Her mother was a Filipina and her father was an American soldier who was based in the Philippines. She was born in Maragondon, Cavite, in May 1922 and was named Luningning Gentry.
She did not see her father alive because he died before she was born. Because of her American lineage, she was a beautiful long-legged teenage lass with a petite body and tantalizing eyes.
She was discovered by the Parlatone Hispano Pilipino Productions, a film outfit of Jose Nepomuceno, known as the Father of Philippine Cinema. Luningning first appeared as a bit player with the screen name of Estrella del Rio in Ang Itinapon, a film produced in 1936.
She was given a break by Excelsior Films which elevated her to leading lady star status thru the 1938 film Bayan at Pag-ibig with the same screen name.
Another movie outfit of Jose Nepomuceno, X’Otic Films, cast her as the lead star of Punit na Bandila but under a new screen monicker, Luningning. This was produced in 1939 and Luningning’s co-stars included Fernando Poe, Sr. and Lucita Goyena.
Her other notable films were: Ang Kaban ng Tipan, a religious film which also starred Reynaldo Dante, Lucita Goyena, Ely Ramos, Andres Centenera and Amading Montes and directed in 1939 by Jose Nepomuceno for his X-Otic Film; and Ang Lihim ng Lumang Simbahan with Reynaldo Dante, Pugo, Togo, and child star Angelito Nepomuceno, a certified 1940 box office hit.
In 1947, she co-starred again with Reynaldo Dante, Quiel Segovia, Pacita del Rio, Naty Bernardo, Gregorio Ticman and Batotoy in Kasalanan Kaya, a film produced by Fernando Poe Sr., the father of Da King Fernando Poe, Jr.
In 1949, she appeared in Principe Paris with Manuel Conde and Elvira Reyes and in Siyudad sa Ilalim ng Lupa which also starred Mona Liza, Fernando Royo, Bimbo Danao and introduced the young Carol Varga. The cast also included Perla Soliman, Cris de Vera, Totoy Torrente, Oscar Obligacion, Pedro Faustino, Armando Cris, Jose Troni, Matty Torres, Manuel Barbeyto and Julio Gonzales. This fantasy/costume film was based on Arabian Nights and directed by Carlos Vander Tolosa for X’Otic Production. It was released by Movietec.
She was busy in 1950 with the following films she appeared in: Tubig na Hinugasan with Pacita Francisco, a Miss Luzon beauty queen and radio talent in 1947; Nanay Ko with Carmen Rosales and Ben Rubio; and Sagur with Fernando Poe Sr. who played a sultan and Mona Lisa who portrayed a Muslim princess, Fernando Royo and Bimbo Danao.
A total professional, Luningning proved her acting versatility by portraying any role assigned to her, breathing life into various character portrayals in tearjerker dramas, war films, swashbuckling action films, fantasy films and suspense dramas.
Only destiny interfered because early in life, she encountered health problems that cut short her acting career.
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