Telenovela producer and actor Ernesto Alonso, known as “Mr. Telenovela” for his long-spanning career that defined the style of Mexican soaps, died Tuesday Aug. 7 from pneumonia at his Mexico City home. He was 90.
Born Ernesto Ramirez Alonso in the rural, central state of Aguascalientes, he pursued acting from his youth. He got his break in the late 1930s when the Blanch sisters’ theater company came to town and Anita and Isabel took the 20-year old Alonso back with them to Mexico City, where he studied at the national theater school.
After making his name in theater, Alonso rose as a star of Mexico’s “golden age of cinema” in the ’40s and ’50s. He worked with Luis Bunuel, narrating his “Los Olvidados” and staring in “Rehearsal for a Crime.”
Alonso later joined the ranks of a young Televisa in 1959, where he became the patriarch of the network’s brand of telenovelas. He produced and directed some 40 primetime sudsers and left his imprint on proteges like producers Salvador Mejia and Carla Estrada.
His most-remembered telenovelas include the 1983 “El Maleficio,” in which he also starred as a devil-worshiping Mafioso. He continued producing until last year.
Alonso never married, but he adopted a son and a daughter who gave him eight grandchildren. He was an intimate friend of Mexican divas like Maria Felix, Dolores del Rio and Andrea Palma.