Thursday, September 15, 2011

HOLA Legends: César Romero

César Romero (1907 – 1994), born César Julio Romero Mantilla, al estilo latino, was an American film and television actor who was active in film, radio, and television for almost sixty years. His wide range of screen roles included Latin lovers, historical figures in costume dramas, characters in light domestic comedies, and as The Joker in television's "Batman" series.

He was born in New York, New York, U.S.A. to well-to-do Cuban parents (César Romero and María Mantilla) who migrated to the United States. His maternal grandparents were exiled Cubans Carmen and Manuel Mantilla. Their daughter, María Mantilla, Romero's mother, is generally believed to have been the daughter of Cuban poet and revolutionary hero José Martí, who also wrote the song "Guantánamera." His family's lifestyle, however, changed dramatically when his parents lost their sugar import business and suffered losses in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Fortunately, his Hollywood earnings allowed him to support his large family, all of whom followed him to the West Coast, years later. He lived on and off with various family members, especially his sister, for the rest of his life.

In October 1942, while making Hollywood films, he voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served in the Pacific Theater. He reported aboard the Coast Guard-manned assault transport USS Cavalier in November 1943. According to a press release from the period he saw action during the invasions of Tinian and Saipan, both in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The same article mentioned that he preferred to be a regular part of the crew and was eventually promoted to the rank of Chief Boatswain's Mate.

He played "Latin lovers" in films from the 1930s until the 1950s, usually in supporting roles. He starred as The Cisco Kid in six Westerns made between 1939 and 1941. he danced and performed comedy in the 20th Century Fox films he starred in opposite Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable, such as Week-End in Havana (1941) and Springtime in the Rockies (1942).

In The Thin Man (1934), he played a villainous supporting role opposite the film's main star William Powell. Many of his films from this early period saw him cast in small character parts, such as Italian gangsters and East Indian princes. He also appeared in a comic turn as a subversive opponent to Frank Sinatra and his crew in Ocean's Eleven.

He was personally selected by 20th Century Fox, along with mogul Darryl Zanuck, to co-star with Tyrone Power in the Technicolor historical epic, Captain from Castile (1947). In the movie, he played conquistador Hernan Cortés.

Among his many television credits, he appeared several times on NBC's "The Martha Raye Show" in the middle 1950s. He played the role of Don Diego de la Vega's uncle in a number of episodes of "Zorro." In 1957, he guest-starred on "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" on the first episode of the seventh season. In 1965, he played the head of THRUSH in France in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

His biggest success came between the years 1966 and 1968, when he played "The Joker" in ABC's television series "Batman." He refused to shave his mustache and so it was covered with white makeup when playing the supervillain throughout the series' run, and in the spinoff 1966 film. He was the first actor to play the Joker in a live action adaptation of the Batman character. At 6'2" (1.88m), he was the tallest actor to have played the Joker in a (non-fan-made) live-action Batman production. (Heath Ledger was 6'1", or 1.85m, and Jack Nicholson was nearly 5'10", or 1.77m).

In the 1970s, he portrayed the absent father of the Freddie Prinze character Chico Rodríguez in "Chico and the Man," and later Peter Stavros in the television series "Falcon Crest" (1985–1987). He also did numerous guest starring spots on numerous television series.

He never married, but made regular appearances on the Hollywood social circuit in the company of attractive actresses; however, he was almost always described in interviews and articles as a "confirmed bachelor." He died in 1994 six weeks shy of his 87th birthday in Santa Monica, California, U.S.A. from bronchitis and pneumonia.

In a clip with Carole Lombard in the film Love Before Breakfast (1936)

A clip from the film Viva Cisco Kid (1940)

Appearing on the television series "What's My Line?"

A clip from the television series "Batman"

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