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Rita Moreno on facing sexism in the industry

"I really was very often treated like a sex object." Rita Moreno recalls the sexism and power abuse she suffered at the hands of big Hollywood moguls.

AIRED: October 05, 2021 | 0:02:56
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TRANSCRIPT

- I really was very often treated like a sex object.

(sultry jazz music)

One of the things the publicity department

would do sometimes is fix you up on a date

with somebody who actually wanted arm candy.

(sultry jazz music)

- The studio would ask contract players

to go out on pretend dates.

And every time your picture was in a magazine,

they mentioned 20th Century Fox, your next picture.

When you're in a contract to a studio, they own you.

I think Rita and I, and most of the girls then expected it.

- I was in my early twenties.

They said, "Go to this cocktail party 'cause

there's gonna be a lot of important people there

and this fellow that we're,

we'd like to fix you up with is kind of well-known

and it might do you some good."

I thought, oh, okay, we'll go to the cocktail party.

The host, the man who ran a big whiskey distillery

comes over to me, he says,

"Come on, I'll introduce you to people."

And he introduced me to Harry Cohn,

the head of Columbia Studios.

A distinctly vulgar and crude man.

And before I knew it, he actually said to me,

"You know, I'd like to (beep) you."

That may have been the third time in my life

I heard that word used.

And what did I do?

I giggled like an idiot and just backed away.

The host of the evening, that Mr. Distillery,

Mr. Whiskey comes over to me and he said,

"Why don't you dance with me?"

And I said, "Sure."

So we started to dance and he began

to press against me very, very hard.

And before I knew it, he started to get a little bit

of sweat beads on his upper lip.

And he started to breathe heavily.

And he was really, he wasn't pressing against me,

he was grinding against me.

And he actually said,

"You're a sexy little bitch, aren't you?"

And I went out into the garden

where I found the Mexican gardeners,

'cause this was an afternoon party,

tears again, started to say, "I need your help.

I have to go home."

They didn't need an explanation.

They kinda knew.

And they put one of their jackets on me

and took me home to my little cottage in Culver City.

And those were the first gentlemen

I had seen that whole afternoon.

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