Tita Merello (1904-2002) was an Argentine tango dancer, singer, actress and vedette. She was one of the stars of Argentina’s Golden Age of Cinema.
Throughout her long career, which spanned six decades – from the 1930s to the mid-1980s – she appeared in over 30 movies and 20 plays, as well as three different radio series.
Examples of songs strongly associated with Merello are “La milonga y yo” and “Se dice de mi”.
Merello lived a very long life; she died in her hometown Buenos Aires on Christmas Eve 2002 at age 98.
The house in Buenos Aires’ San Telmo neighbourhood were Merello was born has been designated a historical site.
Tita Merello’s autobiography “La calle y yo” was published in Spanish by Editorial Kier in 1972.
Tita Merello was the stage name for Laura Ana Merello, who was born in San Telmo, Buenos Aires on 11 October 1904. Her father Santiago Merello was a coachman and her mother Ana Gianelli, who was from Uruguay, ironed clothes. Laura Ana Merello eventually got a half-brother, Pascual Anselmi, who had a different father than her.
Santiago Merello died of tuberculosis before Larua Ana was even a year old. The family struggled with poverty, and when she was five years old she was sent to an orphan asylum so her mother could work.
Laura Ana was eventually moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, where she was forced to do maid work without being paid. At age 9, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a farm in the Buenos Aires Province where she worked for room and board. Her duties included milking cows, cutting yerba and cooking food for the other workers.
She did not attend school and didn’t learn how to read and write.
Moving back to Buenos Aires
At 12 years of age, Laura Ana moved back to her mother in Buenos Aires, and took a job at a seedy night club called Ba Ta Clán. At some point around 1917, the young Laura Ana got a job as a showgirl at Teatro Avendia. When performing in her very first play, “Las virgenes de teres”, she was booed off the stage. After this humiliating experience she swore to never sing again. Fairly soon, she broke this promise as she was desperate for work and could earn som money singing in cafés along Avenida de Mayo. Here, her rendition of the tango “Titina” became very popular.
When she was 15 years old she med Eduardo Borrás, the editor of the newspaper La Nacion, and he thought her how to do some basic reading and also introduced her to a Simón Yrigoyen Iriondo who helped her become literate. Around the same time, she was working in the chorus line at Teatro Porteño.
When Laura Ana was 16 years old her mother died from tuberculosis. Now homeless, Laura Ana moved brief periods here and there, making rounds between friends and family members. She worked as a vedette under the name La Vedette Rea and became known for her expressiveness. Her singing voice wasn’t great, but the way she expressed herself was well suited for dramatic tango and the audience liked it.
In 1923, Laura Ana Merello was hired as a showgirl in the revue “Las Modernas Scherezadas” at the celebrated Teatro Maipo, and this would be the start of a much better worklife than what she had struggled with before. Now, she was performing alongside establishes stars such as Marcos Caplán and Pepe Arias. At Teatro Maipo, Merello showed off her talants singing the tango “Trago amargo”.
Las Modernas Scherezadas was fallowed by ¿Quién dijo miedo? And then Mujeres, flores y alegría. One of the tangos she sang was “Pedime lo que Querés”, a tune composed by Francisco Canaro and with lyrics by Juan Andrés Caruso.
In 1925, Merello premiered the tango “Leguisamo Solo”, written by Modesto Papavero as a tribute to the Urugayan jockey Irenaeus Leguisamo.
After her success with revues, Merello got a chance to try something different, as she was cast in the dramatic play “El Lazo”.
In 1927, Merello returned to her tango roots and performed “Un tropezón” at the Maipo theatre. She also recorded a lot; no less than 18 tangos in 1927-1929 – and all in her characteristic dramatic style.
In 1929 and 1930 she recorded for RCA Victor, songs suc has “Che… Pepinito” and “Te has comprado un automovil”.
Highlights from the 1930s
|1931||Merello starts working at the magazines Revista Voces and Revista Nocturno. For her first published article, she is paid 200 pesos. She is now a press card carying journalist.|
|1931||After over 1,000 performances, Libertad Lamarque wants to quit the extremely popular “El conventillo de la Paloma” and offers Merello her role, which Merello gladly accepts.|
|1932||Merello works on “La Muchachada del centro”, where she sings a tango of the same name. The play becomes a great hit and runs for almost 900 performances.|
|1933||Merello performs in Argentina’s very first sound film, the famous ¡Tango!|
|1934||Merello performs in “Idolos de la radio”, a musical film starring many of Argentina’s most prominent radio stars.|
|1935||Merello stars in “Noches de Buenos”|
|1937||Merello has a comic role in “Así es el tango”|
|1937||Merello has a dramatic role in “La fuga” and performs the tango “Niebla del Riachuelo”.|
After her movie roles, Merello commenced a theatrical run in Montevideo, Uruguay where she played in Enrique Larreta’s play “Santa María del Buen Ayre”. This was to be one of Merello’s most highly acclaimed theatrical performance.
Highlights from the 1940s
|1941||Merello was in Ladislao Fodor’s play “Sexteto” in Teatro Artigas in Montevideo, Uruguay|
|1942||Merello acts in the movie Ceniza|
|1942||Merello acts in the movie 27 millones, but this movie isn’t released until five years later.|
|1943||Merello premiered the play “Buenos Aires de ayer y de hoy” in Montevideo. In the play, in which she has a leading role, she sings the song “Se dice de mi” which was to become somewhat of a signature song for her.|
|1944||“Buenos Aires de ayer y de hoy” comes to Teatro Alvear in Buenos Aires, where it runs 600 times.|
|1944||Merello stars in “Dos corazones” at the Alvear, singing “Todo es mentira” and “¿Qué tal?”. After completing its season in Argentina, the play moved to Uruguay.|
|1945||Merello acts in “Una mujer y un hombre”.|
|1945-1946||Merello brings “Sexteto” from Uruguay to Argentina, Mexico and Chile.|
|1946||Late in the year, Merello and Sandrini goes to Mexico, where she plays a cabaret woman in the film “Cinco rostros de mujer”.|
|1947||Merello returns to Argentina for the musical comedic play “Melan Luce Sus Pistolas” at Teatro Casino.|
|1948||For her work in “Faces”, Merello recives the Ariel Award as Best Supporting Actress.|
|1948||Merello and Sandrini stars together in “Don Juan Tenorio”, a movie released in early 1949.|
|1948-1949||Merello stars in the play “Filomena Marturano” at the Politeama, Smart and Odeon theatres. The play is a great success and earns wide acclaim. It is even turned into a movie in 1950 starring Merello!|
|1949||Merello is in “La historia del tango”, directed by Manuel Romero|
|1949||Merello starts making frequent appearances at the radio show “Ahora habla una mujer” on the Private Broadcasting Network|
Highlights from the 1950s
The 1950s was a busy decade for Merello. Among other things, she starred in “Arrabelera” (1950) which turned out to be one of her most highly acclaimed movie roles.
She earner two Premios Sur and three Silver Condor awards for her film work during the first half of the decade; two for Arrabalera, two for Los Isleros and one for Guacho. Los Isleros and Guacho were both directed by Lucas Demare, with whom Merello also did the Mercado de abasto movie.
1995 was a busy year for Merello, who did three films and also lived through a turbulent time in Argentine history as a military coup d’état ended the presidency of Juan Perón and sent many peronistas into exile.
After the coup d’état
Merello had not been a political actor, but her success during the Perón era still made her disliked by the new rulers, and an investigation commission accused her of having trafficked Ceylon tea. She fled to Mexico but was unable to find work there. Eventually, she returned to Argentina after being invited by fellow tango singer and actor Hugo del Carril. Merello was banned from working in mainstream theatre, so she worked for a while in an amusement park and then made shows with del Carril out of the eyes of the censors. She also recorded music with Francisco Canaro, and worked in a circus.
In 1957, Merello went back to Mexico to do a television production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Before Breakfast” (“Antes del desayuno” in Spanish). The following year, Arturo Frondizi was elected president in Argentina and Merello was allowed to work in Argentinian movies and mainstream theatres again. She returned right away and worked in two different stage productions during the same year: “Amorina” and “Luces de Buenos Aires”. In the latter one, she had one of the leading roles, together with del Carril and Mariano Mores. In 1959, she starred in “Miércolose de ceniza”.
Highlights from the 1960s
“Estrellas en el Avenia” (1961)
“La Moreira” (1962)
“Carolina Peternóster” (1963)
“El andador” (1965)
A film version of the play “Amorina”, directed by Hugo del Carril (1961)
“Los evadidos” (1964)
“Ritmo nuevo, vieja ola” (made in 1964, relased in 1965)
“La industria del matrimonio” (1964)
“Los hipócritas” (1965)
“El andador” (1967)
“¡Ésto es alegría!“ (1967)
“¡Viva la vida!” (1969)
The Channel 11 telenovela “Acacia Montero” (1964)
Merello made around 40 recordings in the 1960s with Carlos Figari and Héctor Varela’s orchestra.
Highlights from the 1970s
- In 1970-1971, Merello hosted the talk show “Charlando de todo con Tita” on Channel 13. She gave advice, sang and told anecdotes.
- Her autobiography “La calle y yo” (The street and I) was published in 1972.
- Examples of plays she acted in are “Astros y estrellas” and “En vivo y al desnudo”. In 1976, she participated in a revue at Teatro Astros led by Adolfo Stray and Thelma Tixou.
- Examples of films she acted in are “La Madre María”, “La risa es salud” and “El cuanto cuenta su historia”.
Highlights from the 1980s and 1990s
- The film “Los miedos” (1980)
- The talk show “Todo Tita” on the ATC Channel (1981)
- Her last theatrical appearance was in the play “Para alquiar baclones” in 1984, where she had one of the leading roles together with Hugo del Carril and Osvaldo Pacheco.
- Her last film was “Las barras bravas” (1985).
- In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Merello made a lot of guest appearances on Argentine television.
- In 1990-1992, she appeared in the series “Polémica en el bar” on the ATC Channel
Merello never married, but she was in a long-term relationship with the actor Luis Sandrini whom she first met while filming ¡Tango!. After being friends for a few years, they developed a romantic relationship in the late 1930s and Merello referred to him as the love of her life. They went to Mexico together in 1946, but she couldn’t accompany him to Europe when he left in 1948. When Sandrini returned to South America, he met the actress Malvina Pastorino in Uruguay and the two got married in 1952.
- ¡Tango! (1933)
- Idolos de la radio (1934)
- Buenos Aires Nights (1935)
- Así es el tango (1937)
- La fuga (1937)
- Ceniza al viento (1942)
- 27 millones (1942)
- Five Faces of Woman (1947)
- Don Juan Tenorio (1949)
- La historia del tango (1949)
- Morir en su ley (1949)
- Filomena Marturano (1950)
- Arrabalera (1950)
- Los isleros (1951)
- Vivir un instante (1951)
- Pasó en mi barrio (1951)
- Deshonra (1952)
- Gaucho (1954)
- Mercado de abasto (1955)
- Para vestir santos (1955)
- El Amor Nunca Muere (1955)
- La Morocha (1955)
- Amorina (1961)
- Los evadidos (1964)
- Ritmo nuevo, vieja ola (1964)
- La industria del matrimonio (1964)
- Los hipócritas (1965)
- Al Corazón (1966)
- ¡Ésto es alegría! (1967)
- El Andador (1967)
- ¡Viva la vida! (1969)
- La Madre María (1974)
- El canto cuenta su historia (1976)
- Los miedos (1980)
- Las barras bravas (1985)
About Tita Merello
- 1 Autobiography
- 2 Background
- 3 Moving back to Buenos Aires
- 4 Break through
- 5 Recording tangos
- 6 Highlights from the 1930s
- 7 Highlights from the 1940s
- 8 Highlights from the 1950s
- 9 After the coup d’état
- 10 Highlights from the 1960s
- 11 Highlights from the 1970s
- 12 Highlights from the 1980s and 1990s
- 13 Luis Sandrini
- 14 Filmography (selected)
Types of Tangos