Jose Ramón Gil Samaniego, best known as Ramón Novarro (February 6, 1899 – October 30, 1968), was a Mexican film, stage and television actor who began his career as a leading man in silent films in 1917. Novarro was promoted by MGM as a "Latin lover" and became known as sex symbol after the death of Rudolph Valentino.
Novarro was troubled all his life by his conflicted feelings toward his Roman Catholic religion and his homosexuality. His life-long struggle with alcoholism is often traced to these issues. MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer reportedly tried to coerce Novarro into a "lavender marriage," which he refused. He was romantically involved with journalist Herbert Howe, who was also his publicist in the late 1920s.
Along with Dolores del Río, Lupe Vélez and James Cagney, Novarro was accused of promoting Communism in California. It happened after they attended a special screening of the film ¡QUE VIVA MEXICO! by famed Russian filmmaker Sergei M. Eisenstein.
Novarro was murdered on October 30, 1968, by brothers Paul and Tom Ferguson, aged 22 and 17, whom he had hired from an agency to come to his Laurel Canyon home for sex. According to the prosecution in the murder case, the two young men believed that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro's house. The prosecution accused the brothers of torturing Novarro for several hours to force him to reveal where the non-existent money was hidden. They left the house with $20 they took from his bathrobe pocket. Novarro died as a result of asphyxiation—having choked to death on his own blood after being beaten. The two perpetrators were caught and sentenced to long prison terms, but released on probation in the mid-1970s. Both were later re-arrested for unrelated crimes for which they served longer prison terms than for the murder of Novarro.
Ramón Novarro is buried in Calvary Cemetery, in Los Angeles. Ramón Novarro's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6350 Hollywood Boulevard.