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Talented actress and popular music singer Sara Montiel (born Maria Antonia Alejandra Abad Fernández), better known as Sarita Montiel, became one of the first sex symbols from Spain to attract Hollywood's attention with her captivating performances.
In 1943, Sara Montiel started getting involved in show business after winning a new talent contest sponsored by a local filming company. Her debut came after playing a role in the movie Te Quiero Para Mi, directed by Ladislao Vajda. However, the newcomer's breakthrough came in 1948 with the successful Locura de Amor. In the early '50s, Montiel settled in Mexico and began her singing career while working along with Pedro Infante, Manolo Fábregas, and Agustin Lara, among other prominent local artists. In 1954, the acclaimed actress had the opportunity to work along with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster in the making of Veracruz.
Montiel rose to Latin music stardom with the release of El Ultimo Cuplé (aka The Last Torch Song) movie soundtrack. During the 1970s, she toured the world leading celebrated musicals such as Saritísima, Increíble Sara, Super Sara Show, and Doña Sara de la Mancha.
Sara Montiel (also Sarita Montiel or Saritísima) (10 March 1928 – 8 April 2013) was a Spanish singer and actress. She was a much-loved and internationally known name in the Spanish-speaking movie and music industries.
Montiel was born in Campo de Criptana in the region of Castile–La Mancha in 1928 as María Antonia Abad (complete name María Antonia Alejandra Vicenta Elpidia Isidora Abad Fernández). After her unprecedented international hit in Juan de Orduña's El Último Cuplé in 1957, Montiel achieved the status of mega-star in Europe and Latin America. She was the first woman to distill sex openly in Spanish cinema at a time when even a low cut dress was not acceptable.
Montiel was the most commercially successful Spanish actress during the mid-20th century in much of the world. Miss Montiel's film Varietes was banned in Beijing in 1973. Her films El Último Cuple and La Violetera netted the highest gross revenues ever recorded for films made in the Spanish speaking movie industry during the 1950s and 1960s. She also played the role of Antonia, the niece of Don Quixote, in the 1947 Spanish film version of Cervantes's great novel.
She was portrayed in the Pedro Almodóvar film Bad Education by a male actor in drag (Gael García Bernal) as the cross-dressing character Zahara, and a film clip from one of her movies was used as well.
Acting career 
Montiel started in movies at 16 in her native Spain where she filmed her first international success playing an Islamic princess in the 1948 film Locura de Amor, released in the US as The Mad Queen. Later she conquered Mexico, starring in a dozen films in less than five years. Hollywood came calling afterwards, and she was introduced to United States moviegoers in the film Vera Cruz (1954) co-starring with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, and directed by Robert Aldrich. She was offered the standard seven-year contract at Columbia Pictures, which she quickly refused, afraid of Hollywood's typecasting policies for Hispanics. Instead she free-lanced at Warner Bros. with Mario Lanza and Joan Fontaine in Serenade (1956), directed by Anthony Mann, and at RKO in Samuel Fuller's Run of the Arrow (1957), opposite Rod Steiger and Charles Bronson.
The unexpected success of El Ultimo Cuple (1957) turned her into an overnight sensation both as an actor and a singer. From then on she combined filming highly successful vehicles, recording songs in five languages and performing live all over the world. Among the films that kept her immensely popular during the 1960s and early 1970s were La Violetera (1958), Carmen, la de Ronda (1959), Mi Ultimo Tango (1960), Pecado de Amor (1961), La Bella Lola (a 1962 version of Camille), Casablanca, Nid d'espions(1963), Samba (1964), La Femme Perdue (1966), Tuset Street (1967), Esa Mujer (1969), Varietes (1971) and others. By then she had become a legend to her millions of fans but became dissatisfied with the movie industry when producers started offering her roles in soft core porno films. In 1974 Montiel announced her retirement from movies but continued performing live, recording and starring on her own variety television shows in Spain. Until her last days, she remained one of the highest paid celebrities in Spain's TV talk and reality shows.
In November 2009, Alaska from the pop group Fangoria invited Montiel to record a track sharing vocals with her for the re-release of the band's album Absolutamente. They recorded the title track "Absolutamente" as a duet and when the single was released it became an instant Top 10 hit. The music video for the song was also highly successful when released in early 2010. Sara had no retirement plans and in May 2011, after almost 40 years without making a movie, she accepted to perform in a feature film directed by Óscar Parra de Carrizosa. The film title is Abrázame and it was shot on location in Montiel's birthplace in La Mancha. According to the star, in this film she dared to do "a parody of her old screen image, just for fun."
Personal information 
Montiel was born Maria Antonia Alejandra Abad Fernández (March 10, 1928 – April 8, 2013) in Campo de Criptana in the province of Ciudad Real, Spain. She entered films after winning a beauty and talent contest at age 15. In her first movie she was credited as "Maria Alejandra" a shortened version of her real name. For her next film she changed her name to Sara, after her grandmother, and Montiel after the Montiel fields in the Castile–La Mancha region of her birth. She has been married four times:Anthony Mann (American, Actor & Film Director) In Beverly Hills, California 1957-1963 (divorced)José Vicente Ramírez Olalla (Industrial Attorney) Rome, Italy 1964-1978 (annulled)José Tous Barberán (Attorney-Journalist) Palma de Mallorca, Spain 1979-1992 (Tous's death)This marriage produced two adopted children: Thais (born 1979) Zeus (born 1982)Antonio Hernández (Cuban Videotape Operator) Madrid, Spain 2002-2005 (divorced)
During the Francisco Franco dictatorship, Spanish stars were forbidden to behave in any way that could be perceived at odds with Christian principles and morality; consequently they kept their private lives very private. Montiel was no exception. Pre-marital or out of wedlock relationships were never mentioned and her civil marriage to Anthony Mann was underplayed along with the divorce.
Her 1964 Catholic wedding in Rome was granted great publicity but no one was informed that the marriage only lasted a couple of months. By 1965, the couple had separated and Montiel had started a very secret love affair with Italian actor Giancarlo del Duca (aka Giancarlo Viola) It was all kept under wraps since divorce was illegal in both Italy and Spain.
In 1970, Sara broke up with Giancarlo and started a long-term relationship with José Tous. By the mid 1970s, censorship in Spain was abolished and the truth began coming out. Montiel requested an annulment of her second marriage and the Catholic Church granted it in 1978. The following year, she married Tous in a civil ceremony and the marriage lasted until his death of cancer in 1992.
By 1993, Sara was involved again with Giancarlo Viola. In 2002, the couple parted, and Montiel married a much younger man who resided in Cuba, a union that was doomed from the start and ended in divorce in 2004. Soon after, Viola was back in Montiel's life, and they seem committed to each other in spite of the fact that Montiel lived in Madrid and her partner remained in Italy.
In 2000, Montiel published her autobiography Memories: To Live Is A Pleasure, an instant best seller with ten editions to date. A sequel Sara and Sex followed in 2003. In these books Montiel revealed other relationships in her past including one-night stands with writer Ernest Hemingway as well as actor James Dean. She also claimed a long term affair in the 1940s with playwright Miguel Mihura and mentioned that science wizard Severo Ochoa, a Nobel Prize winner, was the true love of her life.
Montiel died in 2013 at her home in Madrid, Spain at the age of 85.