Just days before her 90th birthday, legendary screen and stage star Rita Moreno graced the stage of the Sumner Redstone Theater at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria where she was honored for her remarkable career spanning more than seven decades.
The Puerto Rico-born star has won all four of the most prestigious awards in show business, including an Oscar, a Tony, two Emmys and a Grammy, and has appeared in more than 40 feature films.
The gala was the first in-person event at the museum since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no better time to celebrate the illustrious career of Rita Moreno,” MoMI Executive Director Carl Goodman said. “She is a legendary figure who has been a constant and formidable presence in American cinema for almost 70 years, from her brief but unforgettable appearance in ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ through her Oscar-winning role in the original ‘West Side Story,’ and to her latest, in the eagerly anticipated Steven Spielberg adaptation.”
In conjunction with the MoMI benefit event on Wednesday, Dec. 1, and her appearance in Steven Speilberg’s upcoming adaptation of “West Side Story,” the museum kicked off a seven-film retrospective devoted to the prolific performer’s career, including classics such as “The King and I,” “Carnal Knowledge,” “I Like it Like That” and “The Four Seasons” as well as the recent documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It.”
“Taken together these films show the amazing range of an actor who refused to be stereotyped and whose wit, taste and versatility is apparent in every frame, from scene-stealing supporting performances to stellar leading roles,” MoMI Curator of Film Eric Hynes said.
The Moving Images Awards featured Moreno in an on-stage conversation moderated by Hynes followed by an award presentation.
“Interviewing Rita Moreno on stage was the thrill of a lifetime. As I was able to tell her that night, I’ve been in awe of her since I was a toddler watching her on ‘The Electric Company,’ and we are still in awe of her continued excellence,” Hynes said. “She was a true trailblazer, a Puerto Rican girl, who as she likes to say, ‘just decided to go for it,’ and inspired people around the world, especially Latino and Latinx audiences who saw themselves represented on screen. At the Moving Image Awards, we were moved by her generosity and humanity.”
Moreno is also the recipient of the Peabody Career Achievement Award and the Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contributions to American culture. She was also honored by her peers as the 50th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.
Funds raised at the benefit event help support MoMI’s exhibitions, screenings and education and community engagement programs, which serve youth and adults.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said it was a “thrill to meet” the EGOT winner.
“As she approaches her 90th birthday, it is inspiring to see that she is still going strong and will be wowing audiences with her role in the upcoming ‘West Side Story’ movie,” Richards said. “Rita is always welcome here in Queens!”