MGM Studios was in financial trouble in the mid-1920s prior to the release of the blockbuster “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” a 1926 silent classic. “Ben Hur” featured Ramon Navarro, who was dubbed the “New Valentino” to further his appeal to his female fans.
Navarro, the son of a prosperous Durango, Mexican dentist, was born in 1899. His family took refuge from the Mexican Revolution in 1916, fleeing to Los Angeles.
After trying his hand, or, more respectively, his feet, fingers and lungs as a ballet dancer, piano teacher and singing waiter, he became a film extra in 1917. He worked as an extra until director Rex Ingram cast him as Rupert of Hentzau in “The Prisoner of Zenda” (1922). His boyish good-looks helped him earn roles in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (1921), “The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg” (1927) with Norma Shearer, and his first talking picture: “Call of the Flesh” (1930), where he sang and danced the tango. Other hits included “Mati Hari” (1931) and “The Big Steal” (1949).
Ramon Novarro makes fun of the Hollywood
Latin Lover image along with fellow stars
John Gilbert and Roy D’arcy on the set of
“A Certain Young Man” (1928 Silent Film).
Uncomfortable with his homosexuality, he developed a drinking problem and lost his boyish looks. One of the best-educated and popular members of Hollywood, he nonetheless could get little work and was doing bit parts and character work by the late 40s.
In the 1950s and 1960s, distinguished and gray-haired, he had a bit of a comeback as a television actor, notably on "Zorro." In 1968, Novarro was tragically beaten in his North Hollywood home by two male prostitutes.
Ramon Novarro (left) in the film that turned around the then financially troubled MGM studios, he appeared in his most famous role “Ben Hur” (1926-Silent Film). Novarro's rising popularity among female moviegoers resulted in his being billed as the "New Valentino".