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The Queen of Technicolor

Maria Montez in Hollywood

Best known for her appearances in the six Technicolor "Neverland" movies, Maria Montez is a film icon. Growing up as one of ten children in the Dominican Republic, her rise as a film star in the United States seemed unlikely. In 1939, Montez set off on her own to New York City to fulfill her aspirations of movie stardom. Despite having no substantial acting experience, Montez managed to sign with major agent Louis Schurr who helped her secure a contract with Universal Studios before she moved out to Hollywood.

Following her arrival in Los Angeles, Montez began cultivating the larger-than-life persona for which she is known. Her beauty, personality, and series of publicity antics, including dramatic restaurant entrances, endeared her to the press. She even created her own fan club—The Montez for Stardom Club. Her ambitious self-promotion bolstered the success she found with her first big lead in Arabian Nights, released in 1943. From then on, the studio referred to her as "The Queen of Technicolor."

Author Tom Zimmerman puts Montez's life in historical context, including her role as a cultural icon and a living representation of the United States' Good Neighbor Policy with Latin American countries. With her thick Dominican accent, Montez struggled to make herself intelligible to an American audience. However, unlike some of her Latin contemporaries, she did not present a caricature of her culture or use her accent for comedic purposes, giving her credibility with a Latin American audience. Zimmerman skillfully recounts the story of Montez's fiery ambition and her ascent to Hollywood fame, giving her the opportunity to live on in public memory.

About the Author

Tom Zimmerman is a photographer who has permanent collections in the United States Library of Congress, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Motion Picture and Television Photo Archive, and Fortress of Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg, Russia, among others. He is the author of Paradise Promoted: The Booster Campaign that Created Los Angeles 1870-1930, Downtown in Detail, and Spectacular Illumination.

Reviews

"An enjoyable read that is both professionally written and informative. Maria Montez was one of the few who personally used the promotion applications that were available in her day to successfully bring her to the attention of the powers that be to make her dreams come true. This is a relevant story that is especially relatable now in the age of social media."—Caren Feldman, a past president of Toronto Film Society and blogger at Caren's Classic Cinema

"Tom Zimmerman's authoritative biography of the Dominican-born Maria Montez reads like a streak and is as vivid as the technicolor she so emblematically represented. His poignant reporting of Montez' courageous fight for artistic autonomy within the stifling Hollywood studio system shines a spotlight on a true trailblazer and raises her to authentically iconic status in Latinx and cinematic culture—indeed, in these pages, Montez receives the coronation she deserves."—Tom Cendejas, "The Couch Tamale" online diversity-focused film criticism

"With The Queen of Technicolor, Tom Zimmerman provides the first English-language exploration of the fascinating life of Maria Montez. With this passion project, Zimmerman not only presents a movie star biography, but an interesting study of the publicity machine of the Hollywood Studio System and how well it worked when paired with a participant as willing as Montez."—Christina Rice, author of Mean... Moody... Magnificent! Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend

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