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Rita shows up at Oscars in circa-’62 Pitoy gown

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star
Rita shows up at Oscars in circa-â62 Pitoy gown

Left: Rita Moreno first wore the iconic Pitoy Moreno gown in 1962 when she won Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story, and again at the ‘90scars’ Sunday night when she presented the award for Best Foreign Language Film. Right: With West Side Story co-star George Chakiris who won Best Supporting Actor, also 56 years ago.

“It’s tedious, isn’t it? Or is it just me?”

My good friend Raoul Tidalgo was in Tagbilaran City and I was in Quezon City last Monday, and we were watching the live coverage of the 90th Oscars on HBO.

I assured Raoul that I also found the event “tedious,” although other people might have a different opinion. Different strokes for different folks, you know. And even during the announcement of the acting winners, Raoul and I felt some kind of…could it be?...G-Gap (Generation Gap) because except for the Best Actor and Best Actress, Gary Oldman (for Darkest Hour, his very first award) and Frances McDormand (for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, her second award after Fargo), the other winners were new names (read: unfamiliar to some seniors like Raoul and me).

Oliver Tolentino has designed gowns for Hollywood celebs, including actress Tiya Sircar (left), Filipino director Ramona Diaz (above, right) and Frozen director Jennifer Lee (right)

In jest, I asked Raoul, “Isn’t the Oscars grappling with the onset of years? After all, isn’t Dear Old Oscar already into his ‘90s?” You know, senior-card-carrying like most of the people we know. I’m not sure about other people but I thought “90scars” was somewhat lackluster compared to the previous ones.

What pinched our hearts was the appearance of Rita Moreno (presenter for the Best Foreign Language Film award) on the red carpet wearing a very familiar gown which, she said, was made in the Philippines. Yes, of course, it was the iconic gown designed by Pitoy Moreno for Rita when she won Oscar Best Supporting Actress (for West Side Story) in 1962 along with co-star George Chakiris as Best Supporting Actor.

Isn’t it amazing that Rita has treasured that gown and waited 56 years to flaunt it again in an important Hollywood event watched by millions around the world? Up There, Dear Pitoy must be smiling while watching Rita walked with pride on the red carpet!

For the nth time, here’s how Rita told the story in her autobiography: 

Moreno got the news that she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (for West Side Story), and eventually won, while shooting a B-movie titled Cry of Battle (photo, as a girl guerilla, a hybrid double agent/whore/fighter) with Van Heflin in the Philippines. Yes, it’s true. It was Pitoy Moreno who designed Rita’s gown that she wore when she mounted the stage to receive her trophy at the Oscars night.

“They would release me for only three days,” wrote Rita, “one day to fly over, one day for the Oscar ceremony and one day to fly back to the jungle…I didn’t care. The important thing was that I was going! I ordered a heavily brocaded dress made of special Japanese obi fabric, a gorgeous gown with black bateau top that I still have (and can still get into, happily).”

When she returned triumphant to the jungle location, Rita recalled, “I saw a commotion on the mountain. It was a long procession of people coming down the slope. Every Filipino in the movie was marching down the mountain, singing and calling out congratulations. They all carried signs that said, ‘Mabuhay, Rita! Victory, Rita!’”

The only other Filipino designer whose creation made it to the Oscars is Hollywood-based Oliver Tolentino.

Four years ago, Frozen director Jennifer Lee wore an Oliver Tolentino when the movie won the Best Animated Feature Film award. In the recent awards weekend, acclaimed Filipino director Ramona Diaz walked two red carpets wearing an Oliver Tolentino — first, at the Independent Spirit Awards as nominee for Motherland, one of the five nominated documentaries — “in a black lace cocktail dress with three-fourths sleeves.”

A cinema verité docu produced by Rey Cuerdo, Motherland chronicles seven days at the Fabella Hospital in Manila, the biggest maternity hospital, following the lives of mothers giving birth, receiving training, nursing babies, undergoing counseling and going through the hurdles to be released.

The Spirit was won by Faces Places and the consolation for Ramona was that the winner, director Agnes Varda (a pioneer of the French New Wave film movement), is her idol. Ramona is scheduled to release a fiction feature.

The following day, Ramona attended the Academy Awards in Oliver’s midnight blue floral couture long gown with cowl back, as a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). She is one of the few Filipinos who are members and who get to vote on the Oscars.

Incidentally, Tiya Sircar wore an Oliver Tolentino fuchsia hand-draped chiffon mermaid gown accented with lace cutouts when she attended the party thrown by Jimmy Kimmel, host of the “90scars.” Known for The Internship movie and The Good Place TV show, Sircar has a major project, Alex, Inc., debuting this month in the States, as the wife of Zach Braff (famous for Scrubs).

Oliver has just arrived in the Philippines to work in his Makati boutique until March 15.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

90TH OSCARS

JENNIFER LEE

OLIVER TOLENTINO

PITOY MORENO

RITA MORENO

TIYA SIRCAR

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