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Rita Moreno Turns 80

50 years after winning an Oscar for West Side Story, the pioneering actress is as busy as ever

Rita Moreno

West Side Story was 50 years ago, but actress Rita Moreno isn't slowing down as she turns 80. — Illustration by Josue Evilla

The Big 8-Oh: December 11

Because Rita Moreno is so closely associated with her Oscar-winning role as Anita in West Side Story, it's easy to overlook what a long and varied show business career she's enjoyed.

See also: Rita Moreno talks about her one-woman show.

How long? The Puerto Rican–born Moreno started contributing voiceovers to Spanish-language versions of Hollywood films when she was just 11 years old — only a few years after she moved to New York City with her mother. Two years later, she landed her first role on Broadway, and a decade after that she was featured on the cover of Life magazine and heralded as a rising star. And that was before her West Side Story breakthrough.

How varied? Moreno is one of a handful of actresses to have collected a veritable grand slam of show business trophies, decorating her mantel with an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony Award (others who have pulled that neat trick include Helen Hayes, Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand — not too shabby company). And she accomplished all of this while overcoming ethnic prejudice and forging a path for the Latina performers who have followed her.

As she turns 80, she's still going strong. She's currently costarring as Fran Drescher's mom in the TV Land sitcom Happily Divorced, which will return for its second season this spring. She recently wrapped a two-month run of her new one-woman show, Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre near her California home. And the 50th-anniversary edition of West Side Story was released on Blu-ray last month, ready to be enjoyed by a new generation of movie and musical fans.

"I'm a show business animal," she said recently. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

You might also enjoy: President Obama's 50th birthday wish.

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