Few Latin American actors or actresses managed to make a larger impact on the global film industry than Katy Jurado. She had undeniable beauty and charm but refused to play into stereotypes or give up on her dreams to meet the needs of anyone else.
Katy did everything she could to grow her career, including working multiple jobs and studying English. Her road to success began after acting in High Noon, a memorable Western, and continued after that. She attracted the attention of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors, but fame and love couldn’t save her from tragedy and distress.
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Christina Estela Marcela Jurado Garcia was born on January 16, 1924, in Guadlajara Jalisco, Mexico. Her parents were opera singer Vincenta Garcia and lawyer and farmer Luis Jurado Ochoa. They were wealthy and owned most of what would eventually become the state of Texas.
The family lost a large portion of their fortune after the Mexican Revolution caused a forced redistribution of land. Her grandmother still enjoyed a fairly comfortable life, but Katy wanted more.
Katy Jurado’s first opportunity to act came when Emilio Fernandez offered her a role in his film Isle of Passion. Her parents didn’t support her dreams of becoming an actress. She turned down Emilio’s offer but forged their signatures on contracts and documents for her next potential role in No Mataras or Cross the Line in English.
Her family threatened to send her to boarding school when they discovered what she’d done, so she married her first husband Victor Velazquez in 1939 at the age of 15.
Katy recognized that acting may not be enough to pay the bills without a steady stream of roles. She began several side hustles in the early years of her career. She wrote columns and bullfight critiques and worked as a radio reporter while shooting her first movie.
No Matras premiered in 1943 and was a roaring success. It launched Katy’s career and earned her 16 more film roles in the next 7 years. The success wasn’t enough to save her marriage, and she divorced Victor at the age of 19.
The story behind Katy Jurado’s first film in English is unique. In 1951, John Wayne and Budd Boetticher saw her working as a bullfight critic and cast her in their film Bullfighter and the Lady on the spot. They didn’t even know she was an actress yet or that she only spoke Spanish.
Katy memorized her lines phonetically, and it was enough to allow her to give a memorable performance. Stanley Kramer took notice and cast her as Helen Ramirez in High Noon,
Katy realized that she’d have to get more serious about learning a new language for this new role. She took 2-hour English classes every day for 2 months to prepare.. Despite these efforts, she still couldn’t pronounce the main character’s name, Will Doane, so the studio changed it to Will Kane.
The film world had low expectations for High Noon, but it was a massive success. It became Katy’s big break and led to what film critics called a “golden age” of Mexican cinema.
Katy moved to Mexico for 2 years after the end of her 2nd marriage then returned to America to act in films, TV series, and Broadway plays. These projects weren’t as successful as her earlier works, but they allowed her to continue doing what she loved.
Katy Jurado refused to play into stereotypes during her career. Even when she cast as a sexualized femme fatale, she made sure to imbue the role with nuance and humanity.
She even refused exclusive Hollywood contracts because she didn’t want to play imitations of Latin American characters and insisted on allowed to act in Mexican and American movies. This agreement allowed her to become a major star in both countries.
Her Awards and Accolades
Katy Jurado received several awards and honors throughout her career, creating a legacy that time can’t erase.
The Ariel Awards are the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars, and Katy received plenty of them. She won one for her role in El Bruto and 3 Silver Ariel Awards for other films.
Katy Jurado was the first Latina actress to win a Golden Globe for her work in High Noon. She also the first Mexican actress to nominated for an Academy Award after her performance in Broken Lance in 1954. She held the distinction of being the only Mexican actress to receive this honor for 49 years until Salma Hayek also earned a nomination in 2003.
Mexican artist Diego Rivera painted Katy’s portrait in 1953. A Mexican composer also wrote her a song entitled Que Re’chula es Katy or What a Beauty is Katy.
She earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 1, 1994. She’s even the only Mexican woman to ever given the keys to New York City.
Like and subscribe for more on the world’s most memorable Mexican-American film stars. Keep watching to learn more about Katy Jurado, including the ups and downs of her love life and the family issues that sent her into an almost unbearable depression.
Her Beauty and Fiery Temper
Katy Jurado was well-known for her beauty. She had large, dark eyes, a curvy body, and olive skin. Her opinion of herself didn’t match up with public perceptions. She said that while she knew her body was sensual, she never considered herself beautiful.
Katy also known for her short temper that came out several times on set.
A director in one of her earliest auditions laughed at her tenuous grasp of English, so she stormed out of the studio while cursing at him in Spanish. She once accused the director of High Noon of being half in love with Grace Kelly when she noticed how many close-up shots he was giving her.
Katy managed to keep her temper in check well enough to survive in the world of Hollywood, but it still caused trouble in her future relationships.
Her Love Life
Katy Jurado’s love life was just as long, varied, and interesting as her career. Many of the biggest names in the entertainment industry were fascinated by her beauty and alluring presence.
Marlon Brando was impressed by her work in High Noon and entranced by her enigmatic eyes. He was already married to his second wife Movita Castaneda and having an affair with Rita Moreno, but he couldn’t resist adding another spicy Latina to his list of lovers.
Marlon called Katy and she agreed to meet with him. She knew that he was already attached but felt that it was okay because it was “just a date.”
The pair continued to see each other and even acted together in the film One-Eyed Jacks in 1961. Their affair was passionate but involved no commitment; she even married her second husband while seeing him. The reasons for Katy and Marlon ending their relationship are unclear, but they managed to remain friends.
Katy Jurado had a long list of reported lovers, including John Wayne, Tyrone Power, and Budd Boetticher. She even reportedly turned down Frank Sinatra because she only saw him as a friend.
She had plenty of flirtations but was only married twice. After her 4-year marriage to Victor Valazques, she began a brief 4-year tie to Ernest Borgnine.
Rumors flew that they were dating once they were seen laughing together on the set of The Badlanders in 1958. Ernest’s wife didn’t believe him when he denied it and filed for divorce. Katy claims they actually met in a restaurant 2 years earlier.
She married Ernest on December 31, 1959. Trouble began soon after they tied the knot. She called him bullito or little bull, and he said she was beautiful but a tiger.
Rumors flew about the wa ytheir hot tempers led to nasty fights. Katy admitted years later that he’d gotten physical with her when he was angry.
They separated for 2 years, and all attempts to save their relationship didn’t work. They were officially divorced on June 3, 1963, due to what Katy described as “extreme cruelty.” He didn’t even show up to the proceedings, but she won a $40,000 settlement.
Katy claims that the only true love of her life was Western novelist Louis L’Amour. She even kept his love letters to her until his death.
Katy Jurado and Victor Valazques had 2 children together; Victor Hugo and Sandra. She loved them but had little time to spend with them due to her career.
Victor Hugo died in a car accident near Monterrey, Mexico in 1981. She attended his funeral but had to return to Mexico to finish work on her latest film, Barrio de Campeones or Neighborhood of Champions. She felt that working didn’t give her enough time to grieve properly and took time off from acting once the film was finished.
Her Attempted Suicide
Katy Jurado attempted suicide in February of 1968. She called her agent that day, telling him that she’d taken 67 sleeping pills and bequeathing her furs and money to her children before hanging up.
He called the authorities immediately, and they rushed to Katy’s apartment. She was unconscious but alive with a suicide note written in Spanish next to her. The paramedics thankfully arrived in time to revive her.
Her Health Issues and Final Days
Katy worked until the last days of her life and once proudly said that she wasn’t afraid of getting older. Despite this, she suffered from heart and lung issues in her later years.
Katy Jurado died on July 5, 2002, at the age of 78 from pulmonary disease and kidney failure. Her final film was released after her death. Her body is buried in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico near her family.
Katy Jurado was more than a beautiful face, fiery force of nature, or talented actress; she was all of those things and more. Her dedication and lasting impact on the film industry serve as an inspiration for future Latin American stars.
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