An actress who became a fan favorite among TV viewers and helped to elevate the image of the Latina on television has died. The New York Times reports that Elena Verdugo died May 30 in Los Angeles. She was 92.
Verdugo had a successful career in the movies going back to the early 1940s before she landed the career-defining role of Consuelo Lopez on the ABC series “Marcus Welby, M.D.” She went on to play the loyal and efficient nurse and office manager for Robert Young’s Dr. Welby and his young associate Dr. Steven Kiley, played by James Brolin, in all 169 episodes of the series.
“Marcus Welby” aired from 1969-1976, with Verdugo earning two Primetime Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe nod for her supporting role on the medical drama. Her role as Lopez, one of the first Latina professionals to be portrayed on U.S. television, was credited with inspiring Hispanic women to aspire to greater achievements and to demand more respect.
Verdugo was a familiar face on television even before “Marcus Welby.” She starred as Millie Bronson on the CBS series “Meet Millie” from 1952-1955, made a number of guest appearances on “The Red Skelton Show” during the late 1950s, played Audrey on “The New Phil Silvers Show” in 1964 and was one of the regulars throughout the run of the Juliet Prowse series “Mona McCluskey,” where Verdugo played Alice from 1965-1966.
Earlier in her career, Verdugo appeared uncredited in 1940s movies including “Down Argentine Way” and “Belle Starr” before graduating to credited roles in “House of Frankenstein,” “Song of Scheherazade,” “The Big Sombrero,” “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “Gene Autry and the Mounties” and many other films.
Elena Verdugo with Robert Young and James Brolin