From the Archives: Katy Jurado, 78; Mexican Film Star Had U.S. Roles in the ‘50s

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Katy Jurado, the Mexican actress who earned an Academy Award nomination for her 1954 supporting role as Spencer Tracy’s Indian wife in the western “Broken Lance,” has died. She was 78.

Jurado, who is perhaps best remembered by American audiences for her supporting role as Gary Cooper’s onetime girlfriend in the classic film “High Noon,” died Friday at her home in Cuernavaca, about 35 miles south of Mexico City. She had been suffering from lung and heart ailments.

Jurado, who was one of the most prominent Mexican actresses in American movies made in the 1950s, was a major star in Mexican cinema. She won three Ariels, Mexico’s equivalent of the Oscar, including one for her role in director Luis Bunuel’s 1952 film “El Bruto.”


Jurado, who made her movie debut in Mexico in 1943, was supplementing her acting income by writing a movie column when she landed her first role in an American film, as the wife of an aging matador in Budd Boetticher’s 1951 drama “The Bullfighter and the Lady.”

Boetticher and John Wayne—the film’s producer—had spotted the striking Jurado at a bullfight in Mexico and, without knowing she was an actress, had discussed her playing a part in the picture, which starred Robert Stack and Gilbert Roland.

Jurado spoke little English and said her lines phonetically in the film, a practice she repeated in “High Noon,” which garnered her critical acclaim and a Golden Globe Award.

Jurado, who had a memorable confrontation with Grace Kelly as Cooper’s Quaker bride, found the role of the volatile Helen Ramirez easy to play.

“I always do what I feel and say what I think,” she told Associated Press in a 1984 interview. “I still have my temper.”

Although she appeared frequently in American films throughout the 1950s, they are considered less than stellar roles.


Jurado was born Maria Cristina Jurado Garcia in Guadalajara in 1924, the daughter of former landowners whose holdings had been confiscated during the revolution. She spent her years under the domination of her grandmother who was, Jurado once said, “always faithful to aristocratic ideals.”

Indeed, Jurado was considered a rebel against family traditions when she began her movie career after being discovered as a teenager by the Mexican film director Emilio Fernandez.

Her father threatened to put her in a convent school, but she was married three months later--to Victor Velazquez, with whom she had two children--and continued her career.

Jurado didn’t feel that she was typecast in American films—in “Barabbas,” starring Anthony Quinn, she played a Jew. But she told Associated Press that she often was offered roles that were mere stereotypes of what Americans believe Mexicans are like.

“I didn’t take all the films that were offered, just those with dignity,” she said.

Jurado believed her career in American films would have been more successful had she spent more time in Los Angeles rather than returning to Mexico after each film was completed. She lived in California, however, during her second marriage, in 1959, to actor Ernest Borgnine, which ended in divorce in 1964.

Jurado, who continued to act in films until 1998, is especially remembered by her fans in Mexico for her role in the 1957 melodrama “Nosotros Los Pobres” (“We the Poor”), opposite the Mexican film heartthrob Pedro Infante.


“She planted the Mexican flag in the U.S. film industry, and made her country proud,” said Mauricio Hernandez, an official of the National Actors Assn. in Mexico.

Among Jurado’s other American film credits are “One-Eyed Jacks,” “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” and “Under the Volcano.” She also played Paul Rodriguez’s mother on the short-lived ABC sitcom “a.k.a. Pablo” in 1984.

She is survived by a daughter, Sandra.

Funeral plans were not immediately announced.


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