No one better fits today’s blog heading than our current subject, Maria Montez.
She was Universal Pictures’ biggest star for a few years in the 1940s. And today no one knows who she is.
Well, let’s see. Who was she, anyway?
Turns out she was a highly popular Latino star of the early Forties with luscious, sit-up-and-take-notice good looks (yup, there she is above).
She came from the Dominican Republic, and was dubbed “the Caribbean Cyclone.” Such adventure movies as 1941’s Raiders of the Desert and That Night in Rio, and 1942’s Arabian Nights were her specialties as an actress with limits, and proved very popular.
Her second husband was French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont. Montez died early, in Paris at the age of 39, another factor in her current anonymity.
Keep in mind that back then all the majors developed their own stars. But when stars were on the rise, or decline, or not on good terms with the “major 5,” they often wound up at Columbia or Universal.
MGM, Warners, RKO, 2oth Century Fox, and Paramount not only had major studios but their own theatre chains in which to book their product. Universal and Columbia had to rely on independent theater owners and bookers. Thus their product was of a different sort.
The joke of the time was that everyone would eventually wind up at Universal. That’s not to say the studio didn’t have its own roster of stars. There was Deanna Durbin, Abbott and Costello, Yvonne De Carlo and — yes — Maria Montez.
The mention of Yvonne DeCarlo brings to mind a Tony Curtis anecdote — contained in his American Prince: A Memoir published in 2008 — about an incident that occurred during the actor’s teen heart-throb early days as a Universal contract player.
Curtis found himself in New York in a chauffeured limousine, and spotted the still down at the heels, struggling actor acquaintance, Walter Matthau, standing on a street corner.
Curtis ordered the limo to pull up right next to where Matthau was standing. Down rolled the back window, and Curtis barked out — I fucked Yvonne DeCarlo. He then rolled up the window, and continued on his journey. (We wonder if he had encountered Montez during this period.)