‘West Side Story’ Star Rita Moreno Reflects on Turning 90 Milestone

by Suzanne Halliburton

With the revival of West Side Story, millions of fans were reintroduced to the fabulous Rita Moreno.

And in the midst of all the West Side Story hoopla, Morena celebrated her 90th trip around the sun. How perfect. Appearing in a redo of the movie that earned her an Oscar 60 years ago probably was the best way to commemorate a milestone day.

Brent Miller, who produced a documentary of Moreno’s life, asked her the obvious question. Is going from 89 to 90 an odd moment?

“It doesn’t feel any different,” Moreno told Miller. “On the face of it, nothing has changed. I’m older and deeply grateful for still being here.  And inevitably, now there is concern about what’s next after West Side Story. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a damn liar.”

The now 90-year-old Moreno aged out of Anita, her previous West Side Story character. In the reboot, she portrays Valentina. She is receiving Oscar buzz, again. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Moreno is one of the best actors of her time. Plus, there’s the whole nostalgia aspect of Moreno winning an Academy Award 60 years after her first. She’s also won a Grammy, Tony, and Emmy.

The Hollywood Reporter indicated that the West Side Story box office isn’t showing blockbuster kind of numbers. It’s set for an opening weekend of about $11 million, which should push it past Encanto for the most-viewed movie of the week. The site said that musicals, in general, skew towards the older female demo. And that group isn’t yet watching movies at the theater because of the pandemic.

But because of all the hype surrounding West Side Story, Moreno has been front and center. And that’s a good thing for the ageless 90-year-old.

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Moreno Wowed During West Side Story Press Tour

As she did the media circuit, we got to hear her fabulous anecdotes from her wonderful career. The best was when she described how she dated Elvis Presley to pay back long-time boyfriend Marlon Brando for cheating on her.

Moreno told The View hosts that Brando fooled around on her throughout their eight-year relationship.

“I found lingerie in his house and, of course, I was heartbroken, and I went home in tears — really, I was naïve — and I was angry too, just furious,” Moreno said.

Then she used a southern accent to tell what happened next.

“The next day, the phone rings, and I hear ‘Miss Marina?’ I said, ‘Uh, yeah?’” Moreno recalled. ” ‘This is Colonel Parker, my client is Elvis Presley, and Elvis spotted you at the 20th Century Fox commissary, and he liked what he saw.’

” ‘And he would like very much to meet you. Would you like to meet him?’ And I thought of those panties (in Brando’s house), and I said, ‘Yes, I would!’ “

But Moreno wasn’t that impressed with Elvis. She said he was “sweet but boring.” Plus, did you know that Elvis was considered for West Side Story?

Moreno got what she wanted. “Anyway, when (Brando) found out, it didn’t take long. He started to throw chairs. He was so angry. It was wonderful. And I just sat there as he threw chairs and carried on.”

Happy 90th Rita Moreno.