A Tribute to Ricardo Cortez
Of all the “Latin Lovers” in Hollywood, Ricardo Cortez looked the most like Valentino, and he was invented, named, and groomed to become his direct rival. Ironically, he wasn’t Latin at all, having been born Jacob Krantz in Vienna, Austria, of Jewish parents and having immigrated to New York City with his family at age three.
During the silent era, Ricardo not only starred with Greta Garbo, but also with Gloria Swanson, Bebe Daniels, Florence Vidor and the young Joan Crawford. After a tragic marriage to the morphine addicted silent film actress, Alma Rubens, who died in 1931, at the age of thirty-four, Ricardo moved easily into sound films and went on playing opposite big name female stars during the pre-Code era like Loretta Young in “Big Business Girl” (1931) and “Midnight Mary” (1933). Barbara Stanwyck in “Ten Cents a Dance” (1931) and “Illicit” (1931). Kay Francis in “Transgression” (1931) and “Mandalay” (1934), Bebe Daniels in “The Maltese Falcon” (1931) Mary Astor in “Behind Office Doors” (1931) and “Men of Chance” (1931), Dolores del Rio in “Wonder Bar” (1934), Claudette Colbert in “Torch Singer” (1933), Joan Blondell in “Broadway Bad” (1933), Joan Crawford in “Montana Moon” (1930) and Irene Dunne in “Thirteen Women” (1932) and the tearjerker, “Symphony of Six Million” (1932), in which Ricardo probably gave one of his best performances as Dr. Felix Klauber.
One of my favorites of Ricardo’s films is “The Swan” (1925), an early Paramount Production that also stars Frances Howard and Adolphe Menjou. The love scenes between Ricardo and Frances Howard are very romantic and touching.
Even though Ricardo began his career playing romantic leads, his main focus became character acting by the end of the 1930’s. His strong delivery and New York accent made him an ideal heavy. Ricardo eventually left movies, joined a Wall Street brokerage firm, and made a great deal of money and a happy third marriage. After appearing in over one hundred films, he made one final film appearance in John Ford’s “The Last Hurrah” (1958) and died at the age of seventy-six on April 28, 1977.