Myrtle Gonzalez was a prolific film actress a century ago. Gonzalez, widely regarded as Hollywood’s first Latina and Spanish actress, appeared in nearly 80 silent films between 1913 and 1917.
Google on Wednesday published a doodle to celebrate Gonzalez’s contribution to cinema on the 108th anniversary of the release of one of her most iconic films, 1914’s The Level. Wednesday’s doodle depicts Gonzalez on a frequent shooting location of hers — in three feet of snow in the woods.
Gonzalez was born in Los Angeles in 1891 to a family of Spanish and Irish descent. While her father was a grocer, Gonzalez’ mother was a former popular opera singer. Apparently captured by her mother, Gonzalez shows off her talented soprano voice while performing in local concerts and church choirs.
When film production moved to California to take advantage of more diverse filming locations, Gonzalez jumped at the opportunity to join the film industry. I’ve typically played daring, outdoorsy heroines who overcome the challenges of a treacherous wilderness.
Gonzales retired from the film industry in 1917 when she married an actor and director named Allen Watt. She died less than a year later at the age of 27, a victim of the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Like many films from the silent era, much of her work has been lost over the decades. However, some of her films have been preserved by the Library of Congress.