- Category : 1910-births
- Type : ME
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 2
Mexican-American actress and centenarian best known for her starring role in the 1931 Spanish language version of Drácula, filmed in Los Angeles by Universal Pictures at night using the same sets as the Bela Lugosi version, but with a different cast and director. She also starred in the 1932 film Santa, one of the first Mexican sound films, and one of the first commercial Spanish-language sound films. Santa was the first film to have synchronized sound and image on the same celluloid strip. The film was based on a famous book featuring an innocent girl from the country who has an affair with a soldier and then tragically becomes a prostitute. Santa was such a hit that the Mexican government issued a postage stamp featuring Tovar as Santa.
The daughter of Egidio Tovar, who was from Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico, and Mary [Maria] Alicia Tovar (née Sullivan), who was blonde Mexican, from Chihuahua, Mexico, Tovar was the oldest of nine children, though many of her siblings did not survive early childhood. Tovar grew up during the time of the Mexican Revolution and her family was very poor. She was raised in a very religious Catholic environment, and went to a school where she was taught by nuns. In 1918, Tovar's family moved north to Mexico City where her father worked for the National Railroad of Mexico in an administrative position.
Tovar was discovered by documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty in Mexico City. Tovar had performed in a dance class and was invited, along with other girls, to do a screen test as part of a competition. Tovar won first place. The prize was a 6-month probation period, followed by a 7-year contract at $150/week, to Fox Studios. The studio had realized they could make money by simultaneously shooting Spanish-language movies of English language studio productions, so had been scouting for Spanish stars. She moved to Hollywood in November 1928 with her maternal grandmother, Lucy Sullivan.
In 1929, Tovar appeared in the films The Veiled Woman with Bela Lugosi (now thought to be a lost film) and The Cock-Eyed World.
She married the producer Paul Kohner in Czechoslovakia on 30 October 1932 at his parents' home. In 1936, the couple had a daughter, Susan Kohner, a film and television actress, and, in 1939, a son, Paul Julius "Pancho" Kohner, Jr., a director and producer. Their grandsons, Chris and Paul Weitz, are successful film directors.
Tovar died at the age of 106 on 12 November 2016 in Los Angeles of heart disease, just one day after her daughter Susan Kohner's 80th birthday.