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Mecha Ortiz

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Nationality  Argentine
Years active  1936-1976
Name  Mecha Ortiz
Spouse  Julian Ortiz (m. ?–1948)
Occupation  actress
Known for  Sapho
Role  Actress
Children  Julian Ortiz
Mecha Ortiz Biblioteca LGTTB quotOscar Hermes Villordoquot Mecha Ortz
Full Name  Maria Mercedes Varela Nimo Dominguez Castro
Born  24 September 1900 (age 115) (1900-09-24) Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died  October 20, 1987, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Parents  Vicente Varela Nimo, Josefa Dominguez Castro
Movies  The Three Rats, Camino del infierno, Safo - Historia De Una Pasi, House of Shadows, El Gran secreto
Similar People  Amelia Bence, Carlos Hugo Christensen, Manuel Romero, Carlos Schlieper, Luis Saslavsky

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Mecha Ortiz (nee Maria Mercedes Varela Nimo Dominguez Castro; 1900–1987) was a classic Argentine actress who appeared in film between 1937 and 1981, during the Golden Age of Argentine Cinema. At the 1944 Argentine Film Critics Association Awards, Ortiz won the Silver Condor Award for Best Actress for her performance in Safo, historia de una pasion (1943), and won it again in 1946 for her performance in El canto del cisne (1945). She was known as the Argentine Greta Garbo and for playing mysterious characters, who suffered by past misfortunes in love, mental disorders, or forbidden love. Safo, historia de una pasion was the first erotic Argentine film, though there was no nudity. She also played in the first film in which a woman struck a man and the first film with a lesbian romance. In 1981, she was awarded the Grand Prize for actresses from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Mecha Ortiz El Mirador Nocturno Mecha Ortiz

Early life and background

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Maria Mercedes Varela Nimo Dominguez Castro, known as Mecha was born 24 September 1900. Until she was twenty-nine, Mecha, was married to a farmer and was busy being a wife and mother. She had enrolled for acting classes in the Conservatorio Nacional de Musica y Declamacion (National Conservatory of Music and Speech) in the inaugural class under the direction of Carlos Lopez Buchardo and Enrique Garcia Velloso. This first class of 1926, which included Ortiz, Miguel Mileo and Paulina Singerman, among others, sought to teach acting using a standardized manual. When her husband was thrown from a horse and had a serious back injury, she took a job in the prosecutor's office, refusing help from her well-to-do family. Her sister, Amanda Varela, was an established actress and got her a screen test with Paramount Studios of France. She was selected but no films were made, so her sister introduced her to a friend, influential film critic Chas de Cruz, who helped her find work.


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She began her entertainment career as a supporting actress in the Rivera-De Rosas Theater Company of Enrique de Rosas. She debuted on stage with El Proceso de Mary Duggan, by Bayard Veiller on 20 June 1929, at the Ateneo Theater. In 1933, she was in the production of Mirandolina by Carlo Goldoni which was put on by the Theater Company of Antonio Cunill Cabanellas. Also in 1933, she appeared in Corine with Guillermo Battaglia, Nedda Francy, Miguel Faust Rocha and Iris Marga at the Odeon Theater. She had a theatrical season on the Smart Theater, in 1938 with "Mujeres", written US actress and writer Clare Boothe Luce, and co-starring Amelia Bence.

Mecha Ortiz Teatro Independiente La Plata Argentina Mecha Ortiz

In 1936 she had her first film role as "Rubia Mireya", with Florencio Parravicini, Irma Cordoba and Santiago Arrieta, in the classic Los muchachos de antes no usaban gomina directed by Manuel Romero. The role was the first of many wherein she played a character who could not be with the man she loved, but made personal sacrifices to be honorable. Mecha was often cast as mysterious characters, plagued by past misfortunes in love, mental disorders, or forbidden love and was frequently compared with Greta Garbo. She was also seen as a symbol of sophistication and was referred to in other works to denote the line between what was chic or provincial. Years later the character was brought back for Ortiz in the film La Rubia Mireya (1948) with Fernando Lamas also directed by Manuel Romero. In this version, a woman who had reluctantly married, divorced and is rejected by her daughter.

In 1938 she starred with Nini Marshall in Mujeres que trabajan, which was directed by Manuel Romero, Con las alas rotas directed by Orestes Caviglia and Maestro Levita with Pepe Arias. In 1943 Lumiton produced, Safo, historia de una pasion, adapted from Alphonse Daudet, directed by Carlos Hugo Christensen with Roberto Escalada. Safo was Argentina's first erotic film and was forbidden to minors. There was no nudity in the film, but the innuendo of a sexual encounter between the characters played by Ortiz and Escalada arose from their smoking a cigarette together. She won her first Silver Condor Award for Best Actress for Safo at the 1944 ceremony. The "forbidden" romance of an older woman and a younger man, was repeated in the 1945 sequel El canto del cisne (Swan Song) for which Ortiz won acting awards in Cuba and Brazil, as well as the Argentine Silver Condor Award for Best Actress.

Stability and permanence was rarely found in Argentine theater companies. One of the exceptions was La Compania Argentina de Comedias Mecha Ortiz (the Argentine Comedy Company of Mecha Ortiz) which included a cast of Ortiz, Lola Membrives, Rosa Rosen and Narciso Ibanez Menta. In early 1949, she and the director Luis Mottura, led and managed their own cast, which stayed together for almost a decade, disbanding in 1958. They produced over 15 productions—the best being "Iremos a Valparaiso " by Marcel Achard at the Odeon Theater on 13 May 1949; " “Un tranvia llamado deseo” (A Streetcar Named Desire) by Tennessee Williams at the Casino Theater on 7 July 1952; "Rueda de amantes" by Regas Luz Maria and Juan Albornoz at the Casino Theater on 27 July 1953; "Anna Karenina" by Raymond Rouleau, based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel at the Casino Theater on 11 June 1953; " Tu el angel y yo el demonio " by Maria Luz Regas and Juan Albornoz at the Versailles Theater on 6 April 1954; "Sandra" by Sixto Pondal Rios and Carlos Olivari at the Versailles Theater on 6 April 1955; and "Ardele (la margarita del amor) " by Jean Anouilh and translated by Maria Luz Regas at the Athenaeum Theatre on 23 May 1957.

She starred in films such as Una mujer sin importancia (1945) with Santiago Gomez Cou, which was the first film in which a woman slapped a man; Camino del infierno by Luis Saslavsky with Pedro Lopez Lagar, Amelia Bence and Elsa O'Connor; Las tres ratas (1946) by Carlos Schlieper with Maria Duval; Madame Bovary (1947), Cartas de amor (1951), and Mi vida por la tuya (1951) with Emma Gramatica, in which Ortiz's singing voice was dubbed by Nelly Omar; She played a prison guard in the 1952 film Deshonra by Daniel Tinayre with Fanny Navarro, which featured the first lesbian love affair on Argentine film. La sombra de Safo (1957) under the direction of Julio Porter, reunited Ortiz and Robert Escalada and she made Las Furias (1960) with Elsa Daniel, Aida Luz, Alba Mujica, and Olga Zubarry.

Between 1940 and 1950 she broadcast on the radio on the Teatro del Aire Palmolive with Orestes Caviglia, Pedro Lopez Lagar, and Francisco Petrone. Then beginning in the late 1950s, she appeared in television series, including El mar profundo y azul (1956), Estrellita, esa pobre campesina (1968-1969), Rolando Rivas, taxista (1972-1973), Invitacion a Jamaica (1977) and Aventura '77 (1977). Her last appearance on TV was in 1981 for the ATC Special Christmas 2000 with Rosa Rosen, Duilio Marzio, Luisa Vehil and Iris Marga.

In the 1960s, her career began to decline and she made a suicide attempt, which was stopped by her son. She returned to the theater and did a revival of El proceso de Mary Duggan (1965-1966), Asi es la vida (1967), Cancion para un crepusculo (1968) and several television rolls.

Her return to the screen came a decade later in 1974 with Boquitas pintadas, based on a novel by Manuel Puig, directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, with Alfredo Alcon and Marta Gonzalez. In 1976 along with other stars, like Arturo Garcia Buhr, Mario Soffici, Barbara Mujica and Narciso Ibanez Menta, Ortiz plays in Los muchachos de antes no usaban arsenico. The plot is a black comedy about aging, friendships, madness and greed. Piedra libre (1976) was her last film also directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson with Marilina Ross and Juan Jose Camero.

In 1981, she was awarded the Grand Prize for actresses from the National Endowment for the Arts. She wrote her memoirs under the title Mecha Ortiz by Mecha Ortiz. They were published in 1982.


Her husband, Julian Ortiz, was a farmer in Argentina. When she was twenty-nine, her husband was injured in a fall from a horse. Some articles have said he became a paraplegic, and others that he spent nearly 3 decades in a coma after the accident. Ortiz was dedicated to him and their privacy, which in many instances escalated the mystery and speculation about her. Their son, Julian, became a translator and playwright. Her brother, Jose, was a theatre director, and a sister, Amanda, was also an actress.


She died on 20 October 1987 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


  • Mecha Ortiz por Mecha Ortiz Moreno: Buenos Aires (1982) (In Spanish)
  • References

    Mecha Ortiz Wikipedia