Anthony Quinn – a hypocrite or just a product of his times?


Image result for anthony quinn

Anthony Quinn

When it came to love and marriage Anthony Quinn was a bona fide, gilt-edged hypocrite. He was livid when he found out on his wedding night in 1937 that his first wife, Katherine De Mille, (CB’s adopted daughter) was not a virgin. So he beat her up. As far as he was concerned a wife had to be a virgin. Her first lover had been none other than superstar Clark Gable. Director Victor Fleming had been another. Quinn later claimed he was so distressed by this that it was nearly forty years before he could bring himself to watch Gone with the Wind because Gable was in it and Fleming had directed it.

It almost goes without saying that Tony took lovers, married or unmarried, wherever and whenever he chose. He had children out of wedlock too. Several. As far as Tony was concerned his marital status, or that of his many lovers, had no bearing whatsoever on whom he slept with. He was a man in a man’s world. Even so, he and Katherine would remain together for 27 years and produce five children. A cynic might suggest that an up and coming actor would have been a tad foolish to bash and ditch the daughter of one of the industry’s most prominent directors and expect to still have a career once the dust had settled. He and CB never did get along; not for several years anyway.


Katherine & Tony

Cecil B DeMille

Five kids or not, the love of Quinn’s life was actress Suzan Ball, a nineteen year-old he met on the set of City beneath the Sea in 1952 when he was thirty-eight. Within a year, however, she was stricken with bone cancer that tragically resulted in the amputation of one of her legs. Quinn offered to divorce his long-suffering wife and marry the stricken actress but she refused him. Suzan later wed actor Richard Long, one of the stars of the 60s TV series Big Valley. The story goes that as her husband and family gathered at her deathbed, the final word she whispered was not ‘Richard’. It was ‘Tony’.


Suzan Ball

As Mrs Richard Long

Quinn’s affair with Virginia Hill, the girlfriend of gangster ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, ended when the mobster took Tony into an alley at the point of a gun and quietly suggested he end it – that moment! Tony wholeheartedly concurred. Siegel was scarcely a ‘one-woman guy’, but he was quite obsessed with Hill. Quinn was no ‘one woman guy’ either. His numerous lengthy Hollywood relationships included Marlene Dietrich, Ruth Warrick, and Barbara Stanwyck. One night stands featured Lupe Velez, Evelyn Keyes, Shelley Winters, Margaret Leighton, Yvonne de Carlo and Lili St. Cyr. The ill-fated Carole Lombard and (decades later) the equally doomed Inger Stevens briefly found their way into his bed. Of course, there were scores of other, less famous scalps on his belt.

Virginia Hill & Ben (Bugsy) Siegel

He embarked upon an affair with young Rita Hayworth when they made Blood and Sand together in 1941. Estelle Taylor was still married to boxer Jack Dempsey when she and Quinn were sleeping together, but that was fine according to Tony. His long affair with Maureen O’Hara started in 1946 while she, too, was married to someone else and Tony was still wed to Katherine. He and Ingrid Bergman had known each other for years before they consummated their relationship when they made The Visit together in 1964. ‘I reckon there wasn’t a man who came within a mile of her who didn’t fall in love with her’, he said. Then, he began servicing her daughter Pia Lindstrom at the same time! Mother and daughter even compared notes on his performance in the sack.

Pia & Ingrid 1959

His long affair with Maureen O’Hara eventually turned into friendship. Maureen failed to mention in her autobiography that she and Quinn were ever lovers. Tony was far less reticent in his. ‘She counted the days until her husband returned from overseas’, he wrote, ‘so she could divorce him and marry me…but Maureen and I were not meant to be married. Something always came up to keep us apart, a picture, or another affair, or some problem in the timing. Every once in a while, we landed on the same picture – Against All Flags, The Magnificent Matador – and resumed our affair’. Quinn devoted several pages of his memoirs to their affair, yet Maureen either found it not worth discussing or she had completely forgotten it! Perhaps, her Catholicism and the fact that she was a married woman combined to erase her memory. Or maybe, just maybe, Tony was telling big fat whoppers. I know who I believe. Over their careers Tony and Maureen made six films together, beginning with The Black Swan (1942) and culminating with Only the Lonely in 1991! For that matter, she and John Wayne were said to have been lovers for decades, that it was common knowledge on the sets of their movies, yet she did not mention that in her autobiography either.

O’Hara & Quinn in Sinbad the Sailor (1947)

Tony met wife number two in the early sixties when he went to Rome in 1961 to make Barabbas. In 1966 he ditched Katherine in order to marry his new love Jolanda Addolori, a wardrobe assistant on the movie. Cecil B had died back in 1959 and Quinn had become a very big star by then. One of their sons, Francesco, was good as Rhah in Platoon (1986), but a heart attack would claim him in 2011 at the age of 48. Eventually, his father discarded Jolanda as well after 31 years and three sons together, when his girlfriend, 33 year-old Kathy Benvin, gave birth to their daughter Antonia. Antonia was his 12th child and the fourth born out of wedlock. In all he would marry three times and father 13 children (that we know of).

Tony & Jolandro

Francesco Quinn in Platoon (1986)

When he picked up his first Oscar for playing Brando’s brother in Viva Zapata! (1952), Anthony Quinn became the first Mexican-American to win an Academy Award. In 1957 he did it again when he won for Lust for Life (1956). There were two unsuccessful nominations as well. Personally, I thought his portrayal of Auda Abu Tayi in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) worthy of another nomination, but it was not forthcoming. In a 1973 interview with Cinema TV Today he reminisced about his varied lifetime pursuits: ‘By 21, I’d studied to be a priest, been a preacher with Aimee Semple MacPherson, worked with Mae West and boxed with Primo Canera’. Mae claimed she and Quinn were lovers, but he always denied it. One of his closest friends in the final years of his life was New York crime boss Frank Costello. Quinn passed away in Boston in 2001 at the age of 86.

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 Quinn as Auda Abu Tayi in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)


  1. Mr Royle, I failed to ask you one question: where did you hear that my father (Quinn) beat my mother on their wedding night? Yes, my mother told me how upset he was upon learning she wasn’t a virgin, but I don’t recall her telling me he hit her or beat her. Of course, perhaps she didn’t want me to hear that sort of thing regarding my father. She was very respectful of everyone, no matter if they were family members or not. Thank you so much.

    • Hello, Valentina. Lovely to hear from you again. Unfortunately, I published that article about your dad back in July 2016, so I cannot recall where I got the information from. My sincere apologies to you and your family if the source may have been unreliable. I simply cannot remember for certain.

  2. Hi Alan
    Just wondering about Barbara Stanwyck … are you sure they had an affair? In One Man Tango he said he never thought much of her. I haven’t finished reading The Original Sin yet but I can’t find any mention of it elsewhere.

    • Yes I saw that, it’s one of those things I guess we’ll never really know. Finished reading his first book also and I still couldn’t find anything about Barbara. I have since seen it in some other sources but I find it odd, when he himself says he found her to be calculating.

  3. I came upon your article when I was simply looking around on Google trying to find some more photographs of my father, Anthony Quinn and the rest of our family. I totally agree with the author that my Pop was a HUGE womanizer and left a trail of children in his wake. I’ve met most of them but I can’t say we are close or that we communicate much. He hurt my mother, Katherine so much when he cheated on her and eventually left her, which caused a large hole in my heart since my mother was one of the sweetest, kindest and classiest people I EVER knew. Her heart was huge and right or wrong, she was always there for him whenever he needed to talk, even if it was a need to talk about a difficult time he was having with one of his mistresses!! This, of course, took place after they divorced. I hated Yolanda for what she did to our family, but of course, he was a partner in that “crime”. Anyway, I just wanted to confirm that most of what you’ve written, as far as I know, is true. Thank you for that. Valentina

    • Thankyou very much for your kind note. Since starting my blog I have been fortunate indeed to have been contacted by Carole Landis’s grand-daughter, Nick Adams’ daughter, the grandchild of the much-maligned Paul Bern, even the gentleman who was ‘bumped’ off the doomed aircraft (he was a little boy at the time), to enable Leslie Howard to board and fly to his death. It is a great thrill to find myself communicating with someone so steeped in the history of the movie business as yourself. And I am especially glad I managed to get most of my comments about your father right. For what it’s worth, I thought your brother, Francesco, had great screen presence. Thanks again, Valentina. I hope you and your family stay COVID free.

      • Think speaks to your intelligent, informative posts that family members, friends & acquaintances of subjects feel compelled to write. Standouts sir, in a sea of mediocrity –

        • I used to get quite a few abusive comments, Matt, usually from presidents of fan clubs who simply cannot accept anything but unadulterated praise for their heroes and heroines. I blame that attitude on the image-building garbage churned out by the studios for decades. Today, we are better informed.

    • I’m watching “The Old Man and The Sea”. It speaks well of your father’s talent as an actor. I enjoyed seeing you and your brother as well. Talent runs in your family. It also speaks well of your Mother’s beauty which was passed on to you. I’m very sorry for what he did to your Mother and your family. From what I read; your Mom was a wonderful, loving lady. Some men don’t realize what they have till it is gone.

  4. Sixty years ago I saw La Strada and was absolutely enamored for life with Anthony Quinn. I am sill his greatest fan for life. Amazing actor – I could see his films over and over. His gorgeous voice, his strong sensuous face. he moves his body in dance like no other. His many lovers until the very end – no wonder!! My own country woman Ingrid Bergman and her daughter Pia Lindstrom both in the same period of time and I get it. Quinn was a Mexican and I lived there for years and know how compatible the fabulous Mexican humor is to the Swedish. And the physical attraction. There will be no other actor like him in my lifetime. An actor friend of mine just surprised me with his biography book. It’s honest and I love it. And I would have loved to know him.

  5. A pretty weak attempt at besmirching Maureen O’Hara in relation to Anthony Quinn…that unfortunate lass was married to a bisexual that wanted her to agree to an “open marriage”. If she cheated during that marriage, it was pretty much ignored by her then husband. Choosing scumbag Anthony Quinn as a lover, well, she didn’t have good taste in men…

    • How disrespectful, especially when the first comment here is from his daughter. Apart from being a womaniser, it wasn’t common knowledge, in my life time, that Anthony was a scumbag in fact it seems he was a hugely likeable man.

    • Maureen O’Hara never listed Anthony as a “sex pest” when she famously listed a bunch of A listers and directors in 1945. He also says he always waited for the women to approach him, so at least he wasn’t a pursuing philanderer.

    • Really? Most interesting. That happens a lot in movies, of course. South African friends of mine thought Nicole Kidman’s accent in ‘The Interpreter’ was dreadful. Not being South African I quite liked it. Quinn, of course, was Mexican, not Greek, but as an actor he had an obligation (like Nicole) to get it as right as possible. Meryl Streep does. Her Aussie accent in ‘A Cry in the Dark’ (aka ‘Evil Angels’) was spot on, yet I have heard Danes criticize her accent in ‘Out of Africa’. Thank you for your comment, Ari. Illuminating.

      • I absolutely adore Greece and I have asked many Greek people if Anthony made a “good” Greek or not. I have not come across one Greek person that didn’t like him in the role so his Greek can’t have been too bad. Also he says some really funny things about the different languages he’s had to speak, he had one line that he used over and over and I think he even said it in an acceptance speech. It wasn’t that important back then, mostly they spoke gibberish. He will forever be my favourite actor despite being a terrible womaniser, I can’t help but love him, obviously like a lot of woman couldn’t help it. Whether he got the accent right or not he totally nailed Zorba’s character.

        • Having watched a ZILLION movies in my life, Susan, I am embarrassed to say that I am yet to watch ‘Zorba the Greek’. Somehow it slipped through the cracks. I have, however, discovered that few actors or actresses nail accents well enough for natives to accept their performances. Meryl Streep is an exception, of course. I thought Nicole Kidman did a convincing South African accent in ‘The Interpreter’, until a South African friend canned her effort as ‘woeful’.

          • You must watch it, it’s one of my favourite movies and defo my fav AQ movie. I think he absolutely nails English with a Greek accent though. The way he says “want some soup” is a classic in the opening scene. i can’t recall him speaking much greek in Zorba, it must have been very little.

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