Movie Journal
J. Hoberman on movies and movie-related things

MOVIE JOURNAL: J. Hoberman on movies and movie-related things

Mario Montez 1935-2013

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Asked to name his favorite superstar, Jack Smith singled out the appealing madcap known as Mario Montez, explaining that “he [sic] immediately enlists the sympathy of the audience.”

Mario—who was born Rene Rivera in Puerto Rico in 1935 and died of a stroke last week at his Florida home—was an unclassifiable gender blur and underground luminary of the first order. A post office clerk “discovered” and given his stage name by Smith, he first graced the screen as a Spanish dancer in Smith’s “Flaming Creatures” (1963), billed as Dolores Flores and making a regal, giggling entrance that’s all the more impressive for its false start.

Although Mario would appear in subsequent films by Smith, including “Normal Love” (1964), in which he appeared as a mermaid, and “No President” (1968), as well as movies by Ron Rice, Bill Vehr, Piero Heliczer and José Rodríguez-Soltero, and various productions in the Theater of the Ridiculous, his best-known performances were in a half dozen or more Andy Warhol films, made during the Factory’s mid ‘60s Silver Age. Mario appeared in Warhol’s first sync-sound movie, “Harlot” (1965), wearing a platinum-blond wig while lasciviously peels and eats a bushel of bananas; he starred in “Screen Test #2” (1965), auditioning for the role of the gypsy girl Esmeralda in a remake of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

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