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María Montez: The Unnatural Hollywood Actress and the Consumption of the Early Dominican Diva

Mon, May 30, 4:15 to 5:45pm, TBA


In this paper I analyze an early female Dominican transnational subjectivity from the beginning of the 20th century up to the 1960s–significantly, before the end of the Trujillo era in the Dominican Republic. Focusing on the career of the Dominican-born and Hollywood B-fame actress María Montez, this presentation analyzes her enduring impact in the countercultural movements led by Jack Smith and in the gay artistic communities of the 1960s in the way of the performances of the Puerto Rican artist Rene “Mario” Montez. Montez’s film career was relatively short-lived and lasted from 1942 until 1951 when she died. Even though her work in film was reduced to constant criticism from the media that interpreted her way of acting as “unnatural” and her ethnic and racial backgrounds as too confounding for North American audiences, Montez’s presence and enduring impact in film presents some of the intricacies of being a Dominican female artist at the beginning of the 20th. I examine Montez’ artistic impact byway of my proposal of the concept of Devouring Eccentricity as one that illustrates different instances of agency in the works of Montez, and the unconventional ways they transgress societal expectations on beauty and race at different historical junctures. As so, Devouring Eccentricity demarcates the agency of the artist who even if located in specific situations and read in specific ways by a male audience can exert a certain control of her narrative in the way she speaks and presents herself outside the official performative space.