Sunday, November 13, 2016

Godspeed Lupita Tovar

Lupita Tovar, who starred in both American and Mexican films, died yesterday at the age of 106.

Lupita Tovar was born Guadalupe Natalia Tovar in Matías Romero, Oaxaca, Mexico on July 27 1910. Lupita had been her nickname since childhood. The family later moved to San Pedro de los Pinos near Mexico City.  In school Miss Tovar studied gymnastics and dance, and it would be this that would lead to her acting career. When she was 16 documentary filmmaker  Robert J. Flaherty and a group of talent scouts visited her gymnastics class at her school. Miss Tovar received a 7 year contract for $150 a week with Fox Studios. Her grandmother accompanied her on the train to Hollywood in 1928.

Lupita Tovar made her film debut in 1929 in a bit part in The Veiled Woman (1929). She appeared in bit parts in the films Joy Street (1929), The Black Watch (1929), and The Cock-Eyed World (1929). In 1930 she moved from Fox to Universal. Her first film with Universal was La voluntad del muerto (1930), a Spanish language version of The Cat and the Canary. It was in 1931 that she appeared in her most famous film, Universal's Spanish language version of Dracula. The film was shot on the same sets as Tod Browning's English language version, but used a different cast and director. In 1932 she appeared in Santa, the first Mexican sound film. During the Thirties she also appeared in such films as Carne de cabaret (1931), Yankee Don (1931), East of Borneo (1931), Border Law (1931), Vidas rotas (1935), Alas sobre El Chaco (1935), The Invader (1936), Blockade (1938), María (1938), The Fighting Gringo (1939), and South of the Border (1939).

In the Forties Lupita Tovar appeared in the films Two Gun Sheriff (1941), Resurrección (1943), Gun to Gun (1944), Miguel Strogoff (1944), and The Crime Doctor's Courage (1945). Her final appearance was in an episode of the anthology series Invitation Playhouse: Mind Over Murder in 1952.

Lupita Tovar married talent agent and producer Paul Kohner in 1932. Many of their descendants would go into the film industry. Their daughter was actress Susan Kohner. Their son was producer and director Pancho Kohner. Among their grandchildren were producer, director, and writer Paul Weitz and producer, director, and writer Chris Weitz.

In more recent years Miss Tovar has appeared in retrospectives of the Spanish language version of Dracula (1931), Santa, Mexican cinema, and Old Hollywood.

Lupita Tovar was certainly beautiful. In fact, with her dark hair and big eyes she was absolutely striking. She was also very talented. This is more evident than in her best known film, the Spanish version of Dracula (1931). While Helen Chandler was an adequate Mina Seward in the English language version, Miss Tovar was absolutely amazing as Eva Seward in the Spanish. Indeed, Miss Tovar brought a touch of sexuality to the role that was entirely lacking with Helen Chandler. She also gave a superb performance in Santa, playing the title character, a young woman whose husband's cheating ruins her life. While Lupita Tovar never achieved major stardom, her career was filled with memorable performances.

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