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Rita Moreno Explains Her Passion for Acting, Marlon Brando and More

Memoir is a candid look at the 81-year-old singer, actress and dancer's rise to fame

En español | Maybe I was never interested in the lives of Hollywood stars, or maybe it's been a secret until very recently, but I didn't know Rita Moreno would have died for Marlon Brando. Until I read about it in her blunt and honest, recently released autobiography, Rita Moreno: A Memoir, I didn't know.

Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno's memoir chronicles her journey from a young girl in Puerto Rico to a Hollywood star. — Carlo Allegri/AP Images

Not only would she die for him, in the most romantic sense of the word, but she almost did die. Literally.

One night in 1960, feeling spiteful and heartbroken after an abortion she didn't want, but that Brando insisted on, Moreno took a handful of pills she found in his bathroom. One of the actor's assistants found her unconscious and saved her life.

Moreno says Brando, with whom she was involved on and off for eight years, was her first true love, one of only two men who managed to steal her heart.

Moreno's second true love wasn't Elvis Presley (whom she briefly dated to make Brando jealous) but Leonard "Lenny" Gordon, an affable doctor who was her manager and in 1965 became her husband. Although Moreno describes their actual happiness together as lasting barely a decade, the couple stayed married for 46 years, until Gordon passed away in 2010, at age 90. Their only child, daughter Fernanda, has two children whom Moreno considers the greatest gifts of her life.

Rita Moreno and Marlon Brando in THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY

Rita Moreno and her first "true love," Marlon Brando, reunited in 1968's "The Night of the Following Day." — Picture Alliance\Everett Collection

The book is fascinating, easy-to-read and entertaining.

Moreno displays a sense of humor and deep knowledge of the history and times during which her stellar career blossomed; she is one of the few entertainers ever to have been honored with four of the most important awards in the entertainment world — Grammy, Oscar, Emmy and Tony.

Rita Moreno, whose real name is Rosita Dolores Alverio, was born in 1931 in Juncos, a municipality of Puerto Rico.

When she was 5, her mother, who was then barely 22 years old, plucked her out of her idyllic childhood world — a world where she raised baby chicks, played in the dirt and ran barefoot through the fields — and moved her to New York, specifically the Bronx.

Next page: Rita Moreno opens up about her insecurities and Hollywood stereotypes. »

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RITA MORENO'S EARLY STRUGGLES: See how the acclaimed actress overcome adversity to become a Hollywood legend.

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