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Finding aid of the Allan R. Ellenberger Collection on Ramon Novarro
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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 .
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.
9 archive cartons + 1 shoebox + 1 oversize box 4.0 linear feet
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