Tall, suave and sophisticated Cesar Romero actually had two claims to fame in Hollywood. To one generation, he was the distinguished Latin lover of numerous musicals and romantic comedies, and the rogue bandit The Cisco Kid in a string of low-budget westerns. However, to a younger generation weaned on television, Romero was better known as the white-faced, green-haired, cackling villain The Joker of the camp 1960s TV series "Batman" (1966), and as a bumbling corporate villain in a spate of Walt Disney comedies, such as chasing a young Kurt Russell in the fun-packed The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969). Fans and critics alike agreed that Romero was a major talent who proved himself an enduring and versatile star in an overwhelming variety of roles in a career as an actor, dancer and comedian that lasted nearly 60 years.
Cesar Romero was born of Cuban parents in New York City in February 1907. He attended Collegiate & Riverdale County Schools before working as a ballroom dancer. He first appeared on Broadway in the 1927 production of Lady Do, and then in the stage production of Strictly Dishonorable. His first film role was in The Shadow Laughs (1933), after which he gave strong performances in The Devil Is a Woman (1935) and in the Shirley Temple favorite, Wee Willie Winkie (1937).
Critics and fans generally agree that Romero's best performance was as the Spanish explorer Cortez in Captain from Castile (1947). However, he also shone in the delightful Julia Misbehaves (1948) and several other breezy and light-hearted escapades. In 1953 he starred in the 39-part espionage TV serial "Passport to Danger" (1954), which earned him a considerable income due to a canny profit-sharing arrangement. Although Romero became quite wealthy and had no need to work, he could not stay away from being in front of the cameras. He continued to appear in a broad variety of film roles, but surprised everyone in Hollywood by taking on the role of "The Joker" in the hugely successful TV series "Batman" (1966). He refused to shave his trademark mustache for the role, and close observation shows how the white clown makeup went straight on over his much loved mustache! The appearances in Batman were actually only a small part of the enormous amount of work that Romero contributed to television. He guest-starred in dozens of shows, including "Rawhide" (1959), "77 Sunset Strip" (1958), "Zorro" (1957), "Fantasy Island" (1977) and "Murder, She Wrote" (1984). However, it was The Joker for which his TV work was best remembered, and Romero often remarked that for many, many years after Batman ended, fans would stop him and ask him to chuckle and giggle away just like he did as The Joker. Romero always obliged, and both he and the fans just loved it!
With a new appeal to a younger fan base, Romero turned up in three highly popular Disney comedies: The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975) as corrupt but inept villain A.J. Arno. Throughout the remainder of the 1980s Romero remained busy, and even at 78 years of age the ladies still loved his charm, and he was cast as Jane Wyman's love interest in the top-rated prime-time soap opera "Falcon Crest" (1981), playing Peter Stavros from 1985 to 1987.
Although Romero stopped acting in 1990, he remained busy, regularly hosting classic movie programs on cable television. A talented and much loved Hollywood icon, he passed away on New Year's Day 1994, at the age of 86.
TV writer Mark Evanier remarked that Romero was usually easily available to cast for TV show guest appearances. Apparently, Evanier knew at least one crew member on a TV show who prepared roles with Romero in mind as a default choice in the likely event that a preferred guest star would pull out of a guest appearance.
Refused to shave off his mustache when he played the role of The Joker in "Batman" (1966). Close observation shows how the white clown make-up was applied right over his much loved mustache.
His maternal grandparents were exiled Cubans Carmen and her invalid husband, Manuel Mantilla. Their daughter, María Mantilla--Romero's mother--is generally believed to have been the daughter of Cuban poet and revolutionary hero José Martí, who also wrote "Guantánamera" ("Yo soy un hombre sincero . . . ").
Has never worked directly with George Clooney, but Clooney has starred in two remakes of movies Romero was in. Romero played the Joker in "Batman" (1966), and Clooney played Batman in Batman & Robin (1997). Romero also appeared in the original Ocean's Eleven (1960), the remake of which--Ocean's Eleven (2001)--starred Clooney.
He believed that to live well you must dress well. And never in the same outfit. His closets held 30 tuxedos, 200 sports jackets, and 500 suits.
Is one of two Batman villains to share roles with actors who played Batman. He, Adam West and Val Kilmer have all played John 'Doc' Holliday, in Frontier Marshal (1939), "Colt .45" (1957), "Lawman" (1958) and Tombstone (1993), respectively. Christian Bale and Heath Ledger both played Bob Dylan in I'm Not There. (2007).
Was the first actor to play the Joker in a live action adaptation of the Batman character.
Why [producer William Dozier] wanted me for "Batman" (1966), I'll never know, because I asked his wife, Ann Rutherford, "Why did Bill think of me for this part?" She said, "I don't know, Butch. He said he saw you in something, and he said, 'He's the one I want to play the Joker'." I haven't the slightest idea what it was he saw me in, because I had never done anything like it before.
I was very surprised when [producer William Dozier] called me and said he was doing a series called "Batman" (1966) and the important characters were the villains. They had done the first two with the Riddler and the Penguin with Frank Gorshin and Burgess Meredith, and now they were ready to do the third, and the villain was the Joker. He said, "I would like you to play the part". So I said I would like to read the script and know what it is all about. He said, "Come on over to the studio, and I will show you the film of the first episode". Of course, it was great. I said, "Let me read this Joker part, and if it is as good as the first one, hell yes, I will do it". So I read the script, and I thought it was a gas, and I said, "Sure, I'll do it".
I was never stereotyped as just a Latin lover in any case because I played so many parts in so many pictures. I was more of a character actor than a straight leading man. I did many kinds of characters -- Hindus, Indians, Italians. There were very few pictures where I ended up with the girl.
I had enormous fun playing the Joker on "Batman" (1966). I ended up doing something like 20 episodes of "Batman", as well as the full-length feature film version [Batman (1966)]. There was certainly nothing hard about that assignment! Even the make-up sessions weren't too bad. It took about an hour-and-a-half to put the full make-up on, including the green wig. I didn't mind it at all.
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