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San Sebastian, Spain
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Conchita Montenegro (San Sebastian, September 11, 1912 – Madrid, April 22, 2007) was a Spanish model, dancer, stage and screen actress. She was educated in a convent in Madrid, Spain. Montenegro had brown eyes, wavy black hair, and an olive complexion. Her sister, Juanita Montenegro was also an actress.
Montenegro first worked professionally as a model for the famous painter Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta. During her childhood she learnt classical and Spanish dance. She was credited with revolutionizing the presentation of Spanish dances. Montenegro turned from dancing to dramatic acting and starred in numerous productions. She attained theatrical fame in Hollywood, France, and Germany by the time she was thirteen years old. At the age of sixteen, she starred in the French film La Femme et le Pantin (1928), directed by Jacques de Baroncelli.
She came to Hollywood in June 1930 with a contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She was seventeen years old and could not speak a word of English. Montenegro learned enough English in three months to play the leading female part in Never The Twain Shall Meet (1931), with Leslie Howard, at the age of eighteen. The movie is the English language version of a story written by Peter B. Kyne. The motion picture was directed by W.S. Van Dyke.
Prior to this performance Montenegro was cast in Spanish versions of MGM movies, among them Call of the Flesh and Way for a Sailor (both 1930). The former featured Ramon Novarro while the latter starred Jose Crespo.
Her next screen project was Strangers May Kiss (1931). starring Norma Shearer, and with Montenegro as the ingenue role, playing a Spanish dancer. By mid-1931, Montenegro had left MGM and signed with Fox Film Corporation. She was to play in both Spanish and English language motion pictures.
The Fox Film studio selected three of its own stars in opposition to the thirteen actresses chosen as WAMPAS Baby Stars, sponsored by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers. The three were Montenegro, Helen Mack, and Linda Watkins. Eleven Fox publicity men resigned in protest of the WAMPAS decision to eschew naming any Fox starlets among its list of actresses most likely to achieve success. In addition Fox promised to name budding stars, or Fox debutante stars, annually.
Montenegro was sometimes featured in stage shows which coincided with the screening of film premieres. One such instance was the premiere of A Passport To Hell, which starred Elissa Landi. The movie debuted at the Loew`s Kings Theater in August 1932. Montenegro provided the vaudeville entertainment beforehand. On another occasion she teamed with Teddy Joyce in the stage show for the opening of The Kennel Murder Case (1933). The film screened at the Warner Brothers Hollywood Theater. Together with Will Rogers, Montenegro performed an Adagio for Strings number prior to the premiere of Handy Andy (1934).
Her movie career in America endured until 1940. That year she performed the leading female part in Eternal Melodies (Melodie eterne). The story focused on the unrequited first love of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Playing Alois Weber, Montenegro jilts Gino Cervi, who portrays the composer in the Italian language production.
Montenegro applied for naturalization papers in Chicago, Illinois on March 16, 1932. She married a Brazilian actor, Raoul Roulien, in Paris, France, on September 19, 1935. The couple toured South America and produced a motion picture called Jangada (1936). The film dealt with the customs of primitive peoples in South America. More famous was the Spanish version of El grito de la juventud, in Argentina (1939). A short time later they were divorced.
In 1944 Montenegro married the Spanish diplomat Ricardo Giménez Arnau, a senior member of the far right Falangist party and ambassador to the Holy See.
Following a rare interview with Montenegro shortly before her death, Spanish author José Rey-Ximena claims that British actor Leslie Howard used her to get close to Spanish dictator Franco after being given the special mission by Winston Churchill. She claimed that she used her husband`s influence to secure a meeting between the British actor and the Spanish dictator. "Thanks to him, at least in theory, Spain was persuaded to stay out of the war," Mr Rey-Ximena went on to claim of Howard. According to the author, Montenegro had an affair with Howard after the pair starred together in the 1931 film Never the Twain Shall Meet.
Montenegro collected dolls and woolly animals as a hobby. She acquired the reputation of a social leader in the Spanish Hollywood film colony. She leased a large house and was hostess at many gatherings.
After filming several movies in Spain, the last one Lola Montes in 1944, she retired forever from the cinema, refusing any interview or presence in the media, even to honour her.
A widow since 1972, when she died in Madrid she donated her body to medical science.
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Conchita Montenegro (San Sebastian, Spain, September 11, 1911 – Madrid, April 22, 2007) was a Spanish model, dancer, stage and screen actress. She was educated in a convent in Madrid.
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