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Ramon Novarro (1934) photo by Carl Van Vechten
|Born||José Ramón Gil Samaniego
February 6, 1899
|Died||October 30, 1968
North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Ramón Novarro (February 6, 1899 – October 30, 1968) was a Mexican leading man actor in Hollywood in the early 20th century. He was the next male "Sex Symbol" after the death of Rudolph Valentino. Novarro was the victim of a violent extortion attempt which resulted in his death.
Early life 
Navarro was born José Ramón Gil Samaniego on February 6, 1899 in Durango, Mexico, to Dr. Mariano N. Samaniego. He moved with his family to Los Angeles, California, to escape the Mexican Revolution in 1913.
Allan Ellenberger, Novarro's biographer, writes:
...the Samaniegos were an influential and well-respected family in Mexico. Many Samaniegos had prominent positions in the affairs of state and were held in high esteem by the president. Ramon's grandfather, Mariano Samaniego, was a well-known physician in Juarez. Known as a charitable and outgoing man, he was once an interim governor for the State of Chihuahua and was the first city councilman of El Paso, Texas...
Ramon's father, Dr. Mariano N. Samaniego, was born in Juarez and attended high school in Las Cruces, New Mexico. After receiving his degree in dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania, he moved to Durango, Mexico, and began a flourishing dental practice. In 1891 he married Leonor Pérez-Gavilán, the beautiful daughter of a prosperous landowner. The Pérez-Gaviláns were a mixture of Spanish and Aztec blood, and according to local legend, they were descended from Guerrero, a prince of Montezuma.
The family estate was called the "Garden of Eden". Thirteen children were born there: Emilio; Guadalupe; Rosa; Ramon; Leonor; Mariano; Luz; Antonio; a stillborn child; Carmen; Angel and Eduardo.
At the time of the revolution in Mexico, the family moved from Durango to Mexico City and then back to Durango. Ramon's three sisters, Guadalupe, Rosa, and Leonor, became nuns.
A second cousin of the Mexican actresses Dolores del Río and Andrea Palma, he entered films in 1917 in bit parts; and he supplemented his income by working as a singing waiter. His friends, the actor and director Rex Ingram and his wife, the actress Alice Terry, began to promote him as a rival to Rudolph Valentino, and Ingram suggested he change his name to "Novarro." From 1923, he began to play more prominent roles. His role in Scaramouche (1923) brought him his first major success.
In 1925, he achieved his greatest success in Ben-Hur, his revealing costumes causing a sensation, and was elevated into the Hollywood elite. As with many stars, Novarro engaged Sylvia of Hollywood as a therapist (although in her tell-all book, Sylvia erroneously claimed Novarro slept in a coffin). With Valentino's death in 1926, Novarro became the screen's leading Latin actor, though ranked behind his MGM stablemate, John Gilbert, as a model lover. He was popular as a swashbuckler in action roles and was considered one of the great romantic lead actors of his day. Novarro appeared with Norma Shearer in The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927) and with Joan Crawford in Across to Singapore (1928). He made his first talking film, starring as a singing French soldier, in Devil-May-Care (1929). He also starred with the French actress Renée Adorée in The Pagan (1929). Novarro starred with Greta Garbo in Mata Hari (1932) and was a qualified success opposite Myrna Loy in The Barbarian (1933).
When Novarro's contract with MGM Studios expired in 1935, the studio did not renew it. He continued to act sporadically, appearing in films for Republic Pictures, a Mexican religious drama, and a French comedy. In the 1940s, he had several small roles in American films, including John Huston's We Were Strangers (1949) starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield. In 1958, he was considered for a role in a television series, The Green Peacock, with Howard Duff and Ida Lupino, after the demise of their CBS Television sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve (1957-1958). The project, however, never materialized. A Broadway tryout was aborted in the 1960s. However, Novarro kept busy on television, appearing in NBC's The High Chaparral as late as 1968.
At the peak of his success in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was earning more than US$100,000 per film. He invested some of his income in real estate, and his Hollywood Hills residence is one of the more renowned designs (1927) by architect Lloyd Wright. After his career ended, he was still able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
Personal life 
Novarro had been troubled all his life as a result of his conflicting views over his Roman Catholic religion and his homosexuality, and his life-long struggle with alcoholism is often traced to these issues. MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer reportedly tried to coerce Novarro into a "lavender marriage", which he refused. He was a friend of adventurer and author Richard Halliburton, also a celebrity in the closet, and was romantically involved with journalist Herbert Howe, who was also his publicist during the late 1920s.
In 1934, Novarro was one of the victims of the "witch hunt" for "reds" in Hollywood. With Dolores del Río, Lupe Vélez and James Cagney, he was accused of promoting communism in California. That happened after these actors attended a special screening of the film Que viva Mexico! by Sergei M. Eisenstein, which copies were claimed by Joseph Stalin from the Soviet Union to be edited.
Novarro was murdered on October 30, 1968, by two brothers, Paul and Tom Ferguson (aged 22 and 17, respectively), whom he had hired from an agency to come to his Laurel Canyon home for sex. According to the prosecution in the murder case, the two young men believed that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro's house.
The prosecution accused the brothers of torturing Novarro for several hours to force him to reveal where the nonexistent money was hidden. They left with a mere $20 that they took from his bathrobe pocket before fleeing the scene. Novarro died as a result of asphyxiation, choking to death on his own blood after being beaten. The two brothers were later caught and sentenced to long prison terms but released on probation in the mid 1970s. Both were later rearrested for unrelated crimes, for which they served longer terms than for their murder conviction.
In popular culture 
Novarro's murder served as the influence for the short story by Charles Bukowski, The Murder of Ramon Vasquez, and the song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, "Tango," recorded by Peggy Lee on her Mirrors album.
In late 2005, the Wings Theatre in New York City staged the world premiere of Through a Naked Lens by George Barthel. The play combined fact and fiction to depict Novarro's rise to fame and his relationship with Hollywood journalist Herbert Howe.
Novarro's relationship with Herbert Howe is discussed in two biographies: Allan R. Ellenberger's Ramón Novarro and André Soares's Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramón Novarro. A recounting of Novarro's murder can be found in Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon.
In the episode "Every Dog His Day..." (Season 3) of All Creatures Great and Small, Novarro is referenced as a crush of the housekeeper, Mrs. Hall.
|1916||Joan the Woman||Starving Peasant||Uncredited|
|1917||The Jaguar's Claws||Bandit||Uncredited|
|1917||The Little American||Wounded Soldier||Uncredited|
|1917||The Woman God Forgot||Aztec man||Uncredited|
|1921||A Small Town Idol||Dancer||as Ramón Samaniego|
|1921||The Concert||Dancing shepherd||Uncredited|
|1921||The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse||Guest at Ball||Uncredited|
|1922||Mr. Barnes of New York||Antonio||as Ramon Samaniego|
|1922||The Prisoner of Zenda||Rupert of Hentzau||as Ramon Samaniegos|
|1922||Trifling Women||Henri/Ivan de Maupin|
|1923||Where the Pavement Ends||Motauri|
|1923||Scaramouche||André-Louis Moreau, Quintin's Godson|
|1924||Thy Name Is Woman||Juan Ricardo|
|1924||The Arab||Jamil Abdullah Azam|
|1924||The Red Lily||Jean Leonnec|
|1925||A Lover's Oath||Ben Ali|
|1925||The Midshipman||Dick Randall|
|1925||Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ||Judah Ben-Hur|
|1927||The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg||Crown Prince Karl Heinrich|
|1927||The Road to Romance||José Armando|
|1928||Across to Singapore||Joel Shore|
|1928||A Certain Young Man||Lord Gerald Brinsley|
|1928||Forbidden Hours||His Majesty, Michael IV|
|1929||The Flying Fleet||Ens./Ltjg Tommy Winslow|
|1929||The Pagan||Henry Shoesmith, Jr.|
|1930||Le chanteur de Séville||Juan||French version of Call of the Flesh|
|1930||In Gay Madrid||Ricardo|
|1930||The March of Time||Himself||Unfinished film|
|1930||Call of the Flesh||Juan de Dios|
|1930||Sevilla de mis amores||Juan de Dios Carbajal||Spanish version of Call of the Flesh|
|1931||Daybreak (1931 film)||Willi Kasder|
|1931||Son of India||Karim|
|1931||Mata Hari||Lt. Alexis Rosanoff|
|1932||Huddle||Antonio "Tony" Amatto|
|1932||The Son-Daughter||Tom Lee/Prince Chun|
|1933||The Barbarian||Jamil El Shehab|
|1934||The Cat and the Fiddle||Victor Florescu|
|1934||Laughing Boy||Laughing Boy|
|1935||The Night Is Young||Archduke Paul "Gustl" Gustave|
|1936||Against the Current||
|1937||The Sheik Steps Out||Ahmed Ben Nesib|
|1938||A Desperate Adventure||André Friezan||Alternative title: It Happened in Paris|
|1940||Ecco la felicità||Felice Ciatti||Italian version of La comédie du bonheur|
|1940||La comédie du bonheur||Félix||French film|
|1942||The Saint That Forged a Country||Juan Diego||Mexican film|
|1949||We Were Strangers||Chief|
|1949||The Big Steal||Inspector General Ortega|
|1950||The Outriders||Don Antonio Chaves|
|1958||Disney's Wonderful World||Don Esteban Miranda||2 episodes|
|1960||Heller in Pink Tights||De Leon|
|1962||Thriller||Maestro Giuliano||Episode: "La Strega"|
|1964||Dr. Kildare||Gaspero Paolini||3 episodes|
|1964 to 1966||Combat!||Charles Gireaux
Count De Roy
|1965||Bonanza||Jose Ortega||Episode: "The Brass Box"|
|1967||The Wild Wild West||Don Tomas||Episode: "The Night of the Assassin"|
|1968||The High Chaparral||Padre Guillermo||Episode: "A Joyful Noise"|
See also 
- Meier, Matt S.; Gutiérrez, Margo (2003). The Mexican American Experience: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 284. ISBN 0-313-31643-0.
- Allan Ellenberger, "Ramon Novarro, A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968" (Jefferson:McFarland & Co.), 1999, pp. 5-6
- Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 188. ISBN 1-557-83551-9.
- http://diverseeducation.com/artman/publish/article_7443.shtml[dead link]
- Hollywood Undressed: Observations of Sylvia As Noted by Her Secretary (1931) Brentano’s.
- "Lloyd Wright (1890)-1978)". ArchitechGallery.com. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- Soares, André; Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro; St. Martin's Press, New York, 2002; p. 245
- Mann, W; Behind the screen; Penguin, New York, 2002; p. 97
- "Ramon Navarro (sic)". Olvera-street.com. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- Holliday, Peter J. "Novarro, Ramon (1899–1968)". glbtq.com. Retrieved 2007-11-01
- Ramón, David (1997). Dolores del Río. Clío. pp. 51–52,. ISBN 968-6932-35-6.
- Maloney, J. J. "The Murder of Ramon Novarro". crimemagazine.com.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (2009). Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968 : With a Filmography. McFarland. pp. 182, 187. ISBN 0-786-44676-5.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (2009). Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968: With a Filmography. McFarland. p. 196. ISBN 0-786-44676-5.
- Archives of the Greek National Theatre (in Greek)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ramon Novarro|
- Ramon Novarro at the Internet Movie Database
- Ramon Novarro at the TCM Movie Database
- Ramón Novarro Photo Gallery
- Photographs of Ramon Novarro
- Ramon Novarro at the Internet Broadway Database
- Ramon Novarro at Find a Grave