A living legend, Rita Moreno is one of the most outspoken actresses in Hollywood. And her story about dating Elvis Presley is brutally honest. Apparently, Moreno used him to get back at her on-and-off boyfriend Marlon Brando — but she was not impressed.
Rita Moreno and Marlon Brando
The love affair between Rita Moreno and Marlon Brando was as fiery and dramatic as their famed performances. The two actors met in 1954 on the set of Désirée; Moreno was 22 and Brando, 30, was playing the lead role of Napoleon in the film.
“Just meeting him that first day sent my body temperature skyrocketing as though I had been dropped into a very hot bath, and I went into a full-body blush,” Moreno wrote in her 2013 memoir. “It was the sort of rush that inspires poetry and songs… To say that he was a great lover — sensual, generous, delightfully inventive — would be gravely understating what he did not only to my body, but for my soul.”
Suffice to say, Moreno was smitten. But it was not all rosy between the pair as they embarked on what became a messy, eight-year relationship marked by Brando’s rampant cheating. “He broke my heart and came close to crushing my very spirit with his physical infidelities and, worse, with his emotional betrayals,” Moreno said.
On one such occasion, Moreno found ladies’ lingerie in Brando’s home and was heartbroken. And that’s when the phone rang… it was Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager. He was calling on behalf of the King.
Rita Moreno and Elvis Presley
Rita Moreno opened up about her brief experience dating Elvis Presley on The View in 2021.
First, she described the devastation of finding out that Marlon Brando was cheating on her — again. “I was heartbroken, and I went home in tears — really, I was naïve — and I was angry too, just furious,” Moreno told the View panel. “[Then] the next day, the phone rings, and I hear, ‘Miss Marina?’” Telling the story, her voice dips into a low Southern drawl. She continued: ‘This is Colonel Parker. My client is Elvis Presley, and Elvis spotted you at the 20th Century Fox commissary. And he liked what he saw.’”
Instantly, Moreno was interested. “I said ‘Oh?’ and he said, ‘And he would like very much to meet you. Would you like to meet him?’” In that moment, the star knew what she needed: a rebound. “I thought of those panties, and I said, ‘Yes, I would!’”
When Elvis calls, you answer. And indeed, Moreno did meet up with the King for a few dates but there was no spark. She called him “sweet but boring.” Simply put: “He was a country boy.” Previously, Moreno made similar comments about Elvis in Esquire. Poor Elvis!
Though short-lived, Brando quickly found out about Moreno’s tryst with the rock sensation. And he was not happy. “[Brando] found out, it didn‘t take long,” Moreno said on The View. “He started to throw chairs. He was so angry.” But the actress, ever the drama queen, could barely contain her grin while describing his jealous rage: “It was wonderful.”
So Moreno reunited with Brando, at least temporarily, but their relationship was always doomed. Though she still calls him the “lust of my life,” their romance was twinged with a certain darkness. Brando, it seems, held all the power. “My relationship with Marlon was the classic example of looking for acceptance from someone who is incapable of giving it,” she told Esquire in 2021. “You’re trying to get daddy to love you, and you inevitably pick someone who is incapable of feeling that way about you.”
Interestingly, their dynamic sounds a lot like what Brando carried on with another up-and-coming actor of the era: James Dean. More on that here.