With her large, dark eyes and expressive face, Katy Jurado was the first Mexican actress to make it big in Hollywood. Famous for playing complex women, Jurado defied stereotypes and stunned audiences until the last days of her very eventful life. From glitzy award shows to forbidden romances with the most famous actors of her time, Jurado made her 78 years on this earth count.
Katy Jurado Facts
1. Her Real Name was a Mouthful
Born in 1924, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, Katy Jurado was actually named Maria Cristina Estela Marcela Jurado Garcia. The family started calling her Katy when she was very young, and…yeah, we really can’t blame them, can you?
2. Her Family Was Rich
Katy’s father was Luis Jurado Ochoa, a lawyer, cattle-rancher, and orange grove owner. Her mother, Vicenta Garcia, was an opera singer who abandoned her career when she got married. The family was wildly wealthy, even owning most of what’s now Texas (!) but unfortunately for Jurado, those luxurious days didn’t last long. After the Mexican Revolution, they lost a huge amount of their once-immense fortune.
3. Her Career Path Wasn’t Easy
Unluckily for Jurado, her family’s pride meant that they looked down upon acting as a profession. Even when the famous Mexican actor Emilio Fernandez discovered Jurado and wanted the beautiful young actress to star in his film, Isle of Passion, Katy’s parents forbade her from saying yes. But did Katy take “no” for an answer? Of course not. She had plans of her own.
4. She Inked a Deal
Jurado’s genius plan to bypass parental restrictions was: Forgery! Even though Jurado had to turn down Isle of Passion, she immediately booked another role in the upcoming movie No Matarás. This time, instead of asking her strict parents for permission, Jurado took matters into her own hands. She signed the contract without their consent. Hey, Hollywood loves a bad girl.
5. She Skipped Town
Jurado’s path to stardom didn’t just involve forgery. It also involved an unwise teen marriage. The young rebel met Victor Velazquez when she was just 14 years old. Like Katy, her new beau was also an aspiring actor. Being arty teens, the couple fell madly in love and got married in 1939, when Jurado was now a much more mature 15 yeas old. This’ll end well…
6. Her Beauty Was Undeniable
Jurado’s exotic looks commanded attention wherever she went. She has been described as a stunning beauty because of her large eyes and spirited demeanor. A curvaceous brunette with olive skin, Jurado herself claimed, “I knew that my body was provocative, but also that I was not beautiful, although…my physique was different and very sensual.” All respect to Katy, but she’s wrong on this one: She was gorgeous.
7. She Was a Hustler
That said, Katy Jurado wasn’t perfect. She could be dramatic and had a famously short temper, but one fault that no one could ever level at her was laziness. This woman knew how to hustle. Jurado shot her first movie at the same time as she was writing columns about movies, penning critiques on bullfights, and working as a reporter for the radio. Sadly, her hard work could not save her marriage.
8. She Rebelled
In 1943, Katy Jurado was going through the highest highs and the lowest lows. On the one hand, her debut film No`Matarás had just been released and she finally got to see her face on the silver screen. On the other, Jurado was now 19 years old and already a divorcée. In a completely shocking and not at all predictable twist, Jurado and Velazquez’s teenage marriage did not last the test of time.
9. She Had Two Kids
Although she and Velazquez couldn’t make their marriage work, they did have two kids together: A son, Victor Hugo, and a daughter, Sandra. Jurado was a loving mother, even though she didn’t have much time to spend with her kids. She would live to regret this. Later, a tragic incident would force her to lament the years she spent away from them, concentrating on her career.
10. She Rebuffed Stereotypes
Considering how sensual she looked on screen, it’s no surprise that Jurado played a lot of femme fatale roles. True, this is kind of a stereotype (Mexican actors were often typecast in sexualized roles), but Jurado’s spirited yet restrained performances gave her characters nuance. In this way she not only broke the stereotype, she also helped develop the range of roles available to other Mexican women.
11. She was Popular
Jurado’s first film was a major success. Shortly after bursting onto the silver screen, she became Mexico’s latest It Girl. Studios competing for the young star and Jurado acted in a whopping 16 more films over the next seven years. She even won the Mexican equivalent of an Oscar, the Ariel, for her performance in El Bruto. Critics dubbed the era, “The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.” Now that’s how to prove your parents wrong.
12. She Wasn’t Your Usual Hollywood Star
Around this time, Jurado’s quirky second career as a bullfight critic became her ticket into Hollywood. She was on assignment at a bullfight when actor John Wayne and filmmaker Budd Boetticher spotted her. Even though neither knew that Jurado was an actor, Boetticher immediately cast her in his film, The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951). She played the role of the matador’s wife, but there was just one teeny little problem with her casting.
13. She Struggled
Here’s the thing: Katy Jurado had just booked a role in a major Hollywood movie…without actually knowing any English. Now, that might have been an issue for some other actor, but not for Katy. She simply decided that she’d memorize her lines phonetically. Luckily, her unconventional approach paid off. Jurado’s performance was so impactful that she caught the eye of producer Stanley Kramer. With him, she’d land her biggest break yet.
14. She Landed a Major Role
At first glance, Jurado’s “big break” didn’t look like anything to write home about. The studio was working with a shoestring budget and kept pressuring the crew to complete shooting in just 32 days. Even so, the final product is now a cinema classic: High Noon. Jurado played Helen Ramirez, the hero’s ex-lover, and got to work with Hollywood titans like Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. But even among silver screen royalty, Jurado refused to bite her tongue…
15. She Lost Her Temper
Katy Jurado always had a short temper and never thought twice before speaking. That was something she had in common with the character she played in High Noon, and one day, the director got to see Jurado’s short fuse both on screen and off. After Jurado saw how many close-ups Grace Kelly was getting, she angrily accused the director of being “half in love” with the blonde.
16. She Had a Short Fuse
That wasn’t the first time Jurado lost her temper. At one of her earlier Hollywood auditions, the director cruelly laughed when he heard Jurado’s rudimentary English skills. This infuriated Jurado so much that she stormed out of the studio, cursing the director in Spanish. Kinda makes you understand why Hollywood was obsessed with “Mexican spitfires!”
17. She Worked
Jurado didn’t repeat her method of learning her lines phonetically for High Noon. She took lessons and had a two-hour English class every single day for two months straight so she could speak her lines convincingly. Despite this hard work, she couldn’t pronounce the onscreen name chosen for Cooper—Will Doane. Because of Jurado, the hero’s name became Will Kane.
18. She Had a Spicy Love Life
Jurado was a gorgeous woman who spoke her mind. Obviously, men were drawn to her like moths to a flame. According to rumors, Jurado had a very active love life. She romanced the film director Budd Boetticher and the famous actor Tyrone Power. Heck, even Frank Sinatra tried to go out with Jurado! But, like a good femme fatale, Jurado kept Sinatra wanting more. She turned him down, saying she saw him as a friend.
19. She Made Her Mark
High Noon was the mega-hit that propelled Katy Jurado into cinema history. She became the first Latin American actress to win a Golden Globe, taking home the precious statuette for her performance as Helen Ramirez. With this achievement locked in, Jurado officially made it onto the A-List—and also caught the eye of her most famous admirer…
20. An Icon Romanced Her
Marlon Brando saw Jurado’s performance in High Noon and was immediately smitten. When Brando came to film a movie in Mexico, he decided to shoot his shot and ask Jurado out on a date. Our girl Katy accepted because, when all was said and done, we are talking about Marlon Brando, legendary ladies’ man. Plus, he didn’t make his attraction a secret…
21. A Screen Legend Was Smitten
More than anything else about her, Brando was a big fan of Jurado’s eyes. He publicly admitted that her “enigmatic eyes” fascinated him because they were “black as hell, pointing at [you] like fiery arrows.” Erm, sounds like a compliment, but also doesn’t? Either way, Katy clearly liked what she heard. The duo struck up a fiery romance—despite the presence of some jumbo obstacles.
22. Her Romance Went Sour
True to his reputation as a real-life Romeo, Brando was already seeing another woman when he met Jurado. He and Movita Castaneda (who would go on to become his second wife) were an item, and not only that, Brando was also involved with Rita Moreno—at the same time! When does this man sleep?? But Brando’s two other relationships weren’t even the worst part of his tryst with Jurado.
23. She Was a Bad Girl
Here’s the kicker: Jurado knew about the other women. Her reasoning was, “Hell it was just a date. I didn’t plan to marry him.” Hmm… famous last words?
24. She Had a Torrid Affair
Jurado and Brando had a passionate on-again, off-again, extended affair, which supposedly reached its peak when she starred in Brando’s first directorial venture, One-Eyed Jacks, in 1960. Despite her long-standing liaison with Brando, Jurado seemed to repay his, shall we say, relaxed attitude to monogamy. She met men, went on plenty of dates, and even married the man who became her second husband amid her time with Brando. But more on that later…
25. She Had a Doomed Love
We may never know about the true nature of Jurado’s relationship with Brando, but Katy did confirm that they were extremely close friends. Jurado called Brando a “true friend of the soul” and declared that “we speak soul to soul.” While the lovers never actually made it down the aisle, they clearly had a profound connection.
26. She Was Going Places
In 1954, Jurado landed another big breakthrough role and, in the process, made Hollywood history. In the Western film, Broken Lance (1954), Jurado played Spencer Tracy’s wife with such aplomb that she received a nomination for an Academy Award. She was the first Mexican actress to achieve this distinction—despite the fact that she hadn’t been the first choice for the role!
27. Luck was on Her Side
The filmmakers originally chose Dolores del Rio to star opposite Tracy in Broken Lance, but her visa was rejected by the US government because they suspected del Rio of communist activity. Even though Jurado would dominate the role, initially the studio thought she was too young to be a good fit. They were doubtful about casting her, until they saw footage of her performance. That convinced them that she was the only woman for the job.
28. She Stayed True to Her Roots
Many directors offered Jurado a contract to stay in the Hollywood film industry, but she refused for a stunning reason. Jurado declared that she didn’t want to “lose her career in Mexico” by playing “imitations” of Latin American characters or, in other words, stereotypes. Determined to stay true to her roots, Jurado insisted that she be able to make both Mexican and American movies.
29. She Met Someone Else
Jurado was a bit of a maneater, but she did seem to toy with the idea of a “happily-ever-after” at one point in her life. While filming The Badlanders, Jurado and her co-star Ernest Borgnine struck up a flirtation. But it seems like Katy had a thing for unavailable men. At the time, Borgnine was already married to someone else. And boy oh boy, it only got messier from there.
30. She Had a Slow Burn Love
Supposedly, a reporter saw Jurado and Borgnine laughing together on set one day. He gossiped about it and soon everyone started thinking that the co-stars were dating. Borgnine denied this, but his wife didn’t believe him, and filed for divorce. Ironically, this just made Borgnine draw closer to Jurado. With that, the rumors became reality.
31. Her Love Life Was Dramatic
Jurado’s recollection of how she and Borgnine met was different from the rumors. She claimed they’d met in a restaurant and for two years he’d wooed her. She called those the best days of her life. But it all changed once they married in 1959 and “his jealousy and insecurities turned the marriage into hell.” Sadly, this wasn’t even the worst part.
32. She Had a Dark Side
Jurado had an eerie nickname for her abusive husband. She called Borgnine “Bullito” or “Little bull.” For his part, Borgnine called Jurado “beautiful, but a tiger.” Clearly, just like in the wild, this bull and tiger did not get along.
33. Her Marriage Was Awful
Dark rumors claimed that Borgnine was as bad-tempered as Jurado was volatile, with the hot-headed match resulting in some ugly fights. Years later, Jurado admitted that her cruel husband used his fists and hands as much as his words to hurt her. Thankfully, the mismatched couples separated just two years after they got married. Though they reconciled for a brief time, the rekindled romance flamed out. When they finally divorced in 1963, they went out kicking and screaming. Strap in, y’all.
34. Her Husband Was Cruel
When Jurado first filed for divorce from Borgnine, she gave a chilling reason for their split. She cited “extreme cruelty.”
35. The Divorce Was Messy
Jurado and Borgnine’s ultimate divorce hearing does not suggest that the exes split amicably. On June 3, 1963, Jurado walked into the courthouse, only to see that Borgnine hadn’t even bothered to show up. Though Jurado got the divorce she needed (along with a cool $40,000 settlement), that final snub must have stung. You’re better off without him, Katy!
36. She Went Back Home
After her second marriage went bust, Jurado moved back to Mexico to recover from her recent heartache. After two years back home, Jurado returned to America and performed in several Hollywood movies alongside stars like Elvis Presley. While her career was going well, Jurado’s personal life was still a struggle.
37. She Won Many Honors
During her time as an actress, Jurado won three Silver Ariel Awards (the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars), an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, and a ground-breaking Golden Globe win. Plus, as a sign of Jurado’s lasting impact on Hollywood and American film history, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
38. She Was Proud of Her Heritage
Jurado was a Mexican through and through. She was careful about choosing roles and “didn’t take all the films that were offered, just those with dignity.” Her country-folk were proud of her for “plant[ing] the Mexican flag in the US film industry.”
39. She Is a Legend
Actors live on because of their movies, but Jurado was also captured in both art and song. She posed for a portrait by the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera in 1953. Many years later, a Mexican composer also wrote a song for Jurado, titled “Que re’chula es Katy.” Roughly translated, the song’s name means, “What a beauty is Katy!” Sadly, as we’ve seen, Jurado’s beauty didn’t shield her from pain.
40. Fortune Didn’t Always Favor Her
Even though Jurado had a rich and successful professional career, drama and tragedy tinged her personal life and relationships. We all know her parents hadn’t been supportive, her husbands had turned out to be no good, and her personal demons had nearly pushed her over the edge, but Jurado’s bad luck didn’t stop there. Fate dealt her the cruelest blow much later in life.
41. Her Son Had an Accident
You may remember that Jurado had only had two children from her first marriage to Victor Velazquez. Her son, Victor Hugo, was her first-born, and in a heartbreaking turn of events, he perished in a brutal car accident on the highway near Monterrey in 1981. Jurado was in Mexico at the time. When she returned to America, she learned the devastating news of her son’s passing.
42. She Went into a Deep Depression
Losing a child is one of the worst things a person can go through in life. When Katy Jurado lost her son, she was overcome with grief. However, there was another reason for her all-encompassing depression: Remorse. You see, soon after her son’s funeral, Jurado had to return to Mexico to finish the film she had been shooting.
Looking back at this difficult time, Jurado said she hated every minute of filming because, “I couldn’t mourn him as I wanted…I dedicated to the films a wonderful time I should have given to my children, but it was too late.”
43. She Needed Time
After she completed the film she was working on when her son passed, Jurado took a break from acting. Perhaps she was ready to quit at that point, but three years later John Huston convinced her to return to Hollywood. She agreed to act in his latest film, Under the Volcano. After that, she caught the acting bug once again. Jurado performed until the end of her days.
44. She Had One True Love
Things may not have worked out for Jurado in her marriages, but she did experience true love at least once in her life. Louis L’Amour, the bestselling writer of Western novels which were made into films, was “the man of [her] life.” Jurado claimed that he lived up to his romantic name. She kept the love letters that he wrote to her “until the last day of his life.”
45. She Was More Than a Film Star
Katy also acted in a short-lived television series, comedy no less, and dabbled in theater by performing in a couple of Broadway plays too.
46. She Held the Keys to New York
Jurado was a pioneer in many ways. Her success in Hollywood meant that she became the first Mexican woman to win many honors. Apart from the praise and awards though, she had another unusual achievement: She became the first (and only) Mexican woman to hold the keys to New York City! Atta girl Katy! How cool is that!
47. She Stayed Active Until the End
Jurado suffered from heart and lung issues as she grew older. But even as an older lady, she was a fighter. Jurado kept working though and acted in her last Mexican film in the year of her passing. At the age of 78, she finally succumbed to pulmonary disease and kidney failure and her family laid her to rest in Mexico. Her last film came out after her passing.
48. She Hit Rock Bottom
In February of 1968, Jurado seems to have reached rock bottom. The starlet picked up the phone and made a terrifying call. When her agent was on the line, she simply said, “I have taken 67 sleeping pills and I’m going to sleep.” She instructed him to give her furs and money to her children, then hung up. Terrified, Jurado’s agent called the authorities. They rushed to Jurado’s apartment, hoping to make it in time.
49. She Tried To End It All
When the paramedics arrived, they immediately realized that Jurado was not bluffing. She had attempted to end her own life by overdosing on sleeping pills. She was already unconscious when the emergency responders found her. Next to her body was a final farewell note, written in Spanish. Thankfully, in the end, the letter wasn’t needed. The paramedics managed to revive Jurado.
50. She Made a Brutal Discovery
When fellow Mexican actress Miroslava Stern committed suicide, Jurado was the first to stumble in upon the scene and discover her body. She also created a scandal by claiming that Stern’s manager had switched the photo in her hand from that of an actor to one of a bullfighter. With this swap, the manager changed the reason of the poor girl’s suicide!