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Cesar Romero: 1907-1994: Dancer, Actor - Portrayed "the Joker"

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Of his hundreds of appearances on stage, screen, and film, Romero is most recognized among Baby Boomers for his two-year stint in 1966-67 as Batman's maniacal archenemy, the Joker, on the popular Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. He also played the part of Joker in the 1966 feature film Batman. Given the whole of Romero's career, during which he most often filled the role of the Latin lover with a self-mocking smile, it is interesting that he gained widespread fame with his handsome face covered in greasepaint and his debonair smile turned up into a wicked, devious grin.


Despite his willingness to take on the part, Romero hesitated when the studio asked him to shave off his trademark mustache. "It was as if he'd be losing all those wonderful movies he made when he was the dashing Latin Romero," West told People Weekly. "So the producers said, 'Okay, just dab some white makeup over it.' But if you look closely, you can see the mustache through the greasepaint." When the role of the Joker was revived by Jack Nicholson in 1989 in a film remake of Batman, Romero was critical. "It just hit me the wrong way," Romero said, according to the Associated Press. "It's not the Batman concept at all.… What we did was fun."


Romero, who struggled against the stereotype of the "Latin lover" that afflicted many Latino actors at the time, played the same part in his own personal life. Romero, who never married and who lived most of his life with members of his extended family under the same roof, kept many of the famous and near-famous women of Hollywood on his arm, including Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, and Ann Sheridan. His gracious, unpretentious personality, combined with his impeccable manners and dress, made him a favorite escort. Active on the social scene until his death, Romero died on January 1, 1994, at St. John's Hospital in Los Angeles, from a blood clot caused by complications from severe pneumonia and bronchitis.


Selected filmography


Films


The Shadow Laughs, 1933.

Romance of the Rio Grande, 1929.

The Devil is a Woman, 1933.

British Agent, 1934.

The Thin Man, 1934.

Cardinal Richelieu, 1935.

Clive of India, 1935.

The Good Fairy, 1935.

Hold 'Em Yale, 1935.

Dangerously Yours, 1937.

Wee Willie Winkie, 1937.

Happy Landing, 1938.

The Return of the Cisco Kid, 1939.

The Little Princess, 1939.

Lucky Cisco Kid, 1940.

The Gay Caballero, 1940.

Viva Cisco Kid, 1940.

The Great American Broadcast, 1941.

Tall, Dark and Handsome, 1941.

Week-End in Havana, 1941.

Springtime in the Rockies, 1942.

Wintertime, 1943.

Coney Island, 1943.

Vera Cruz, 1954.

Around the World in 80 Days, 1956.

Ocean's Eleven, 1960.

Donovan's Reef, 1963.

Batman, 1966.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, 1969.

Mortuary Academy, 1991.


Television


Passport to Danger, 1954-55.

Wagon Train, 1957.

Zorro, 1957.

Bonanza, 1959.

Batman, 1966-67.

The Love Boat, 1977.

Falcon Crest, 1988-87.


Sources

Books


Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Gale, 1996.

Maltin, Leonard, ed., Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, Penguin Books, 1994.

Parish, James Robert, and William T. Leonard, Hollywood Players: The Thirties, Arlington House Publishers, 1976.

The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001.

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, 5 vols., St. James Press, 2000.

Thomson, David, A Biographical Dictionary of Film, William Morrow and Co., 1981.

Variety Obituaries, Vol. 15, 1993-1994, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995.


Periodicals


Associated Press, June 23, 1989; January 2, 1994.

Independent (London, England), January 4, 1994, p. 12.

People Weekly, January 17, 1994.

Toronto Star, August 18, 1991, January 3, 1994.

—Kari Bethel

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