Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol, 1899-1968

Foreword by Kevin Brownlow

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers (1999)

Winner, 1999 Bronze Halo Award—Southern California Motion Picture Council


Ramon Novarro was Ben-Hur to moviegoers long before Charlton Heston. The 1926 film of Lew Wallace’s epic novel made Novarro—known as “Ravishing Ramon”—one of Hollywood’s most beloved silent film idols. His bright and varied career, spanning silents, talkies, the concert stage, theater, and television, came to a dark conclusion with his murder in 1968.

Ellenberger’s comprehensive presentation of Novarro’s life chronicles his days in Mexico during the Huerta Revolution, as well as his reign as one of Hollywood’s leading romantic actors, working with stars like Greta Garbo, Myrna Loy, and Helen Hayes.

This biography covers Novarro’s descent into alcoholism and despair over his homosexuality and his waning career, finally culminating in a grisly murder that has caused Novarro to be remembered more as a victim than as a star. The author has researched both the private and public aspects of Novarro’s life to return him to his rightful place in film history. The text includes a complete filmography, and photographs from Novarro’s life and work.


  • “this well-illustrated biography may last as the definitive one for some time to come”—Booklist/RBB
  • “the life and career of the silent star is well researched” — Classic Images
  • “an extensive ammount of information about each of Novarro’s motion pictures” — International Gay & Lesbian Review 
  • “detailed… a fascinating look at Hollywood before talkies” — Lamda Book Report
  • “pieces together Novarro’s last moments in blook-stopping detail… captivating read… Ellenberger provides an exhaustive filmography… and makes a case for Novarro as a fascinating, frightening casualty of intolerance, self-destruction and fleeting stardon” — Bay Area Reporter
  • “comprehensive, frank and long-overdue… Ellenberger’s fine biography should at last shift the focus from the gruesome details of Novarro’s death to the remarkable life of Hollywood’s first and only known gay Mexican movie star” — The San Francisco Bay Guardian
  • “comprehensive” — Edge
  • “Ellenberger tells the story well” — Frontiers Newsmagazine
  • “Ramon Novarro is… [an] example of our ‘Gente’ who [has] survived and triumphed against adversity” — La Prensa, San Diego
  • “finally and gratefully, Allan R. Ellenberger has written a well-researched biography… A Silents Majority Must Read” — The Silents Majority On-Line Journal

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