When rival movie studios wanted their own Valentino, their solution was to promote Ramón Novarro, Hollywood's first Mexican star, as the original "Latin Lover." Born José Ramón Gil Samaniego in Durango, Mexico in 1899 his family fled the Mexican Revolution and settled in Los Angeles, where by the time Ramón was eighteen he was appearing in silent films. In 1923 he became a leading actor in Scaramouche, and when he was twenty-six he played the title role in Ben Hur, which created a sensation with its very short tunics. (Watch this clip to see him like a geek at a Roman circuit party, suddenly reunited with a friend who has become buff: He can't keep his hands off the guy's arms.) Novarro went on to star opposite Joan Crawford (Across to Singapore), Norma Shearer, Myrna Loy (The Barbarian), and Greta Garbo (Mata Hari), but he only dated men and he refused to enter a sham marriage just for publicity's sake. One of his dashing boyfriends was the adventurer Richard Haliburton , who built his famous house in Laurel Canyon to be near Novarro. At his peak in the 1920s and 30s, Novarro earned $100,000 per movie. When he was no longer young enough to play the boyish lover, MGM opted not to renew his contract, and he lived comfortably off his savvy real estate investments. In 1968, when he was sixty-nine, he hired two brothers, Tom and Paul Ferguson, to have sex with him but they only went to his house in hopes of robbing him of a giant stash of cash. Upon realizing there was no hidden fortune, they killed him and left with twenty dollars.