Rosa María Juana Martínez Suárez (born 23 February 1927), known by her stage name Mirtha Legrand, is an Argentine actress and television presenter who has worked in Argentina and Spain, twin sister of retired actress Silvia Legrand. With a 72 year career, Legrand is one of the most popular entertainment figures in Argentina.
Her first leading role on film was at age 14. Currently she continues to work and is considered the most important star in Argentinian show business along with Susana Gimenez. Mirtha is considered one of the most important Latin American television hostesses.
Her TV show is one of the longest running television programs in Argentina, having first aired in 1968. She has spent over 45 years on screen hosting her talk show “Lunch with Mirtha Legrand”, which receives celebrities from all over the world, including Hollywood and Europe, around a table for lunch discussing different topics. In 2013, the program returned in a weekly format, which airs on Sundays on América TV.
She is known for her astounding vitality, elegance, and taste for jewelry and haute couture.
The future Mirtha Legrand was born on 23 February 1927 in Villa Cañás, a town in the province of Santa Fe located some 200 kilometres (120 mi) from Rosario. Her parents were both Spanish immigrants. In 1934 her parents separated. Her mother relocated to Rosario to ensure a better education for her three children, while her father remained in Villa Cañás.
In Rosario, Rosa María Juana and her twin sister María Aurelia took basic courses at the Municipal Theater. After the death of their father in 1936, the family relocated permanently to Buenos Aires, to the barrio of La Paternal. There they lived in poverty, mitigated by sporadic employment, until in 1939 the sisters were offered small roles in a film starring Niní Marshall which would be released in 1940 under the title Hay que educar a Niní.
The Martínez sisters’ next film together was Novios para las muchachas in 1941. Mirtha’s first leading role came later that year in Los martes, orquídeas. The same year her mother would be contacted by a well-known film industry figure, Ricardo Cerebello, who offered to represent the sisters. It was Cerebello who devised the stage names Mirtha and Silvia Legrand.
The success of Los martes, orquídeas led Lumiton Studios, one of the most important studios of the era, to sign Mirtha to a five-year contract. One of the films in which she took part during that time was Safo, historia de una pasión, the first Argentine film from which minors were banned. During the same period, Mirtha and Silvia hosted El club de la amistad for Radio Splendid.
In 1945 Mirtha Legrand met the French-born filmmaker Daniel Tinayre. They were married on 18 May 1946, when Mirtha was nineteen years old and Tinayre thirty-six. The young actress, who saw her marriage as a means by which she could escape poverty, was already sufficiently famous that Radiolandia, a gossip magazine, secured exclusive rights to the details of her wedding. With Tinayre she had two children, Marcela Tinayre and Daniel Jr.
After her wedding came her greatest roles, most notably La vendedora de fantasías (1950), directed by her husband. In 1955 she appeared in El amor nunca muere alongside two other great actresses of the time, Tita Merello and Zully Moreno. In 1957 she made her first entry into theater, and made her television debut a year later with the programs M ama a M and Los enredos de Mariana, both on Canal 7. Between 1961 and 1962 she filmed Bajo un mismo rostro, in which she delivered what she considered her best performance. In 1965 she appeared in Con gusto a rabia, the last film in which she appeared.
In the program Legrand converses as she has lunch with famous people, like actors, politicians, or comedians.
Following the death of her mother Rosa, Legrand withdrew from public life for several months. In 1968, the director of Canal 9, Alejandro Romay, offered her her own show, Almorzando con las estrellas (“Lunch with stars”). It was an immediate ratings success. Each show followed a similar format, in which Legrand would sit down for “lunch” with a table of celebrity guests, mostly of the sort featured by the gossip magazines. The name soon changed to Almorzando con Mirtha Legrand as the hostess gained renown. The guest list also began to include politicians as well as entertainers. In 1994 she received the Golden Martín Fierro Award for this program.
Some of Legrand’s guests included: Rita Hayworth, Diego Armando Maradona, Raffaella Carrá, Alain Delon, María Estela Martínez de Perón, Hugo Chávez, Néstor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Carlos Menem, René Favaloro, Andrea del Boca, Libertad Lamarque, China Zorrilla, Susana Giménez, Leonor Benedetto, Nacha Guevara, Sandro de América, Mercedes Sosa, Soledad Pastorutti, Fito Páez, Belinda, Victoria de los Ángeles, Grecia Colmenares, Ricardo Darín, Cecilia Roth, Mariano Mores, Valeria Lynch, Elena Roger, Chavela Vargas, Catherine Deneuve, Julio Iglesias, Nati Mistral, Renata Scotto, Raphael, Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Jon Secada, Celia Cruz, Alberto Cortez, Franco Simone, Xuxa, Daniela Mercury, Valeria Mazza, Verónica Castro, Tita Merello, Joan Manuel Serrat, Rosario Flores, Henry Calvin, Rocío Jurado, Nicola Di Bari, José Feliciano, Gabriela Spanic, Fred Bongusto, Guy Williams, Marcel Marceau, Juan Luis Guerra, Chayanne, José Vélez, Sara Montiel, Camilo Sesto, Marcelo Tinelli, Mario Pergolini, Carolina Herrera, José Luis Rodríguez, José Luis Perales, Gianni Nazzaro, Cristian Castro, Azúcar Moreno, Elis Regina, Hilda Molina, among many other national and international celebrities.