1899 - 1968
"I was always the hero - with no vices - reciting practically the same lines to the leading lady. The current crop of movie heroes are less handicapped than the old ones. They are more human. The leading men of silent films were Adonises and Apollos. Today, the hero can even take a poke at the leading lady. In my time, a hero who hit the girl just once would have been out."
- Ramon Novarro
The man who inherited the silent screen title of The Latin Lover after Rudolph Valentino’s death was born Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego in Durango, Mexico. The eldest of 13, his family escaped the revolution by fleeing to LA when he was a teenager. Extremely handsome, Jose was soon working in pictures. By the time he was in ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ (1922) his name had been changed to Ramon Novarro. The following year ‘Scaramouche’ made him a swashbuckling star and two years later he caused a sensation when he starred in the silent film classic ‘Ben Hur’. After reading the fan mail, MGM gave him a raise to $10,000 a week. Women (and some men) swooned at his partially clad torso. With a breathtaking beauty that often approached androgyny, the romantic screen idol starred in silent films opposite some of MGM’s biggest stars including Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. Ramon’s melodious speaking voice meant an easy transition to sound in films, but the era of the Latin Lover was coming to a close. His most notable talkie was ‘Mata Hari’ (1931) opposite Greta Garbo. Today’s critics have praised Novarro’s natural acting style as a refreshing departure from the often overblown emoting prevalent in silent cinema. Despite his popularity with cast and crew, when Novarro’s contract expired MGM opted not to renew it. Some speculate his leaving MGM was due to the “open secret” of his homosexuality and his refusal to enter a marriage of convenience to end the rumors. After leaving MGM he continued working in smaller films, supporting roles, and eventually TV. On October 30, 1968, the actor was bludgeoned to death in his North Hollywood home when a sexual tryst turned into a failed robbery. He was 69 years old.
Sexual Orientation Gay
Gender Identity Cisgender
Faith Construct Catholic
Nations Affiliated Mexico United States
Era/Epoch Jazz Age (1910-1940) Mexican Revolution (1910-1946) Roaring Twenties (1920-1929)
Field(s) of Contribution
Commemorations & Honors
Golden Globes Special Award Winner (1960)
Hollywood Walk of Fame Star For Motion Pictures (1960)