The first of Hollywood’s Latin leading men of the silent era, Antonio Moreno had his greatest success in the 1920’s, when he was ranked second only to Rudolph Valentino as the great lover of the screen.
Born Antonio Garrido Monteagudo Moreno in Madrid, Spain, on September 26, 1887, he came to New York at the age of fourteen and completed his studies at the Williston Seminary in Northampton, Massachusetts. Antonio began his acting career on the New York stage several years later, but eventually gave up the New York stage for Hollywood.
While playing bit parts on stage in Hollywood, Antonio was seen by D.W. Griffith who launched him on his screen career. For some reason, Antonio did not thrive at Biograph and he signed up with Vitagraph in 1914, and stayed there learning his trade through 1917
Antonio appeared in nearly fifty films, supporting such Vitagraph girls as Norma and Constance Talmadge. By mid 1917, Antonio was getting dissatisfied again and moved to Pathe, making five films for them over the next year.
In 1923, Paramount launched Antonio as their new leading man, and starred him in no less than six big budgeted films that year. Some of Antonio’s costars at Paramount were stars such as Gloria Swanson, Colleen Moore, Mary Miles Minter, Bebe Daniels and Pola Negri.
Antonio made another five films for Paramount before moving to First National. After only three films in that studio, he signed up with MGM. Antonio’s first MGM film, “Mare Nostrum” (1926) was his best showcase. “Beverly of Graustark” (1926) was an enjoyable experience as costar Marion Davies was full of fun. “The Temptress” (1926) with Greta Garbo was a nightmare for all concerned because Antonio and director Mauritz Stiller hated each other from the start, and MGM agreed to replace Stiller with director Fred Niblo.
Antonio made only two more films at MGM, and for the rest of his career, Antonio freelanced. For the next few years it looked like a good business decision. He went to Paramount and starred with Clara Bow in “It” (1927), the film that officially made her a star.
Antonio made another eight silent films in 1927 and 1928, working for major studios like Fox, Warner Bros., and First National. Then, in 1929, Antonio encountered talkies, and his life as a leading man was over. Antonio retained an attractive but noticeable Spanish accent, which severely limited the roles he could play. Antonio was in his early forties and had enjoyed a good career, so this turn of events was hardly tragic. Antonio’s ability to speak Spanish brought in work filming Spanish versions of American films. However, his American roles dropped off in both quality and quantity. Realizing that his American career was waning, Antonio spent a good deal of time in Mexico, where he directed that country’s first two talkies, “Santa” and “Aguilas Frente al Sol” (both 1932). He also travelled back to Spain, where he starred in Maria de la O (1936), playing, ironically, an American.
For the next two decades, Antonio was a very busy character actor, appearing in twenty-three films between 1940 and 1958. Antonio was one of the spies chasing Cary Grant in “Notorious” (1946) and he was Tyrone Power’s father in “Captain from Castile” (1947). “The Searchers” (1956) was his last American film.
Antonio died on February 15, 1967 in Beverly Hills, California after a lengthy illness at the age of eighty. His career had spanned more than forty years, during which time he made more than 146 films.