PASSINGS: Sara Montiel, Josep Joan Bigas Luna

Sara Montiel

Spanish actress was 1950s Hollywood star

Sara Montiel, 85, a famed, sultry-voiced Spanish actress who achieved Hollywood stardom in the 1950s, died Monday in Madrid, according to her biographer, Peter Villora. The cause was undetermined.

Also known as Sarita Montiel, she was born Maria Antonia Abad on March 10, 1928, in Campo de Criptana in the La Mancha region of central Spain. An acknowledged beauty with an almost husky singing voice, Montiel starred in more than 50 films, many of which were musicals.

After limited success in Spain, her career took off in Mexico in the late 1940s where she starred in successful Spanish-language films such as “Carcel de Mujeres” (Women’s Prison).


From there she made the leap to Hollywood, where she soon attracted the attention of actors and directors. She played a supporting role in the legendary 1955 western “Vera Cruz” alongside actors Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster.

Her second U.S. film was the 1956 musical “Serenade,” with tenor Mario Lanza, Joan Fontaine and Vincent Price as stars and Anthony Mann as director.

She married Mann in 1957 but later divorced him. News reports, which Montiel never denied, claimed she had turbulent affairs with author Ernest Hemingway and actor James Dean.

Having found success in Mexico and the U.S., Montiel earned star status in her native Spain with 1957’s “El Ultimo Cuple” (The Last Couplet), which became one of the highest-grossing movies in Spanish cinema history.

The fee for her next film, “La Violetera” (The Violet Seller), netted Montiel more than $1 million, something unheard of for a Spanish star in those days.

In the mid-1970s, Montiel gave up film work and dedicated herself to live musicals on stage and television.

Josep Joan Bigas Luna

One of Spain’s most influential filmmakers

Josep Joan Bigas Luna, 67, a Spanish film director who discovered actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem and launched their careers in his 1992 movie “Jamon, Jamon,” died Saturday at his home in Tarragona in northeast Spain after battling cancer.

News agency Europa Press and Spanish state broadcaster RTVE cited members of the director’s family in weekend reports.

Bigas Luna was born in Barcelona on March 19, 1946, and became one of Spain’s most influential filmmakers.

The explosively erotic and humorous “Jamon, Jamon” earned him the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Jury Award at the San Sebastian film festival.

Times wire reports