Born Jacob Krantz on born September 19, 1900, in New York City (some sources cite 1899 as his year of birth), pre-code Hollywood lothario Ricardo Cortez first looked to Wall Street for a profession until he arrived in Hollywood in 1922. Matinee-idol handsome but untrained as an actor, Paramount gave him a Latin name and a persona in the style of Rudolph Valentino and, after the silent star's 1926 death, was one of his successors. Yet by the time he acted in his first sound feature, the comedy Ladies of the Night Club (1928), the Latin lover era had eclipsed. Suave and sophisticated and possessing a voice that was friendly to early microphones, Cortez transitioned quite nicely into pre-Code potboilers, where his real acting talents lay.

Ricardo CortezRicardo CortezRicardo Cortez

LEFT: Paramount publicity photo from 1925. CENTER: Late 1920s tobacco card image. RIGHT: Mid 1930s image of Cortez in his dressing room

Cortez's first wife was tragic silent screen star Alma Rubens; he was her third husband. Rubens was a major star in the late 1910s and early 1920s, but drug addiction (cocaine and heroin) and alcoholism quickly ruined her career and marriage. By all accounts, Cortez had no idea that his wife was an addict until some time after their marriage and spent considerable time and money trying to get her the help she needed. Her repeated attempts to dry out failed and became fodder for scandal sheets, and she and Cortez were separated by the time of her death in January 1931 at age 33.

Alma Rubens

Cortez's first wife, actress Alma Rubens, in a scene from her film Enemies of Women (1923)

The publicity surrounding Alma Ruben's illness and death did not encroach on Cortez's career. In fact, he was in demand, starring in scores of then-shockingly themed pre-Code dramas, including Illicit (1931; with Barbara Stanwyck) and Ten Cents a Dance (1931; with Barbara Stanwyck). After about a decade at Paramount, where he was loaned out frequently to other studios, Cortez signed a contract with Warner Bros. in 1933. His first film for the studio was The House on 56th Street (1933; with Kay Francis). His success as a pre-Code cad didn't last, as the strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, otherwise known as the Hays Code, beginning on July 1, 1934, spelled the end of the type of film for which Cortez was known. A shift to crime dramas, a genre at which Warner Bros. excelled, didn't help his career, as many of these were low-budget affairs, such as The Murder of Dr. Harrigan (1936; with Mary Astor) and The Case of the Black Cat (1936; with June Travis). In the latter part of the 1930s, Cortez signed with 20th Century Fox but was usually relegated to supporting roles. His early 1940s starring vehicles, including I Killed That Man (1941; with Joan Woodbury) and Rubber Racketeers (1942; with Rochelle Hudson) were poverty row programmers.

the films of ricardo cortez

The Private Life of Helen of Troy (1927)

Maria Corda and Ricardo Cortez

With Maria Corda in the risqué First National comedy The Private Life of Helen of Troy. Only fragments of this film remain

Her Man (1930)

Ricardo Cortez and Helen Twelvetrees

Cortez is the pimp of Helen Twelvetrees in the RKO-Pathé drama Her Man

Behind Office Doors (1931)

Mary Astor and Ricardo Cortez

From the RKO drama Behind Closed Doors with Mary Astor

Illicit (1931)

Barbara Stanwyck and Ricardo Cortez

With Barbara Stanwyck in the pre-Code Warner Bros. drama Illicit

The Maltese Falcon (1931)

Ricardo CortezRicardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels

LEFT: Cortez starred as Sam Spade in the first film adaptation of The Maltese Falcon, released by Warner Bros. RIGHT: With Bebe Daniels

Ten Cents a Dance (1931)

Ricardo Cortez and Barbara Stanwyck

Taxi dancer Barbara Stanwyck is tempted to commit adultery with Cortez in the pre-Code Columbia drama Ten Cents a Dance

Broadway Bad (1933)

Ricardo Cortez and Joan Blondell

From the Fox pre-Code drama Broadway Bad with Joan Blondell

Wonder Bar (1934)

Ricardo Cortez and Dolores del Rio

Dolores del Rio would rather murder Ricardo Cortez than see him in love with Kay Francis in the big-budget Warner Bros. crime drama Wonder Bar

Frisco Kid (1935)

Ricardo Cortez and Lili Damita

From the Warner Bros. adventure Frisco Kid with Lili Damita

Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

Ricardo Cortez and Virginia Field

With Virginia Field in the 20th Century Fox mystery Mr. Moto's Last Warning

Murder Over New York (1940)

Sidney Toler, Ricardo Cortez, and Victor Sen Yung

An excellent entry in 20th Century Fox's Charlie Chan mystery series, Murder Over New York stars Sidney Toler, Cortez, and Victor Sen Yung

Rubber Racketeers (1942)

Rochelle Hudson, Ricardo Cortez, and Kam Tong

From Monogram's war time crime drama Rubber Racketeers with Rochelle Hudson and Kam Tong

The Inner Circle (1946)

Ricardo Cortez, Virginia Christine, and Warren Douglas

Cortez in the low-budget Republic film noir release The Inner Circle. Also pictured are Virginia Christine and Warren Douglas

The Locket (1946)

Robert Mitchum, Ricardo Cortez, and Laraine Day

With Robert Mitchum and Laraine Day in the RKO film noir thriller The Locket

The Last Hurrah (1958)

Ricardo Cortez

Columbia's political comedy/drama The Last Hurrah proved to be Cortez's last film appearance

later years

When leading man roles began to dry up for Cortez, he briefly stepped behind the camera and directed several second features for 20th Century Fox in the late 1930s and early 1940s, such as Inside Story (1939; with Jean Rogers), The Escape (1939; with Kane Richmond), and Girl in 313 (1940; with Kent Taylor and Lionel Atwill). As Cortez's career continued to slide in the early 1940s, he returned to New York, working for the brokerage firm David Greene and Company. He married his third wife, Margaret, after his move back east. He commuted to Hollywood for in a few films in the mid to late 1940s, including The Locket (1946; with Laraine Day, Brian Aherne, and Robert Mitchum) and Bunco Squad (1950; with Robert Sterling). After making his first television appearance on a January 1960 episode of the NBC western Bonanza, Cortez called it a day and retired from acting. Sadly, Ricardo Cortez passed away on April 28, 1977, at age 76. He was survived by his third wife, brother Stanley Cortez (a noted cinematographer), and his sister, Helen.

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The Last Hurrah (1958) with Spencer Tracy, Jeffrey Hunter, Dianne Foster, Pat O'Brien, Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, James Gleason, and John Carradine
Bunco Squad (1950) with Robert Sterling, Joan Dixon, and Marguerite Churchill
Mystery in Mexico (1948) with William Lundigan and Jacqueline White
Blackmail (1947) with William Marshall, Adele Mara, and Grant Withers
The Locket (1946) with Laraine Day, Brian Aherne, and Robert Mitchum
The Inner Circle (1946) with Adele Mara, Warren Douglas, William Frawley, and Virginia Christine
Make Your Own Bed (1944) with Jack Carson, Jane Wyman, and Alan Hale
Tomorrow We Live (1942) with Jean Parker, William Marshall, and Rex Lease
Rubber Racketeers (1942) with Rochelle Hudson
Who Is Hope Schuyler? (1942) with Sheila Ryan, Janis Carter, and Robert Lowery
I Killed That Man (1941) with Joan Woodbury
World Premiere (1941) with John Barrymore, Frances Farmer, Eugene Pallette, and Virginia Dale
A Shot in the Dark (1941) with William Lundigan and Regis Toomey
Romance of the Rio Grande (1941) with Cesar Romero, Patricia Morison, Lynne Roberts, and Chris-Pin Martin
Murder Over New York (1940) with Sidney Toler, Marjorie Weaver, Robert Lowery, Donald MacBride, Melville Cooper, and Kane Richmond
Charlie Chan in Reno (1939) with Sidney Toler, Phyllis Brooks, Slim Summerville, and Kane Richmond
Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939) with Peter Lorre, Virginia Field, John Carradine, and George Sanders
City Girl (1938) with Phyllis Brooks, Chick Chandler, and Adrienne Ames
West of Shanghai (1937) with Boris Karloff and Sheila Bromley
The Californian (1937) with Marjorie Weaver and Katherine DeMille
Her Husband Lies (1937) with Gail Patrick, Akim Tamiroff, and Louis Calhern
Talk of the Devil (1936) with Sally Eilers
The Case of the Black Cat (1936) with June Travis, Jane Bryan, Craig Reynolds, and Bill Elliott
Postal Inspector (1936) with Bela Lugosi
The Walking Dead (1936) with Boris Karloff, Edmund Gwenn, Marguerite Churchill, and Barton MacLane
Man Hunt (1936) with Marguerite Churchill, William Gargan, and Dick Purcell
The Murder of Dr. Harrigan (1936) with Mary Astor and Mary Treen
Frisco Kid (1935) with James Cagney, Margaret Lindsay, Lili Damita, and Barton MacLane
Special Agent (1935) with Bette Davis, George Brent, Jack La Rue, and J. Carrol Naish
Manhattan Moon (1935) with Regis Toomey and Jean Rogers
Shadow of Doubt (1935) with Virginia Bruce, Isabel Jewell, Betty Furness, and Regis Toomey
The White Cockatoo (1935) with Jean Muir and Minna Gombell
I Am a Thief (1934) with Mary Astor
The Firebird (1934) with Lionel Atwill, Anita Louise, and C. Aubrey Smith
A Lost Lady (1934) with Barbara Stanwyck, Frank Morgan, and Lyle Talbot
The Man with Two Faces (1934) with Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor, Mae Clarke, and Louis Calhern
Hat, Coat, and Glove (1934) with John Beal and Margaret Hamilton
Wonder Bar (1934) with Al Jolson, Kay Francis, Dolores del Rio, Dick Powell, Hugh Herbert, Louise Fazenda, and Fifi D'Orsay
Mandalay (1934) with Kay Francis, Warner Oland, and Lyle Talbot
The Big Shakedown (1934) with Charles Farrell, Bette Davis, and Glenda Farrell
The House on 56th Street (1933) with Kay Francis, Gene Raymond, and Margaret Lindsay
Big Executive (1933) with Richard Bennett, Sharon Lynn, Dorothy Peterson, Barton MacLane, and Charles Middleton
Torch Singer (1933) with Claudette Colbert and David Manners
Midnight Mary (1933) with Loretta Young, Franchot Tone, Andy Devine, and Una Merkel
Broadway Bad (1933) with Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, and Adrienne Ames
Flesh (1932) with Wallace Beery, Karen Morley, and Jean Hersholt
The Phantom of Crestwood (1932) with Karen Morley, Anita Louise, Pauline Frederick, and H.B. Warner
Thirteen Women (1932) with Irene Dunne, Jill Esmond, and Myrna Loy
Is My Face Red? (1932) with Helen Twelvetrees, Jill Esmond, Robert Armstrong, Arline Judge, Zasu Pitts, and Sidney Toler
Symphony of Six Million (1932) with Irene Dunne
No One Man (1932) with Carole Lombard and Paul Lukas
Men of Chance (1931) with Mary Astor
Bad Company (1931) with Helen Twelvetrees
Reckless Living (1931) with Mae Clarke, Marie Prevost, and Slim Summerville
Transgression (1931) with Kay Francis and Paul Cavanagh
Big Business Girl (1931) with Loretta Young, Frank Albertson, and Joan Blondell
The Maltese Falcon (1931) with Bebe Daniels, Una Merkel, Thelma Todd, and Dwight Frye
White Shoulders (1931) with Mary Astor, Jack Holt, and Sidney Toler
Behind Office Doors (1931) with Mary Astor
Ten Cents a Dance (1931) with Barbara Stanwyck and Sally Blane
Illicit (1931) with Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Butterworth, and Joan Blondell
Her Man (1930) with Helen Twelvetrees, Marjorie Rambeau, James Gleason, Slim Summerville, Thelma Todd, and Franklin Pangborn
Montana Moon (1930) with Joan Crawford, Johnny Mack Brown, Dorothy Sebastian, and Benny Rubin
The Lost Zeppelin (1929) with Conway Tearle and Virginia Valli
The Phantom in the House (1929) with Grace Valentine
Midstream (1929) with Claire Windsor and Montagu Love
New Orleans (1929) with William Collier Jr.
The Younger Generation (1929) with Jean Hersholt, Lina Basquette, and Rex Lease
The Gun Runner (1928) with Nora Lane
Excess Baggage (1928) with William Haines
The Grain of Dust (1928) with Claire Windsor
Prowlers of the Sea (1928) with Carmel Myers
Ladies of the Night Club (1928) with Lee Moran
Woman of Destiny (1928) with Sig Arno
The Private Life of Helen of Troy (1927) with Lewis Stone
By Whose Hand? (1927) with Eugenia Gilbert
Mockery (1927) with Lon Chaney
New York (1927) with Lois Wilson and William Powell
The Eagle of the Sea (1926) with Florence Vidor
The Sorrows of Satan (1926) with Adolphe Menjou
The Cat's Pajamas (1926) with Betty Bronson
Volcano (1926) with Bebe Daniels and Wallace Beery
Torrent (1926) with Greta Garbo
The Pony Express (1925) with Betty Compson and Wallace Beery
In the Name of Love (1925) with Wallace Beery and Richard Arlen
Not So Long Ago (1925) with Betty Bronson
The Swan (1925) with Adolphe Menjou
The Spaniard (1925) with Noah Beery
Argentine Love (1924) with Bebe Daniels
This Woman (1924) with Irene Rich, Louise Fazenda, and Clara Bow
Feet of Clay (1924) with Vera Reynolds and Rod La Rocque
The City That Never Sleeps (1924) with Louise Dresser
The Bedroom Window (1924) with May McAvoy
A Society Scandal (1924) with Gloria Swanson and Rod La Rocque
The Next Corner (1924) with Lon Chaney, Dorothy Mackaill, and Louise Dresser
The Call of the Canyon (1923) with Richard Dix, Lois Wilson, and Noah Beery
Children of Jazz (1923) with Eileen Percy
Sixty Cents an Hour (1923) with Jacqueline Logan

Bonanza, episode El Toro Grande, originally aired January 2, 1960

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Watch Ricardo Cortez's 1941 mystery I Killed That Man
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