Katy Jurado was a Mexican actress who rose to fame in both Mexico and Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s. She was known for her exotic beauty, fiery personality, and versatile roles in various genres, especially Westerns. She was the first Latin American actress to be nominated for an Oscar and the first to win a Golden Globe. She died on July 5, 2002, at the age of 78, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This article will explore her life, career, and legacy, as well as the circumstances of her death.
Early Life and Career in Mexico
Katy Jurado was born María Cristina Estela Marcela Jurado García on January 16, 1924, in Mexico City. She came from a wealthy and influential family that lost most of their fortune after the Mexican Revolution. Her mother was a singer and her father was a lawyer and rancher. Her cousin Emilio Portes Gil was President of Mexico from 1928 to 1930.
Jurado had a passion for acting since she was a child, but her family disapproved of her ambition. She defied their wishes by signing a contract with a film producer without their consent when she was 16. She also married an aspiring actor named Víctor Velázquez when she was 15, partly to escape her parents’ control. The marriage produced two children, Victor Hugo and Sandra, but ended in divorce in 1943.
Jurado began her acting career in Mexico during the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. She appeared in more than 20 films between 1943 and 1951, mostly playing seductive and strong-willed women. She worked with some of the most prominent directors and actors of the time, such as Emilio Fernández, Luis Buñuel, Pedro Armendáriz, and Dolores del Río. She also worked as a radio reporter, a movie columnist, and a bullfight critic.
Breakthrough and Success in Hollywood
Jurado’s Hollywood career began when she was spotted by John Wayne and director Budd Boetticher at a bullfight in Mexico. Boetticher cast her in his film Bullfighter and the Lady (1951), which was shot in Mexico. Jurado had to learn her lines phonetically, as she spoke very little English at the time.
Jurado’s breakthrough role came in High Noon (1952), where she played Helen Ramirez, the former lover of Gary Cooper’s character. Jurado impressed critics and audiences with her nuanced and dignified performance. She received two Golden Globe nominations for Most Promising Newcomer and Best Supporting Actress, winning the latter. She also became friends with Cooper and his wife Grace Kelly.
Jurado continued to work in Hollywood throughout the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in more than 30 films. She specialized in Westerns, such as Arrowhead (1953), The Badlanders (1958), One-Eyed Jacks (1961), and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973). She also ventured into other genres, such as drama, comedy, horror, and musicals. Some of her notable films include Broken Lance (1954), for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress; Trapeze (1956), where she co-starred with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis; Man from Del Rio (1956), where she played the lead opposite Anthony Quinn; Barabbas (1961), where she played the mother of Jesus; and Stay Away, Joe (1968), where she played Elvis Presley’s mother.
Jurado was praised for her ability to portray a wide range of characters with depth and authenticity. She often played women who were independent, intelligent, passionate, and loyal. She also challenged stereotypes about Mexican women by refusing to play maids or peasants. She said that she wanted to represent her country with dignity and respect.
Personal Life and Relationships
Jurado had several romantic relationships with famous men throughout her life. She was married three times: to Víctor Velázquez from 1939 to 1943; to Ernest Borgnine from 1959 to 1963; and to Armando Acosta from 1981 until his death in 1997. She also had affairs with Marlon Brando, Tyrone Power, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Clark Gable, Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, Gary Cooper, Elvis Presley, and others.
Jurado was known for her outspokenness and temper. She once slapped Marlon Brando for making fun of her accent. She also punched Ernest Borgnine for insulting her son. She said that she did not regret anything she did or said in her life.
Jurado was also known for her generosity and kindness. She helped many young actors and actresses, especially Mexicans, to find work in Hollywood. She also supported various charitable causes, such as the fight against AIDS and cancer.
Death and Legacy
Jurado died on July 5, 2002, at her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She had been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung condition that causes breathing difficulties. She was buried at the Panteón de la Paz cemetery in Cuernavaca.
Jurado left behind a legacy of being one of the most successful and influential Mexican actresses in Hollywood history. She was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a tribute from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and a Google Doodle on her 94th birthday. She was also inducted into the National Association of Latino Independent Producers’ Hall of Fame and the Texas Film Hall of Fame.
Jurado is remembered for her beauty, talent, charisma, and courage. She paved the way for other Latin American actresses to pursue their dreams in Hollywood. She also represented her culture with pride and dignity. She once said, “I am very proud to be a Mexican. I didn’t have the opportunity to choose where to be born. But if I had an opportunity I would choose my country.”