Acquanetta (July 17, 1921 – August 16, 2004), nicknamed “The Venezuelan Volcano” by her friend William Randolph Hearst, was a B-movie actress known for her exotic beauty.
The facts of Acquanetta’s origins are not known with certainty. Although accounts differ (some giving her birth-name as Mildred Davenport, from Norristown, PA), Acquanetta claimed she was born Burnu Acquanetta, meaning “Burning Fire/Deep Water”, in Ozone, Wyoming.
Apparently orphaned from her Arapaho parents when she was two, she lived briefly with another family before being taken in by an artistic couple with whom she remained until she made the choice to live independently at the age of fifteen.
Other, perhaps more accurate, accounts suggest her ethnicity was part-African American. For Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931 – 1946, director Edward Dmytryk informed the authors:
” … she had to get a passport and they [Universal] found out that she was from Philadelphia! After that, rather quickly, they found out that she was part-black – which today wouldn’t mean a damn thing. But in those days it still did.”
Acquanetta started her career as a model in New York City. She signed with Universal Studios in 1942 and acted mostly in B-movies, such as Arabian Nights and The Sword of Monte Cristo.
Universal then attempted to create a bizarre female monster movie franchise with Acquanetta playing Paula Dupree, an ape woman, in Captive Wild Woman (1943) and Jungle Woman (1944) but despite their weird and lurid plots neither film was a box office bonanza. This didn’t prevent Universal from making a third entry but The Jungle Captive (1945) starred Vicky Lane in place of Acquanetta.
She received a major role and star billing in Universal’s Dead Man’s Eyes, a 1944 Inner Sanctum mystery film directed by Reginald Le Borg but her brief movie career was already on the wane.
After her contract with Universal expired, Acquanetta signed on with ‘poverty row’ studio Monogram Pictures but did not appear in any movies; she then signed with RKO where she acted in her only big-budget movie, Tarzan and the Leopard Woman.
Her final role in a fantasy film was as a ‘native girl’ in the Lippert dinosaurs-on-a-hidden-plateau production Lost Continent (1951).