Born in New York City to parents of Cuban extraction, American actor Cesar Romero studied for his craft at Collegiate and Riverdale Country schools. After a brief career as a ballroom dancer, the tall, sleekly handsome Romero made his Broadway debut in the 1927 production Lady Do. He received several Hollywood offers after his appearance in the Preston Sturges play Strictly Dishonorable, but didn't step before the cameras until 1933 for his first film The Shadow Laughs (later biographies would claim that Romero's movie bow was in The Thin Man , in which he was typecast as a callow gigolo). Long associated with 20th Century-Fox, Romero occasionally cashed in on his heritage to play Latin Lover types, but was more at home with characters of indeterminate nationalities, usually playing breezily comic second leads (whenever Romero received third billing, chances were he wasn't going to get the girl). Cheerfully plunging into the Hollywood social scene, Romero became one of the community's most eligible bachelors; while linked romantically with many top female stars, he chose never to marry, insisting to his dying day that he had no regrets over his confirmed bachelorhood. While he played a variety of film roles, Romero is best remembered as "The Cisco Kid" in a brief series of Fox programmers filmed between 1939 and 1940, though in truth his was a surprisingly humorless, sullen Cisco, with little of the rogueish charm that Duncan Renaldo brought to the role on television. The actor's favorite movie role, and indeed one of his best performances, was as Cortez in the 1947 20th Century-Fox spectacular The Captain From Castile. When his Fox contract ended in 1950, Romero was wealthy enough to retire, but the acting bug had never left his system; he continued to star throughout the 1950s in cheap B pictures, always giving his best no matter how seedy his surroundings. In 1953 Romero starred in a 39-week TV espionage series "Passport to Danger," which he cheerfully admitted to taking on because of a fat profits-percentage deal. TV fans of the 1960s most closely associate Romero with the role of the white-faced "Joker" on the "Batman" series. While Romero was willing to shed his inhibitions in this villainous characterization, he refused to shave his trademark moustache, compelling the makeup folks to slap the clown white over the 'stache as well (you can still see the outline in the closeups). As elegant and affluent-looking as ever, Romero signed on for the recurring role of Peter Stavros in the late-1980s nighttime soap opera "Falcon Crest." In the early 1990s, he showed up as host of a series of classic 1940s romantic films on cable's American Movie Classics. Romero died of a blood clot on New Year's Day, 1994, at the age of 86.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Is the grandson of Cuban patriot and poet José Martí, after whom Cuba named one of its airports.
- Was born into an affluent Cuban-American family.
- While still in his teens, he teamed with a fellow socialite and began a brief career appearing in nightclubs as a ballroom dancer.
- Made his Broadway debut in Lady Do in 1927 and his film debut in The Shadow Laughs in 1933.
- Was often cast as a gigolo or as "the other man"—the one who didn't win the leading lady—in films.
- Took a three-year break from acting during World War II to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Refused to shave his trademark mustache to portray the Joker on the TV series Batman, so the makeup artists covered it with the Joker's white makeup.
- Gave himself the nickname "Latin from Manhattan."