Today in 1899 Mexican actor Ramon Novarro was born in Durango, Mexico with the given name of Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego. He joined his parents in Los Angeles as they fled the violence of the Mexican Revolution. Novarro’s first job was as a movie extra until landing his first acting role in 1922 in the silent movie The Prisoner of Zenda. He is considered one of the “first Latino actors to break into Hollywood.”
Hollywood was quick to recognize Novarro’s good looks dubbing him as the “New Valentino” or as the “Latin Lover”. His most famous role was in 1925 playing Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The Mexican actor made a very successful transition to talking films and eventually ended his career as a actor on the TV series High Chaparral. The 1930’s were his most prolific years having starred in musicals, talkies and comedies.
Novarro’s auspicious beginning in Hollywood as one of Mexico’s first stars is in stark contrast to his death. On the evening of October 30, 1968 the alleged closeted homosexual met a violent death at the hands of two young thugs. Reports indicated that two brothers killed Novarro after a sexual encounter and a failed attempt to rob him in his house.
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