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Sara Montiel
Montiel in 1955
María Antonia Alejandra Vicenta Elpidia Isidora Abad Fernández

(1928-03-10)10 March 1928
Died8 April 2013(2013-04-08) (aged 85)
Madrid, Spain
Nationality (legal)
  • Spanish
  • Mexican (since 1951)
Other names
  • María Alejandra
  • Sarita Montiel
  • Actress
  • Singer
Years active1943–2013
  • (m. 1957; div. 1963)
  • José Vicente Ramírez Olalla
    (m. 1964; div. 1970)
  • José Tous Barberán
    (m. 1979; died 1992)
  • Antonio Hernández
    (m. 2002; div. 2005)
  • Thais Tous Abad
  • José Zeus Tous Abad

María Antonia Abad Fernández MML (10 March 1928 – 8 April 2013), known professionally as Sara Montiel, also Sarita Montiel, was a Spanish-Mexican actress and singer.[1][2][3] She began her career in the 1940s and became the most internationally popular and highest paid star of Spanish cinema in the 1960s. She appeared in nearly fifty films and recorded around 500 songs in five different languages.[4]

Montiel was born in Campo de Criptana in the region of La Mancha in 1928.[5] She began her acting career in Spain starring in films such as Don Quixote (1947) and Madness for Love (1948). She moved to Mexico where she starred in films such as Women's Prison (1951) and Red Fury (1951). She then moved to the United States and worked in three Hollywood English-language films Vera Cruz (1954), Serenade (1956) and Run of the Arrow (1957). She returned to Spain to star in the musical films The Last Torch Song (1957) and The Violet Seller (1958). These two films netted the highest gross revenues ever recorded internationally for films made in the Spanish-speaking movie industry during the 1950s/60s and made her immensely popular.[5][6][7][8] She then established herself also as a singer thanks to the songs she performed in her films and combined filming new musical films, recording songs and performing live.

Throughout her career, Montiel's personal life was the subject of constant media attention in the Spanish-speaking world. She was married four times and adopted two children.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    68 253
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    139 977
  • Las Mejores Canciones de Sara Montiel
  • Sara Montiel - Bésame mucho
  • Sara Montiel and Erika sing for you: Flower of Hawaii
  • Sara Montiel - La violetera (1958) HD
  • Sara Montiel - La Violetera (álbum completo - full album)



Montiel started in movies at sixteen[4] in her native Spain, where she appeared in a secondary role in her first movie, Te quiero para mí (I want you for myself) in 1944,[7] immediately followed by a leading role in Empezó en boda (It Began with a Wedding) also in 1944.[9][10] They were followed by roles in films such as Mariona Rebull (1946), Don Quixote (1947) and Madness for Love (1948). In April 1950, accompanied by her mother, she moved to Mexico and starred in a dozen films there in less than five years, including Women's Prison (1951), Red Fury (1951) and Cinnamon Skin (1953).[11]

Sara Montiel attending the San Sebastián International Film Week in 1956.

Hollywood came calling afterwards, and she was introduced to United States moviegoers in the film Vera Cruz (1954), directed by Robert Aldrich. She was offered the standard seven-year contract at Columbia Pictures, which she refused, afraid of Hollywood's typecasting policies for Hispanics. Instead she freelanced at Warner Bros. in Serenade (1956), directed by Anthony Mann, whom she married in 1957, and at RKO in Samuel Fuller's Run of the Arrow (1957).

Between November 1956 and January 1957, before filming Run of the Arrow, she filmed in Barcelona the musical film The Last Torch Song during a vacation in Spain and as a deference to its director Juan de Orduña.[12] The film, that was filmed with a very low budget, became unexpectedly a worldwide megahit. Initially, the songs in the film were going to be sung by a professional singer who would dub Montiel, but due to the low budget, she eventually sang the songs herself.[13] The film soundtrack album also became a hit.

Following this success, in June 1957 she signed with producer Benito Perojo a lavish contract to make four films in three years,[14] being the first of them The Violet Seller, a 1958 large-budget international co-production musical film.[15] The economic agreement was ten million pesetas[a] (US$240,000 as of 1957)[b] for four films,[16] which means that she was to receive 2.5 million pesetas (US$60,000) per film, making her the highest-paid Spanish star at a time when the highest-paid stars were netting one million pesetas (US$24,000) per film.[17] The success of The Violet Seller surpassed that of The Last Torch Song, and in a contractual dispute for the next film, A Girl Against Napoleon (1959), the agreement was improved by securing for her the twenty per cent of the producer's net revenue.[18] She also signed a contract with Hispavox to record and release the soundtrack albums of her films for which she netted the ten per cent of the records sale as royalties.[19] The Violet Seller soundtrack album, the first with them, topped sales in Spain and in Latin America and, in July 1959, Hispavox served a Golden Disk award to her for the number of records sold there.[20]

All this made her a film and singing international superstar.[11][6] Almost all of her next films earned high box office results and she combined filming, recording songs and performing live. She was the highest paid star of Spanish cinema, and many years later, she began to say that she had been paid more than US$1 million for each of these films,[5] something that the press widely reported as the actual figure. Among the next films during the 1960s and early 1970s were My Last Tango (1960), Pecado de amor (1961), The Lovely Lola (a 1962 version of La Dame aux Camélias), Casablanca, Nest of Spies (1963), Samba (1964), The Lost Woman (1966), Tuset Street (1967), Esa Mujer (1969) and Variety (1971). The film Variety was banned in Beijing in 1973.

In 1974, she announced her retirement from movies, as she become dissatisfied with the movie industry and the overt nudity in films,[21] but continued performing live, recording and starring on her own variety television shows in Spain. In 2002 she was the advertising image of the MTV Europe Music Awards held in Barcelona.[22][23][24]

In November 2009, singer Alaska who forms the Spanish pop group Fangoria with Nacho Canut, invited Montiel to record a track sharing vocals with her for the re-release of the band's album Absolutamente. They recorded the title track "Absolutamente" as a duet. The music video for the song was released on 18 December 2009.[25] Well into her eighties, she had no plans to retire, and continued working in various projects.[9] In May 2011, after almost forty years without making a movie, she performed in a feature film directed by Óscar Parra de Carrizosa. The film title is Abrázame and was shot on location in La Mancha.

She is considered "one of the most important actresses in the history of Spain",[4] and has been described by Spain's press as a "myth of Spanish cinema."[26] She has also been characterized as "the most beautiful woman of twentieth century Spain."[27] She has also been called a "sexual, feminist, and gay icon for Francoist Spain."[28]

Personal life

Monument to Montiel in Campo de Criptana.

Montiel, whose complete name was María Antonia Alejandra Vicenta Elpidia Isidora Abad Fernández, was born in 1928 in Campo de Criptana (Ciudad Real), Spain.[5] She entered films after winning a talent contest at age fifteen.[11][29] In her first movie, she was credited as "María Alejandra" a shortened version of her real name. For her next film, she changed her name to Sara, after her grandmother, and Montiel after the Montiel fields in La Mancha region of her birth. It was in Mexico where she first learned how to read and write, taught by the poet León Felipe, and in 1951 she acquired Mexican dual nationality.[11] She was married four times,[30][11] and was ex-communicated by the Catholic Church in Spain for the civil-wedding ceremony of her first marriage:[11]

  • Anthony Mann (American actor, film director); 1957–63 (divorced)
  • José Vicente Ramírez Olalla (attorney); 1964–70 (divorced)
  • José Tous Barberán (attorney, journalist); 1979–92 (Tous's death); this union produced two adopted children: Thais (born 1979) and José Zeus (born 1983)[31]
  • Antonio Hernández (Cuban videotape operator); 2002–05 (divorced)

In 2000, Montiel published her autobiography Memories: To Live Is a Pleasure, an instant best seller with ten editions to date. A sequel Sara and Sex followed in 2003. In these books, she revealed other relationships in her past, including one-night stands with writer Ernest Hemingway[11] as well as actor James Dean.[32] She also claimed a long-term affair in the 1940s with playwright Miguel Mihura[11] and mentioned that science wizard Severo Ochoa, a Nobel Prize winner, was the true love of her life.[11][33]

In her later years, she became an iconic figure to the gay community, and noted "Cuando voy a actuar a alguna ciudad de EE UU allí están todos los gays de la ciudad" (Whenever I perform in any city in the US, all the gays from that city show up).[21] Montiel died in 2013 at her home in Madrid at the age of eighty-five from congestive heart failure,[34][29] and was buried in the San Justo Cemetery in Madrid.[9]


Year Title Role Country Notes
1943 Te Quiero Para Mí Ana María Spain Credited as "María Alejandra"
1944 Empezó en Boda Spain
1945 Bambú Yoyita, hija del gobernador Spain
1945 Se le Fue el Novio Spain
1945 El Misterioso Viajero del Clipper Cristina Gutiérrez Spain
1946 Por el Gran Premio Spain
1946 Mariona Rebull Lula Spain
1947 Don Quixote Antonia Spain Released in the U.S. in 1949
1947 Alhucemas María Luisa Pereira Spain
1948 Confidencia Elena Spain
1948 Madness for Love Aldara Spain Released in the U.S. in 1949 as The Mad Queen
1948 La Mies es Mucha Guyerati Spain
1949 Vidas Confusas Spain
1950 Pequeñeces... Monique Spain
1951 Women's Prison Dora Mexico
1951 Red Fury María Stevens Mexico / United States Stronghold is its English version with Veronica Lake in Montiel's part
1951 Captain Poison Angustias Spain
1952 Necesito Dinero María Teresa Mexico
1952 Here Comes Martin Corona Rosario Mexico
1952 El Enamorado / Vuelve Martín Corona Rosario Mexico
1953 She, Lucifer and I Isabel Mexico
1953 That Man from Tangier Aixa Spain / United States
1953 Cinnamon Skin Marucha Mexico / Cuba
1953 Yo soy gallo dondequiera Rosalia Mexico
1953 Reportaje Mexico She does not appear in the final cut
1954 Porque Ya No Me Quieres Rosaura Moreno / Lilia Mexico
1954 Se solicitan modelos Rosina Mexico
1954 Vera Cruz Nina United States
1955 Frente al Pecado de Ayer / Cuando se Quiere de Veras Lucecita Mexico / Cuba
1955 Yo no Creo en los Hombres María Caridad Robledo Mexico / Cuba
1956 Serenade Juana Montes United States
1956 Where the Circle Ends Isabel Mexico Circle of Death in the U.S.
1957 The Last Torch Song Maria Luján Spain
1957 Run of the Arrow Yellow Moccasin United States
1958 The Violet Seller Soledad Moreno Spain
1959 A Girl Against Napoleon Carmen Spain The Devil Made a Woman in the U.S. and U.K.
1960 My Last Tango Marta Andreu Spain
1961 Pecado de amor Magda Beltrán / Sor Belén Spain
1962 The Lovely Lola Lola Spain
1962 Queen of The Chantecler La Bella Charito Spain
1963 Casablanca, Nest of Spies Teresa Vilar Spain
1965 Samba Belén / Laura Monteiro Spain / Brazil
1965 La dama de Beirut Isabel Llanos Spain
1966 The Lost Woman Sara Fernán Spain
1967 Tuset Street Violeta Riscal Spain
1969 Esa Mujer Soledad Romero Fuentes Spain
1971 La casa de los Martínez Herself Spain
1971 Variety Ana Marqués Spain
1974 Cinco Almohadas para una Noche Rosa López / Ana Spain
1996 Asaltar los Cielos Herself Spain Documental
2002 Sara Una Estrella Herself Spain Documental
2002 Machin, Toda Una Vida Herself Spain Documental
2011 Abrázame Sara Montiel Spain Final film role


  • Sara Montiel en Mexico
  • Canciones de la Película "El Último Cuple" - Spain: Columbia. UK: London 5409
  • La Violetera - Spain: Hispavox. US: Columbia - EX 5056
  • Baile con Sara Montiel
  • Carmen la de Ronda - Spain: Hispavox. US: Columbia EX 5020
  • Besos de Fuego
  • Mi Último Tango - Spain: Hispavox. US: Columbia EX 5048
  • El Tango
  • Pecado de Amor - Spain: Hispavox. US: Columbia EX 5092
  • La Bella Lola
  • Noches De Casablanca
  • Samba
  • La Dama de Beirut
  • Canta Sarita Montiel
  • Esa Mujer
  • Sara
  • Varietés
  • Sara... Hoy
  • Saritisima
  • Anoche con Sara
  • Purisimo Sara
  • Sara De Cine
  • Sara A Flor de Piel
  • Amados Mios
  • Todas Las Noches A Las Once
  • Sara Montiel La Diva
  • Sara Montiel La Leyenda
  • Besame - Spain: Hispavox. US: Columbia EX 5077 (1962)
  • Songs From The Film Besame - Spain: Hispavox. US: Columbia EX 5135


Year Award Category Work Result Ref
1957 Circle of Cinematographic Writers Awards Best Main Actress The Last Torch Song Won [35]
1958 Circle of Cinematographic Writers Awards Best Main Actress The Violet Seller Won [36]
1959 National Syndicate of Spectacle Awards Best Actress The Violet Seller Won [37]
1999 Circle of Cinematographic Writers Awards Tribute Award - Won [38]




The Sara Montiel Museum, opened in 1991, is a museum in Campo de Criptana dedicated to her. It is housed in a sixteenth century windmill and displays photographs, wardrobe and personal belongings of the actress as well as posters of her films. In May 2021 it reopened after undergoing a restoration and modernization.[43]

In popular culture

Correos, the Spanish postal service, issued in 2014 a sheet of stamps in tribute to three recently deceased famous Spanish cinema artists: Sara Montiel, Alfredo Landa and Manolo Escobar. The stamp that pays tribute to Montiel depicts her in a scene from The Violet Seller.[44]

She was portrayed in the Pedro Almodóvar film Bad Education (2004) by a male actor in drag (Gael García Bernal) as the cross-dressing character Zahara, and a film clip from one of her movies was used, as well.[2]


^ a. In Spain, ten million pesetas (€60,101) in 1957, adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index, in 2022 would be approximately €3 million,[45] while its purchasing power would be €10–16 million.[46]
^ b. The exchange rate in June 1957 was of forty-two pesetas to the United States dollar.[47]


  1. ^ "Etapa en México" [Stage in Mexico]. (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 30 July 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2022. En 1951 Sara Montiel adquirió la nacionalidad mexicana, y revelaría años más tarde: "Me hice mexicana, claro. Todavía tengo mi carta de nacionalidad en la caja fuerte. Cuando me casé con Tony Mann, en Los Ángeles, me casé con mi otro pasaporte, el mexicano" ("I became Mexican, of course. I still have my nationality card in the safe. When I married Tony Mann, in Los Angeles, I married with my other passport, the Mexican")
  2. ^ a b "La Gran Diva: Remembering Sara Montiel". Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  3. ^ "Sara Montiel es hoy de las 'Imprescindibles'". Diario de Sevilla (in European Spanish). 2019-12-15. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  4. ^ a b c Moya, Edwin López (2018-04-12). "New Sara Montiel biography is being written in Philadelphia". AL DÍA News. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  5. ^ a b c d "PASSINGS: Sara Montiel, Josep Joan Bigas Luna". Los Angeles Times. 9 April 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Muere Sara Montiel a los 85 años". FormulaTV (in Spanish). Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  7. ^ a b "Sara Montiel". News Europa (in Spanish). 2020-04-08. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  8. ^ "Muere Sara Montiel". La Vanguardia (in Spanish). 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  9. ^ a b c "Sara Montiel". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  10. ^ Jaime, Víctor Núñez (2013-04-08). "Fallece la actriz Sara Montiel". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i "La boda de Sara Montiel y Toni Hernández: el día que se acuñó el ¿Pero qué pasa? ¿Pero qué invento es esto?". Vanity Fair (in Spanish). 2019-10-12. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  12. ^ The Last Torch Song (1957), retrieved 2020-05-08
  13. ^ Herreros, Enrique. La Codorniz de Enrique Herreros (in Spanish). p. 169. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  14. ^ "Montiel signs with Benito Perojo a contract to make four films in three years". ABC (in Spanish) (Madrid ed.). 15 June 1957. pp. 68–69. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  15. ^ "History of our cinema - La Violetera (introduction)". RTVE (in Spanish). 12 June 2018. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  16. ^ "Sarita Montiel And Perojo Near An Adjustment". Variety. 3 September 1958. p. 11. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  17. ^ "Spain's Top Stars Bursting Bounds Of the Economy". Variety. 17 July 1957. p. 13. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  18. ^ "Spain's Sarita Montiel Global Allure Makes Her Trading Item With Yanks". Variety. 13 May 1959. p. 21. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  19. ^ Werb, Hank (16 July 1958). "Chronicle from Madrid". Variety. p. 62. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  20. ^ "Golden Disk Montiel". Variety. 15 July 1959. p. 19. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  21. ^ a b "Sara Montiel: Un pájaro libre". ABC (in Spanish). 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  22. ^ "Sara Montiel Dies; Actress Was 85"
  23. ^ Olivo, Sara (2017-04-08). "Hace cuatro años nos dejó Sara Montiel: la recordamos en sus mejores momentos (incluye vídeos)". Revista Love (in Spanish). Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  24. ^ "Los 11 momentazos de Sara Montiel (VÍDEOS, FOTOS)". El HuffPost (in Spanish). 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  25. ^ Music video for Absolutamente 2009 on YouTube
  26. ^ "Muere Sara Montiel, mito del cine español". ABC (in Spanish). 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  27. ^ "El cuplé final de la Montiel". Diario Sur (in European Spanish). 2015-02-05. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  28. ^ "Sara Montiel, el extraño caso de un icono sexual, feminista y gay en pleno franquismo". El Confidencial (in Spanish). 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  29. ^ a b "Sara Montiel; adiós a la Violetera". LoQueSomos (in Spanish). 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  30. ^ Baez, Marcelo (2013-04-23). "An Imaginary Cocktail Party Tribute to Diva Sara Montiel". ABC News. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  31. ^ Boletín Oficial del Estado
  32. ^ "35 cosas increíbles que hizo, dijo y cantó Sara Montiel". Vanity Fair (in Spanish). 2016-04-08. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  33. ^ de Llano, Pablo (2018-03-31). "Sara Montiel, el pan y los hombres". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  34. ^ "Sara Montiel Dead: Spanish Film Legend Dies At 85". Huffington Post. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  35. ^ "Premios del CEC a la producción española de 1957". Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos (in Spanish). Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  36. ^ "Premios del CEC a la producción española de 1958". Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos (in Spanish). Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  37. ^ "Noticiario nº 840 B - Cinematography. Syndicate Awards". No-Do (in Spanish). 9 February 1959. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  38. ^ "Premios del CEC a la producción española de 1999". Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos (in Spanish). Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  39. ^ "Medallas de Oro". Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences of Spain (in Spanish). Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  40. ^ "HOLA, Sarita!". Backstage. 2001. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  41. ^ "REAL DECRETO 2025/2008, de 5 de diciembre, por el que se concede la Medalla al Mérito en el Trabajo, en su categoría de Oro, a doña María Antonia Abad Fernández" (PDF). Boletín Oficial del Estado (in Spanish) (294): 48978. 5 December 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  42. ^ "Villarrobledo (Albacete) celebra este fin de Semana su Feria del Vino". LaCerca (in Spanish). Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  43. ^ Barba, Cristina (18 May 2021). "Reabre el Museo Sara Montiel en Campo de Criptana". RTVE (in Spanish). Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  44. ^ "Spanish cinema. Sara Montiel, Alfredo Landa and Manolo Escobar". Correos (in Spanish). Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  45. ^ "Would you like to update a personal income or spending?". INE. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  46. ^ Prados de la Escosura, Leandro (2020). "Six Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a Spanish Peseta Amount, 1850 - Present". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  47. ^ "Spain Joins OEEC, Announces Economic Stabilization Program". Foreign Commerce Weekly. 3 August 1959. p. 21. Retrieved January 19, 2022.

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