Xavier Loyá: Marilyn’s Mexican Actor Friend

Actor Xavier Loyá has died aged 92, Infobae reports. He was born in Mexico City in 1927, and raised in Yucatán. Son of the acclaimed bullfighter ‘El Güero Hernández’, and nephew of the poet and musician Agustín Lara, Xavier began studying theatre aged sixteen at the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City.

In 1949, he starred in a stage adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Dead Without Burial. After he joined the National Association of Actors in 1950, the Cuban actress and writer Marta Elba asked him to take over the lead in another Sartre play, The Respectful Prostitute.

Xavier made his screen debut in Traces of the Past (1950), playing the estranged son of Argentine star Libertad Lamarque. The great Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel gave him supporting roles in Daughter of Deceit (1951) and A Woman Without Love (1952), under the name Javier Loya.

His resemblance to the handsome French actor Alain Delon did not go unnoticed, and Xavier would appear in thousands of fotonovelas, as well as Unbridled Youth (1956), the first Mexican film to address juvenile delinquency.

In the late 1950s, Xavier attended the Actors Studio in New York City, where his fellow students included Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe. In 1960, he returned to the big screen in The Caudillo’s Shadow, a movie tracing the politics of post-revolutionary Mexico, banned for decades but now considered one of the greatest Mexican films ever made. This was followed by a cult horror flick, The Curse of the Doll People, and The Happy Musketeers, an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, in 1961.

In early 1962 Xavier worked with Buñuel again in one of the director’s most acclaimed films. Starring Silvia Pinal, The Exterminating Angel told the bizarre tale of a dinner party in Franco’s Spain, where the upper-class guests find themselves unable to leave.

While The Exterminating Angel was in production, Marilyn Monroe was enjoying a short break in Mexico and buying furnishings for her new home in Los Angeles. In the second volume of his two-part biography, Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, Gary Vitacco Robles describes her visit to the set, where she was introduced to Buñuel and reunited with Xavier, her Actors Studio friend. It’s possible that her friend, the American expatriate Fred Vanderbilt Field, arranged the meeting.

 

“In a geometric-patterned Pucci sheath, Marilyn next visited an estate home where Spanish director Luis Buñuel was filming El Angel Exterminador … The cast included a baby bear rented from a circus that chases several sheep into the house … Silvia Pinal later said Marilyn arrived ‘impeccably groomed’ and contrasted glaringly with the cast. who were covered in honey and dirt so they appeared unkempt and grimy. For 23-year-old actress Jacqueline Andere, Marilyn’s arrival rivalled the entrance of a live bear on the set. ‘We saw her come in with a glass of champagne,’ Andere remembered. ‘First the bear, and now Marilyn Monroe. It was too much for me, at the age I was.’

Marilyn stood behind the camera as Buñuel took over from an animal handler and taught the bear to emit a growl while it perched on a swinging chandelier. The director seemed more patient coaching the beast than his human actors. Marilyn told Buñuel the scene was superb and jokingly asked if he had whispered into the bear’s ear for motivation for the scene. He found humour in her questions. Then Marilyn asked, ‘What does it mean?’ (Marsha Kinder published their dialogue.) ‘What does it mean to you?’ he countered.

‘It means that the growls a bear makes while hanging on a chandelier makes more sense than all the noise of the tiresome, uncaring people trapped in the room,’ she replied. ‘Exactly what I intended,’ Buñuel replied, applauding her astute interpretation. They embraced; it was a meeting of the minds. ‘Now tell me,’ Buñuel said, ‘how do you see life?’ ‘I see life as long, meaningless …’ Marilyn began as the sound of a plane roared overhead. ‘Talking, everybody just talking …. obviously.’ In another version of this conversation, Buñuel quipped, ‘Yes, the bourgeois are always walking.’ The interaction inspired Buñuel’s 1972 film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie about interruptions that prevent six Parisians from dining.

Buñuel included a recurring, surrealistic sequence of the dinner party guests dressed in formal attire continuously strolling along a barren country road.”

Considering the wonderful films Buñuel would go on to make with Catherine Deneuve, one wonders what a future collaboration with Marilyn might have produced. But this was not to be, as six months later, she took a fatal overdose at home in Los Angeles.

Later that year, Xavier made his television debut with a recurring part in the Mexican soap opera, Greed. He played a leading role in Guadalajara in Summer (1965), and appeared in Westerns like Juan Miranda and Capulina Speedy Gonzales (1970), and the biblical epics Jesus, Our Lord (1971) and Jesus, Mary and Joseph (1972.)

In later life, Xavier co-wrote and starred in Mistress of the Night (1991), and appeared in several TV movies. His final screen credit was in A Boy Undone (2017), a gay love story. He remained active until shortly before his death, writing and supervising scripts.

Thanks to Marilyn Mexico