The Queen of Technicolor: Maria Montez in Hollywood (Amazon link)
Every now and then, kismet happens and I revel in its glow for months. A while back, after watching Maria Montez in two back to back movies, I became enthralled by her. I read up on her and became even more enthralled.
I read all I could get my hands on about her – which, sadly, wasn’t much – and wished desperately she had a biography I could devour.
Literally two days later, I read about the gorgeous biography you see pictured here, The Queen of Technicolor: Maria Montez in Hollywood by Tom Zimmerman.
Kismet, you beautiful thing, you.
From the Inside Cover:
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.
What I LOVE About this Maria Montez Biography:
- It’s a wish come true and gives Maria Montez more of a voice among other stars of her time. As I said above, there simply isn’t a lot of information available on beautiful Maria, her life, her films, or her place in film history. She was a trailblazer and should be given the respect other trailblazers receive.
- It is written by a fan of the actress. When I read biographies (whether they’re historical or old Hollywood biographies), I can always tell if the author is a long-time fan of his or her subject or if they’re using them simply to get a book published. Maybe it’s because biographies have been a HUGE obsession of mine, literally since I learned to read, but I’ve read enough to be able to immediately distinguish a “labor of love and respect” from a “cash grab.”
- The book is a very interesting read! Let’s face it, if a book is boring company, we aren’t going to read it no matter how much the subject intrigues us. Tom Zimmerman provides great details about Maria’s life, insight into her career and into an area she dazzled in, self-promotion.
- Maria was deliciously aware of how to “market” herself and knew how to get her name and image right in front of the public’s eye. While I pretty much suspected this PRIOR to reading this enlightening book, I had no idea just how brilliant she was at it! Her career was mostly in the forties – to truly appreciate her great need to “stand out,” it helps to remember other actresses she had to compete against for attention during this time: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Ann Sheridan, Maureen O’Hara, Claudette Colbert, Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney, Veronica Lake, Natalie Wood, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner – to name but a few! Can you imagine trying to stand OUT in that group? While I mean ZERO disrespect to lovely Maria (I adore her and all she meant/means to classic films), she did not have the talent to compete with many of these other actresses. Let’s face it, she wasn’t going to beat out Bette Davis for any roles (neither, for that matter, would Marilyn or Lana!). She had to do what all great trailblazers and pathfinders do… they use THEIR strengths and, to a great extent, do what needs to be done to stand out. Fortunately for Maria, she had more personality, color, humor, and charisma than most. In other words, her arsenal was full, you needn’t worry about that!
- The book is visually stunning. When this book came in the mail, as soon as I opened the package, I gasped. Pictures simply don’t do it justice – it’s an absolute beauty. This book would make such a gorgeous gift for any book lover in your life – especially someone who is a fan of old Hollywood. It’s a very substantial book (around 400 pages), packed with all of the information you could ever want about this colorful actress (as well as a lot of other stars you encounter along the way).
- The photos are beautiful and very unique. The photos in this beautiful book aren’t photos you’ve likely seen anywhere else. They’re absolutely wonderful and I love studying them!
Finally, I love that this biography, like all the other extra special old Hollywood biographies I’ve read, serves as a glorious piece of a puzzle… the “Old Hollywood” puzzle. The more biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies you read, the more pieces you have of this puzzle. You read certain names (stars, directors, executives, etc) over and over again and, in doing so, you get a truly accurate picture of them. Each time this happens, you get another piece of the puzzle.
That’s why I don’t just read biographies about my favorites (Maureen O’Hara, Lena Horne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Maria Montez, Ann Dvorak…), I also read biographies of those who really aren’t on my radar. One of two magical things ALWAYS happen when I do this…
- The star jumps onto my radar!
- I learn more about others who are already there.
Most importantly, each book serves as part of a puzzle to one of the most fascinating, glamorous, mysterious, and intriguing places on earth: Old Hollywood.