Katy Jurado – AFI Catalog Spotlight – American Film Institute
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Katy Jurado – AFI Catalog Spotlight

Mexican actress Katy Jurado in a publicity photo for the film The Badlanders (1958)This January, the AFI Catalog shines a spotlight on Mexican actress Katy Jurado, who would have celebrated her 100th birthday this month. Her second American film, HIGH NOON (1952), received vast critical acclaim and remains today on seven of AFI’s Lists, including the 100 greatest movies of all time, as well as making her the first Latin American woman to be honored with a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was also awarded a second Golden Globe for Best Newcomer. Only two years later, Jurado broke another record, this time becoming the first Latin American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award® for her supporting work in BROKEN LANCE (1954). That same year, Jurado won a Silver Ariel (Mexico’s version of the Oscar) for EL BRUTO, directed by Luis Buñuel. Although relegated to roles that represented racial stereotypes, especially early in her career, Jurado’s mastery of her craft allowed her to transcend and even subvert derogatory patterns in American filmmaking, bringing dynamic dimensionality to her characters.

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and educated by nuns in her early life in Mexico City, Jurado aspired to become a lawyer, but her astonishing appearance attracted offers from filmmakers when she was a teenager and she became an actress despite her parents’ firm objections. She married actor Víctor Velázquez as a means to emancipate herself from the control of her family and parented two children while starting her acting career. Jurado divorced Velázquez three years after she performed in her first film, NO MATARÁS (1943), and retained custody of her daughter and son. As a rising star in the golden age of Mexican cinema, Jurado was often cast as wealthy and glamorous women of high society, but in real life she also worked as a film columnist and a reporter for bullfights to make enough money to sustain her young family. While at a bullfight, Jurado caught the eye of director Budd Boetticher, an amateur bullfighter himself, who hired her for her first American film, BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951), as the wife of actor Gilbert Rowland. Speaking very little English, Jurado reportedly memorized her lines phonetically, and it was not until her next film, HIGH NOON, that she became bilingual.

Katy Jurado and Ernest Borgnine in The Badlanders (1958)The success of HIGH NOON launched Jurado’s career in the U.S. and she appeared in many movies thereafter, mainly westerns. By 1954, she had completed five American films and over 20 Mexican productions, and became the first, and only, Mexican woman to be granted the keys to New York City. That year she met her future second husband, actor Ernest Borgnine, when he was filming VERA CRUZ (1954) in Mexico City, and, back in the States, Jurado was cast in BROKEN LANCE when Dolores del Río was accused of being a Communist and lost her American passport visa, preventing her from performing the same role. After a steady stream of work over the next few years in film and television, Jurado starred in MAN FROM DEL RIO (1956) with Anthony Quinn, marking a rare exception in American cinema at the time, in which two Mexican actors were cast in lead roles. At this point in her career, Jurado passed up movies with, in her words, “roles that were mere stereotypes of what Americans believe Mexicans are like,” and she took only parts that portrayed the “dignity” of Mexican women, as stated by scholar Anthony Macías, who argues that “Jurado’s self-reliant characters show how Chicano and Chicana actors can overcome stereotypical roles to interpret and destabilize the mythos of American culture.”

Katy Jurado One-Eyed Jacks (1961) publicity photoIn 1961, Jurado performed in Marlon Brando’s directorial debut, ONE-EYED JACKS — the two stars had a long and “loving” friendship, according to Jurado, in which he proposed marriage on many occasions. She established a production company with Borgnine, but their match was ill-fated and famously tumultuous, ending in divorce in 1964. Of her many notable roles following this time, Jurado played Elvis Presley’s stepmother in the comedy STAY AWAY, JOE (1968), for which she gained over 20 pounds for the part, and had a small but important role in Sam Peckinpah’s PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID (1973). Based again in Mexico after her divorce, Jurado continued working in mainly movies and television shows produced in her homeland, but made three more American films, THE CHILDREN OF SANCHEZ (1978), which reunited her with Anthony Quinn, UNDER THE VOLCANO (1984), directed by John Huston, and Stephen Frears’ THE HI-LO COUNTRY (1998). According to various sources, Jurado suffered from severe depression after the tragic death of her son in 1981, and although she retired from acting for several years, Huston convinced her to restart her career.

Grace Kelly, Gary Cooper & Katy Jurado. Publicity portrait for film High Noon (1952).As noted by Anthony Macías in his recent study of Latinx popular culture, Katy Jurado’s depictions of Mexican women are even more profound when considering the “longevity of traditional Latina stereotypes” and the paucity of roles for Mexican women both behind and in front of the camera today. According to a study of characters with speaking roles in 1,600 popular films by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the number of Latinx performers (male and female) peaked in 2017 at 7.2%, but that number has dropped to 5.2% in recent years, even as the U.S. Latinx population has grown to roughly 20% and accounts for conservatively that amount in entertainment revenue. Jurado’s onscreen presence in American popular culture’s account of its own history “expands our notion of who counts, and who belongs, as a real American,” Macías writes, and although Jurado was not a U.S. citizen herself, she poignantly reflected that “art doesn’t have borders.” Jurado lived the rest of her years in Mexico until her death in 2002 and is remembered today as a trailblazer who challenged her audience’s perception of Mexican femininity and established a space in American filmmaking for Latina actresses who will continue to follow in her hard-worn path, shifting culture toward greater diversity.

Watch a clip of Katy Jurado performing in HIGH NOON:

Watch Katy Jurado discuss her role in HIGH NOON:

Watch BROKEN LANCE:

Learn more about where to watch HIGH NOON.

Resources:

“Broken Lance,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/53548-BROKEN-LANCE.

“Bullfighter and the Lady,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/50042-BULLFIGHTER-AND-THE-LADY.

“The Children of Sanchez,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/56256-THE-CHILDREN-OF-SANCHEZ.

“High Noon,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/53629-HIGH-NOON.

Macias, A. Chicano Chicana Americana: Pop Culture Pluralism Starring Anthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Robert Beltran, and Lupe Ontiveros. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2023.

Macias, A. (2021). Demythologizing Hollywood Westerns: Ethnic Mexicans as Americana. Americana: The Journal of Popular Culture (1900-present), 20(1).

“Man From Del Rio,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/53509-MAN-FROMDELRIO.

Ogas, D. “Latinos Continue to Fight to Play Crucial Roles in Hollywood.” Cronkite News, May 2, 2023, accessed December 7, 2023, https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2023/05/02/john-leguizamo-latino-hollywood-representation/

“One-Eyed Jacks,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/23780-ONE-EYED-JACKS.

“Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/54851-PAT-GARRETTBILLYTHEKID.

Reyes, L., & Rubie, P. Hispanics in Hollywood: A Celebration of 100 Years in Film and Television. Hollywood: Lone Eagle Publishing Company, 2000.

Smith, S., Pieper, K. and Wheeler, S. “Inequality in 1,600 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, LGBTQ+ & Disability from 2007 to 2022.” Accessed December 7, 2023, https://annenberg.usc.edu/research/aii

“Stay Away, Joe,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/22362-STAY-AWAYJOE.

“Under the Volcano,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/57234-UNDER-THE-VOLCANO.

“Vera Cruz,” American Film Institute Catalog, accessed December 7, 2023, https://catalog.afi.com/Film/51398-VERA-CRUZ.

Comments (1)

Joseph alviso

Loved to watch her very serious actress and beautiful


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