|Directed by: Mariem Perez
Produced by: PBS, THIRTEEN’s AMERICAN MASTERS, Norman Lear’s Act III Productions, Maramara and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Production year: 2019-2020
Original release: 2021
Running time: 90 minutes
Other cast: Rita Moreno, Norman Lear, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Chita Rivera
Misc: IMDB | Amazon | iTunes
Over a career spanning more than 70 years, Rita Moreno defied both her humble upbringing and relentless racism to become a celebrated and award-winning actor. Born into poverty on a Puerto Rican farm, Moreno and her seamstress mother immigrated to New York City when Moreno was five years old. After studying dance and performing on Broadway, Moreno was cast as any ethnic minority the Hollywood studios needed filled: Polynesian, Native American, Egyptian and so on. Despite becoming the first Latina actress to win an Academy Award for her role as Anita in “West Side Story” (1961), the studios continued to offer Moreno lesser roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent.
Beyond the racism she experienced as a Latina actor, AMERICAN MASTERS “Rita Moreno: The Girl Who Decided to Go For It” (w.t.) will explore the lesser-known struggles Moreno faced on her path to stardom, including pernicious Hollywood sexism and sexual abuse, a toxic relationship with Marlon Brando, and an attempted suicide a year before she won her Oscar. The documentary will demonstrate Moreno’s talent and resilience as she broke barriers and paved the way for new generations of artists by refusing to be pigeonholed and fighting for Latinx representation in a variety of genres.
AMERICAN MASTERS “Rita Moreno: The Girl Who Decided to Go For It” (w.t.) will show the star’s rich, decades-long career using vérité footage of Moreno today, archival footage of her roles and appearances, reenactments of her childhood, interviews with Moreno, those close to her and performers she influenced, and animation. Film interviewees include Norman Lear, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, and Chita Rivera.