Margo Albert, Head of Latino Center, Dies

Times Staff Writer

Margo Albert, artistic director and chairwoman of the board of Plaza de la Raza, died Wednesday at her home in Pacific Palisades after an illness of several months, a spokeswoman for the organization said. She was 68.

The wife of actor Eddie Albert and mother of actor Edward Albert, the former actress was a founder of Plaza de la Raza, the East Los Angeles Chicano educational and cultural center. She was also active in many other cultural groups, locally and nationally.

Passionately committed to the arts, she fostered the talent of young performers, especially Latinos.

Born Marie Marguerita Guadalupe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O'Donnell on May 10, 1917, in Mexico City, she was brought to the United States as a child to live with her aunt, singer Carmen Castillo.

Encouraged by her family, young Margo studied dancing with Edwardo Cansino, Rita Hayworth's father, and made her debut at the age of 10. She worked as a dancer in New York and began appearing in feature films during the 1930s at age 15.

Known professionally simply as Margo, she worked with Carole Lombard and George Raft in "Rumba" in 1935 and with Warner Baxter in "Robin Hood of El Dorado" in 1936. She also appeared on Broadway in Maxwell Anderson's "Winterset" opposite Burgess Meredith.

Her other films included "Lost Horizon" (1937) and "A Bell for Adano" (1945).

A stage and screen star by her late teens, she married actor Francis Lederer when she was 20. They divorced several years later.

Married Albert in 1945

In 1945, she married Eddie Albert, then a young actor who had just established himself in Hollywood before entering the Navy.

In the early 1950s, she and her husband performed throughout the nation in nightclub revues put together by director Herbert Ross. She also recorded albums with her husband and guitarist Vincente Gomez.

Mrs. Albert set aside her career to raise a family and became active in civic and cultural causes.

In recent years, she had been a member of the board of the National Council of the National Endowment for the Arts. She also served on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities and was a board member of KCET, the Center Theatre Group of the Music Center, Mayor Tom Bradley's Advisory Committee on Cultural Affairs, the Bella Lewitsky Dance Foundation and the Los Angeles Bicentennial Committee.

Great Love Was Plaza

But her great love was Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights.

She became active in the neighborhood movement to prevent the demolition of the old boathouse in Lincoln Park and helped find funds to turn it into a cultural center.

"We were so innocent," she recalled in a 1979 interview. "We tried to raise $110,000 with Blue Chip Stamps."

Besides raising funds for Plaza de la Raza, Mrs. Albert taught a drama class there in 1978. The class was designed for Latinos, who, she explained, "don't have enough access to training to compete" in show business.

'So Much Love and Talent'

The success of the center was a particular joy for her.

"We (teachers and performers at Plaza de la Raza) are bridging the Eastside and the Westside, the young and the old," she said. "More than ever, there is so much love and talent in the barrio."

In addition to her husband and son, she is survived by a daughter, Maria Carmen Zucht, and two grandchildren.

A public memorial service will be held Sunday at 11 a.m. at Plaza de la Raza. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Margo Albert Theatre, Plaza de la Raza, 3540 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles, Calif. 90031.

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