Photo Flash: Rita Moreno Honored with SAG Life Time Achievement Award
Groundbreaking actor, singer, dancer, author and educator Rita Moreno has been named the 50th recipient of SAG-AFTRA's highest tribute - the SAG Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment. Given annually to an actor who fosters the "finest ideals of the acting profession," the SAG Life Achievement Award joins Moreno's rare catalog of preeminent industry and public honors, which also includes an Oscar, two Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of the Arts.
Moreno was presented the performers union's top accolade at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, which aired live on TNT and TBS on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. Check out photos from the event below!
At 81, Rita Moreno continues to embody the creative diversity that has been the hallmark of her nearly 70-year career. One of only 11 artists and the only Hispanic performer to have won the entertainment industry's four top competitive awards, she earned her Oscar in 1962 for her iconic portrayal of saucy Anita in West Side Story, a role which drew on memories of the racial taunts she endured as a young Puerto Rican immigrant living in a Bronx "barrio." Her 1972 Grammy honored her performance on The Electric Company Album, based on the long-running PBS children's literacy television series on which Moreno played multiple roles in a memorable cast that included Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman. The Tony came for her 1975 satiric turn as flamboyant, talentless Puerto Rican bathhouse singer Googie Gomez in Broadway's The Ritz. A six-time Emmy nominee, she won her first of the Television Academy's honors in 1977 for one of her many guest appearances on The Muppet Show. The following year, she earned a second Emmy for her dramatic guest performance on The Rockford Files.
Moreno made her Broadway debut at just 13 in Skydrift, starring Eli Wallach. After making her film debut under the name Rosita Moreno in the 1950 independent reform school drama So Young So Bad, a talent scout arranged for her to meet MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer. With her mother's help with wardrobe and make-up, Moreno aptly transformed herself into what Mayer saw as a "Spanish Elizabeth Taylor." He immediately signed the teen to a contract.
Moreno's Hollywood career advanced steadily, with early films co-starring such actors as Richard Widmark, Esther Williams, Mario Lanza, Susan Hayward, Tyrone Power and Gary Cooper. She appeared as silent screen vamp Zelda Zanders in the now legendary musical Singin' in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly. A 1954 photo shoot that was supposed to focus on a TV series pilot starring Ray Bolger instead landed Moreno on the cover of LIFE Magazine, with the provocative headline "Rita Moreno: An Actress's Catalog of Sex and Innocence." It drew the attention of 20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck, who signed her to her second studio contract.
At Fox, Moreno was featured as the tragic Tuptim in the classic The King and I, with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. For the film, she spoke with what she had come to call her "universal ethnic accent". The King and I marked Moreno's first film with choreographer Jerome Robbins, who later cast her in West Side Story.
Moreno's long stage career has included starring roles on both sides of the Atlantic. In London, she appeared in Hal Prince's 1962 production of She Loves Me and in the 1997 West End run of Sunset Boulevard. In New York, she has starred in Lorraine Hansbury's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, opposite Robert Shaw in Gantry and with Jimmy Coco in The Last of the Red Hot Lovers. She received a Tony Award nomination for her role in The National Health in 1974, followed by her 1975 Tony win for The Ritz. Other New York credits include Anne Meara's After Play; Wally's Café, with Jimmy Coco; Circle Rep's Size of the World; and, more recently, the female version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.
Moreno's current role as Fran Drescher's mother in TV Land's Happily Divorced, is the latest in a long roster of television performances dating back to a panoply of television anthologies in the early 1950s and continuing throughout her career with numerous guest roles between films and stage appearances. In 1982-83, she starred in her own TV series based on the film 9 to 5. Additionally, she played opposite Burt Reynolds in B.L. Stryker and was a series regular with Bill Cosby on NBC's The Cosby Mysteries. And in 2007, she starred in the CBS series Cane.
Photos courtesy of TBS