Ramon Novarro--that't the hunk in the vest and shorts, depicted here in his characterisic role of riding pillion. He features heavily in my new work on Rudolph Valentino, Valentino's Affairs, which goes off to the printers tomorrow.
He was born José-Ramon Samaniegos, in Mexico, and made some pretty spiffing films--notably Ben Hur, which I find much better than the one featuring arch-homophobe Charlton Heston--and Mata Hari, which saw him partnered with Garbo. Sadly, many remember him for the way he died--murdered by a pair of hustlers when he was 69 years old.
There is also, thankfully, a joyous anecdote regarding José-Ramon. According to the legend, when he was a young buck earning his crust as an extra and artists' model--those uncensored pictures of him from this period are quite stunning: Ramon was a big lad, if you get my drift--he was 'spotted' by a producer who took him home to enjoy one of José-Ramon's 'Mexican specials'.
Now, this is where legend become reality and truth. In 1933, the great French dancer Minstinguett had a very passionate affair with an Austrian adagio dancer called Frederic Rey--who subsequently left her for José-Ramon, who had in his possession an Art Deco replica of Valentino's cock. I actually saw this in Paris--Rudy was a big lad, too. And of course, Rudy and José-Ramon once famously 'made love like tigers until dawn'. Anyhow, my godfather was one of Mistinguett's dancers, and he also enjoyed José-Ramon's delights--it was Roger who showed me pictures of José-Ramon in the buff, and who also arranged for me to see the Valentino What-Not. Roger was the godson of Jacques Hébertot--more of this will appear in the new Valentino work. And it was Hébertot, courtesy of José-Ramon and Minstinguett themselves--who never met but told EXACTLY the same story--that I learned how José-Ramon had come about his famous monicker:
'When Ingram met him after [The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse] he was posing nude for art students in Los Angeles, and didn't take much persuading to bounce onto the casting couch. Ramon told Frédé how Ingram had taken a lingering look at his beautifully hirsute buttocks and commented how much they reminded him of his favourite haunt, the Novarro Valley. That's how he got his name--because his arse looked like a tourist attraction!'