Wyoming History: The Bizarre Tale of B-Movie Star Acquanetta
When Burnu Acquanetta moved to New York City in 1942, the aspiring actress had three things that movie producers couldn't resist: exotic beauty, charisma and an amazing story.
Born in Wyoming, she was orphaned by her Arapahoe tribe parents at the age of two. Her name was taken from an Arapahoe term meaning "burning fire, deep water". As a young child, she was taken in by a Cheyenne couple who raised her until she set out on her own as a teenager.
Or so she said.
Although it hasn't been officially confirmed, another theory suggests that Acquanetta was actually born and raised by an African-American family in Pennsylvania. Census records identify her as Mildred Davenport.
Whether true or not, Acquanetta's inspiring story served her well. After settling in New York, she quickly landed roles in Arabian Nights, The Sword of Monte Cristo, and Captive Wild Woman.
Universal Studios executives even attempted to launch the Jungle Woman franchise casting the actress as an ape-like monster. She later scored a role in the 1946 blockbuster Tarzan and the Leopard Woman.
After Hollywood, Acquanetta would settle in Phoenix and establish a cult following as host of the local television show Acqua's Corner, which would feature B-movies on Friday nights. She also went on to star in a long-running series of television commercials for a local car dealership.
Her personal life was even more tumultuous than her professional career. In 1950, she was involved in a bitter divorce with her first husband. Her bid to claim half of his fortune proved unsuccessful after she failed to produce an actual record of the marriage. The relationship produced a son, who would tragically die two years later at the age of four.
She would ultimately marry and divorce three times. Her last marriage would make headlines again when, after learning of an affair, she was accused of filling her husband's convertible with concrete.
Acquanetta passed away in 2004 after battling Alzheimer's. She was 83. We'll never really know if she was actually raised in Wyoming. But we do know that she was one of the most unique women to ever call the Cowboy State home.