During Hollywood's silent era, most people remember Rudolph Valentino as cinema's reigning “Latin Lover.” But there was another dashing, dark-eyed actor who, though now mostly forgotten, regularly challenged Valentino for the crown.
Ramon Novarro was for many years in the 1920s a hot property in Hollywood and one of the
But his film legacy was tarnished by the sordid nature of his untimely death, and that story is told in grim detail in the riveting but tragic biography “Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro” (University Press of Mississippi, $25). The 416-page paperback is the work of Andre Soares, a California screenwriter who is also chief editor of “Alternative Film Guide.”
Soares writes that Novarro was born Ramon Samaniego to a prominent Mexican family. He came to America in 1913 to flee the violence of civil war in his native country.
Throughout the 1920s and '30s, Novarro was a Latin heartthrob, idolized by millions and the star of some 50 motion pictures, whose fame as a “Latin lover” rivaled Valentino's (who was, in fact, Italian).
A lifelong bachelor who carefully cultivated his image as a man deeply devoted to his family and his Roman Catholic faith, Novarro was settled into easy retirement in a
On Halloween of that year, Novarro's nude, bloodied corpse was found in his house, igniting one of Hollywood's most infamous scandals. As it turns out, the actor's off-screen life was far removed from his romantic on-screen image, and for many years he hid his homosexuality as he regularly enjoyed the company of male hustlers.
Soares' gruesomely specific account details how Novarro's night with two young male companions ended in tragedy and scandal.
Soares presents the full picture in grim, colorful detail, not only of the star's rise to fame and his emotional conflicts over his sexual orientation, but of the grisly nature of his death and its sensational aftermath (in which brothers Paul and Tom Ferguson were convicted of murder).
Exhaustively researched and drawing on fresh interviews with Novarro's surviving friends, family, co-stars and the men convicted of his murder,