Actor Biography

RICARDO CORTEZ

Born: 1900, New York, NY

Died: 1977, New York, NY

Notable Films: The Maltese Falcon (1931), Ten Cents a Dance (1931), The Phantom of Crestwood (1932), The Last Hurrah (1958)

Ricardo Cortez's birth name was Jacob Krantz. His parents were Austrian immigrants living in New York. However, "Jacob Krantz" was not a good name for a leading actor. Rudolph Valentino and Ramon Navarro, the so-called "Latin Lovers", were the ideals of leading men at the time. Although not Hispanic, Jacob had the dark and handsome masculine look required of a Latin lover. By assuming a Hispanic name the young actor was assigned to the Latin lover type. His first screen credit dates from 1923, and he was a leading actor throughout most of the 1920's. He was Greta Garbo's leading man in her first American film (Torrent, 1926) and, because he was better known at the time, his name is listed first in the credits.

When talkies arrived, the phoniness of his Latin persona was revealed. His voice and demeanor are strictly eastern American urban. His talkies usually feature him as a hardboiled type, hero or villain. He could deliver wise cracks and innuendo sharply and was effective during the pre-code period when stronger language was acceptable. After the enforcement of the code resulted in the softening of dialogue, Cortez's best assets were significantly reduced. After 1935, he mostly played villains in B-level films. He was active until about 1950.