Born one day after Valentine’s Day and gifted dashing good looks, Cesar Romero was destined to be a leading man. The towering Cuban entertainer (he stood at 6′ 3″) was far more than the picture-perfect Latin lover. He played good guys and bad guys, a cowboy and a vampire, a dancer and a magician.
The dapper actor owned over 500 suits, but he is best known for a bright purple one. Romero appeared as the Joker in 22 episodes of the camp classic Batman television series of 1966. It would be the first live-action depiction of the Joker, when the character was more clown than maniac.
Let’s salute the Hollywood icon with 10 fascinating facts.
1. HIS GRANDFATHER WAS A POET AND CUBAN NATIONAL HERO.
Named the “Apostle of Cuban Independence,” José Martí was a key figure in the country’s fight to throw off the shackles of Spain colonialism. He was also a legendary poet. The lyrics to the song “Guantanamera” were adapted from his verses. The writer and revolutionary romanced the owner of a New York boarding house, who gave birth to María Mantilla, Romero’s mother.
2. HE WAS A LEGENDARY DANCER, WITH NO FORMAL DANCING TRAINING.
Romero’s entry into Hollywood came via the ballrooms of New York City. In 1927, a wealthy woman named Elizabeth Higgins asked the 20 year old to form a dance partnership. The two would light up the floors at dinner clubs like the Ambassador Roof and the Montmartre Café. It was said he had the skills to be the rival of Astaire, and yet he had no dance training.
3. HE WAS IN A CISCO KID MOVIE BEFORE BECOMING THE CISCO KID.
Warner Baxter played the titular caballero in the 1939 oater The Return of the Cisco Kid. A little lower on the bill was Romero, who portrayed Lopez. Later that year, Romero would leap from sidekick to leading man when he took over the role of the Cisco Kid, the dashing Mexican Robin Hood. He would play the kid in six big screen flicks.