Ramon Novarro — What Is His Mystic Power? (1930) 🇺🇸
Although it is impossible to know who is the most popular actor on the screen at the proem time, I venture to say that Ramon Novarro has the most consistently loyal following that ever stood by star through good pictures and bad. His admirers are not only legion, hut the intensity of their devotion is quite unlike that accorded any other star.
by Madeline Glass
This does not mean that the Gilberts, the Rogerses and the Coopers, do not have countless admirers, but I am convinced that none of these men inspires the reverential adulation that is lavished upon Novarro. To those who qualify as his fans, Ramon is the quintessence of all that is good and great. And the influence he exerts over their lives and characters is truly amazing.
Within my own circle of acquaintances, I have known girls to accept the Catholic faith, because their Ramon is a Catholic. I have seen them study the Spanish language, because that is Ramon's native tongue. And there have been many instances where devotion to this gifted young Mexican has caused his fans to study music and the other arts, hoping to come into closer contact with, and appreciation of, their idol. It is doubtful if any other actor ever exerted such a moral and mental sway over his admirers.
What set me to thinking about Ramon and his curiously devoted followers was an incident that came to my attention recently. A bright unsophisticated girl came to California from the East about two years ago. Her prime interest in life being Ramon, she went to the Metro-Goldwyn studio and applied for a position. Eventually she was given one. and as time went on, she found herself working among the stars. To her the star of stars was, of course, the black-haired lad with the captivating accent. Occasionally he stopped to say a few friendly words to her. These encounters were to the girl moments of mingled bliss and agony, for although Ramon was ever so casual and impersonal, she invariably was thrown into such a nervous state by his presence that it is a wonder he did not notice her discomfiture.
"How can you be so charming while breaking my heart in two!"
Then one day came news which the girl had once thought would bring her the height of joy. She was given work where she would come in direct and continual contact with Ramon. Upon hearing this, she resigned her position and left the studio.
"I knew I would fall madly in love with him," she explained resignedly, "and it wouldn't have been fair to him — or to me."
The incident was an unusual tragi-comedy, yet it can be topped by an even more amazing one. For the charm of Novarro not only leads his fans to master his language and be converted to his religion, but it inspires them to all sorts of sacrifices.
Another girl also came from the East, for the purpose of seeing Ramon. She was very poor, and being young and inexperienced, could scarcely earn enough to keep soul and body together. She is to-day getting along nicely, and she has such an unusually good mind that a fine future undoubtedly is in store for her. Although she had no money, she had a consuming desire to see Mr. Novarro. So she set out to walk the many miles to the studio. The gentleman in the front office whose duty it is to question callers and summon the bouncer if necessary, indicated that she stood about as much chance of seeing Ramon as she did of seeing the president.
So the girl started to trudge back home, carrying the additional weight of a heart suddenly turned to lead. By the time she reached Los Angeles, her feet were so tired and swollen that she took off her shoes and limped slowly across the cool lawn that surrounded an unpretentious residence. As she neared the front of the house, who should walk out but Ramon — in person, not a motion picture! She watched, radiant with delight, her poor, abused feet forgotten, while he stepped into his car and rode away.
What does this man possess that inspires such idolatrous devotion? A good press representative? Ridiculous! Beauty? There are other handsome men on the screen. Talent? There are other talented actors. A good reputation? There are other good reputations among the screen folk. No, it is no one of these things. It is a combination of beauty, talent, and character, plus a personality in which is blended gayety, spirituality, and a flavor of medieval romance.
While other men usually look out of place in fancy costumes, Ramon looks a bit strange in modern dress. His is a personality that fittingly harmonizes with the splendors, adventures, and tragedies known in centuries past and gone. A theosophist would say that he has lived many previous lives. Probably he has. Be that as it may, he is to each of his girl fans the dream prince of all time, a god with a sense of humor.
Ramon Novarro is a product of no great stock. His father was a dentist, and his mother is a good and patient woman whose chief interests in life are her children and her church. Yet Ramon radiates an aura that would grace a descendant of the Titans. Although he has lived most of his life in intimate family domesticity, one never thinks lim as being domestic, he is thought of as a product of some ancient, highly civilized race quite unlike the present generation.
The worst thing he could do to his fans would he to marry. Ramon is a symbol of gay young romance, and would seem strangely out of place as a husband, still more so as a father. Yet how stupid it is for us to deny him the rights of a normal man! Shall we, in the words of Wilde, "Kill the thing we love"?
For all his bachelorhood, Ramon has been the sole support of his family for years. Three generations of relatives live in his home. Many a time he must have picked up his small brothers and sisters and played with them; many a time he must have become involved in fiery family disputes. Not domestic? No, not very!
And because he is only human, not all the loyalty of his fans can protect him from the jagged prongs of anguish that rend all mortals. Poverty, disappointment, heartbreak — he has known them all. His aging father never sees his famous son, either on the screen or in person, for he is blind. Three of his sisters are lost to him, for they are nuns. About a year ago a brother, Ramon's particular chum, a strikingly handsome lad, died, leaving the family desolate. Tragedies great and small have fallen to his lot, while mental and physical toil are his, daily companions. These trials are what have helped to develop a naturally fine character and create a man whom thousands attempt to emulate.
In spite of all his responsibilities and his many dependents, we have never read a sob story about him — unless this turns out to be one! He shoulders his burdens like a true soldier of life and asks no quarter of any one.
There comes to mind the case of a really brilliant actor whose career has been seriously impaired by trashy publicity and "true confessions." His divorces, marriages, love affairs, financial difficulties, and what not, are forever before the public. One gets the impression that he is looking for sympathy, though why that should be expected is not clear. Certainly he has had a far easier life than Novarro, who came to this country with
out even knowing English. Needless to say, this actor has never inspired any one to learn a language, or cultivate the arts. Not, of course, that he is expected to, but I am merely pointing out the difference in men.
Novarro holds a tremendous public trust. It is not fair to proclaim mere mortal a god and expect him to live up to such an exalted state, yet that is what the fans have done. This responsibility was laid upon him without his knowledge or consent. Groping humanity forever seeks an ideal and, by the mutual acclaim of a multitude of fans, this youth of a turbulent, picturesque country was chosen. Superficial barriers, such as race and religion, have been swept aside, and the matter-of-fact Anglo-Saxon, or the searching agnostic, sees in Ramon fully as much to admire as does the ardent Catholic or fellow Latin.
And because he has been intrusted with the love and respect of millions, it is his ineluctable duty never to betray their faith. Not that he will, to be sure, but to do so would be an act of colossal dishonor.
If this seems unfair and unreasonable, I can only answer with Novarro's own pet expression of implacable fate, "kismet."
Grandma Baker came from Oak Hill, Illinois, to meet Ramon Novarro for the first time and was a guest at his home.
To admire is one thing, to idolize is another, and to emulate a star is the greatest tribute of all. And, according to Madeline Glass in the article opposite, Ramon Novarro is the only one who inspires this supreme manifestation.
Photo by: George Hurrell (1904–1992)
Collection: Picture Play Magazine, August 1930