Ramon Novarro Overview:

Legendary actor, Ramon Novarro, was born Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego on Feb 6, 1899 in Durango, Mexico. Novarro died at the age of 69 on Oct 30, 1968 in North Hollywood, CA and was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Life

Ramon Novarro was born Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego on February 6th, 1899 in Durango, Mexico to a family of wealthy and highly influential aristocrats. His father, Mariano was a prominent dentist who ran a thriving dental practice in Durango while is mother, Leonor, came from the prominent land owning family, The Perez-Gavilans. Although not confirmed, local legend had them pegged as descendants of Guerrero, a Prince of the great Aztec ruler Montezuma. His grandfather was well-regarded doctor who, at one point, became the interim governor of Chihuahua. He would then go on to be the first councilman of El Paso, Texas. Novarro spent his childhood at his family's estate, titled "The Garden of Eden" and was the eldest of thirteen children. Three of his siblings, however, were stillborns. Although his families' prominence allowed him a comfortable childhood, by the time he was an adolescent this wealth and social stature proved dangerous when the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1913. He and his family fled to Los Angeles to escape the violence and their own possible persecution.

Early Career

Upon moving to Los Angeles with refugee status, Novarro found worked several jobs to help with the family finances. Many of these said jobs, including singer waiter and piano teacher, helped Novarro realize his great talent for performance. During this time the young Novarro became fascinated with the movie industry, which his cousin, actress Dolores Del Rio, was already a part of. In 1917 he appeared in his first film as an extra. For the next few years Novarro acted in uncredited bit roles and continued to work as a singing waiter to make ends meet. In 1921, the film The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino was released. In the film Valentino displayed an a raw sexuality and eroticism never before seen on the American screen and soon ever studio was in want of their very own "Lati Lover." With his dark hair, good looks and ethnic background, Novarro clearly fit the bill and soon he was signed to Metro Pictures Corporation. He was marketed by his friends, director Rex Ingram and actress Alice Terry, as direct competition to Valentino. They immediately cast him in his first prominent role as the villainous Rupert of Hentzau in 1921's The Prisoner of Zenda.  After the films success Novarro began receiving more prominent roles.


In 1923 Ingram cast Novarro as the lead in the big screen adaption of the Rafael Sabatini novel Scaramouche. The film was smash hit, easily recouping its massive budget. It also made a superstar of Novarro, who was billed as "The new Valentino." Soon after Metro pictures merged with Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer pictures and became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In 1924 he once again worked with Ingram, starring in The Arab - a clear ploy to cash in on the success of Valentino's The Sheik. That year he also starred in the romantic drama Red Lily. The film centers on the story of two star crossed Parisian lovers who must find their way back to another while navigating through the slums of the Paris. The next year Novarro starred in what would be his greatest success, Fred Niblo's historical epic Ben-Hur: The Tale of Christ. In the film, Novarro plays Judah Ben-Hur, a former Prince turned slave with his sights set on vengeance. The film was plagued with production problem and went through two directors and a location change that inflated the films already massive budget. With a cost of almost four millions dollars, it became the most expense silent film of the era. Despite these problems, the film became a massive hit, grossing over nine million dollars worldwide and helped MGM be seen as competitive new studio. The picture also helped solidify Novarro as one of Hollywood prominent sex symbols, as his revealing costumes caused a stir with female audiences.  

Latin Lover

After Rudolph Valentino's tragically early death in 1926, Novarro filled his mantle as America number one "Latin lover." Parts originally meant for the Italian superstar where immediately given to Novarro, and soon he was one of MGM's biggest stars. Soon he was famed for his portrayal of swashbuckling hero's and romantic leads. In 1927 he starred opposite Norma Shearer in the Ernst Lubitsch's The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg. In the film Novarro plays Prince Karl Heinrich who falls in love with a simple peasant, Kathi played by Shearer. The next year he starred with Joan Crawford in William Nigh's Across to Singapore, playing a young man who almost loses his love to his older brother. That year he also starred in the romantic dramas A Certain Young Man and Forbidden Hours. The next year he starred in his final silent film W.S Van Dyke'sThe Pagan. At this point in his career, Novarro was one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, earning over $100,000 per film, much of which he successfully invested in Hollywood real estate. It was also at this point in his career that Louis B. Mayer suggested that Novarro enter a "lavender marriage" to further hide his homosexuality. Although Novarro refused, his catholic upbringing put him at constant odds with his sexual preference.    

Talkies and decline

Like many of his contemporaries who fell by the wayside with the advent of the talking picture, Novarro's would start to decline soon after the moving business added voice to picture. In1929 Novarro starred in his first talking picture, Devil-May-Care. The film was lavish musical that displayed his talents as a singer. The film was a relative hit and it seemed like Novarro might escape the transition unscathed. His picture In Gay Madrid was a moderate success but lacked the box-office returns of his silent era films. His next film, Call of the Flesh, was released to mixed reviews but was still a moderate success. He continued to work on a slew of uninspired talking films, slowly loosing the prestige and clout he once had at MGM studios. His biggest success post-silent film came in 1931 starring opposite Greta Garbo in the spy-romance Mata Hari. The film was a smash hit and was MGM biggest hit of the year. However, much of the films prestige is said to be due to its star, Garbo. In 1933 he had the moderate hit The Barbarian opposite Myrna Loy. His next two films, however, were both failures by MGM standards. In 1935 his contract with MGM expired and the studio chose not to renew it.

Later Life and Tragic Death

After leaving MGM, Novarro continued to act sporadically but would never again reach the heights of his silent years.  In 1937 he starred in musical comedy The Sheik Steps Out, parodying his old image of "Latin Lover." In 1940 he then travel out of country to star in the Italian films Comedy of Happiness and Ecco la felicita. He then traveled to Mexico for a supporting role in The Saint that Forged a Country. He would not appear on the screen again until 1949 as a supporting John Huston film We Were Strangers. By the late 1950's and early 1960's, Novarro was making appearances on television shows such as Bonanza, Combat!, and The Wild Wild West. In 1968 hired brothers Paul and Tom Ferguson from a local agency for sex. The brothers had falsely believed that Novarro had a hidden stash of money in his house, and proceeded to torture him for several hours, hoping to find the non-existent money. He left with only 20 dollars they stole from his pocket. On October 30th 1968 Ramon Novarro died as result of asphyxiation - choking to death on his own blood after being savagely beaten. He was 69 years old. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Novarro was never nominated for an Academy Award.

BlogHub Articles:


on Oct 14, 2017 From Caftan Woman

Hispanic Heritage Month is being celebrated by Aurora at her site Once Upon a Screen with Hollywood's Hispanic Heritage Blogathon on October 15th. 1899-1968 Born in Durango, Mexico as Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego, the actor we came to know as moved to Los Angeles wi... Read full article


on Oct 14, 2017 From Caftan Woman

Hispanic Heritage Month is being celebrated by Aurora at her site Once Upon a Screen with Hollywood's Hispanic Heritage Blogathon on October 15th. 1899-1968 Born in Durango, Mexico as Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego, the actor we came to know as moved to Los Angeles wi... Read full article

Warner Archive Review and Giveaway! Win Three Musicals Featuring

By KC on Dec 8, 2015 From Classic Movies

Until now, I had only seen as a handsome temptation for leading ladies like Myrna Loy (The Barbarian [1933]) or Greta Garbo (Mata Hari [1931]). While he could hold his own with these goddesses of 1920s and 1930s cinema, he was clearly not the main attraction. As I recently watched a tr... Read full article

Tragic Star:

By FlickChick on May 24, 2015 From A Person in the Dark

2015 is the year of the tragic star on A Person in the Dark. May's tragic star is . In 1925, Latin lover Ramon Navarro seemed to have it all. Coming off a starring role in the epic Ben Hur, he was poised to take a place at the top of Hollywood's Mount Olympus of stars. But stor... Read full article

Day 8:

By Jill Blake on Aug 8, 2013 From Sittin' on a Backyard Fence

Thanks to everyone for the excellent posts on yesterday’s star, Fred MacMurray. Make sure you head over and check out all the great contributions. Today we honor silent film star . Trivia on : On to the blogging: Cliff from Immortal Ephmera is back with us today. La... Read full article

See all articles

Ramon Novarro Quotes:

Janice Darsey: [Speaking to the tiger cub] Would he grow up to be a big, big boy and eat the kind, kind lady?
Karim: Who could blame him?
Janice Darsey: I shall call him Oscar.
Karim: Oscar is a boy's name.
Janice Darsey: My error!
Karim: Forgiven.

Elizabeth Katherine Anne 'Lisl' Gluck: [reading a newspaper] It says here there's a terrible famine in Tibet. And a riot in Havana.
Archduke Paul 'Gustl' Gustave: [playing idly at the piano] There's a riot in Havana.
Elizabeth Katherine Anne 'Lisl' Gluck: Hmm. A riot in the streets.
Archduke Paul 'Gustl' Gustave: [singing] There's a riot in Havana...
Archduke Paul 'Gustl' Gustave: Look! It fits!
[resumes singing]
Archduke Paul 'Gustl' Gustave: There's a riot in Havana and a famine in Tibet...
Elizabeth Katherine Anne 'Lisl' Gluck: There's a drought in Indiana...
Archduke Paul 'Gustl' Gustave: [singing] It won't get wet... There is fighting in the Balkans-
Elizabeth Katherine Anne 'Lisl' Gluck: Oh, it doesn't say that there.
Archduke Paul 'Gustl' Gustave: There is *always* fighting in the Balkans.

Lt. Alexis Rosanoff: What's the matter, Mata?

read more quotes from Ramon Novarro...

Share this page:
Visit the Classic Movie Hub Blog CMH
Also an Aquarius

See All Aquariuses >>
Ramon Novarro Facts
Cousin of Dolores del Rio

A book about his death, "Bloody Wednesday", was rushed into print. For some reason, very few copies are available today, making the book a collector's item.

Cousin of Andrea Palma.

See All Related Facts >>
Related Lists
Create a list

See All Related Lists >>