Born Ramón Gil Samaniego in Durango, Mexico, his family moved to Los Angeles to escape the Mexican Revolution. A cousin of actress Dolores del Rio, he entered films in 1917 playing bit parts, and 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, with his revealing costumes causing a sensation, and Novarro was elevated into the Hollywood elite. With Valentino's death in 1926 he became the screen's leading Latin actor. He was popular as a swashbuckler in action roles, and was also considered one of the great romantic lead actors of his day.
He appeared with Norma Shearer in The Student Prince (1927) and made his first talking film, in a role that also allowed him to sing and dance, in Call of the Flesh (1930). He starred with Greta Garbo in Mata Hari in 1932 and had one of his biggest successes opposite Myrna Loy in The Barbarian (1933), but his star was now beginning to fade. His contract with MGM Studios expired in 1935 and the studio did not renew it. He continued to act sporadically in film and also appeared on Broadway, but his days as a great star were behind him, and the public soon forgot him. While at the peak of his success he had earned $10,000 per week, and had invested in real estate. After his career ended he was able to maintain a wealthy lifestyle.
Novarro had been troubled all his life as a result of his conflicting views over his Catholic religion and his homosexuality.
His life ended when he was murdered by two male prostitutes he had brought to his Laurel Canyon home. One was previously acquainted with Novarro and knew him to be a wealthy man. Believing that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro's house, the two men tortured him for several hours to force him to reveal where the money was hidden, but there was no money. Novarro died as a result of asphyxiation, choking to death on his own blood after being brutally beaten. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Ramón Novarro has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame his contribution to the Motion Picture industry, at 6350 Hollywood Boulevard.
Ramon Novarro Facts
|Ramón Gil Samaniego
|February 6, 1899
|Date of death
|October 30, 1968 (age 69)
|5' 6" (1m68) How tall is Ramon Novarro compared to you?