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Sasha Montenegro: The Original Night Beauty

There are personalities that go beyond their private lives, which is the case of the beautiful actress Sasha Montenegro, whose romance and marriage with former president José López Portillo was and will continue to be a source for the tabloids and gossip TV programs that are so common in our country.

Indeed, the film career of Aleksandra Aćimović Popović (Bari, Italy, January 20, 1946-Cuernavaca, Morelos February 14, 2024) is above the dynamics of power and entertainment in the Mexico of the 1970s and 1980s, her most prolific cinematographic period. Of Yugoslavian heritage, her parents fled the horrors of the war during which part of her family died in concentration camps. From Italy, she moved to Argentina where she studied classical dance and journalism and, following an offer to act in a film, she arrived in Mexico in 1961 to make her debut in Un sueño de amor (1971), a cheesy melodrama by Rubén Galindo with José José and the very young Verónica Castro playing a blind woman. Sasha represents here the singer's traumatic memories: his first love, who died in tragic circumstances. The impact of her appearance was such that she immediately obtained deals for brief roles in: Acapulco 12-22Hijazo de mi vidaza or Pistoleros bajo el sol and, above all, to join the wrestler movies that claimed new beauties at the beginning of the seventies. Sasha Montenegro became the queen of that genre in those early years: Santo contra los asesinos de otros mundosSanto contra la magia negraNoche de muerteAnónimo mortalSanto y Blue Demon contra el Dr. FrankensteinLas bestias del terror or Los vampiros de Coyoacán.

Sasha Montenegro

However, she would also participate as a beautiful circus performer in the episode Esperanza de Fe, Esperanza y Caridad (1972) directed by Luis Alcoriza. She would also co-star in Mario Hernandez's Peregrina/El asesinato de Carrillo Puerto (1973) with Antonio Aguilar as Yucatan governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto and his love affair with American journalist Alma Reed in the 1920s. All this would be the first step in becoming another of those Goddesses of national cinema accompanied by the tropical music of Pepe Arévalo y sus Mulatos or La Sonora Santanera in the polemic, demonized and misogynistic films known as "ficheras y encueratrices". There, Sasha would become the main performer of a sensual and liberating rite in those films that modernized cabaret-style films and their tender, innocent or seductive sinners, or those of nude eroticism and regret of Cinematográfica Calderón. The exuberant delight that brought to the top of the collective unconscious such beauties as Sasha MontenegroLyn May or Angélica Chaín and the comedic performance of stars such as: Víctor Manuel "El Güero" CastroEduardo "Lalo El Mimo"Rafael Rojas "El Caballo"Rafael Inclán, Alfonso ZayasPedro Weber "Chatanuga"Roberto "El Flaco" Guzmán or Manuel "El Flaco" Ibáñez.

Bellas de noche (1974), directed by Miguel M. Delgado and starring SashaJorge Rivero"Lalo El Mimo"Carmen Salinas and the future great director of the genre, "El Güero" Castro, who wrote the screenplay, became a successful model for an industry that sustained itself thanks to the many examples of this escapist, anti-solemn, irreverent and popular cinema. From this film, the attractive Sasha Montenegro swept the national film scene, in the midst of Echeverria and its social protest films, with a series of famous sexy comedies, full of "albures", "leperadas", female nudity and tropical melodies such as "El orangután" or "Mi razón", without lacking of famous songs by Agustín Lara such as "Pecadora" and "Aventurera". The plot involves a group of cabaret girls, including Carmen (Sasha), drawn towards addiction due to a sick mother and lack of education, who remains pure in spirit, who all work in a club called El Pirulí run by La Matraca: an attractive Rosa Carmina, a boxer whose license has been suspended, some ridiculous gangsters and a gigolo played by "Lalo El Mimo", who pays a debt of honor with long sessions of sexual calisthenics. Bellas de noche was the first of a series of formula films that took advantage of the lifting of the censorship to show nudity and "majaderías" in this sort of subgenre, a variant of brothel cinema and softporno, which repeated endlessly the same casts with variations, songs, jokes, erotic, tragicomic and melodramatic situations, "albures", and happy, naughty and sensual endings.

Sasha Montenegro
Sasha Montenegro

Bellas de noche remained in theaters for 26 weeks and Sasha would continue to appear in similar stories such as: Las ficheras 2Noches de cabaret, where Sasha pretends to be a man to enter a drag show; Las tentadorasNoches de cabaretOyé SaloméMuñecas de medianoche and other more risqué ones such as: La pulquería and its sequel, Chile picante o Huevos rancheros. The nudity of a spectacular Sasha in La golfa del barrio (1981) by Rubén Galindo or in Blanca Nieves y... sus 7 amantes (1980) by Ismael Rodríguez, which took advantage not only of the natural beauty of Ixtapa, but of Sasha herself, as a beautiful spy stranded on an island inhabited by seven criminals, whom she has to please in order to survive. Ismael would also direct her in: Solicito marido para engañarDos tipas de cuidado and Ellos trajeron la violencia, where she played a nun. Finally, in her extensive filmography that goes beyond 70 titles, it is worth mentioning: Fieras en brama (1981) by Raúl de Anda Jr., where Sasha, a married woman, tries to seduce a naive young man played by Valentín Trujillo, who is confronted with his lust, hatred and revenge. La vida difícil de una mujer fácil (1977) by José María Fernández Unsaín, inspired by a play by Luis G. Basurto and his favorite themes: sexuality, religion and redemption: during the funeral of prostitute Violeta (the beautiful Sasha), several men remember how she helped them. One recalls about how she encouraged him to be confident about his manhood, a professor about how she freed him from his manipulative wife, or a priest about how she made him understand his vocation. And, Llámenme Mike (1979), by Alfredo Gurrola, a sort of insane parody of American detective films that mixes action and farce to successful results. Alejandro Parodi stars as Miguel, a criminal with a violent and repressive attitude who acts with the utmost impunity, a tired hero who tries to redeem prostitutes like the beautiful femme fatale played by Sasha Montenegro, an iconic figure of our cinema.