Her niece, Lucy Tovar, confirmed the news on Facebook. The Washington Post reports that she died in her Los Angeles home.
Tovar was widely considered Hollywood royalty, and not only for her own impact in Mexican cinema. She married high-powered Hollywood producer Paul Kohner, and became the matriarch to a family that was involved in the entertainment industry for generations. Her daughter, Susan Kohner, received an Oscar nomination for her role in “Imitation of Life” in 1959, and her grandsons, Chris and Paul Weitz, co-directed such movies as “American Pie” in 1999 and “About a Boy” in 2002.
Tovar was discovered by talent scouts at the age of 16, and would go on to appear in a handful of films in the silent era. Once the era of talkies transitioned to movies with sound, her heavily accented English posed a drawback in conventional Hollywood films. However, she would go on to profoundly impact Mexican cinema, appearing in Spanish-language versions of Hollywood movies.
In 1931’s racy Spanish-language “Dracula,” Tovar played Eva Stewart, who came under the spell of Carlos Villarías’ evil Dracula. The Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2015.
Tovar starred in “Santa” in 1932, and was marketed as “the sweetheart of Mexico” for the role. In the movie, she played a humble country girl who, after being cheated on by an arrogant husband, finds shelter in a whore house. The Mexican government issued a stamp featuring Tovar in the appearance of the role decades later.
Tovar garnered 31 acting credits over 16 years, and worked with the likes of Henry Fonda and Gene Autry. She received the Ariel Award, Mexico’s equivalent of an Oscar, in 2001.