Mexican Star "Feud" - La Cucaracha (1959)

Curator's Note

In Feud (2017), the antagonism between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford serves to critique the position of aging female stars in the classic Hollywood star system. Though they battled the misogyny of studio moguls, Davis and Crawford enjoyed white privilege. It made me think: What about female stars from minority groups? Did/Could they engage in analogous feuds? What could their stories show about female stardom that the Davis/Crawford feud couldn’t? What about female stars from other national cinemas? The star persona of Mexican Dolores del Río has been partly constructed in relation to her (alleged) feuds with two younger female Mexican stars: Lupe Vélez in Hollywood and María Félix in Mexico. The “ladylike” Del Río was contrasted with the “ill-mannered” Vélez and Félix, both of whom were known for throwing shade at other stars and were perceived as being prone to feuds. In Hollywood, the del Río and Vélez contrast exposed beliefs about (un)acceptable behavior for Mexican/Latina women. Vélez, like other top Latina Hollywood stars (Montez, Miranda), died young. Had she lived, her feud with del Río might have grown into a Davis and Crawford-style feud, rooted in Vélez’s painful life history and their shared histories as Mexican women in Hollywood. Instead, Dolores del Río’s career renaissance in 1940s Mexican films put her in contrast with newcomer María Félix. Unlike Davis and Crawford, del Río and Félix did not compete for the same roles. Each one won the Mexican Ariel Best Actress Award thrice and they developed distinctive trajectories. Dolores del Río was a scandal-free star whose Hollywood pedigree brought prestige to the Mexican film industry. The outspoken María Félix was a top box-office draw who (supposedly) rejected Hollywood for European cinema and her love affairs fascinated the public. Some of Félix’s notorious “feuds” weren’t with female stars, but with men, notably fellow superstars Jorge Negrete (who married her) and Cantinflas. Félix and del Río co-starred in La Cucaracha (1959), which started as a María Félix vehicle. In Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the Grand Guignol-style pairing of feuding stars Davis and Crawford as sisters exposed the cracks in the Hollywood star system. In La Cucaracha, the epic-style pairing of Félix and del Río as rivals honored their star images in classic Mexican films, but their well-preserved middle-aged faces - and Félix's rejection of a younger co-star - hint at the ephemerality of the ideals of Mexican femininity they represented.

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