All experts agree that this saga should begin with César Romero, not only for his condition of big star in the Golden Age of Hollywood but because he was the son of Maria Mantilla, the spiritual daughter of José Martí, and of the Commander of the Cuban Liberation Army Julio César Romero.
Of strong image, (more than six feet of height and handsome) in the style of Rodolfo Valentino and Ramón Novarro, Romero excelled firstly as ballet dancer in Broadway, in 1927. His exotic looks were powerfully exploited from his arrival to Hollywood, where he made his debut in 1933 with The Shadow Laughs. He could perform as a gangster or Latin lover. Like Clark Gable he never gave in his moustache, in that epoch in which the mecaa of movies was considered to be also the mecca of the “ exclusive models ” since nobody was looking alike to anybody and every actor or actress was trying to accentuate some feature of his/her personality that the set them apart from the rest.
The nasal voice of Humphrey Bogart, the look of Greta Garbo, the half smile of Errol Flynn, the brilliant blue eyes of Marlene Dietrich, that revealed a thousand suggestions simultaneously or the thick tobacco of Edward G. Castaway were the best examples of that custom.
Romero worked with big stars as Shirley Temple, Carmen Miranda, and Betty Grable and Tyrone Powers. And along with the last one, after they shot together The Captain of Castile, he was part of a famous flight piloted by the star of The black swan that took them to Cuba and to the Slopy Joe’s bar, which stood next to the current Cuban National Museum of Fine Arts.
He was the big protagonist from 1939 to 1942 of six movies of the series Slack Kid, based on the cartoon story of the Argentine drawer José Luis Salinas and also of the historical movie Hernán Cortés and in the middle of the 1950s he was a part of the big cast of the mammoth production Veracruz, with Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Sarita Montiel, and Jack Elam.
Romero was the first Joker of the Batman series, a role that much later Jack Nicholson would redeem in the namesake movie by Tim Burton.
It is told that since the Joker never wore moustache, César Romero allowed make-up artists to place a white makeup to hide it.
His star never fell because he was a solid icon of Hollywood and took part in movies and TV series until 1977, to then reappear on the big screen in 1985 in Flesh and Bullets.
In 1980 he worked as guest actor in the famous series Falcon Crest and his last movie, before dying in 1994, was Simple Justice.
In 1953, the correspondent of Bohemia magazine in New York, Vicente Cubillas (founder of Granma newspaper) interviewed him concerning the movie La Rosa Blanca, directed by that the famous Mexican Emilio “The Indian” Fernandez, in occasion of the centenary of Jose Marti’s birth.
Romero complained that his mother was not consulted on a movie on the Apostle of the Independence of Cuba, being she the only person alive who had such a narrow relation with the hero.
Also he thought that the script should have been based on the book of Jorge Mañach Martí el Apostol or the one Blanche de Baralt wrote.
César Romero reported that his mother was saying that Martí spoke fluidly and in low tone, he never used a violent phrase although there was great intensity in everything he said.
Also, he revealed that he would have liked to play on the screen whom he called “my spiritual grandfather”, but he had against that he couldn’t speak Spanish, his corpulence and height (1,94 meters).
Nevertheless he praised the work of the Mexican actor Roberto Cañedo and the direction of “The Indian” Fernández.
Orestes Matacena, one of the most renowned Cuban-American intellectuals, actor, writer, producer and director, achieved the feat of keeping against all odds his Cuban roots in the United States. He is known internationally by his roles in The Mask, along with Jim Carrey, and in Wild Wild West, in the company of Will Smith, Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh.
I had the happiness and the privilege of meeting César Romero in a reception he gave. His appearance was what one hopes to see in a movie star. He was bigger than life. This intimate reception was full of stars and the only one that was shone like the sun was César Romero. I remember that in his left little finger he was wearing a ring.
I approached the group where César Romero was and began to converse with them. In a given moment I said to him that I was Cuban. He smiled, threw an over my shoulder and said to the group of stars and personalities: “This is what I love of Cuba. There is no way of knowing how a Cuban looks. They are as Orestes, fair-haired of blue eyes, and there brunettes like me, Chinese, mulattos and blacks.”
I jumped in: “I believe that there is still a family of Cuban siboneyes (aboriginal people).” And César Romero continued: ‘”The diversity of the Cuban is complete. As that of the Americans.” And I added: ‘ After all, that is what we are: Americans.” They all laughed and I continued: ‘ The first hippies of the world went out of Cuba, not of California. They were our siboneyes. They were living in communes, had neither chiefs nor government that they were saying to them what they had to do. Good, perhaps women did” They all burst out laughing and I continued: ‘ When they were getting up in the morning, they were stretching a little, were going for the river and got in the water up to their necks; they were wear then half of a güira in the head and were hoping that a bird should settle on the güira. At the moment when the bird was settling on the güira, they would seize it for the paws and returned to the commune. They would hand the birds to the women so that they cook them while they smoke a pair of cigars” César Romero added: ‘ Certainly, we the Cuban were the first smokers of the world. ’ It was an exquisite party. Another thing, in my life I have never seen a star to shine more than César Romero. He was unique.