“I used to look at the stars’ pictures and see how beautiful they were. Never did I dream that some day it would be my picture I would be looking at. Like you say, I was a real fan.” – Raquel Torres (1908-1987)
Torres was born in Hermisillo, Mexico, to a Mexican mother and a German father. After her mother died, her father moved to Los Angeles taking Raquel and her sister Renee with him.
According to newspaper bios, she grew up in a convent in Los Angeles, and after graduation from high school, she tried to find work in the motion picture business.
Around 1927, she worked as an usher at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and during premieres, she was part of a small group of beautiful girls that guided stars, producers and directors to their seats.
“A gentleman who was in the real estate business told my father I should try to get in pictures. He saw me dancing and singing to amuse my father, who was vairie sick. My father said, ‘no, indeed,’ his baby shall not go in such dangerous company, and there is no need for his daughter to work. We have five Mexican servants, so I am not much occupied. I like the gentleman shall take me and introduce me to Mr. Christie. They fine to me. The casting director say he shall give me work all the time. Then I am excited, they send me for Fox picture…but I not do. Again to First National…again, nothing. Then after but a month, of which I play in some comedies, comes this test for ‘White Shadows.’ Oh, many tests. My father so very ill, so when I am chosen, he die, and the funeral is the very day I sail away to Papeate. Me, who am always so gay, am vairie, vairie sad. Mr. Monte Blue, he so kind, like a father to me. Five months we were gone…” — Raquel Torres
Source: Alma Whitaker (1928)
Photo: Ruth Harriett Louise
Torres was eventually noticed by director W.S. Van Dyke and tested at MGM. She was then cast in a major role as an Island girl in White Shadows in the South Seas. The premiere was held at the Chinese Theatre, and according to producer Val Lewton, one of Torres‘ old usherette friends, who spoke broken English, guided her to her seat before saying to her, “I’m verra, verra happy. I hope you go down to the top!”
“It is unusual to see a girl of Latin extraction whose fine spirit is not always evidencing itself. Raquel is a subdued personality, sweet and refreshing, with underneath all the natural fire of her Mexican forebears.” — W.S. Van Dyke in 1929
Torres‘ career, however, flatlined and she spent most of her film career, modeling for cheesecake photos.
“Every time I meet a nice American boy, he tries to pretend he is a nice Mexican boy. He telephones me and calls me Chiquita and mixes up Spanish words he has heard. One boy even tried to play the guitar – and he was blond!” — Raquel Torres
Source: Alice L. Tildseley (1929)
With Mary Doran, early 1930s.