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Cesar Romero

photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1934
Born Cesar Julio Romero, Jr.
February 15, 1907(1907-02-15)
New York City, New York,
United States
Died January 1, 1994 (aged 86)
Santa Monica, California
United States
Other name(s) Butch, Latin from Manhattan
Occupation Actor
Years active 1933–1990

Cesar Julio Romero, Jr. (February 15, 1907 – January 1, 1994) was a Cuban American film and television actor, who played The Joker in the 1960s television series Batman. In 1966, the show was transferred to movie theaters, and Romero became the first actor to portray the Joker in a motion picture.


Early years

Romero on board the USS Cavalier (APA-37)

Romero was born in New York to prosperous Cuban parents. That lifestyle, however, changed dramatically when his parents lost their sugar import business and suffered losses in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Fortunately, Romero's Hollywood earnings allowed him to support his large family, all of whom followed him to the West Coast, years later. Romero lived on and off with various family members, especially his sister, for the rest of his life.

In October 1942, he voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served in the Pacific Theatre. He reported aboard the Coast Guard-manned assault transport USS Cavalier in November, 1943 and saw action at Tinian and Saipan. He preferred to be a regular part of the crew and was eventually promoted to the rank of chief Boatswain's Mate.[1]


In Public Enemy's Wife (1936)

Romero played "Latin lovers" in films from the 1930s until the 1950s, usually in supporting roles. He starred as The Cisco Kid in six westerns made between 1939 and 1941. Romero danced and performed comedy in the 20th Century Fox films he starred in opposite Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable, such as Week-End in Havana and Springtime in the Rockies, in the 1940s.

In The Thin Man (1934), Romero was played a villainous supporting role opposite the film's main star William Powell. Many of Romero's films from this early period saw him cast in small character parts, such as Italian gangsters and East Indian princes. He also appeared in a comic turn as a subversive opponent to Frank Sinatra and his crew in Ocean's Eleven.

20th Century Fox, along with mogul Darryl Zanuck, personally selected Romero to co-star with Tyrone Power in the Technicolor historical epic, Captain from Castile (1947), directed by Henry King. While Power played a fictionalized character, Romero played Hernan Cortez, a historical Conquistador in Spain's conquest of the Americas. The movie is set in 1519, and sets out the general account of the first stages in the conquest of the Aztecs in Mexico. The film anachronistically depicted the armor and headgear worn by the conquering Spanish adventurers, shifting the styles forward about 70 years.


Among his many television credits, Romero played the role of Don Diego de la Vega's uncle in a number of Season Two Zorro episodes.[2] In 1958, he guest starred as Ramon Valdez, a South American businessman, who excels at doing the Cha-Cha with Barbara Eden in her syndicated romantic comedy, How to Marry a Millionaire in the episode "The Big Order". He performed the mambo with Gisele MacKenzie on her NBC variety show, The Gisele MacKenzie Show. Also in 1957, he guest-starred on the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour on the first episode of the seventh season.

In 1965, Romero played the head of THRUSH in France in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("The Never Never Affair").

Cesar Romero in his role as The Joker in Batman.

In 1966, Romero played The Joker in ABC's television series, Batman. He refused to shave his mustache and so it was covered with white makeup when playing the supervillain throughout the series' run, and in the spinoff 1966 film.

In the 1970s, Romero portrayed the absent father of the Freddie Prinze character Chico Rodriguez in Chico and the Man, and later Peter Stavros in the television series Falcon Crest (1985–1987). Among Romero's guest star work in the 1970s was a recurring role on the western comedy Alias Smith and Jones, starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. Romero played Señor Armendariz, a Mexican rancher feuding with Patrick McCreedy (Burl Ives), the owner of a ranch on the opposite side of the border. He appeared in three episodes. He also appeared as Count Dracula on Rod Serling's Night Gallery.

Apart from these television roles, Romero appeared as A.J. Arno, a small time criminal who continually opposes Dexter Riley (played by Kurt Russell) and his schoolmates of Medfield College in a series of films by Walt Disney Productions in the 1970s.

Personal life

Romero believed in liberation theology. Romero was a dedicated Christian, and believed in a utopian society whose belief is that Christ's kingdom would be very similar to Marx's envisionment of communism, and held to this belief until his death.[3][4]

Romero always claimed his grandfather on his mother's side was Cuban poet and patriot José Martí.

Romero never married. Romero made regular appearances on the Hollywood social circuit, usually in the company of an attractive actress, and he was almost always described in interviews and articles as a "confirmed bachelor."

Romero wore a man's tennis bracelet inscribed with his favorite nickname: "Butch". The term was reportedly bestowed on Romero by his one-time dancing partner Joan Crawford, who teased Romero by telling him: "You're so butch!"

Romero died in 1994. He was cremated and his ashes interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery in South Los Angeles community of Inglewood, California.

In popular culture

In The Simpsons episode "Hungry, Hungry Homer", the ghost of Cesar Chavez appears as Cesar Romero because Homer Simpson doesn't know what Cesar Chavez looks like.

In 2008, comedian Shaun Micallef started doing impersonations of Cesar on his television show Newstopia. The impersonations featured Cesar doing fake news reports from various locations, and always presented Cesar in his 'Joker' make-up.



External links

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