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Cesar Romero, More than just the Joker



Tall, handsome and sophisticated, Cesar Romero was born into a distinguished Cuban family and got his start performing as a nightclub dancer in his native New York City before landing Broadway acting roles such as “All Points West” and “Dinner at Eight” among other plays. An MGM talent scout spotted him on one of his Broadway runs and brought the young performer to Hollywood in 1934, where Romero went on to entertain movie and TV audiences for the next sixty years.

Though widely known as a “Latin lover,” Romero found his footing in such early roles as a suspect in “The Thin Man” (1934), an Afghan leader who counsels Shirley Temple in “Wee Willie Winkie” (1935) and a luckless lover in hot pursuit of Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg’s “The Devil is a Woman” (1935). Romero also met with success portraying the Cisco Kid in a series of B movies released by his home studio, 20th Century Fox, including “The Gay Caballero” (1940) and “Romance of the Rio Grande” (1941).

Throughout the forties, Fox also cast Romero in a number of musicals, capitalizing on his earlier years as a dancer. Despite the fact that he often lost lead roles to slightly better-known male names, Romero continually won audience favor with his ability to seamlessly combine styles from Latin to ballroom and beyond. In “Springtime in the Rockies” (1942), Romero got the chance to pair his footloose finesse with Betty Grable’s grace, and although his character may not have won the girl in the end, his performance guaranteed Romero a place in film history forever.

Cesar Romero

Cesar with Carmen Miranda in Weekend in Havana.

Upon his return from service in WW II, Fox cast Romero in the extravagant “The Captain from Castille” (1947). Romero’s portrayal of Cortez is considered one of his finest by critics and fans alike. During the 1950’s, Romero turned his attention to TV, hosting “Your Chevrolet Showroom” (1953-54) and starring as the suave courier Steve McQuinn in the adventure series “Passport to Danger” (1954). The 1960’s ushered in more success, with Romero cast as the deliciously maverick Joker in the kitschy cult adventure series “Batman” (1966-68). In 1989, Romero revived his role as the Joker in the 1989 feature “Batman.” In a note to the trivia trendy, the story goes that during the time of filming, Romero was so enamoured of his mustache that he refused to shave it off and that the faintest of shadows is visible beneath his viscous clown makeup.

Romero kept busy throughout the 1970’s with such films as “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t” (1972), “The Strongest Man in the World” (1975), and “Simple Justice” (1989). From 1985 through 1988 he played the wealthy and sophisticatedly sexy Peter Stavros on TV’s “Falcon’s Crest” and continued to host television specials until his death in 1994.