Rita Moreno was born Rosa Dolores Alverio in Humacao, a small town near the famous rain forest of Puerto Rico. When she was five years old, she and her mother moved to New York and the following year she started dancing lessons. At age 13, she had her Broadway debut in "Skydrift" which starred Eli Wallach. Then, in the true tradition of Hollywood, a talent scout arranged a meeting for, 17-year-old Miss Moreno with Louis B. Mayer and she was signed for a contract with MGM.
From that point on her career advanced steadily. She made some thirty films early in her career, and was often typecast as a Mexican spitfire or an Indian maiden. Among the films she made during this period were "Untamed," "Seven Cities of Gold, "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts," and "Garden of Evil." She was also featured as Tuptim in the classic, "The King and I." It was only after she won an Academy Award for her outstanding performance as Anita in "West Side Story," which gained international acclaim, that she was finally recognized as a major talent.
In 1962 she moved to London where she was featured in Hal Prince’s productions of "She Loves Me." She then returned to New York to star in Lorraine Hansbury’s ‘The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window." On Broadway she has also appeared as the female lead with Robert Shaw in "Gantry." she was also cast opposite Jimmy Coco in "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers," and in an award-winning role in "The National Health."
Ms. Moreno then starred in "The Ritz" for which she received the Tony Award. In 1981 she returned to Broadway, once again opposite Jimmy Coco, in "Wally’s Cafe."
It may be said that Rita Moreno, who has portrayed an Irish teacher, an Italian widow, a reformed prostitute, a lady evangelist, an English lady, and southern belle, has broken the rigid role of Latino stereotyping.
In 1967, Ms. Moreno resumed her screen career playing opposite Marlon Brando in "The Night of the following Day," then with James Garner in "Marlowe," as Alan Arkin’s girlfriend in "Popi," and in Mike Nichol’s production of "Carnal Knowledge." She then starred in the film version of "The Ritz." She went on to do Alan Alda’s "The Four Seasons,’ co-starring with Carol Burnett. In 1993, after a brief hiatus from film, she completed a film entitled, ‘The Italian Movie.’ Currently, she is busily engaged in a number of film projects.
Ms. Moreno has also been the guest star in a wide variety of television productions, both here and abroad. She is proud to have been a featured artist for many years on "The Electric Company," a highly regarded educational program. She has also starred in her own TV series, the sitcom version of the film, "9 to 5.’ From 1989 through 1990, she played opposite Burt Reynolds in a weekly review entitled "B.L. Stryker," and in 1991/1992, she was featured in the Fox Network sitcom, "The Top of the Heap." In recent years, Ms. Moreno has been kept exceedingly busy performing concerts in theaters, as well as at conventions for major corporations., She has also been in demand as a guest artist with symphony orchestras for their ‘Pops’ series.
In addition to her film, stage, television and concert careers, Ms. Moreno fills her spare time by lecturing to various organizations as well as to university audiences. She is also involved with a number of civic and charitable organizations and events.
Rita Moreno is married to Leonard Gordon, a physician, and they live in Southern California. Their daughter, Fernanda, is an actress and artist.