Cuban-Mexican Film Superstar, Dead at 93
Even though I said I was in hot pursuit of películas de cabareteras
last year after seeing Victims of Sin (1951), I have yet to fulfill that promise. With the passing of Ninón Sevilla on New Year's Day, I have renewed that resolution, but it makes me sad to be thus motivated.
Born in Havana on November 10, 1929, Emilia Pérez Castellanos considered a career as a missionary nun before early success as a nightclub dancer pointed her to a career on stage. Sevilla moved to Mexico with popular Latin American tango singer and actress Libertad Lamarque in the early 1940s and quickly became a featured performer of Afro-Caribbean dance with band leaders Kiko Mendive and Perez Prado. Sevilla's sensuous choreography and exuberant style made her an instant star in the "Rumberas" genre of Mexican film, pictures that featured loose women in tropical settings dancing in flamboyant costumes.
Where Prado was the king of Mambo, Sevilla reigned queen of the Rumberas throughout Mexican cinema's Golden Age, which began during WWII and ended with the advent of affordable television and competition from Hollywood blockbusters shot in Cinemascope and other new technologies. Ninón Sevilla's career in film also ended at the same time.
Still a national superstar, Sevilla had a small role in a TV soap in 1964, but effectively retired from the screen for the next 20 years. In 1984, she turned in a critically acclaimed performance in the film Noche de carnaval, which led to a long-tailed second career in telenovellas until 2012.
Sevilla died in Mexico City on January 1, 2015 from complications of pneumonia at the age of 93.
I feel as though we'd only just met.
Dancing with Kiko Mendive
With Perez Prado performing "La Mucura"
I hate to do all three of these fabulous films in one post, but I fear that if I don't do it now, the memory of Saturday's stupendous afternoon program at Noir City 12 will fade completely. One of the reasons I love San Francisco so much is that on an unseasonably warm and sunny winter's day about 1000 people chose to sit in a dark Castro Theatre for six hours to watch a bunch of beautifully lit, but murky post-war films of crime and passion set in Mexico.
Personally, I had never seen anything like the two Mexican films in the program, and I am itching -- and I mean itching -- to get my hands on more.
I'll do just about anything a movie tells me to do. Unless it tells me wrong...
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