Montiel died at her home in Madrid after passing out, according to her biographer, Peter Villora. A La Mancha native, Montiel was born Maria Antonia Abad. She started acting at age 16 and went on to star in more than 50 films, including many musicals.
Montiel experienced some success in Spain, but her career reached new heights in Mexico in the late 1940s, where she starred in such hit Spanish language films as Carcel de Mujeres (Women's Prison). She then transitioned to Hollywood and played a supporting role in the storied 1955 western Vera Cruz with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster. She then starred in the musical Serenade alongside Joan Fontaine and Vincent Price.
After finding success in her native Spain in 1957 thanks to El Ultimo Cuple (The Last Couplet) — which became one of the highest grossing movies in Spanish history — Montiel earned more than $1 million for next film — a rare feat for a Spanish star of her time. She retired from the big screen in the 1970s and turned her attention solely to live musicals on stage and television.
She married American actor and film director Anthony Mann from 1957-1963, but various press reports alleged Montiel had romantic affairs with James Dean and Ernest Hemingway. She became known for smoking Havana cigars on stage while singing — a trick she said she learned from Hemingway.
She is survived by her daughter, Thais, and her son, Zeus.