Raquel Torres

Fetching Raquel Torres had a very brief but sexy reign in Hollywood with the advent of sound, but late-night viewers can still get a sampling of this spitfire’s charms in one zany piece of slapstick with The Marx Brothers.

Born Paula Osterman in Hermosillo, Mexico, on November 11, 1908, she arrived in films at the age of 19 and garnered instant attention and a flurry of wolf whistles in W.S. Van Dyke’s White Shadows in the South Seas (1928), which remains best known as MGM’s first film to synchronize music, dialogue and sound effects. This exquisite beauty appeared in the predominantly silent film as the lead femme opposite stoic Monte Blue. A bi-racial love story and morality play set in the South Pacific islands, this was supposedly the first film in which the MGM lion roared before the opening credits of the picture. The beautifully shot film went on to win the Best Cinematography Oscar.

The next year Raquel was third-billed behind Lili Damita and Ernest Torrence in The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929), the first film version of the classic Thornton Wilder novel, which was a part-talkie. This Oscar winner (for Art Direction) was an early disaster movie that bonded a group of strangers who see their lives flash before their eyes while trapped on a collapsing bridge. Raquel’s other 1929 film was The Desert Rider (1929), a standard oater in which she provided spicy diversion opposite cowboy star Tim McCoy.

Torres continued the tropical island pace with The Sea Bat (1930) and Aloha (1931) playing various island girls and half-caste beauty types. In her last year of filming, she played a sexy foil to the raucous comedy teams of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey in So This Is Africa (1933) and Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx and Zeppo Marx in Duck Soup (1933). It was Raquel who inspired Groucho’s classic line, “I could dance with you until the cows came home. On second thought, I’d rather dance with the cows until you came home.”

Raquel abruptly retired following her marriage to businessman Stephen Ames in 1935, who once was married to actress Adrienne Ames. Her husband later produced postwar “B” films including The Spanish Main (1945), Tycoon (1947) and Ride, Vaquero! (1953), but Raquel never returned to the film industry even with this her husband’s “in” connection.

Ames died on the 20th anniversary of their wedding in 1955 and Raquel later married actor Jon Hall, who also had his share of tropical island movies. but this marriage ended in divorce. She died of complications from an earlier stroke in 1987 in Los Angeles at the age of 78.

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