She was recently portrayed in the Pedro Almodóvar film Bad Education by Gael García Bernal as the character Zahara and a film clip from one of her movies was used as well. Montiel was the most commercially successful Spanish actress during the mid Twentieth century in much of the world. Miss Montiel's film Varietes was banned in Peking in 1973. Her films El Último Cuple and La Violetera netted the highest gross revenues ever recorded for films made in the Spanish speaking movie industry during the 50s and 60s. She also played the role of Antonia, the niece of Don Quixote, in the 1947 Spanish film version of Cervantes's great novel.
Acting careerMontiel started in movies at 16 in her native Spain where she filmed her first international success playing an Islamic princess in the 1948 film Locura de Amor. Later she conquered Mexico starring in a dozen films in less than five years. Hollywood came calling after and she was introduced to US moviegoers in the film Vera Cruz(1954) co-starring with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster directed by Robert Aldrich. She was offered the standard seven-year contract at Columbia Pictures which she quickly refused afraid of Hollywood's typecasting policies for Hispanics. Instead she free-lanced at Warner Bros. with Mario Lanza and Joan Fontaine in Serenade (1956) directed by Anthony Mann and at RKO in Samuel Fuller's Run of the Arrow (1957), opposite Rod Steiger and Charles Bronson.
That same year she married Anthony Mann but returned briefly to Spain to star in a low budget film musical El Ultimo Cuple as a favor to producer-director Juan de Orduña who had helped her career in the early days. This film made her unexpectedly the number one actress-singer of that year in Europe and Latin America and she accepted a multi-million dollar offer for more films and recordings in Europe. It was obvious that Hollywood could not offer anything better, so she moved back to Spain and to a career that is now legendary. Fifteen monumentally successful films followed her Cuple success (including La Violetera (1958), Carmen, la de Ronda (1959, a very personal rendition of the Carmen myth), Mi Ultimo Tango (1960), Pecado de Amor(1961), La Bella Lola (1962, her own version of Camille), La Reina del Chantecler (a 1963 blockbuster specially in the Soviet Union and countries behind the Iron Curtain), Noches de Casablanca" (a 1963 tribute to Hollywood's Casablanca), Samba (1964), La Dama de Beirut (1965), La Mujer Perdida (1966), Tuset Street (1967), Esa Mujer (1969), Varietes (1971), etc. During these years she also recorded over 30 highly successful albums and appeared on stage and television all over the world.
In 1974 Montiel announced her retirement from movies and continued non-stop performing live, recording and starring on her own variety television shows in Spain. She continued at that pace well into the 1990s. In 2000 her autobiography Memories: To Live Is A Pleasure became a huge best seller, followed by a second part Sara and Sex, which highlighted her love life.
Since then she seems to have slowed down a bit although her status as Spain's only legendary film star remains unchallenged and her private life is a source of never ending controversies assuring her presence in gossip magazines and television talk shows. In 2006 she temporarily put aside her career in order to help her son Zeus with his first recordings.
Sara Montiel Facts
|María Antonia Alejandra Vicenta Elpidia Isadora Abad Fernández
|March 10, 1928 (95)
|Campo de Criptana, Spain
|Samba (1964) as Belen/Laura
|La Reina del Chantecler (1963) as Charito
|La Bella Lola (1962) as Lola
|Carmen la de Ronda (1961) as Carmen
|La Violetera (1958) as Soledad Moreno
|El Ultimo Cuple (1957) as Maria Lujan
|The Run of the Arrow (1957) as Yellow Mocassin (breakthrough)
|Serenade (1956) as Juana
|Vera Cruz (1954) as Nina
|Piel Canela (1953) as Marucha
|El Enamorado (1951) as Rosario
|That Man From Tangier (1950) as Aixa
|Locura de Amor (1948) as Aldara