Rita Moreno is that rarity: A multi-talented performer who rose above the limitations of Hollywood typecasting to build a career spanning more than six decades. The star of classics like "West Side Story," Broadway's "The Ritz," and TV's "The Electric Company" also has the uncommon distinction of having won every major arts award -- the Oscar, the Tony, the Emmy, the Grammy and the Golden Globe.
By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
Rosita Dolores Alverio came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico with her mother when she was five years old. They joined relatives in an overcrowded Bronx, N.Y., apartment. Rosita was soon taking dance lessons and performing in clubs.
She settled on the stage name Rita Moreno (after one of her idols, Rita Hayworth). But she modeled herself on another star: Elizabeth Taylor.
"I did my eyebrows like her, I did my hair like her," Moreno told Mo Rocca. "I wore a waist cincher because she has this wasp waist. I did everything I could. And when I did meet Mr. Louis B. Mayer, the first thing he said was, 'Look at that: She looks like a Spanish Elizabeth Taylor.' Signed me on the spot."
Rita Moreno's first film role, at age 19, was in the 1950 drama, "So Young and So Bad," playing a young woman at a girl's reform school.
Rita Moreno as Zelda Zanders in the 1952 musical "Singin' in the Rain."
Many of Moreno's film roles in the 1950s were exotic characters in the "Mexican spitfire" mode but of various ethnicities, such as in "Pagan Love Song," "Latin Lovers," "The Fabulous Senorita," "Jivaro," "Garden of Evil," "Seven Cities of Gold," "The King and I," and "This Rebel Breed."
Left: Moreno on the set of "Untamed."
A publicity photo of Rita Moreno, c. 1954.
Victor Manuel Mendoza and Rita Moreno in "Garden of Evil" (1954).
In 1954, an editor at Life magazine spotted Moreno and put her on the cover, where she was in turn spotted by Marlon Brando. They began a tumultuous eight-year affair, which ended as Moreno attempted suicide in Brando's apartment.
Rita Moreno starred with Lex Barker in the frontier drama, "The Deerslayer" (1957), from the James Fenimore Cooper novel.
Rita Moreno as Anita in the musical "West Side Story" (1961), which won 10 Academy Awards, including one for Moreno as Best Supporting Actress.
Rita Moreno in "West Side Story." She wrote in her memoir of being "lucky enough to play the true-life, noncliched Puerto Rican" Anita -- "Puerto Rican, but real Puerto Rican."
Rita Moreno as Rosa Zacharias in the 1961 film of the Tennessee Williams play, "Summer and Smoke."
In 1965 Rita Moreno married cardiologist Leonard Gordon (pictured here outside New York's City Hall). Their marriage lasted 35 years until his death in 2010.
Years after ending her relationship with Brando, Rita Moreno costarred with him in the 1968 drama "The Night of the Following Day," playing his accomplice in a kidnapping plot.
Rita Moreno with James Garner in the 1969 thriller "Marlowe."
In 1978 Moreno made a guest appearance on Garner's gumshoe series "The Rockford Files," a role for which she won the second of two Emmy Awards. (Her first was for an appearance on "The Muppet Show.")
Rita Moreno and Jack Nicholson in Mike Nichols' frank tale of relationships, "Carnal Knowledge" (1971). In the 1974 case Jenkins v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a lower court's decision that the film was obscene.
HEY YOU GUYS! From 1971-1977 Rita Moreno was a cast member of the PBS series "The Electric Company," which taught literacy and grammar using music, animation and comic skits.
At left, Moreno performs the "Menu Song" with Morgan Freeman:
Uh, ya got sandwiches?
We got sandwiches. What kind of sandwiches?
All kinds of sandwiches.
We got ham sandwich or a jam sandwich
Leg of lamb sandwich or a clam sandwich
Alabam' sandwich (that's a yam sandwich)
Or how about a telegram sandwich? This I gotta see. Bring me a telegram sandwich.
Sorry I can't bring it to you, you have to eat it over the phone!
The cast album of "The Electric Company" earned Moreno a Grammy Award.
Rita Moreno won a Tony Award for her performance in the Terrence McNally play, "The Ritz," set in a gay bathhouse in New York City. She reprised her role in the 1976 film version, which co-starred Treat Williams.
Robert Viharo, Rita Moreno and Madeline Kahn in "Happy Birthday, Gemini" (1980), based on Albert Innaurato's play "Gemini."
Carol Burnett, Jack Weston, Alan Alda, Rita Moreno, Len Cariou and Bess Armstrong in the comedy-drama "The Four Seasons" (1981).
In 1985 Neil Simon reworked his classic comedy "The Odd Couple" to feature two female leads instead of two men: Oscar the slob became Olive (played by Rita Moreno), and neatnik Felix turned into Florence (played by Sally Struthers).
Darnell Martin's "I Like It Like That" (1994) told of the struggles of a young Puerto Rican couple in the South Bronx, and starred Lauren Velez as Lisette, Jon Seda as Chino, and Rita Moreno as Rosaria.
Rita Moreno appears as dance teacher Madame Rulenska in the 1995 film "Angus," costarring George C. Scott.
Rita Moreno played Sister Pete, a trained psychologist, in the HBO prison drama, "Oz."
Ben Gazzara and Rita Moreno in "Blue Moon" (2000).
The stars of the 1952 musical "Singin' in the Rain" -- Donald O'Connor, Rita Moreno, Cyd Charisse and Debbie Reynolds -- attend a 50th-anniversary screening of the film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, September 5, 2002.
Attending a special screening in Beverly Hills, Calif., on January 6, 2003, of the 1961 Academy Award-winning musical "West Side Story," are (from left) executive producer Walter Mirisch; cast members Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris; and co-director Robert Wise (seated).
The ensemble film "Casa de los Babys (House of the Babies)" (2003), written and directed by John Sayles, featured Rita Moreno as Senora Munoz, who runs a hotel catering to women who have traveled to an unnamed Latin American country to adopt babies.
Rita Moreno starred as Amalia Duque, the matriarch of a Cuban-American family running a sugar and rum business, in the TV series "Cane."
President Barack Obama presents the 2009 National Medal of Arts to Rita Moreno during a ceremony February 25, 2010 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Moreno was given the award "for her remarkable achievements on stage and screen. Her performances have served as touchstones to millions of Americans for whom she reflects their own passions, troubles, and joys."
Rita Moreno and Robert Walden played the parents of Fran Drescher in the sitcom "Happily Divorced."