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Cesar Romero: 1907-1994: Dancer, Actor

Danced His Way Into Show Business

Cesar Romero was born on February 15, 1907, in New York City. His Italian-born father, Cesar Julio Romero, was an exporter of sugar and machinery, and his mother, Maria Mantilla, was a modestly successful singer and concert pianist. They had emigrated from Cuba to the United States, where Romero and his three siblings were raised. His maternal grandfather, the well-known Cuban patriot and writer José Martí y Perez, was one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution. Romero grew up in a privileged household until his father lost his fortune when the sugar market collapsed.

Romero was educated at the Riverdale Country School and the Collegiate School in New York City, where he had his first acting experience, playing four roles in the school production of The Merchant of Venice. A generally unmotivated student, he never graduated. Romero was the epitome of the tall, dark, and handsome Latin lover made popular by screen actor Rudolph Valentino, and he became a popular fixture on the debutante party circuit, where he associated with New York's elite. Following the demise of his father's business, Romero took a job with a Wall Street bank, but he had no interest in pursuing a career other than in show business.

In 1927 he was approached by wealthy heiress Elizabeth Higgins, who wanted to form a dance team, and the 20-year-old Romero began turning his suave good looks, innate charm, and love of dancing into a new career. "I was a helluva a good dancer, and I always was stagestruck, anyway," he told the Associated Press. "It was the only way I knew how to get into show business." Although he had no formal dance training, Romero became an accomplished ballroom dancer in the theaters and nightclubs of New York City.

At a Glance . . .

Born on February 15, 1907, in New York, NY; died on January 1, 1994, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Cesar Julio Romero and Maria Mantilla.

Career: Dancer, 1927-29; Actor on stage, film, and television, 1927-94.

Awards: Fifty Years in the Film Industry award, Hollywood International Celebrity Award Banquet, 1984; Nosotros Golden Eagle for Success as a Hispanic in Show Business, 1984; Imagen Hispanic Media Award for Life Achievement, 1991; Will Rogers Memorial Award, Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, 1992.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyCesar Romero: 1907-1994: Dancer, Actor Biography - Danced His Way Into Show Business, From Dinner Club To The Stage, Made Screen Debut