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10 March 1928 - 8 april 2013

Sara Montiel (also Sarita Montiel or Saritísima) was born in Campo de Criptana in the region of New Castile in 1928 as María Antonia Abad (complete name María Antonia Alejandra Vicenta Elpidia Isidora Abad Fernández).

Montiel started as an actress at 16 in Spanish movies where she filmed her first international success playing an Islamic princess in the 1948 film 'Locura de amor'. Later she conquered Mexico starring in a dozen films in less than five years. Hollywood came calling after and she was introduced to US moviegoers in the film 'Vera Cruz' (1954) co-starring with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster and directed by Robert Aldrich. She was offered the standard seven-year contract at Columbia Pictures which she quickly refused, afraid of Hollywood's typecasting policies for Hispanics. Instead she free-lanced at Warner Bros. with Mario Lanza and Joan Fontaine in 'Serenade' (1956) directed by Anthony Mann and at RKO in Samuel Fuller's 'Run of the arrow' (1957), opposite Rod Steiger and Charles Bronson.

That same year she married Anthony Mann but returned briefly to Spain to star in a low budget film musical 'El ultimo cuplé' as a favor to producer-director Juan de Orduña who had helped her career in the early days. In the movie she was the first woman to display a low cleavage openly in Spanish cinema at a time when even a low cut dress was not acceptable. The cover for the album of the same title was censored. This film made her unexpectedly the number one actress-singer of that year in Europe and Latin America and she accepted a multi-million dollar offer for more films and recordings in Europe. Fifteen films followed her Cuplé success, including 'La violetera' (1958), 'Mi ultimo tango' (1960), 'Noches de Casablanca' (a 1963 tribute to Hollywood's 'Casablanca'), 'Esa mujer' (1969) and 'Varietés' (1971). Her films 'El ultimo cuple' and 'La violetera' netted the highest gross revenues ever recorded for films made in the Spanish speaking movie industry during the 50s and 60s.

Most of the movies were accompanied by a soundtrack album which also pushed her career as a singer. During these years she recorded over 30 albums and appeared on stage and television all over the world. In 1974 Montiel announced her retirement from movies and continued non-stop performing live, recording and starring on her own variety television shows in Spain. She continued at that pace well into the 1990s. In 2000 she released her autobiography Memories: 'To live is a pleasure' followed by a second book called 'Sara and sex', which highlighted her love life. In 2005 Montiel was portrayed in the Pedro Almodóvar film 'La mala educación' by actor Gael García Bernal as the character Zahara. In 2006 Montiel temporarily put aside her career in order to help her adopted son Zeus with his first recordings. Sarita died at the age of 85 on april 8, 2013.

On the web:

- http://infomontiel.tripod.com/id17.htm
- http://www.visitingsaramontiel.com

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What do we think:

PR: Sarita Montiel is more actress than singer. But with an oeuvre of more than 30 albums since the late fifties, she is definitely one of Spain's most popular musical artists of the 20th century. And - whatever you may think of her - she still succeeds in claiming a spot in the limelights with her writings. Her material is mostly very traditional Hollywood-with-Spanish-lyrics and her singing is not tremendous. On the other hand, she sung a few beautiful songs that became international classics ('La violetra'). Her latest releases (eigthies & nineties) are over-the-top synthesiser disco albums, probably recorded for the gay-disco's and her die-hard fans.

DB: Everyone who has seen Almodovár's 'La mala educación' will remember transvestite Sahara miming a warmblooded song in the microphone. Well, i do, and it was my first encounter with the music of Sarita, the singer Sahara is impersonating. While in Barcelona I tried to find as much of her orginal material i could lay my hands on including an autographed copy of Ulitmo Cuple (no, not the one with the revealing cover). Sarita made some great music but maybe suffers from some over confidence. Who else would record the track 'Supersara'.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪ - El Último Cuple - 1957

♪♪♪♪ - La Violetera - 1958

♪♪♪ - Carmen la de Ronda - 1959

♪♪ - Besos de Fuego - 1960

♪♪ - Mi Último Tango - 1960

♪♪♪ - Pecado de Amor - 1961

♪♪ - La Bella Lola - 1962

♪♪ - Noches De Casablanca - 1963

♪♪ - Samba - 1964

♪♪ - La Dama de Beirut - 1965

♪♪♪ - Esa Mujer - 1970

Sara - 1971

Sara... Hoy - 1973

Saritisima - 1977

Anoche con Sara - 1978

♪♪♪ - Purisimo Sara - 1988

♪♪ - Sara a Flor de Piel - 1991

♪♪ - Amados Mios - 1995

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided