Rita Moreno made history in 1962 when she became the first Latina to win an acting Oscar, and Joan Crawford was eager to steal the spotlight.

The Puerto Rican actress won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her portrayal of Anita in “West Side Story.” And when she went offstage to bask in the glory, there was the screen star waiting for her. Moreno, 92, recalled the incident to Dave Karger for his book, “50 Oscar Nights.”

“Joan Crawford was legendary in Hollywood for stealing the thunder of other people,” the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) host told Fox News Digital. 

“During that Oscar night, she managed to be waiting in the wings with a photographer. The moment Rita Moreno came off the stage with her Oscar, Joan just grabbed her and pulled her into her bosom. She tried to console her, even as Rita kept saying she didn’t need any consoling. But Joan insisted on getting a great picture with the Oscar.”


“That’s Joan Crawford for you,” Karger chuckled. “I thought the story was hilarious, and it just adds to the legend of Joan Crawford. I was delighted when Rita told me that story.”

Crawford, who achieved the pinnacle of her fame in the ‘40s, was “drunk as a skunk on vodka,” Moreno said.

“There’s Joan Crawford waiting for me,” said Moreno, as quoted in the book. “I’d never met her in my life. There was a photographer waiting for her to greet me, which she had arranged, I’m sure. And she grabbed me and squashed my face against her bosom. I mean, she was built like a linebacker. She wouldn’t let me go. Her breath was very strong of something alcoholic; I couldn’t tell what it was.”

“The photographer kept saying, ‘Miss Crawford, I can’t see Miss Moreno’s face,’” Moreno shared. “And she’d say, ‘Oh, but she’s so upset. There, there, dear.’ She would not let me go. And I kept saying, ‘I’m not upset!’ My voice was muffled against her bosom. And my face is all being squashed against her linebacker chest. 

“Finally, it took a couple of people to wrest me from her grasp. Then two weeks later, when I’m back in Manila [to film], I get this note: ‘Darling Rita, I cannot tell you how thrilled and moved I was that, at the most wonderful moment in your life, you took the time to stop and say hello to me. Thank you, darling. Joan Crawford.’”

Crawford first soared to stardom in the 1920s. By the 1930s, she was one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. But by the ‘40s, her career began to dwindle, and she was labeled “box office poison” to her horror. She bounced back in 1946 when she won the Oscar for best actress in “Mildred Pierce.”

“Joan Crawford claimed she was too sick to go to the ceremony,” said Karger. “But when she won, she accepted her award in bed — with photographers ready to take her photo.”


From the confines of her Brentwood boudoir, a glammed-up Crawford told reporters, “Whether the academy voters were giving the Oscar to me, sentimentally, for ‘Mildred,’ or for 200 years of effort, the hell with it – I deserved it.”

Crawford got herself into the Oscar spotlight once more in 1963 when she offered to accept Anne Bancroft’s award on her behalf for “The Miracle Worker.” Crawford even posed with the other winners after making a speech for Bancroft.

Crawford’s rival, Bette Davis, was nominated that evening while Crawford wasn’t.

“Joan did not want me to have that Oscar,” Davis later told Barbara Walters, as quoted by the New York Post. “She worked very hard, campaigned very hard, talking to all of the New York people, saying, ‘If you win, I’ll accept your Oscar.’ I thought I should have had it. … She cut off her own nose, just so I wouldn’t win.”

As for Moreno, she made history on her special night for another reason — giving one of the shortest Oscar speeches. The gushing star told audiences, “I can’t believe it! Good Lord! I leave you with that.”

“She told me that she wishes she had the wherewithal to give a proper speech and speak about the importance of representation and being that very rare thing, a Latina Oscar winner,” said Karger. “I’m glad that she expressed that in this book because it’s never too late to make the points that you want to make. 

“Just because she didn’t say it back then doesn’t mean she can’t say it now. She won her Oscar over 60 years ago, and I was so impressed that she could vividly recall all the things she felt that day. I was astonished by how much she remembered.”

Crawford died in 1977. She was 69.

For years, Moreno’s Oscar was stored in a carton.

“One thing that really surprised me doing all of these interviews for this book was how many felt shy about displaying their Oscars in a public place,” said Karger. “If I had an Oscar, I would carry it around with me wherever I went. But a lot of these performers, for whatever reason, felt shy about displaying it. Rita Moreno had hers sitting in a cardboard box out of view.


“Her new husband at the time later learned that it was sitting in this cardboard box,” Karger continued. “He tells her, ‘Why? You earned this. You should have it out on display. Be proud of it.’ Rita said, ‘You’re right.’ Now she does. Rita has all of her awards on display now — her Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony. She has them all on display on her bookshelf.”