Cesar Romero

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Cesar Romero
Cesar Romero 3 Allan Warren.jpg
Romero at his home in Los Angeles in 1973
Born Cesar Julio Romero Jr.
(1907-02-15)February 15, 1907
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 1, 1994(1994-01-01) (aged 86)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death Bronchitis and pneumonia
Other names Butch
The Latin from Manhattan
Cesar Julio Romero Jr.
Cesar Julio Romero
Cesar Romero Jr.
Alma mater Collegiate School
Occupation Actor, singer, dancer, voice artist, comedian
Years active 1933–1992

Cesar Julio Romero Jr. (February 15, 1907 – January 1, 1994) was an American actor, singer, dancer and vocal artist. He was active in film, radio, and television for almost 60 years.

His wide range of screen roles included Latin lovers, historical figures in costume dramas, characters in light domestic comedies, and on the Batman television series as the Joker, who was included in TV Guide's 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.[1]

Early life[edit]

Romero as part of the deck crew aboard the USS Cavalier in the 1940s

Cesar Julio Romero Jr. was born in New York City on February 15, 1907, the son of Cesar Julio Romero Sr. and Maria Mantilla.[2] His mother was said to be the biological daughter of Cuban national hero José Martí. His father was born in Barcelona, Spain and emigrated to the United States in 1888, where he was an expert merchant in commercial business.[3][4] His mother was a concert singer.[citation needed] He grew up in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, and was educated at Bradley Beach Elementary School, Asbury Park High School,[5] the Collegiate School, and the Riverdale Country Day School. However, that lifestyle[clarification needed] changed dramatically when his parents lost their sugar import business and suffered losses in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Romero's Hollywood earnings allowed him to support his large family, all of whom followed him to the American West Coast years later. Romero lived on and off with various family members (especially his sister) for the rest of his life.

On October 12, 1942, he voluntarily enlisted in the United States Coast Guard as an apprentice seaman[6] and served in the Pacific Theater of Operations. He reported aboard the Coast Guard-manned assault transport USS Cavalier in November 1943. According to a press release from the period, Romero saw action during the invasions of Tinian and Saipan. The same article mentioned that he preferred to be a regular part of the crew and was eventually promoted to the rating of Chief Boatswain's Mate.[7]


Romero in Public Enemy's Wife (1936)
Romero with Carmen Miranda in Week-End in Havana (1941)

At 6'3", Romero routinely played "Latin lovers" in films from the 1930s until the 1950s, usually in supporting roles. He starred as the Cisco Kid in six westerns made between 1939 and 1941. Romero danced and performed comedy in the 20th Century Fox films he starred in opposite Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable, such as Week-End in Havana and Springtime in the Rockies, in the 1940s. He also played a minor role as Sinjin, a piano player in Glenn Miller's band, in the 1942 20th Century Fox musical Orchestra Wives.

In The Thin Man (1934), Romero played a villainous supporting role opposite the film's main star William Powell. Many of Romero's films from this early period saw him cast in small character parts, such as Italian gangsters and East Indian princes. Romero had a lead role as the Pathan rebel leader, Khoda Khan, in John Ford's British Raj-era action film Wee Willie Winkie (1937) and The Little Princess (1939) alongside Shirley Temple. He also appeared in a comic turn as a subversive opponent to Frank Sinatra and his crew in Ocean's 11 (1960).

Romero was also a romantic if aggressive leading man in films such as Allan Dwan's 15 Maiden Lane (1936) opposite Claire Trevor, in which he spins Trevor around in a dance sequence, and played the key role of the Doc Holliday character (with name changed to "Doc Halliday") in Dwan's Wyatt Earp saga Frontier Marshal three years later.

20th Century Fox, along with mogul Darryl Zanuck, personally selected Romero to co-star with Tyrone Power in the Technicolor historical epic Captain from Castile (1947), directed by Henry King. While Power played a fictionalized character, Romero played Hernán Cortés, a historical conquistador in Spain's conquest of the Americas.


Among many television credits, Romero appeared several times on The Martha Raye Show in the mid-1950s. He portrayed Don Diego de la Vega's uncle in a number of Season 2 Zorro episodes.[8]

Romero in his role as the Joker on the classic 1960s TV show Batman

In 1958, he guest-starred as Ramon Valdez, a South American businessman, who excels at dancing the Cha-Cha with Barbara Eden in her syndicated romantic comedy, How to Marry a Millionaire in the episode entitled "The Big Order". He performed the mambo with Gisele MacKenzie on her NBC variety show, The Gisele MacKenzie Show. He guest-starred in 1957 on CBS's The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour on the first episode of the seventh season ("Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana"). He also played the character Don Carlos, a card shark on the episode, "The Honorable Don Charlie Story," of NBC's Wagon Train. On January 16, 1958, he appeared on The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. In 1959, Romero was cast as Joaquin in the episode "Caballero" from The Texan.[9]

In 1960, he was cast as Ricky Valenti in "Crime of Passion" from Pete and Gladys.[citation needed] In 1965, Romero played the head of THRUSH in France in "The Never Never Affair" from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. From 1966-68, he portrayed the Joker on Batman. He refused to shave his moustache for the role and so, the Joker's white face makeup was simply smeared over it when playing the supervillain throughout the series' run and in the 1966 film.[10]

In the 1970s, Romero portrayed the absent father of the Freddie Prinze character Chico Rodriguez in Chico and the Man, and later Peter Stavros in the television series Falcon Crest (1985–1987). Among Romero's guest star work in the 1970s was a recurring role on the western comedy Alias Smith and Jones, starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. Romero played Señor Armendariz, a Mexican rancher feuding with Patrick McCreedy (Burl Ives), the owner of a ranch on the opposite side of the border. He appeared in three episodes.[10]

Romero on a date with the actress Phyllis Brooks, c. 1940
Niche of Cesar Romero at Inglewood Park Cemetery

Apart from these television roles, Romero appeared as A.J. Arno, a small-time criminal who continually opposes Dexter Riley (played by Kurt Russell) and his schoolmates of Medfield College in a series of films by Walt Disney Productions in the 1970s. He also appeared in a sixth-season episode of The Golden Girls, where he played a suitor named Tony Delvecchio for Sophia who disappoints her when she tells him "I love you" after a night of passion and he does not return the sentiment.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Romero was never married and had no children, but made frequent appearances at Hollywood events escorting actresses, such as Joan Crawford, Linda Darnell, Barbara Stanwyck, Lucille Ball, Ann Sheridan, Jane Wyman and Ginger Rogers; he was almost always described in interviews and articles as a "confirmed bachelor".[11] Many Hollywood historians have speculated that Romero was a closeted gay man.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

Romero was a registered Republican and, in October 1960, he appeared in the Nixon-Lodge Bumper Sticker Motorcade Campaign.[19]


On January 1, 1994, Romero died from complications of a blood clot while being treated for bronchitis and pneumonia at Saint John's Health Center[20] in Santa Monica, California, at age 86. His body was cremated and the ashes were interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.[21]

Select filmography[edit]



Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Hollywood Star Playhouse Diamonds of Gulaga[22]

In popular culture[edit]

Romero received an honorary mention on the popular television series MASH 4077 in Season 4 Episode 2 (Change of Command).[23] Wally Cleaver grew a mustache on Leave it to Beaver and The Beaver joked that he was no Caesar Romero.


  1. ^ Bretts, Bruce; Roush, Matt; (March 25, 2013). "Baddies to the Bone: The 60 nastiest villains of all time". TV Guide. pp. 14–15.
  2. ^ Candelaria, Cordelia. Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture, Volume 2.
  3. ^ Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1023; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0593; FHL microfilm: 1375036
  4. ^ National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 453; Volume #: Roll 0453 - Certificates: 1250-1499, 11 Jan 1918-14 Jan 1918
  5. ^ Voger, Mark. "'Batman' TV cast on the creation of a camp classic", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, November 8, 2014. Retrieved November 15, 2014. "CESAR ROMERO – The actor who created the role of the Joker lived in Bradley Beach as a child, and attended Bradley Beach Elementary School and Asbury Park High School."
  6. ^ Wire service, "Cesar Romero Signs As Coast Guardsman", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Tuesday, October 13, 1942, Volume 49, page 9.
  7. ^ Cesar Romero – USCG: Frequently Asked Questions, uscg.mil; accessed April 17, 2017.
  8. ^ Bill Cotter. "Zorro Episodes Descriptions Second Season: 1958-59". Bill Cotter. Retrieved December 10, 2008. 
  9. ^ "The Texan". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c Cesar Romero at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ Film Entertainment Magazine
  12. ^ Lees, Alfred W. and Ronald Nelson (1999). Longtime Companions: Autobiographies of Gay Male Fidelity. Binghamton NY: Haworth Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-7890-0641-3. 
  13. ^ Bret, David (2006). Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr. New York: Carroll & Graf. p. 81. ISBN 0-7867-1868-4. 
  14. ^ Foster, David William (2004). Queer Issues in Contemporary Latin American Cinema. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-70537-1. 
  15. ^ Gans, Eric (2008). Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-60473-013-5. 
  16. ^ Griffin, Sean P. (2000). Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out. New York: NYU Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-8147-3122-2. 
  17. ^ Crimmins, Cathy (2005) How the Homosexuals Saved Civilization: The Time and Heroic Story of How Gay Men Shaped the Modern World Penguin. ISBN 9781101143698
  18. ^ Karol, Michael (2004) Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia iUniverse. p.177. ISBN 9780595752133. Quote: "Romero ... was "outed" after his death by Boze Hadleigh..."
  19. ^ Nixon-Lodge Bumper Sticker Motorcade Campaign, latimes.com; accessed April 17, 2017.
  20. ^ "Cesar Romero, Actor, Dies at 86; A Suave Player in Films and TV". The New York Times. 1994-01-03. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-26. 
  21. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 40453-40454). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition
  22. ^ Kirby, Walter (November 16, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved June 18, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  23. ^ "Change of command - MASH 4077 Season 4 Episode 2". 20th Century Fox. 

External links[edit]