Spanish-Language Dracula Star Lupita Tovar Dies at 106

Lupita Tovar starred in Mexico’s first sound film.

Lupita Tovar, who was once billed as “the sweetheart of Mexico,” died Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, at the age of 106, it was confirmed by her niece Lucy Tovar on Facebook.

Tovar is best known to American audiences as Eva Steward, who falls under the spell of the Transylvanian count in the Spanish-language version of Dracula.  She starred in the first Mexican movie with sound, Santa, in 1931. Tovar starred in 31 films in both Mexico and the United States between 1929 and 1945. She made films with Buster Keaton, Buck Jones, Henry Fonda and Gene Autry.

Carlos Villarías played Bela Lugosi’s part in the Spanish-language Dracula, which was shot at night on the same sets and in the same costumes the English version used during the day. Tovar brought a sexual heat to the film that the Hollywood version couldn’t get past the censors of the time. Her longevity proved longer than any her counterparts on either film. Tovar’s first starring role at Universal was a Spanish-language version of The Cat Creeps (1930), which co-starred Antonio Moreno.

Tovar was married to Hollywood producer Paul Kohner, who worked with icons like Greta Garbo, John Huston, Lana Turner, Ingmar Bergman, Yul Brynner, David Niven, Billy Wilder and Charles Bronson in a career that spanned more than 50 years. Tovar’s daughter Susan Kohner was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Imitation of Life in 1959. Tovar’s grandsons are Chris and Paul Weitz, who co-directed American Pie (1999) and About a Boy (2002), which got them nominated for a writing Oscar in 2002.

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The legendary artist Diego Rivera immortalized Tovar in a painting. The Mexican government issued a stamp featuring Tovar in her Santa role. In 2001, Tovar received Mexico’s equivalent of an Oscar the Ariel Award.