...

Hey, John Henry, saw your book on Instapundit yesterday. Hope that helped your sales.

ndspinelli said...

Rita Morena played a nun/shrink in the HBO prison series OZ. She was very good.

Hagar said...

Rita Moreno is a very good actress.

NPR not so good news organization.

John said...


Insty gets results!

The post went up at about noon yesterday.

By 10 this morning I had sold 5 additional copies.

The book is "Machinery Matters: John Henry on Packaging, Machinery, Troubleshooting"

Buy it through Ann's Amazon link.

Its the least we can do.

John Henry

edutcher said...

As John notes, interesting this treatment comes from Hollyweird Liberals.

Of course, they'll tell you this is the only way you can get it to sell in flyover country, but the times somebody played it straight - with any minority - flyover country didn't have a problem with it.

ricpic said...

Yes, John, Bernstein committed such racism against Moreno. Who knows what a glorious career, perhaps as a Tito Puente dancer, would have awaited her had she not been oppressed by Bernstein, Robbins and Sondheim. You dumb ass.

Alan said...

Does Texas count as flyover country? Because I'm pretty sure that for most Texans, a Latino could play any old role and no-one would bat an eye. We're used to seeing Latinos as doctors, lawyers, dads, moms, coaches, engineers, office workers, cops, etc. You know, ordinary people.

Hollywood has a ridiculously hard time seeing the world as it actually is.

Hagar said...

Moreno in her prime also was a show stopping performer.

Hagar said...

Should Kirsten Flagstad have complained for having to dress up like Brunhilde in the opera?

After all, that was very stereotypical and demeaning besides having no relationship to any known people of any time.

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...


Reminds me of an old Boone and Erickson joke.

They said the radio station had been getting complaints about the Scandinavian jokes they were always telling. Therefore the said that from now on they would only tell Hittite ethnic jokes because there have been no Hittites around for thousands of years, and so no one to offend.

Then they told their first Hittite joke that went something like this:

"Two Hittites were sitting in a bar. Sven turns to Ole says,'Vat you tink of Lena's new dress.'"


gutless said...


sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Methadras said...

A. Shmendrik said...

For a woman of her age, she's hot.

This. I thought the same exact thing.

Secondly, cubans usually shit on puerto ricans and call them niggers.

ampersand said...

FTA I was never able to do just A Girl, and I was never able to do a part without assuming some kind of accent, which is why I invented my own universal ethnic accent

Bitch, bitch,bitch. She must have forgot Zelda Zanders in "Singin' in the Rain." One of her first movie roles and guess what? Accentless.

John said...

Hey Ricpic,

I did not say he created racism against Rita Moreno. He created racial stereotypes of Puerto Ricans.

He could have done the story straight, showing Puerto Ricans the way they really are.

Had he done that, Rita Moreno would still have been a star.

And had she not gotten a name in West Side Story, she has oodles of talent and would have broken out anyway in some other role.

John Henry

William said...

Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth, Katy Jurado. There was a generation before her that achieved success and fame. I find it difficult to believe that a woman who looked like Rita Moreno endured much discrimination. Let her live her next life looking like Eleanor Roosevelt and then get back to us on the trials of looking like Rita Moreno.

Akai_Tsuki said...

There's a child development textbook that, incredibly, takes "Hey, Officer Krupke" as straight advocacy of the view that personality is determined by child rearing and the child's social environment.
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