Rita Moreno is a Hollywood actress best known for her role in the classic musical film West Side Story. Despite a long life of fame and success, the 90-year-old star has had numerous ups and downs in her personal life that many fans might not know about. These tragedies include a sexual assault that she experienced early in her career. Brushes with racism, and a rocky affair with Marlon Brando that saw her getting a botched illegal abortion. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at tragic details about Rita Moreno.
Rita Moreno was born on December 31, 1931, in Puerto Rico. At a young age, Rita’s mother left her father and took her and her brother to New York City; where they found a home in the Manhattan district. The actress has recalled that she experienced a lot of racism during her youth. And this was a trend that continued even after she became famous. In fact, Rita nearly turned down her most iconic role due to what she felt were derogatory views in the script regarding her home country of Puerto Rico. That role would be her role in West Side Story, though she eventually took it after some changes were made to the derogatory tone.
At an early age, Rita began dancing professionally. She made her debut at the age of six, performing at a nightclub that was located in Greenwich Village. She continued dancing throughout her childhood and into her teens. Becoming the main provider for herself, her mother, and her brother by the time that she was only 16 years old. It was in 1950, when Rita was only 18 years old, that she signed with MGM. However, her relationship with the studio only lasted for a year before she moved to 20th Century Fox.
While one might assume that this early success was a good thing for Rita Moreno. It led to her dealing with some incredibly shady characters that preyed upon her innocence and naivety. The worst of them was her agent, who committed sexual assault on her when she was a teenager. Feeling trapped and alone, Rita chose to stay with him out of fear of losing ties in the entertainment industry and disappointing her family. She eventually broke things off with him, though they reunited by chance much later in life.
According to Rita Moreno, she ran into the agent that sexually assaulted her seven decades after breaking contact. And was taken aback when he asked her out to lunch to meet his wife. Rita reluctantly agreed, hoping that the meeting would lead to some closure. Instead of providing closure on the traumatic incident, the meeting only showed to her that he still had no remorse about the act. When his wife went up to use the bathroom, the former agent supposedly brought the sexual assault incident up excitedly; claiming that he wished that he had gotten her pregnant.
While none of Rita’s later traumatic experiences have quite matched the full-blown sexual assault that her agent had perpetrated upon her during her teenage years, that certainly wasn’t the end of her troubles. Rita has claimed that numerous notable Hollywood executives sexually harassed her during her early years in the business; including Harry Cohn and Buddy Adler. Harry Cohn was one of the founders of Columbia Pictures. While Buddy Adler was the man in charge of 20th Century Fox during the days that she worked with the studio. According to Rita, she had no idea that the men in Hollywood were so predatory. And she had a hard time figuring out whom to trust during her early career.
Rita thankfully turned down the strange advances of Harry Cohn and Buddy Adler. But there was one Hollywood figure whose charms she couldn’t break away from. That figure was Marlon Brando, with whom she had a tumultuous relationship that lasted for nearly a decade. Rita met Marlon when she was only 21, and he was one of the biggest stars in the world at the time. The year was 1953, and Marlon had already made his memorable turn in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire. Rita met Marlon while they were filming 1954’s Désirée together, and she was instantly stricken by the star’s presence. According to Rita, she became instantly obsessed with the actor. To the point where she claims that she considered his presence as addictive as cocaine! Sadly, Marlon’s love turned out to be as destructive as the substance, as well.
Rita Moreno and Marlon Brando were together in various capacities over eight years; though it seems that Marlon never took the romantic relationship very seriously. Marlon even married two other women during the period, though that didn’t do much to diminish Rita’s obsession. Although Marlon generally reciprocated the sexual attention that Rita gave him, he treated her callously. One time, he even coerced her into getting a botched illegal abortion that resulted in her needing surgery to have the fetus removed.
Despite all that Marlon Brando put her through, Rita claims that she just couldn’t keep away! She still considers the star to be one of the greatest loves of her life. Alongside her late and only husband, Leonard Gordon. Rita married manager Leonard Gordon in 1965, not long after her rocky relationship with Marlon ended. The two would remain married until 2010, the year of Leonard’s death. Marlon Brando died in 2004, and Rita had long since made up with the man. The two were likely better friends upon the event of Marlon’s death than they were during the years of their romance. According to Rita, it was Marlon who made all the advances later in life, in contrast to the obsessive attention she had granted him decades before. Though she didn’t wish to reignite their romance, she considered him a friend.
Rita still keeps a photo of Marlon Brando on her wall, though the memory of him is certainly tied with a good deal of traumatic memories from her early Hollywood career. Rita claims that what fueled their relationship during those years was sex, with her saying that Marlon is still the best lover that she has ever had in her lifetime. Still, it seems that this sex wasn’t enough to keep Marlon from marrying first wife Anna Kashfi in 1957, much to Rita’s chagrin. Marlon divorced Anna in 1959, then moved on to second wife Movita Castaneda, all while keeping Rita off on the side. To make matters worse, Marlon had children with those wives while forcing the aforementioned illegal abortion upon Rita.
Rita was certainly hurt by Marlon’s treatment of her, but she persisted in trying to win over his affections. Rita felt that if she pushed hard enough, she might be able to eventually claim the actor for herself. Sadly, this never ended up being the case. By the time that Marlon might have finally been interested in settling down with her later in life. Rita Moreno had already moved on with her first and only husband.
One of the ways that Rita used to get back at Marlon when he was giving other women more attention than her was to give other men more attention than him! Rita started up contrasting affairs with numerous other celebrity figures, including Dennis Hopper and Elvis Presley. While one might think that getting together with Elvis Presley would’ve been enough to make Marlon jealous, it apparently wasn’t. Rita has said that Elvis couldn’t even hold a candle to Marlon as a lover. With the singer seeming much more interested in eating his calorically dense meals than he was in her.
Rita became pregnant after breaking off her relationship with Elvis Presley and crawling back to Marlon Brando. And coerced by the actor into getting the illegal abortion. Rita felt disgusted when her longtime lover suggested the procedure. Marlon apparently went about scheduling the illegal procedure without even asking Rita for any input. She reluctantly went along with it not knowing what else to do. Rita certainly wasn’t the only Hollywood star of the time to get an illegal abortion, but hers don’t go as smoothly as some others. Evidently, Rita returned from the illegal procedure only to find that the fetus was still inside her. She subsequently rushed to the hospital to have it surgically removed.
Not long after this botched abortion, Rita attempted suicide. It was after this suicide attempt that a therapist advised Rita and Marlon to never see each other again; the pair reluctantly agreed. They eventually reunited professionally in the film The Night of the Following Day. During the film’s production, Marlon apparently tried to initiate intercourse with Rita, but she refused. Still, they maintained a friendship in the decades after this incident, leading up to Marlon’s death.
Rita is now 90 years old and recently appeared in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story. The actress is still best known for her role as Anita in the original film, and was given a role in the new film written just for her. The actress almost didn’t take her role in the original film due to what she felt were negative views in the script regarding her home country of Puerto Rico. On the new film, Steven Spielberg encouraged her to share her cultural experiences with the cast and crew to make it more authentic.
Although Rita Moreno has gone through a lot of traumatic experiences in her lifetime. And she is still doing pretty well for herself at the age of 90! Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that West Side Story star Rita Moreno was coerced by Marlon Brando into getting a botched illegal abortion that resulted in her having to get surgery to have the fetus removed; and did you know that she’s still working today at the age of 90?.