"Y digo yo, bueno, lo que nunca me esperaba yo. En primer lugar yo nunca pense en ser actriz y con un padre que teniamos tan estricto y nunca ibamos al cine. Usted se imagina, de repente alguien me ve en la escuela y me hacen la prueba y de la prueba vino todo esto"
"I never considered becoming an actress with such a strict father. We never went to the movies. Then, out of a sudden, somebody spots me at school, I do a screen test and from there it all began".
~Interview w/ Lupita Tovar (2007)~
Lupita Tovar daughter of Maria Sullivan and Egidio Tovar was born in Oaxaca (Mexico) on July 27, 1910, a year that witnessed the downfall of President Porfirio Díaz and the birth of the revolution.
Her film career began to shape in 1928 when Tovar auditioned for a contest, organized by El Universal Ilustrado newspaper. The judge was none other than filmmaker Robert Flaherty who chose her the winner of a contract with Fox film studios. In November of that same year, Tovar arrived in Hollywood accompanied by her grandmother Lucy Slocum Sullivan.
Following bit parts in three films directed in 1929, The veiled woman, King of the Khyber Rifles and The Cock Eyed World, Tovar joined Universal studios. The transition from silent films to "talkies" had started and Hollywood - in an effort to retain foreign audiences- began producing different language film versions of a same film.
It was during this period that Tovar was assigned the starring role of La Voluntad del Muerto (1930), Spanish film version of Universal's The Cat Creeps (1930). In December of 1930, Tovar returned to Mexico for the premiere of the film. Images of her arrival illustrate the excitement of the fans and the satisfaction of the young starlet who had met the expectations of her nation. During her stay Tovar had an important meeting with Carlos Noriega Hope and producer Juan de la Cruz Alarcón. Noriega Hope, editor of El Universal Ilustrado, represented an important group of film critics that scrutinized what they considered the often deplorable results of Hollywood Spanish films, productions that congregated under one film actors from different regions of Latin America and Spain, whose accents proved unnerving for the Mexican audiences. Juan de la Cruz Alarcón was a successful businessman who had fought in the revolution and who had turned his attention to the distribution and exhibition of films.
Noriega Hope and Alarcón had come with an offer, the starring role in a film that was to be the first sound film made in Mexico. The film was to be based in Santa, a novel previously adapted to the screen in 1918 by Luis G. Peredo. A meeting was arranged to introduce Tovar to the author, Federico Gamboa, who in turn introduced the actress to Emerenciana, the old lady whose life story had served as the basis for the novel. The event was documented by Noriega Hope in an article: "I remember her temper [Emerenciana's] when accusing Gamboa of portraying her as a bad woman. And Federico, a gentleman at heart, smiled and took some photographs with Emerenciana and Lupita."
Excerpt of Agustin Lara performing "Santa".
"In the eternal night of my despair. You've been the star that brightens up my sky. And I've imagined your rare beauty which has illuminated my darkness."
"En la eterna noche de mi desconsuelo tu has sido la estrella que alumbra mi cielo. Y yo he adivinado tu rara hermosura que ha iluminado toda mi negrura."
Santa premiered in Los Angeles at the California Theater, on May 20th of 1932. The event gathered the likes of Jose Mojica, Luana Alcañiz, Mona Maris, Ernesto Vilches, Jose Crespo, Mimi Aguglia, Ramon Pereda, Adriana Lamar, Barry Norton, Conchita Ballesteros, actors who had come the world over to join the Hollywood "Hispanic" film productions, and who had witnessed in Santa the promise of an emerging Spanish language film industry.