Thursday, August 28, 2003

Ramon Novarro bio

I just finished reading an excellent film biography, Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro, by Andre Soares. It is one of the most sympathetic biographies I have read in a long time. I really liked this book. It is well written and well researched. And is highly recommended. (And if you haven't seen the original Ben-Hur, go out and rent it today. It is excellent. I have seen it at least a half-dozen times.)

Here is a description of the book from its publisher. "Ramon Novarro was for years one of the top lead actors in Hollywood - the first Latin-American performer to become a Hollywood superstar. Born Ramón Samaniego to a prominent Mexican family, Novarro arrived in Hollywood in 1916 as a refugee from the civil wars that rocked Mexico in the early 20th century. By the mid-1920s, he had become one of MGM's most important leading men, going on to star in a series of now classic films including The Student Prince, Mata Hari, and the original version of Ben-Hur. He shared the screen with the era's most important leading ladies such as Greta Garbo, Myrna Loy, Joan Crawford, and Norma Shearer and become Rudolph Valentino's main rival in the "Latin Lover" category. But despite his considerable professional accomplishments, Novarro's most enduring claim to fame is his tragic death - his bloodied corpse was found in his house on Halloween 1968 in what has become one of the most infamous scandals in the vast lore of Hollywood.

Novarro was a life-long bachelor who had carefully cultivated his image as a man deeply devoted to his family and to his religious convictions. His murder shattered that image as it was revealed to the general public that the dashing screen hero had been not only homosexual, but had been killed by two young male hustlers. Since then, his death has achieved near mythic proportions. Increasingly outlandish stories have become accepted as truth, obscuring Novarro's notable professional legacy.

Beyond Paradise presents for the first time a full picture of the man who made motion picture history - from his amazing rise to stardom to the destructive conflicts faced by this traditional Catholic Mexican man who was also a gay film star. Compellingly told and impressively researched - including original interviews with Novarro's surviving friends, family, co-workers and the two men convicted of his murder - Beyond Paradise provides a unique insight into the groundbreaking life and career of one of the most important early Hollywood stars - a man whose myth continues to fascinate today."
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