Tito Guizar, Mexican Singer
Tito Guizar, Born Federico Guizar Tolentino in Guadalajara on April 8, 1908. Guizar was one of the first Mexican actors to star in Hollywood becomin Mexico's first singing cowboy on the big screen, acting alongside Bob Hope and Roy Rogers.
In a career that spanned over seven decades, Guízar trained early as an opera singer and traveled to New York to study with the great masters of that era. In 1929 he recorded the songs of Agustín Lara. In addition, Guízar performed both operatic and Mexican popular songs at Carnegie Hall, but he succeeded with his arrangements of popular Mexican and Spanish melodies such as Cielito Lindo, La Cucaracha, Granada, and You Belong to My Heart (English version of Solamente una Vez). Though he was a good tenor, Guizar's teachers told him that he had "a better shot at singing Mexican ranchera songs than in the competitive world of opera,"
In 1936, his film Allá en el Rancho Grande," is recognized for launching the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.and the singing charro in Mexico. His popularity spread to the United States, where he started hosting a New York-based national radio show called "Tito Guizar and His Guitar."
Guizar starred in at least 40 films. His presence on screen was still highly prized by directors of TV soap operas in his native land. His early work in radio and film north of the border helped open the path for his countrymen in the lucrative U.S. entertainment market.
Tall, with Rudolph Valentino-like looks, Guizar starred in dozens of films, including The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938) starring Hope, W.C. Fields, Dorothy Lamour and Martha Raye, Tropic Holiday (1938), St. Louis Blues (1939), The Llano Kid (1939), Brazil (1944), and The Gay Ranchero (1948), playing with such stars as Evelyn Keyes, Dorothy Lamour, Ray Milland, Ann Miller, Martha Raye, Roy Rogers, Mae West and Keenan Wynn. In 1947, he appeared with Roy Rogers in films and on the TV Western "On the Old Spanish Trail
Cheryl Barnett, Rogers' daughter, says Roy and Guizar became friends, often visiting each other's families in the United States and Mexico. Barnett said that as a 9-year-old she would gaze upon Rogers and Guizar "as two of the most dashing, handsome gentlemen I had ever seen."
With his charismatic persona, Guizar helped Hollywood open up more diverse role for Mexican actors, who often portrayed only bandits or peasants.
Through the 1940s Guizar was one of the first Latino performers to get billing in such top U.S. venues as Carnegie Hall, the Waldorf Astoria and the Hollywood Bowl.
In the early 1950s, Guizar had a television program in Los Angeles on KTTV. Toward the end of the decade, he returned to Mexico to star in the sequel to "Alla en El Rancho Grande.' Guizar continued acting in films and performing until the early 1990’s playing series parts in Mexican television, when his wife of 57 years, Carmen, died.
"He went into depression," said Lilia Inclan, Guizar's daughter, who lives in Los Angeles.
Guizar came out of retirement in 1994 when the owner of Mexico's most powerful media corporation, asked him if he would accept a part in the "Marimar" telenovela, said entertainment writer Ramon Inclan, Guizar's son-in-law.
"Marimar," a slick prime-time soap opera, starred Thalia, one of Mexico's most popular actresses during the 1990s. Guizar played Thalia's grandfather in the soap. Viewers wept when Guizar's character died during an arson fire.
Working in soap operas helped rekindle Guizar's interest in acting, he said in July. He would be a mainstay in Spanish-language soaps of the late 1990s, which included the popular "La Usurpadora" and 1999's "El Prilegio de Amar."
Guizar enjoyed working along younger actors and said he followed their careers. He also kept abreast of new young Latino talent like Ricky Martin, who gained U.S. crossover appeal six decades after Guizar began having success among U.S. audiences.
"It nurtures me in a spiritual way," Guizar said of their successes.
Guizar suffered injuries in a fall earlier in 1999. But he kept performing and acting, mostly in Mexico.
In July 1999, the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles honored Guizar on his 70 years in show business. Though Guizar walked with the aid of a cane, he remained as lucid and joyful as ever at age 91. He delighted fans and friends at that ceremony with his operatic version of "Rigoletto." Some of those present were moved to tears when he performed a capella "Alla en El Rancho Grande."
Despite his long history in show business, Guizar once said that neither the past nor future mattered. What is important, he said, is the present: "The past is dust, the future . . . who knows?"
Guizar died December 25th in San Antonio, Texas at age 91, where he was visiting relatives for the Christmas holidays.