Mona Maria Emita Capdeville or
Maria Rose Amita Capdevielle
November 7, 1903
Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Died||March 21, 1991 (aged 87)|
Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Resting place||La Chacarita Cemetery|
(m. 1960; div. 1969)
Mona Maris (born Mona Maria Emita Capdeville or Maria Rosa Amita Capdeville, November 7, 1903 – March 23, 1991) was an Argentine film actress.
Mona Maris was born Mona Maria Emita Capdeville. Some sources spell her last name as Cap de Vielle, while others give her birth name as Maria Rose Amita Capdevielle, Rosa Emma Mona María Marta Capdevielle, or Maria Rosa Cap de Vielle. Her mother was Spanish Basque and her father was French Catalan.
Orphaned when she was four years old, Maris lived with her grandmother in France and was educated in a convent there, as well as in England and Germany. By the age of 19, she spoke four languages — French, German, English and Spanish.
In the April 1930 issue of Picture Play magazine, William H. McKegg wrote that Maris "has assimilated much from each country [in which she has lived]—cynical frankness of the French, the simplicity of the Germans—the romanticism of the Italians, and the independence of the English."
Maris' ambition to become an actress originated during World War I, when she was a student in Luders, France. She and her classmates wrote, directed, and presented short plays to entertain soldiers billeted near the school. After graduation Maris begged to go to England and her mother finally relented. In England she found a woman was given much more freedom than in either Spain or South America. She traveled to England under the indirect chaperonage of an Argentine family.
Her stay was intended to last only six months, but was extended another two years. The Argentine ambassador in Berlin received a letter which led to Maris being introduced to the President of the United Film Association. Soon she journeyed to Germany, where she participated in Universum Film AG productions. She was given a screen test during which the camera was not loaded with film. A prominent director noticed Maris and offered her a five-year contract. She counseled with her grandmother, who reluctantly allowed her to accept.
Maris' screen debut was in the German film Los Esclavos del Volga, directed by Richard Eichberg. (The book Hollywood—Se Habla Español says, "Maris' film career began with the 1925 silent movie The Apache", while a 1985 Associated Press newspaper article wrote "She first appeared in the British-made movie, The Little People in 1924.") Jorge Finkielman wrote about her performance in his book, The Film Industry in Argentina: An Illustrated Cultural History: "Her portrayal of the character Tatiana showed that she was an actress who could be expected to turn out noteworthy performances."
Joseph Schenck, president of United Artists, granted her the prospect of a Hollywood career. At the time she had completed just four films in Germany. Her Hollywood film career began with the 1925 movie The Apache.
Spanish, French, and German came easily for her, but in the early years of sounds films, her English was almost unintelligible.[a]
From 1931 to 1941, she starred in 19 Spanish-language versions of successful American pictures, which were produced by the Fox Film Company. Maris also appeared in seven English dialogue motion pictures for three studios.
In 1985, Maris described her image as an actress. "They used to hiss whenever I was on screen," she said. "I was always playing the heavy. Here (in Argentina) when they need a heavy, they get an English girl. There (in the United States), when they needed a heavy, it was the Spanish girl."
Maris remained active at age 81, in the role of French aristocrat Marie Anne Périchon de Vandeuil, "a disturbed, broken-hearted grandmother" in the film Camila (1984), which was described as "the most successful Argentine film in decades."
She was married twice. Her first marriage took place while she was working in Europe and dissolved before she traveled to the United States.
She began an affair with Clarence Brown in 1931, and he reportedly proposed to her. Despite multiple sources listing them as being married, they were not, and the affair ended shortly after the proposal, with Maris later saying she ended the relationship because she had her "own ideas of marriage then."
She married Herman Rick in 1960. They divorced in 1969. Maris had no children.
Mona Maris died in her native Buenos Aires on March 23, 1991, aged 87. She is buried at La Chacarita Cemetery.