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Dance and the Hollywood Latina

Race, Sex, and Stardom

Priscilla Peña Ovalle

Publication Year: 2011

Dance and the Hollywood Latina asks why every Latina star in Hollywood history began as a dancer or danced onscreen. Introducing the concepts of "inbetween-ness" and "racial mobility" to further illuminate how racialized sexuality and the dancing female body operate in film, this book focuses on the careers of Dolores Del Rio, Rita Hayworth, Carmen Miranda, Rita Moreno, and Jennifer Lopez and helps readers better understand how the United States grapples with race, gender, and sexuality through dancing bodies on screen.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

This book is the product of many years of hard work and the tireless support of a community of friends, family, and scholars, but I must start by acknowledging the one person without whom this book would not be possible: Omar Na

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1. Mobilizing the Latina Myth

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pp. 1-23

In 2007, the dandruff shampoo Head & Shoulders ran an advertising campaign featuring a series of staged testimonials from black, white, and brown women. Each woman’s extolment—delivered in a series of close-ups—praises the product according to her (hair) type: after a black woman with dark, curly hair gushes that the shampoo “actually changed my hair,” a white woman declares ...

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2. Dolores Del Rio Dances across the Imperial Color Line

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pp. 24-48

In Wonder Bar (1934), Al Wonder (Al Jolson) entertains a Parisian nightclub crowd with a song before the club’s headlining dancer Ynez, played by Dolores Del Rio, takes center stage. Jolson augments his singing with his signature facial expressions and hand gestures. When the lyric recounts being “in the arms of a lovely Latin daughter,” Jolson delivers this rather benign line while spreading ...

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3. Carmen Miranda Shakes It for the Nation

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pp. 49-69

Carmen Miranda is a Hollywood icon—a swirl of tropical fruit and Technicolor, the Good Neighbor who taught the United States that Brazil was ripe for the picking. Her whirling celebrity spanned over two decades: one decade in Brazil (1929–1939), and nearly fifteen years in the U.S. spotlight (1939–1955). While Miranda epitomized Latin America for her Hollywood ...

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4. Rita Hayworth and the Cosmetic Borders of Race

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pp. 70-100

Rita Hayworth, like Carmen Miranda, lives on as a Hollywood icon, but few remember her as one of the industry’s most successful Latina actresses. While Miranda’s stardom was in transit from Brazil to the United States, Rita Hayworth was transitioning from an ethnic starlet to a mainstream Love Goddess. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino to a Spanish father and American mother of ...

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5. Rita Moreno, the Critically Acclaimed “All-Round Ethnic”

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pp. 101-125

Following in the footsteps of previous Latinas in Hollywood, Rita Moreno has built a career shaped by national conceptions of race, gender, and their sexualization. Like Rita Hayworth, Moreno embodies the changing view of Latinas, and particularly the Puerto Rican Latina, in the U.S. imagination. Unlike her predecessors, however, Moreno has been able to gain professional recognition ...

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6. Jennifer Lopez, Racial Mobility, and the New Urban/Latina Commodity

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pp. 126-144

To this day, Jennifer Lopez’s career signals the peak of the Hollywood Latina. Building on nearly a century of the visual mythology developed from Dolores Del Rio to Rita Moreno, Lopez’s stardom illustrates how the end of the twentieth century proved ripe for the commodification of in-betweenness and racial mobility. The multiplicity of media outlets and mainstreaming of black popular ...


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pp. 145-157

Works Cited

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pp. 159-169


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pp. 171-178

E-ISBN-13: 9780813550251
E-ISBN-10: 0813550254
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813548807
Print-ISBN-10: 0813548802

Page Count: 194
Illustrations: 26 photographs
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 769432635
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Dance and the Hollywood Latina

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hispanic Americans in the motion picture industry.
  • Race in motion pictures.
  • Hispanic American motion picture actors and actresses.
  • Hispanic Americans in motion pictures.
  • Sex in motion pictures.
  • Dance in motion pictures, television, etc. -- United States.
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