María Felix Sleeps In ParisWednesday, September 03, 2008
While I have written about the notable Mexican actress Dolores del Río here I must stress that the most famous Mexican actress of them all was María Felix (April 8, 1914 - April 8, 2002). She is not well known abroad (as in North America) because she never made a film in Hollywood. She lost to Jennifer Jones the part that was allegedly written for her in King Vidor's 1946 film Duel In The Sun because of prior commitments.
Mexicans and the Spaniards share lots of tradition and history. They also share statements that are rarely contested simply because the rest of the world does not give these two countries any weight. The Spaniards believe that the most perfect and beautiful painting in the world is Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas. I agree. I saw it at the Prado Museum many years ago with my wife and daughters. We all remember its luminous magic.
With equal passion Mexicans assert that María Felix was the most beautiful woman in the world when she was alive. I would agree, too. She had a throaty voice and in a world of macho men she could make men cower in fear with just the raising of one of her dramatic eyebrows. It was said that she had an affair with the married and powerful Mexican president Miguel Alemán. It was said that not only did she have an affair with Diego Rivera but with his wife, Frida Kahlo, too. I saw many of her films as a boy in the 50s and by the beginning of the 60s there were rumours that "La Dueña" would spend a month in Paris asleep. The French had discovered (so the story went) a method by which after a month's deep sleep, La Felix would wake up rejuvenated with skin like the skin she had had when 20. I believed the story. That somehow this Mexican Helen could be affected by the ravages of time was a possibility we refused to consider.
When Ms Hernandez was lying in my studio's psychiatric couch (I purchased it many years ago from a retiring shrink for $100 which included the delivery to my studio) for this installment of my Mexican nostalgia I thought she was perfect.