Hollywood is in mourning this week after Elena Verdugo, best known for playing one of the first Latinas on television in the ABC primetime drama “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” passed away last week. She was 92 years-old.
The New York Times reported that Verdugo starred as Consuelo Lopez on the program, which ran for seven seasons beginning in 1969. Her character was the proficient and loyal nurse who managed the practice of Dr. Welby (Robert Young) and a younger associate, Dr. Steven Kiley (James Brolin).
Verdugo appeared in every episode of the show and won Emmy nominations for outstanding performance by an actress in a supporting role in 1971 and 1972.
Her character on the show was originally meant to be a minor role, but Verdugo single-handedly managed to change that.
“She eventually created such an impression that soon she was as much a star of the series as Young and heartthrob Brolin,” Cary O’Dell wrote in “June Cleaver Was a Feminist! Reconsidering the Female Characters of Early Television” (2013). “We also learn during the series that Consuelo originally dreamed of being a doctor but, since her family couldn’t afford it, she became a nurse instead.”
“Verdugo’s visibility on the show brought with it results,” O’Dell added. “Over the years, according to Verdugo, many women told her they pursued a nursing career because of her. During its airing, Verdugo was also recognized by the American Society of Medical Assistants.”
Verdugo also had a lengthy Hollywood career in movies like “Cavalier of the West” (1931), “House of Frankenstein” (1944), and ” Cyrano de Bergerac” (1950). She retired from the business in 1985.
Rest in peace, Elena Verdugo!