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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.

 

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