They Were Wrong to Embargo Margo

Today is the birthday of the dancer and actress known simply as “Margo” (Marguerita Guadalupe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O’Donnell, 1917-1985). Margo’s more notable films include the screen adaptation of Maxwell Anderson’s Winterset (1936), Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937), Val Lewton’s The Leopard Man (1943), Kazan’s Viva Zapata! (1955), and the Lillian Roth biopic I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955).

Mexican-born Margo studied dance as a child with Rita Hayworth’s father Eduardo Cansino. Her uncle was bandleader Xavier Cugat; she danced in night clubs with his band when only a child. In 1934, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur caught her act and cast her in their film Crime without Passion opposite Claude Rains, launching her career. Next came Rumba (1935) with George Raft, Carole Lombard and Lynne Overman, and the western Robin Hood of El Dorado (1936). Meantime, she appeared in the original Broadway production of Winterset, leading to her casting in that film. Her other Broadway work (between films) included Anderson’s next play The Masque of Kings (1937), Sidney Kingsley’s The World We Make (1939-40), the short-lived Tanyard Street (1941), and A Bell for Adano (1944-45). The latter was made into a film in 1945, with Gene Tierney playing Margo’s role.

From 1937 through 1940 she was married to actor Francis Lederer. She starred in the 1939 film Miracle on Main Street, with William Collier and Lyle Talbot. In 1945, she married actor Eddie Albert. Five years later, the couple’s names both appeared in Red Channels, flagging them for blacklisting based on their supposed Communist associations, and Margo’s career suffered after that, although she continued to work, mostly in television. Some of her later film roles included a small part in the 1962 Dean Martin comedy Who’s Got the Action? (1962), and a bit part in Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970).

In 1970, Margo became the founding artistic director and chairman of Plaza de la Raza, a cultural center in East L.A., and this work occupied her remaining years. Her son Edward Albert (who favored his Mexican mom over his German-American dad in appearance) also became a successful actor, best known for Butterflies Are Free (1972), in which he played a blind man, opposite Goldie Hawn in one of her first dramatic roles.