The second daughter of 10 children, she was given the name Maria Africa in honor of her diplomat/businessman father's native land, the Spanish Isla de la Palma, on the African continent. At a young age, she taught herself to speak English, and in 1932 she married William McFeeters, an American banker working in her seaside home town of Barahona.
Her marriage lasted several years but in 1939 she ended up in New York City where her exotic looks landed her a job as a model. Determined to become a stage actress, she hired an agent and created a résumé that made her several years younger by listing her birth as 1917 in some instances and 1918 in others. Eventually she accepted an offer from a Hollywood film studio. Her screen image was crafted as that of a hot-blooded Latin seductress, playing characters dressed in exotic costumes and sparking jewels. Dubbed the The Queen of Technicolor, she made her film debut in 1940 opposite Johnny Mack Brown, marking a career that saw her much loved by audiences, usually in adventure films as the beautiful damsel in distress. Over her career, Maria Montez appeared in 26 films, 21 of which were made in North America and five in Europe.
While working in Hollywood, she met and married French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont (1911-2001) who had to leave a few days after their wedding to serve in the Free French Forces fighting the Nazis in Europe. At War's end, the couple had a daughter, Maria Christina, born in Hollywood in 1946 following which they moved to a home in Suresnes, Île-de-France in the eastern suburb of Paris, France. There, Maria Montez appeared in several films and a play written by her husband. She also wrote 3 books, two of which were published, as well as penning a number of poems.
On September 7, 1951, 39-year-old Maria Montez died after apparently suffering a heart attack and drowning in her bath. She was buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris where her tombstone reads her theatrical year of birth 1918-1951.
Much loved by the people of the impoverished Dominican Republic, in her birthplace of Barahona the city changed the name of an existing street to that bearing her name. Her legacy as the only great star from that country remains, and in 1996 the Maria Montez International Airport opened in Barahona.
Maria Montez Facts
|Birth Name||Maria Africa Gracia Vidal|
|Birthday||June 6, 1917|
|Birthplace||Barahona, Dominican Republic|
|Date of death||September 7, 1951 (age 34)|
|Height||5' 7" (1m70) How tall is Maria Montez compared to you?|
|Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves|
|The Alice Faye Collection|
|Mystery of Marie Roget|
|That Night in Rio|
|Portrait Of An Assassin|