Wednesday 11 September 2013

Spotlight on Raquel Torres

The half-German, half-Mexican, Raquel Torres provided another sexy, feisty and exotic edition to Precode comedies, dramas and adventure films. Born Paula Marie Osterman on November 11, 1908 in Hermosillo, Mexico, the Osterman family migrated early to Hollywood and Torres spent most of her childhood there. She began her film career twenty years later in the innovative film ‘White Shadows in the South Seas’ (1928) which was the first of MGM’s silent productions to feature synchronized music and effects.  The film went on to receive the Best Cinematography Oscar and was a fabulous entry for Torres into the film industry. Her exotic ancestry did not affect her elevation into talking pictures unlike some of the popular European beauties and she was featured in the part-talkie ‘The Bridge of San Luis Rey’ (1929) together with Lili Damita and Ernest Torrence after her debut picture. This film began Torres typecast as the ‘Island Girl’ in a number of tropical, foreign adventure movies. Her Spanish beauty and dark eyes made her a favourite in B-graders, ‘The Sea Bat’ (1930) and ‘Aloha’ (1931) and, a welcome change, as the female counterpart to the hilarious Precode comedy team Wheeler and Woolsey in ‘So This is Africa’ (1933).  She landed her most memorable role alongside the Marx Brothers in their unforgettable film, ‘Duck Soup’ (1933). It would be one of the last films in her short career.
Raquel Torres with Wheeler and Woolsey
In 1934 at a party, Torres first met New York stockbroker Stephen Ames in Hollywood with his wife actress, Adrienne Ames. They were attracted to each other and bonded over cold remedies – as Torres was ill at the time – but they relationship did not go any further because of Ames’ marriage. A year later the pair met again, this time in New York, Ames now divorced and Torres newly single they struck up a relationship. They married some time later. It was Ames who, although became a fairly successful movie producer in the mid-1940’s, persuaded Torres to retire from the film industry and her last appearance was a bit part in the 1936 Mae West comedy, ‘Go West Young Man’. Ames died almost 20 years later in 1955.
Raquel Torres and Stephen Ames  
Four years later Torres married actor Jon Hall famous for his handsome and equally exotic good looks. The son of actor Felix Hall and a Tahitian princess he enjoyed a long but not overly popular movie career. The couple reportedly were divorced a few years later and then subsequently remarried. Hall committed suicide in 1979 probably due to severe pain from bladder cancer.
Torres, after the ending of both her marriages, retreated into a private life in Malibu, California. She once again reached headlines in 1985 when her house was one of many destroyed by a fire that swept through the area. Her place was mostly destroyed but she escaped unharmed by the flames. She died two years later August 10, 1987 from complications following a stroke aged 78. Although her career was not long, Torres will always be remembered to Precode fans as a sexy, feisty Spanish beauty to rival the more popular likes of Lili Damita or Dolores del Rio.  


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