Rita Moreno surpassed legendary status some time ago in terms of longevity and has passed into the realms of tradition; her win of the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday night is the cap to a long career. The 21st annual Screen Actors Guild ceremony was held at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium and Exposition Center.
To a certain age group Ms Moreno, aka Rosa Dolores Alverio; a little girl from Puerto Rico, will always be Anita from West Side Story. Belting out America; skirts flaring as she performs the show topping tune. To another age group, she brings memories of Morgan Freeman and children’s “edutainment” program The Electric Company the only other kid’s show that could come close to Sesame Street.
To yet another age group she brings images of Googie Gomez from The Ritz or Angie Corea from The Cosby Mysteries or even more recently as Dori Newman from Happily Divorced. Regardless of which age group is engaged in recollections of the star’s performances it is proven fact that she has 142 incredible acting credits to her name on IMDb alone.
The 82 year old Oscar winning performer looked as though she could have made a pact with the devil, or at the very least could have been the female version of Peter Pan as she never seemed to age. Even now, at her advanced age, the entertainer looks nowhere near her biological birthday.
Moreno belongs to an elite group of 11 entertainers who make up the EGOT club. That is Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards winners, ergo, EGOT. She is the only actress to have received the Alma Award, four times; the national Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rita Moreno is now the 50th recipient of the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award with her win on Saturday night. The award is considered the highest accolade possible as it is given by the union of actors; in other words, Moreno’s peers. She stated that she felt this SAG award was even more “prestigious than the Oscar.” The reason she feels this way is that the lifetime achievement award is not just for acting, but for a lifetime of service to “the community,” That, says Moreno is a “whole other thing.”
For the professional Latin actress who started at the age of 13 on Broadway it has been a long road. Moreno also remembers that it has not been easy being the “first Latina” star. She revealed that being “typecast” as Native American girls or the maid got very hard to take. So hard that at one point she considered quitting the business.
Luckily for the world of entertainment, and her fans, the short break was just that; short. She attended a secretarial school for just five days when she realized that she had made a mistake. Going back into the business, she continued to blaze trails not just for Hispanic actors, but for other minorities as well.
Although she was only 5 years-old when she and her mother moved from a small Puerto Rican town to New York City, she still thinks of her home country when she wins an award. As she danced on the stage to receive her SAG award she seemed to say that she was “f***ing” thrilled. She also said that she hoped that the “man with the button” had been on time.
Accepting the award she remembered winning the Oscar at 31 and her, then, surprise at winning. She referred to her recent win of the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award as being an “unexpected honor” but, as she was still in the “third” act of her life, perhaps it would not be the last. Rita Moreno ended her speech by singing Tony Bennett’s This Is All I Ask. She said that she feels that, at 82, she is approaching the “prime of her life.” Her fans agree.
By Michael Smith