Rita Moreno calls Marlon Brando ‘the lust of my life’

Rita Moreno has had a long and storied career in Hollywood. She’s one of a select few entertainers who have achieved EGOT status, nabbing an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Some of you may remember her star-making turn as Anita in the 1961 film version of West Side Story (a role that won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1962). I am not ashamed to admit that I grew up with Rita (and Morgan Freeman) on the PBS kids’ show, The Electric Company, which ran from 1971-77. I can never hear someone yell “Hey, you guys!” without thinking of her.

If you’re not familiar with her earlier work, you may recognize Rita from her role on the recent Netflix reboot of the classic 70s sitcom, One Day at a Time. Rita, who I can’t believe is 85, plays feisty Cuban abuela Lydia and is easily the best part of the show (and the source of some amazing gifs). The show, which debuted in January on the streaming service, has already been picked up for a second season.

The actress recently invited People Magazine into her Berkeley Hills, California home. Watching the video, I felt like I was at my mom’s place. Rita has a plant-covered deck, with loads of orchids. In her bedroom, which she describes as “not frou-frou feminine,” not a square inch of wall is bare, covered with art she’s collected from her travels as well as family memorabilia. Among the photos scattered around the room is a framed photo of Marlon Brando. Rita confessed that the actor, whom she met and began dating when she was 22, was the “lust of my life.” Don’t get that confused with the love of her life, her husband of 45 years, cardiologist Leonard Gordon, who passed away in June of 2010.

Rita elaborated on her eight-year, “tempestuous” relationship with Brando during an interview with CBS This Morning back in January. When asked to look back on her life, Rita replied, “I’ve had many of them. Which one are you referring to? The Marlon Brando episode, the Elvis Presley….” Host Charlie Rose asked who was better and Rita, matter-of-factly said:

Are you serious?! I mean, Elvis was a sweet darling, shy fellow, but he was really boring. Boring to me at the time. He was a really nice guy. But he was boring. Marlon, Marlon, what a brain. What an astonishing man he was. He damn near killed me, but nevermind. It’s good to be able to be here and tell the story.

[From CBS This Morning]

When pressed for further details about the relationship, Rita quipped, “Read the book!“, referring to her 2011 biography, Rita Moreno: A Memoir. I want to read this now, as Rita was a beauty (and still is) and young Marlon was gorgeous. I can imagine the sparks that flew when these two were together.

As for her role on the show, Rita recalls being invited on the show by its creator, the legendary Norman Lear, whom Rita lovingly refers to as “that old fart.” She added, “He’s 94. I say he’s an old fart. I’m 85.” Rita is definitely not slowing down, after filming the first season of One Day at a Time, she hit the road for a few months with her cabaret act and did a number of speaking engagements. I hope I can be a fraction as spunky as this woman. She’s incredible. And I can’t wait for season two of One Day at a Time.

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Photos: Getty Images, WENN.com, Fame Flynet

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50 Responses to “Rita Moreno calls Marlon Brando ‘the lust of my life’”

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  1. Polyphonic Pickles says:

    I hope I have that energy later in life and have several ‘lives’. Definitely going to read her book now.

    • misery chick says:

      Oh man, you HAVE to read it, it’s phenomenal! Actually, I listened to the book on CD while driving to my sister’s in Southern California. What. A. Woman! What. A. Career! What. A. Life!

      I actually recommend listening to this, as her voice is amazing, and draws you right in. I hope you enjoy it as half as much as I did.

      ETA: The stuff on Marlon Brando was so fascinating and surprising! Again, What. A. Story!!

  2. OTHER RENEE says:

    I’d like to buy a bottle of water from the fountain of youth she’s drinking from. Or maybe a few dozen.

    • minx says:

      She appeared on Jane the Virgin as Jane’s grandmother, and she looked incredible.

    • Miss Melissa says:

      She is gorgeous and has gotten more beautiful with age.

      She is also an awesome human being. Sometimes it is the spirit and soul that makes us beautiful.

  3. Lightpurple says:

    Sister Pete from Oz!

    Love this woman.

    • Jugstorecowboy says:

      Sister Pete! She was awesome on that show.

    • Dolkite says:

      “Where’s Beecher getting his drugs?”

      “It can’t be from Schillinger…he’s so anti-drug, he makes me look like Robert Downey, Jr.!”

  4. astrid says:

    I’m kinda grossed out about the whole Last Tango in Paris thing….

  5. SusanneToo says:

    It was definitely a tempestuous relationship. I remember the news when MB found Rita in his bed near death from an overdose. That finally finished it, I believe.
    Rita looks great, is great, and it’s great she went on to have a long and happy marriage and a long and successful career.

    • Cherise says:

      This. Although she was hardly the first nor the last. Marlon loved to mess with peoples head, especially women. I’m trying to remember if he even mentioned this one in his autobiography. The one woman he acknowledges being deeply in love with was Esther Anderson. She got an acting gig in the UK for a few months and he begged her not to go but she went anyway. He says he counted it as a desertion mirroring his mum and his childhood nanny walking away, and he vowed to never let it happen again. He says it broke him but he swore to never let her know. When she came back from her work, he describes toying with her for years afterwards by hinting at a reconciliation and then ripping it from her…..just for funsies. I believe she attempted suicide a few times too. I really think Marlon Brando was a Cluster B personality.

      • SusanneToo says:

        IIRC, he and Rita were off and on from the time she made King & I until about WSS. During that time he had numerous other women and even married twice, to Anna Kashfi and Movita Castenada. I adore Rita and am glad she got out alive and went on to a long and successful life and career.

      • detritus says:

        he was such a POS

  6. Jess says:

    She is awesome and amazing!

  7. Christin says:

    She’s always so spirited. I remember her on 1970s shows, and always thought Rita lit up whatever scene, game show panel, etc., she did. She looks fantastic.

  8. Kiki says:

    Gosh, I wish I had a grandmother like her. I lovvvvvvvvvvvvve Rita Moreno, Caribbean Queen just like me (except she’s Latina). Anyways, she has spunk, fire and calmness like any other island woman. I love you Rita Moreno, even though you are of Spanish Heritage… I would love to say you made very proud to a Caribbean woman.

  9. Shambles says:

    Me, too, Rita. That man was god damned gorgeous. There’s no denying it. I’m disgusted by him now, knowing what we now know, but he was a ridiculously beautiful man.

    And she was a devastatingly beautiful, sexy woman. Still a hottie, but I can only imagine how hot they were for each other back then.

  10. Stella Alpina says:

    What a talented lady and a dynamo. She’s had (and continues to have) an amazing career. It’s great to see her still working because she experienced a lot of crap during the old studio system. She was cast in thankless roles, playing stereotypes of minorities, which she hated. Because she wasn’t white, she was rarely offered good parts, even after she had won an Oscar.

    I read her memoir. The writing style is okay, but her stories are certainly memorable. Marlon Brando slept around like no one else. Didn’t matter if the woman was married, he pursued her. I can see why he must have been hard to resist when he was so handsome in his youth and such a gifted actor. But the man was indiscriminate with his promiscuity and got away with it. He wasn’t cut out to be faithful to one person and poor Rita suffered for it.

    She showed concretely how the male power players in Hollywood would prey on newcomers who came from humble backgrounds, like Rita and Marilyn Monroe. In the book she recalls, when she was a starlet, being urged by her handlers to visit a party at a mansion, attended by studio bigwigs. They wanted her to network, to promote herself. They didn’t tell her she was expected to make herself available to any powerful man who wanted her. She got a ride with someone to the party and it wasn’t long before one aggressive guy started sexually harassing her. She was able to escape and ended up asking for a ride home from “the help”, who happened to be Mexican men. The knowing look they gave her was poignant. That’s how it was back then and how powerless they felt.

    Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Tierney, etc, were spared the casting couch because they came from wealth or had powerful connections to protect them. As much as some people romanticize Old Hollywood, that was a shitty time for anyone who was not rich, white, and male. The studio system really was a slave system.

    • Kiki says:

      @Stella Alpina. I agree. Hollywood to the outside world is a nothing but a rose color glasses, but once you know about the inside, thing turned ugly. That’s the same thing that happened with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, they made them so ugly but they give the best performance of their lives in “What ever happen to Baby Jane”.

      And those people you have mentioned. They all died before they turned 80 but whose to say that they went through shit as well to become famous. Also, the same thing still happening now as it did then… only this time it is worse. Don’t believe ask “Harvey Weinstein and his girls who are “Oscar darlings”. Except now, people hold them accountable. They may have been blacklisted but these “Big Shots” are held accountable by the court of public opinion.

      • Stella Alpina says:

        Kiki, Hollywood hasn’t changed much. The casting couch is still there, but it’s less mandatory. That industry is still a cesspool filled with predators, the greedy, and the corrupt. But that’s true of any place where power, wealth, and influence are concentrated. It’s the same in Washington D.C. and the fashion industry. At least actors and actresses now aren’t locked into slave contracts. They do have some independence. And, as you wrote, there is more accountability to public opinion. They can’t cover it up as easily as before.

    • lizzie says:

      Grace Kelly worked the couch anyhow…

      • Stella Alpina says:

        My understanding is that Grace’s wealthy connections smoothed her way into acting, so she wasn’t forced to use the casting couch for roles (Alfred Hitchcock did give her a lot of trouble later, though). Cheating with married actors, however, was something Grace couldn’t pass up and it was widely known in the industry. The public wouldn’t believe her bad behavior if it had been publicized, because people easily buy into image. Image is everything, then and now. There is a classist bias at work, in favor of those who come from the upper class. If you have elegant manners and aristocratic poise, you are given the benefit of the doubt, no matter how terribly you behave when the cameras aren’t there. People conveniently forget that Audrey Hepburn (who, by many accounts, was truly a decent human being) had a few extramarital affairs. She’s never criticized for it. Her classy image protects her.

    • Mia4s says:

      Yeah the “golden age” of Old Hollywood was golden for a select few white men…and that’s about it. The stories (which we are getting more and more of) are fascinating though.

      Quick plug for the You Must Remember This podcast. It’s an absolute addiction if you have an interest in Old Hollywood. No rose-coloured glasses either. If the story is awful they tell you the awful. It’s soo good!

      • Stella Alpina says:

        I’ve heard this podcast mentioned before. I haven’t checked it out yet. Thanks for the reminder, Mia4s!

    • detritus says:

      The Hairpin did some classic hollywood gossip too, and its incredible.
      It was not a good time, not unless you were straight and white and wealthy.

      • misery chick says:

        The woman who wrote those classic Hollywood gossip columns in The Hairpin, Anne Helen Petersen, wrote a book, “Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema”. The best part of the book for me was the introduction, where she explains how actors/actresses became (or did NOT become) ‘Stars’; and the role of the studios, the publicist, the tabloids and yes, the public, conspired to build them up, and then when they didn’t follow the ‘rules’, broke them down. Highly entertaining and educational.

  11. Carey says:

    “He damn near killed me” but what a way to go! 😉

    • Mia4s says:

      Ha! Yeah I don’t know about that. I’ve always thought Brando is his prime was definite one night stand or occasional hook up material. But a relationship? Hell no! He was a deeply deeply disturbed human being.

      I have every admiration for his professional accomplishments but as a person? Yuck.

    • holly hobby says:

      If I remember from her bio, I think she attempt suicide over him. He’s a piece of work but the sex must have been good.

      • misery chick says:

        From her book, the sex was AMAZINGLY MIND-BLOWING!!!!!

        Her sentiments, not mine, lol.

  12. Whatever Gurl says:

    She doesn’t look like she had any plastic surgery! No fillers, no high arch eyebrows. 🤔

    And she looks better than actresses in their 60s who have “refreshed” their look.

    Just say no to plastic surgery.

    • SusanneToo says:

      I’m certain she’s all natural and all beautiful. She has a real zest for life. I loved when she appeared on Rockford Files-she and James Garner had a chemistry.

    • D says:

      She’s EIGHTY-FIVE. Of course she’s had work. Look at her neck that is obvious in it’s smooth vs wrinkled areas and imagine her face matching it. She looks fantastic but to think that it’s natural is an insult to her living a long life.

      • JR says:

        I agree! And probably Botox (why do people risk getting shot-up with botulism, of all things!), too.

  13. I love this woman. She reminds me do much of my mama. Or rather my mom reminds me of her. She is so vivacious and she still has those moves; likely due to her years of dancing.

  14. Singtress says:

    Ohmygawd. “Hey you guys!”

    Rita and Chita are both awesome.
    Both still working.

  15. Marty says:

    I just finished watching One Day at a Time on Netflix and it was surprisingly good. Funny, but also touching. I cried watching the end scene of the season finale.

  16. justme says:

    Rita is one of those people who prove that dancing is the best exercise of all. She looks wonderful and not frozen. I wonder if it is the combination of the exercise one gets from dancing combined with the healthiness of being so close to music (note that classical musicians tend to live long lives too) that makes dancing so special? But I think Rita Moreno has great genes too – and a zest for living!

  17. Lisa says:

    Oh, Rita, you’re too good for him!

  18. megan says:

    She is gorgeous! Can’t believe she is 85. What a great career she has had.

  19. KiddVicious says:

    I love Rita.

    I hadn’t realized they’re remaking One Day at a Time, it used to be my favorite show. I like that they’re using the same apartment in the remake.

    As far as her aging naturally, I’m pretty sure she had a facelift when she was in her late 50′s/early 60′s. This was before they incorporated neck lifts along with it. There’s a generation of older women with smooth faces and wrinkly necks. And I also wouldn’t be surprised if she did light botox now, not everyone over-does it like Nichole Kidman or Madonna. You can still get it and look natural.

  20. djork says:

    She’s not merely ONE of the EGOTS, she was the FIRST.

  21. Snazzy says:

    I am in love with her hair

  22. holly hobby says:

    Love Rita Moreno! I did read her bio. It was good. Definitely pick that up if you can.

  23. Angelique says:

    I effing love her glasses. Someone find out what they are – I’d do it myself, but I’m too damn lazy.

  24. Heather says:

    I saw her on Broadway a few years ago and she was mesmerizing.

    It shows you what a life of movement will do for preserving your vitality and mind.

  25. Lida says:

    Marlon had a well publicized love affair with actor Wally Cox(Mr Peepers) for many years.
    It was said that He was the love of Mr Brandos life. Strange but true,