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Finding aid of the Allan R. Ellenberger Collection on Ramon Novarro
Coll2008-050  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Allan R. Ellenberger collection on Ramon Novarro
    Dates: circa 1900-2002.
    Bulk Dates: 1922-1968.
    Collection number: Coll2008-050
    Creator: Ellenberger, Allan R., 1956-
    Collection Size: 9 archive cartons + 1 shoebox + 1 oversize box 4.0 linear feet
    Repository: ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.
    Los Angeles, California 90007
    Abstract: Correspondence, drafts, research notes, photographs, audiotaped interviews, newspaper and film magazine clippings, videotapes, and miscellaneous graphic materials produced and collected by Allan R. Ellenberger in the course of researching his biography of film actor and silent screen romantic idol Ramon Novarro (1899-1968), published in 1999 as Ramon Novarro; A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968; With a Filmography .
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Access

    The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

    Publication Rights

    Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives as the physical owner. Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in the materials. Note that ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).

    Preferred Citation

    Allan R. Ellenberger collection on Ramon Novarro, Coll2008-050, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Date and method of acquisition unknown.

    Processing Information

    Formerly boxes 103-354, 103-355, and 103-359. Collection processed by Michael P. Palmer, August 20, 2008.
    Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

    Biography

    Ramon Novarro was born Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego in Durango, Mexico, on February 6, 1899, the second son of a wealthy dentist. He evidenced an interest in acting and singing early in his life, and in 1915, with the grudging consent of his parents, moved to Los Angeles with his brother Mariano to pursue a music career. To support himself, he took jobs as a model and singing waiter. In 1917 he broke into films as an extra; he further developed his acting skills with a stint in vaudeville. The first film in which he received billing was Mr. Barnes of New York, directed by Victor Schertzinger and released in June 1922; however, the role that launched his career was the character of Rupert of Hentzau in The Prisoner of Zenda, directed by Rex Ingram and released in July 1922. Ingram, who had first directed Novarro as an extra in the 1921 film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which starred Rudolph Valentino, became Novarro's mentor, directing him in his next three next films: the romantic drama Trifling Women (1922), the melodrama Where the Pavement Ends (1923), and the historical romance Scaramouche (1923). By the end of 1922, Novarro's studio, Metro (later to become Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), was touting Novarro as the next Valentino. Novarro reached the pinnacle of his career in the title role in the monumental production of Ben-Hur, directed by Fred Niblo and released on December 30, 1925, although he gave a better performance the following year in Ernst Lubitsch's The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg. With Valentino's death in 1926, Novarro became the leading romantic idol of Hollywood silent films, although his fame never quite matched that of his predecessor. Although Novarro had a high-pitched speaking voice, his career survived the transition to sound, and his later films increasingly took advantage of his musical training and pleasant singing voice. He also worked behind the camera, directing the Spanish and French versions of Call of the Flesh (1930) in which he also starred. Novarro continued playing romantic leads into the early 1930s, starring opposite Greta Garbo in Mata Hari (1931), Myrna Loy in The Barbarian (1933), and Jeanette MacDonald in The Cat and the Fiddle (1934). Age began to take its toll, however, despite his desperate attempt to look youthful in his early talkies. He left Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1935, and later became a parody of his earlier self in such films as The Sheik Steps Out (1937). His last starring role in an English-language film was in A Desperate Adventure (1938). He starred in two foreign-language films, in 1940 and 1944, and between 1949 and 1960 appeared in character parts in five films. In the 1950s and 1960s, he also appeared in character parts in several television series, including Walt Disney Presents (1958), Combat (1964 and 1965), Dr. Kildare (1964), Bonanza (1965), The Wild Wild West (1967), and High Chaparral (1968). He also appeared in theater, including ten performances of A Royal Exchange, at His Majesty's Theatre, London, in 1935, and two preview performances of Infidel Caesar, on Broadway, in 1962.
    Novarro was less pretentious than Valentino, and the natural style to his acting distinguished him from other young actors. Contemporary critics praised the ease and charm of his performances. Novarro's homosexuality, although zealously guarded from the film-going public (which was treated to rumors linking Novarro romantically to both Greta Garbo and Myrna Loy), was a fairly open secret in Hollywood. Although his boyish looks did not adversely affect the critical estimation of his talent during his heyday as a star, retrospectively some film historians find him almost too beautiful to be taken seriously, and he has consequently been perceived as a decidedly effeminate performer. Indeed, Novarro's homosexuality and androgynous beauty have profoundly affected the estimation of his talent by some critics, who argue that his sexuality influenced his acting style.
    On October 31, 1968, Novarro was found dead in his Hollywood Hills home, beaten to death by one of two hustlers who had come to his house the previous evening.
    Sources:
    1. Allan R. Ellenberger, Ramon Novarro; A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968; With a Filmography (Jefferson, NC, 1999).
    2. André Soares, Beyond Paradise; The Life of Ramon Novarro (New York, 2002).
    3. Peter J. Holliday, " Ramon Novarro", http://www.glbtq.com/arts/novarro_r.html  , accessed August 18, 2008.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection consists of correspondence, drafts, research notes, photographs, audiotaped interviews, newspaper and film magazine clippings, videotapes, and miscellaneous graphic materials produced and collected by Allan R. Ellenberger in the course of researching his biography of film actor and silent screen romantic idol Ramon Novarro (1899-1968), published in 1999 as Ramon Novarro; A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968; With a Filmography . The materials include original and photocopy correspondence with several of Novarro's family and friends, including his brother José and his early dance-partner Lina Basquette; audiotapes of interviews with family and friends, including his brother and his co-star Anita Page; copies of his death certificate, autopsy, and will; and an incomplete eyewitness account by Jim Kepner of the trial of his accused murderers. The documents also include extensive chronological and subject files with photocopies of, and original clippings from, Los Angeles newspapers, film magazines, and secondary sources detailing his rise to fame in the 1920s, each of his films, his slide to obscurity in the 1930s and 1940s, his attempted comeback in film and television in the 1950s and 1960s, and his brutal murder and the subsequent trial of his accused murderers in 1968 and 1969. The photographs include contemporary prints of studio publicity shots and film stills, as well as scans of personal and family photographs. The collection also contains videotapes of several of Novarro's films and television appearances, as well as a small collection of graphics, several fan magazines from 1919 to 1941, and sheet music for three songs Novarro sang in his films.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Gay motion picture actors--Biography
    Motion picture actors and actresses--United States--Biography
    Novarro, Ramon, 1899-1968