Pedro Armendáriz (born Pedro Gregorio Armendáriz Hastings; May 9, 1912 – June 18, 1963) was a Mexican film actor who made films in both Mexico and the United States. With Dolores del Río and María Félix, he was one of the best-known Latin American movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s.
Armendáriz was born in Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico to Pedro Armendáriz García Conde (Mexican) and Adela Hastings (American). He was also the cousin of actress Gloria Marín. Armendáriz and his younger brother Francisco lived with their uncle Henry Hastings, Sr. in Laredo, Texas after their mother died. He later studied in California. He started in the world of acting by participating in the stage plays performed by the theater group at the University of California, where he continued a career in law. He graduated with an engineering degree from the California Polytechnic State University.
When Armendáriz finished his studies, he moved to Mexico where he worked for the railroad, as a tour guide and as a journalist for the bilingual magazine México Real. He was discovered by film director Miguel Zacarías when Armendáriz recited a soliloquy from Hamlet to an American tourist. His meeting with the director Emilio Fernández was providential. Actor and director began working in numerous films: Soy puro mexicano (1942), Flor silvestre (1942) and specially María Candelaria (1943) were the first films of intense common path. Under the guidance of Emilio Fernández, Pedro Armendáriz developed the film personality traits of a strong nationalist — he often played tough and manly men, indigenous men, peasants, and revolutionaries. Amendáriz repeatedly portrayed Pancho Villa ,and played opposite actresses such as Dolores del Río and María Félix.
With Dolores del Río, Amendáriz formed one of the most legendary couples of the Mexican cinema. María Candelaria provided Armendáriz with international visibility. The film was awarded the Palm d’Or at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival. Other prominent titles where Armendáriz appeared with del Río included Las Abandonadas (1944), Bugambilia (1944) and La Malquerida (1949). Maria Felix was his other partner in such films as Enamorada (1946) and Maclovia (1948).
In the late 1940s, he made the jump to Hollywood, thanks to director John Ford. Armendáriz became a favorite of Ford’s, appearing in three of his films: The Fugitive (1947), Fort Apache, and 3 Godfathers (the latter two in 1948).
Besides his work in Mexican cinema, Armendáriz carved out a significant career in Hollywood and Europe as well. In addition to his work with Ford, he appeared in movies such as We Were Strangers (1949, directed by John Huston), The Torch (1950), Border River (1954), The Conqueror (1956), and Diane (1956), among others. In Europe, he appeared in Lucrèce Borgia (1953), filmed in France. In Mexico, he worked on such notable films such as El Bruto (1953, directed by Luis Buñuel), La Cucaracha (1959), and La Bandida (1962).
Armendáriz’s last appearance was in the second James Bond film, From Russia with Love (1963), as Bond’s ally, Kerim Bey. Armendáriz was terminally ill with cancer during the filming of From Russia with Love, and toward the end of shooting he was too ill to perform his part; his final scenes were performed by his double, director Terence Young. Armendáriz died four months before the release of the film.
Armendáriz was married to actress Carmelita Bohr (née Pardo) by whom he had one son and daughter. Pedro Armendáriz, Jr. also became an actor, and appeared in the James Bond film Licence to Kill (1989); his daughter Carmen Armendáriz, became a TV producer.
Illness and death
In 1956, Armendáriz had a role in the film The Conqueror produced by Howard Hughes. Filmed in the state of Utah at the time when the US government was doing above-ground nuclear testing in neighboring Nevada, within 25 years 91 of the 220 people involved in the production contracted cancer, 46 of whom died.
In rebuttal Pilar Wayne, John Wayne‘s widow, wrote in her autobiography that she did not believe radiation was involved in the deaths of those associated with the film. She claimed she had visited the set many times, as had others, and did not become ill. Instead, she believed her husband’s death and that of the others was solely due to smoking.
Armendáriz began to suffer pain in his hips; years later it was discovered that he had cancer in this region. He learned his condition was terminal while at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, and endured great pain to film From Russia with Love (he visibly limps in most scenes) in order to assure his family financial resources.
On June 18, 1963, Armendáriz committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest with a gun he had smuggled into the hospital. He was 51 years old. He is buried in the Panteón Jardín cemetery in Mexico City, Mexico.