[See previous post: "Sara Montiel La Violetera, Pedro Almodóvar Icon."] Sara Montiel’s last prestigious star vehicle was Juan Antonio Bardem’s Varietés (1971), in which she plays an aging actress who still dreams of becoming a star. The middle-aged hopeful eventually gets her chance, but success turns out to be ephemeral.
By that time, after one formulaic musical melodrama after another, Sara Montiel’s movie-star appeal had been drastically reduced. Refusing to take part in Spain’s then-burgeoning cine del destape — post-Franco softcore comedies — Montiel left films following the release of Pedro Lazaga’s comedy Cinco almohadas para una noche ("Five Cushions for One Night," 1974) — though she would also be seen the following year in Eduardo Manzanos Brochero’s That’s Entertainment-like compilation feature Canciones de nuestra vida ("Songs of Our Lives").
Thirty-six years later, Montiel would return to the big screen one last time, playing (a parody of) herself in Oscar Parra de Carrizosa’s Abrázame ("Hug Me," 2011).
Montiel would later lament that she (unlike Pola Negri, Bette Davis, Elisabeth Bergner, Jeanne Moreau, Marlene Dietrich, Viveca Lindfors, and Tallulah Bankhead) never got to play Catherine the Great. And even though she retired from films right when the fascistic government of Francisco Franco was in its death throes, Montiel also bemoaned the fact that she didn’t have the chance to work with top-quality screenwriters unhindered by Franco’s reactionary right-wing censors.
As her film career came to a halt, Montiel began focusing on her stage and concert shows. According to online sources, among her live successes, at times smoking a cigar between numbers, were Saritisima — though Montiel claimed she liked neither the nickname "Saritisima" nor "Sarita" — and Increible Sara (obviously in reference to "The Incredible Sarah [Bernhardt]"). Her trademark songs included the perennial "La violetera," in addition to "Bésame mucho," "Fumando Espero" ("Smoking, I Wait [for the man I love...]"), and the Spanish-language version of "Amado mío" (performed by Rita Hayworth, with Anita Ellis’ voice, in Charles Vidor’s Gilda). [Please scroll down to listen to Sara Montiel’s husky rendition of "Amado mío."]
On television, Sara Montiel was the star of the miniseries Sara y Punto (1990) and the variety show Ven al Paralelo (1992). She continued recording songs and appearing on several TV shows until the 2000s, most recently in Entrevista a la carta in 2012.
Curiously, Montiel never received an Honorary Goya from the Spanish Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She did, however, win two Best Actress awards from Spain’s Cinema Writers Circle: for The Last Torch Song and La Violetera.
Sara Montiel: Husbands and lovers
Following her divorce from Anthony Mann, Sara Montiel would marry three more times, including a de facto two-month union with businessman José Vicente Ramírez Olalla in 1964. The marriage would be officially annulled in 1978.
Montiel’s last husband was Cuban video technician Antonio Hernández, 36 years her junior, with whom she tied the knot in late 2002. As further proof of the dangers of heterosexual unions, that marriage reportedly lasted 10 days, though divorce would be finalized only in early 2005. “My one big mistake was marrying Antonio Hernández," Montiel later admitted. "It was a catastrophe. I really regret it.”
Montiel had a longer union with businessman and journalist Pepe Tous: from 1979 to his death in 1992. Along the way, the couple adopted two children.
Supposed Sara Montiel lovers — she drops names in her autobiographies — ranged from frequent co-star Maurice Ronet and James Dean (whom she met while he was starring in George Stevens’ Giant) to Ernest Hemingway and Nobel Prize in Medicine winner Severo Ochoa, in addition to Esa mujer director Mario Camus, poet León Felipe, and playwright and screenwriter Miguel Mihura (Welcome Mr. Marshall!). Well-publicized romances included those with co-star Giancarlo del Duca (La mujer perdida, The Woman from Beirut) and La bella Lola cinematographer Mario Montuori.
Montiel’s first autobiographical tome, A Whole Life, was published in 2000. A sequel, Living Is a Pleasure, came out three years later. (Note: According to a handful of sources, Montiel’s first autobiography was called Memories: To Live Is a Pleasure, followed by Sara and Sex in 2003.)
Regarding today’s movie celebrities, Montiel told El Mundo in 2009: "The stars are gone. In the past, they were surrounded by mystery, they weren’t as exposed as they are today. Fifty years have passed, and I’m still waiting for the appearance of someone else like me."
Sara Montiel death follows those of Jesús Franco and Bigas Luna
The death of Sara Montiel — 11 years to the day of the death of another Spanish-speaking film legend, the Mexican María Félix — follows those of two other renowned Spanish cinema figures: filmmakers Jesús Franco and Bigas Luna, both of whom passed away in the last week.
Montiel’s death was also accompanied by the passings of two other international female celebrities: Beach Party movies’ actress Annette Funicello and right-wing British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep in Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady — a performance that earned Streep her third Academy Award.
Unless otherwise specified, Sara Montiel’s quotes via the Buenos Aires Herald.
Listen to Sara Montiel singing “Amado mío” below.