It’s a rampant problem. We, as Latinas, are not privy to our history in the United States, especially the important things we have accomplished and achieved. When we do not learn about our history, we believe the false narrative fed to us that we do not matter and have not made a difference in our own country. Latinx actor and activist John Leguizamo has taken it upon himself to remind us that we have been a huge and essential part of the United States for 500 years. As a Latina writer, historian, and pop culture history expert, it is also part of my mission and purpose to discover Latinx greatness and share it with the masses. So, you could imagine my excitement when I learned about Mexicana actress, Lupita Tovar. Not only is she a Hollywood star in her own right, but she is the matriarch of an entire Latinx Hollywood dynasty. Let’s learn more about Latinx Hollywood history.
Guadalupe Natalia Tovar Sullivan was born in Matías Romero, Oaxaca, and discovered in Mexico City. She arrived in Hollywood in 1928, and is best known for starring in the iconic 1931 Spanish-language version of Dracula (which you can watch here). Tovar also appeared in Santa (1932), Mexico’s very first sound film. Too many of us do not know about Lupita and her achievements and accomplishments. Not only did she do big things on her own in Hollywood, but she also married talent agent and producer Paul Kohner, and gave birth to Susan Kohner and Pancho Kohner, who have made their own mark on Tinseltown.
Susan Kohner is Lupita and Paul’s daughter. She was born into a Hollywood family, but Susan proved that she had talent of her own and continued her mother’s legacy. In 1959, she appeared in the film Imitation of Life. Her work earned her a Golden Globe win and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Susan Kohner also won a Golden Globe in 1959 for New Star of the Year – Actress for The Gene Krupa Story, and was nominated in 1960 for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for Freud). A Latina who won two Golden Globes and was the first Chicana to be nominated for an Oscar– all in the 1950s/60s?! This is yet another great piece of history many Latinas are not privy to.
Pancho Kohner is Susan Kohner’s brother and another Latinx in Hollywood who is a part of Lupita Tovar’s remarkable family dynasty. The producer, director, and writer has been a part of 25 productions, and is known for his work on The Bridge in the Jungle (1970), Mr. Sycamore (1975), Murphy’s Law (1986), and The New Adventures of Madeline (1995-2001). Many look for Latinx people in Hollywood to start their own production companies in order to create the work that either doesn’t exist or that we don’t see enough of. Pancho was already doing that with Capricorn Productions in the 1970s. However, the Tovar/Kohner legacy (be sure to check out Kohner’s memoir of his mother, Lupita Tovar the Sweetheart of Mexico!), doesn’t end with siblings Pancho and Susan.
Paul and Chris Weitz
Yet another generation of the Tovar/Kohner family is proving that Latinxs have an important place in Hollywood. The Weitz brothers, Paul and Chris, are Susan Kohner’s sons and have carried the entertainment torch that Lupita Tovar lit decades ago. Together, the siblings directed American Pie (1999) and About a Boy (2002; About a Boy garnered them an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay). Paul and Chris created their own production company, Depth of Field, which has been a part in the creation of films including The Golden Compass (2007), A Single Man (2009), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), and A Better Life (the film that made an Academy-Award-nominated actor out of fellow Mexicano Demián Bichir).
It was announced last year that the Weitz brothers will be working on what will no doubt be their most personal project: Spanish Dracula, about their grandmother and grandfather, their Hollywood story, and how they fell in love. It’s a tale that we, as Latinas, need to know about and share with the younger generations, so that they see that for Latinxs in Tinseltown, si se puede.