Ramon Novarro Poster

Biography

Ramon Novarro was born José Ramón Gil Samaniego on February 6, 1899 in Durango, Mexico, to Leonor (Gavilan) and Dr. Mariano N. Samaniego Siqueiros, a prosperous dentist. Ramon and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1913, as refugees from the Mexican Revolution. After stints as a ballet dancer, piano teacher and singing waiter, he became a film extra in 1917. For five years he remained an extra until director Rex Ingram cast him as Rupert in The Prisoner of Zenda (1922). He was cast with Lewis Stone and Ingram's wife, Alice Terry (Ingram was also the person who suggested that he change his name to Novarro). He worked with Ingram in his next four films and was again teamed with Terry in the successful Scaramouche (1923). Novarro's rising popularity among female moviegoers resulted in his being billed as the "New Valentino". In 1925 he appeared in his most famous role, as the title character in Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), and later co-starred with Norma Shearer in The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927). His first talking picture was Call of the Flesh (1930), where he sang and danced the tango. He continued to appear in musicals, but his popularity was slipping. He starred with Greta Garbo in the successful Mata Hari (1931), but his career began to fade fast. In 1935 he left MGM and appeared on Broadway in a show that quickly flopped. His later career, when he was able to find work in films, consisted mostly of cameos. On October 30th, 1968, Ramon Novarro was savagely beaten in his North Hollywood home by two young hustlers. They had heard - in error - that he had thousands of dollars locked away somewhere in his home. They never found any money, and Ramon was discovered dead the next day by his servant.