Raquel Torres, Early Talkies Star, Dies at 78

Times Staff Writer

Raquel Torres, an exotic dark-haired actress who made a vivid impression in several early sound films before her retirement in the late 1930s, died Monday at her Malibu home after a heart attack.

Friends said Torres, 78, had been in ill health since suffering a stroke six weeks ago.

Born Paula Marie Osterman on Nov. 11, 1908, in Hermosillo, Mexico, Torres moved to Los Angeles with her parents and was educated in a convent.

She began her acting career at the top in 1928, playing the lead opposite Monte Blue in MGM’s “White Shadows of the South Seas.”


The film was the studio’s first feature fully synchronized for dialogue, music and effects, and Torres won her role on the basis of beauty and a pleasing voice.

Under the direction of W. S. Van Dyke, she made a vivid impression and seemed well-launched toward stardom when she followed with leading roles in “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” and “The Desert Rider” in 1929, “Under a Texas Moon” and “The Sea Bat” in 1930 and “Aloha” in 1931.

She also appeared in “Tampico,” “So This Is Africa,” “The Woman I Stole” and a Marx Brothers classic, “Duck Soup.”

Marriage to New York stockbroker Stephen Ames lessened her interest in a career, however, and she did only one British film, “The Red Wagon,” before retiring from the screen in the mid-1930s.


Widowed in the 1950s, she was married in 1959 to actor Jon Hall; that marriage ended in divorce.

Her home in the 22300 block of Pacific Coast Highway was partly destroyed by fire in 1985, but she rebuilt it and continued to live there for the rest of her life.