Rita Moreno said tonight that Buddy Adler, the powerful one-time production head of 20th Century Fox and Academy Award-winning producer, pursued her and made her uncomfortable when she was a 19-year-old actress starting out in Hollywood.
Speaking at the Paley Honors in Hollywood: A Gala Celebrating Women in Television at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Moreno got a standing ovation for her presentation confession.
“This is not what I’m supposed to talk about tonight,” said Moreno. “When I was 19 years old, I was signed to a contract at 20th Century Fox, and you can imagine that this little Latina girl was out of her mind with pride at having this. At one point, I met the fellow who was running this place. He took one look at me and just said, ‘Oooh.’ And he began to – this is not what I’m supposed to talk about – he found my phone number and he began to call my home.”
Moreno lived with three other girls in Los Angeles, but Adler kept calling. “He kept asking for me and I just kind of knew this was not the person I wanted to mess around with, and whenever he found me in the commissary, I made it a point to be with somebody at the table. And by the way, this guy already had a mistress, so that’s what I, at the age of 18 or 19, was dealing with.”
She added: “I wanted to be a movie star so badly, and the man would not leave me alone. It took a year. He kept calling and calling and calling and talking to my roommates, and whenever he had a chance to see me alone – he’d literally look for me – he’d come and get me and we’d have to meet and I’d say something kind of stupid like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ being innocent and untouched – and I was.”
Finally, after a year, Adler made his last phone call, Moreno related. “(He) talked to one of my roommates and said, ‘Tell her I give up.’ That fellow was a man named Buddy Adler. Finally my nightmare was over. Let me tell you, this week has really put me away. You might think, ‘Jesus, you’re 85, get over it, woman!’ But you don’t because you have ambition and … You never get over something like that. I can’t. And you know what I’m referring to and I just want to say, you know what? I’m still fucking here!”
Adler passed away in 1960. His film resume includes From Here To Eternity, which won the 1954 Academy Award for Best Picture. He also produced Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, which was nominated in 1956 for Best Picture, and Bus Stop, a film starring Marilyn Monroe. He was the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1957, an Academy Award given to creative producers on a sporadic basis and considered an “honorary Oscar.” The following year, he received the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.
Moreno’s career has spanned over 70 years. Among her notable films are The King and I and West Side Story. She also appeared on the children’s TV series The Electric Company.
She is one of a dozen artists who have won all four major annual American entertainment awards: an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony. Her lifetime achievements include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.