Maria Montez was a Dominican film actress who gained fame and popularity in the 1940s as an exotic beauty starring in a series of adventure films shot in Technicolor. Her on-screen image was of the typical seductress who wore fancy dresses and sparkling jewelry. Montez was known as “The Queen of Technicolor”.
María África Gracia Vidal was born in the province of Barahona on June 6, 1912, being the second of ten children of the couple formed by Dominican Teresa Vidal and Spaniard Isidoro Gracia. Her father was dedicated to the export of wood and the sale of fabrics. Her father was appointed Spanish consul in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the family moved, when Maria was 27 years old. She took the surname Montez as a tribute to the dancer Lola Montez.
Determined to become a stage actress, she hired an agent and created a resume that made her several years younger by listing her birth date as “1917” in some cases and “1918” in others. Eventually, she accepted an offer from Universal Pictures, making her film debut in the movie B Boss of Bullion City directed by Ray Taylor and starring Johnny Mack Brown.
Her beauty soon made her the centerpiece of Universal’s Technicolor adventure films, particularly the six films in which she starred opposite Jon Hall, Arabian Nights, White Savage, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Cobra Woman, Gypsy Wildcat and Sudan. Montez also appeared in the film WesternPirates of Monterey with Rod Cameron and in The Exile, the latter directed by Max Ophüls and starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
On November 28, 1932 she married Irish banker William McFeeters, who was the representative of the First National City Bank of New York in the province of Barahona and to whom she was married for almost seven years, until her departure to New York.
While working in Hollywood she met French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont whom she married on July 13, 1943, but he had to leave a few days after their wedding to serve in the Free French Forces and fight against Nazi Germany in the European theater in World War II. At the end of World War II, the couple had a daughter, Maria Christina (known as Tina Aumont). They later moved to a house in Suresnes, in the western suburb of Paris, under the Fourth French Republic.
Montez died at the age of 39 on September 7, 1951, apparently due to a heart attack and found drowned in the bathroom of her Suresnes residence. She was buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery. Her tomb shows 1918 as her date of birth being 1912 the real one.