A Powerful, Enigmatic Screen Presence

Katy Jurado was the actress that planted the Mexican flag in U.S. film industry

By Alejandra Espasande Bouza
Published on LatinoLA: July 12, 2002

A Powerful, Enigmatic Screen Presence

In a recent interview, recorded in her Cuernavaca home for Univision?s "El Gordo y la Flaca", Katty Jurado shocked the T.V. audience with the affirmation of her desire to die.

Born Mar?a Cristina Jurado Garc?a, on January 16th. 1924, in the city of Guadalajara (Mexico), the 78-year old actress spoke coldly of her well-crafted Olinal? coffin, which she kept home next to the white dress she wished to be buried with. Though harsh, her statements were the result of a typical ailment that afflicts aging starlets, the syndrome of having to accept a life of solitude in a society that simply has no jobs or vision to employ the still-active artists who once brought glory to their nation.

This July 5th, her desire came true. Katy simply had no desire to go on. A sad conclusion for a woman whose film legacy left an array of strong and unforgettable performances.

Katy Jurado?s portrayal of Gary Cooper?s tempestuous ex-mistress, in Fred Zinnemann?s film "High Noon" (1952), though considered a negative typecast for a Latino actress, broke the clich? by displaying a powerful and enigmatic screen presence, rapidly placing the newcomer into the Hollywood spotlight. In 1954, when filmmaker Edward Dmytryk chose her to play the role of Se?ora Devereaux in the film "Broken Lance", the Academy gave her a nomination, the first one ever received by a Mexican actress.

Jurado?s success in the United States was not a surprise to those that had followed her Mexican film career, starting in 1943 with Chano Ureta?s "No Matar?s/Thou Will Not Kill" (1943). Her Hollywood triumph was merely the ramification of an actress that had already captivated the attention of Mexico?s leading directors. Ismael Rodriguez? film "Nosotros los Pobres/ We The Poor" (1947), and Alejandro Galindo?s "Hay Lugar para D?s/There?s Place for Two" (1948) gave Jurado enough exposure to land the risqu? role of Paloma in Luis Bu?uel?s "The Brute" (1951), resulting in an Ariel (Mexico?s Oscar equivalent.)

For the next decades, her career would expand internationally, but not until recently did the city of Mexico D.F. give her an overdue tribute, which was organized in 1999 by Macarena Quiroz, head editor of SOMOS (Mexico?s premier classic film magazine.) Last year, the Festival Des 3 Continents in Nantes, France, organized another tribute, reminding the world its French tradition of valuing foreign stars.

At the conclusion of his weekly Cinema class, Filmmaker Alejandro Pelayo, LA?s Mexican Cultural Attache and ex-director of the Mexican Cinematheque (CINETECA), and the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (IMCINE), reminisced on Jurado?s career, estimating her best performance to be that of Eulogia in Jorge Fons? "Fe, Esperanza y Caridad/ Faith, Hope and Charity" (1972).

Though the day of her burial was marked by an overwhelming absence on the part of Mexican film ?artists,? supposedly due to a lack of time to organize, due to her death on a Friday, the Mexican nation -- El Pueblo Mexicano, the mass audience that never forgot her -- made itself present. One of her last performances, Justina in Delia Fiallo?s T.V. soap opera "Te Sigo Amando", was precisely a character focused for this type of audience, always loyal to the woman described by Mauricio Hernandez, from the Mexican?s Actors Association, to be the actress that ?planted the Mexican flag in the U.S. film industry, and made her country proud.?

It often seems that an artist must pass away before getting a deserved recognition, and even then, it might take a little more time. Perhaps it is a matter of sitting down to watch her filmography to understand the severity of this loss.

May she rest in peace.

About Alejandra Espasande Bouza:
Alejandra Espasande is a student at USC

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