She was the first actress of Mexican heritage to be nominated for an Academy award. Her exotic looks and fiery talent propelled Katy Jurado to stardom in the early 1950s.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today to introduce our two-part segment covering the biggest Mexican stars in Fifties Hollywood. Tomorrow’s report will cover the most prominent male star but today, it’s the lady — and a most spirited one at that — first.
Born in 1924 to an affluent family (her full name at birth was Maria Christina Jurado Garcia), Katy Jurado was discovered at 16 by the famous Mexican actor Emilio Fernandez, and after making several Mexican movies, was rediscovered by John Wayne and director Budd Boetticher.
Despite her troubles learning English, she was cast in 1951’s Bullfighter and the Lady, which Wayne produced for Republic Pictures and Boetticher directed. (It was a romantic drama set in bullfight territory; Jurado’s costar was a young Robert Stack.)
The next year she hit paydirt with Fred Zinneman’s High Noon, playing Helen Ramirez, a strong-willed Mexican woman who provides backbone and support to Gary Cooper’s less-than-steely wife played by Grace Kelly.
Jurado went on to make a ton of westerns –she appeared in more than 80 movie and tv titles throughout her career. She mostly enjoyed doing the movies. Television was another story. After a distinguished film career, Katy wasn’t happy to be doing TV, reported her second (and last) husband, Ernest Borgnine.
In any event, be sure to watch for her in Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (1961); and in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973). And take another look if you can at Edward Dmytryk’s Broken Lance (1954) starring Spencer Tracy and a young Robert Wagner. That was the film that won for Jurado her best supporting actress nomination.
Not averse to being typecast, she welcomed playing passionate Mexican women providing she felt the characterizations were genuine. Because of her looks — she had expressive eyes and a full lips — she was often cast as a seductress and/or man-eater not to be messed with. In most of her movies, her characters simultaneously projected earthiness and dignity.
In his 2008 autobiography, Ernie, Borgnine recalled meeting Jurado for the first time in 1958, on the set of The Badlanders, an MGM western in which the two were costarred with Alan Ladd.
At the end of a particularly long and grueling day, the very first thing I heard the elegant and beautiful … Katy Jurado say was, ‘Who do I have to fuck to get off this picture?’ I was appalled! To hear a woman say that, then, left you a little bit chilled, you know?
Borgnine thawed out sufficiently to marry Jurado the following year, and the couple moved to Mexico. (Her nickname for him was ‘Bullito” or ‘little bull.’) But as time went on — and as Borgnine realized that while being away from Hollywood didn’t effect her career, it really hurt his — relations became increasingly strained.
I don’t think we were quite right for each other — Katy was beautiful, but a tiger, the actor wrote. We separated and reconciled before finally separating for good in 1961. Our divorce became final in 1964 — we took three years to fight over alimony.
Jurado died in 2002, at the age of 78, in Cuernavaca, an idyllic spot south of Mexico City where she had lived when she was married to Borgnine. He remembers it as a beautiful little place, a place of eternal springtime.