Between 1925 and 1932 he reigned as one of the greatest stars of the screen, with enormous followings first in the United States and then in Europe and in Latin America. Then, as if on the release of a long-held breath, he suddenly fell--and few have fallen quite so far or landed quite so hard.
Arriving in Los Angeles as a refugee from Mexican civil war, Ramon Novarro had the burning ambition, remarkable good looks, and undeniable talent to create a great career, and for a time he succeeded. But he was a conflicted man, torn between his ambitions as an actor and his ambitions as a musician, and struggling between a deep-rooted Catholic faith and a sexual identity that his faith condemned. Perhaps out of uncertainty, perhaps out of fear, and sometimes out of desperation, even at the peak of his power he would be easily influenced, and in the process make one bad choice after another, ultimately precipitating his rapid slide into oblivion.
In the end, Ramon Novarro would make one bad choice too many--and it led to his brutal death and a court case that effectively splashed the very thing he had worked hardest to conceal from the public across the headlines of the world. And for all his great films and great performances, for all his stardom and talents, he is today best remembered by the public as the gay has-been-star who was tortured to death by two male prostitutes he invited into his home for sex.
Given Navorro's determined privacy, much about the man remains mysterious--but Andre Soares' BEYOND PARADISE seems to capture an essence of the man that far exceeds any other account offered thus far, giving us not the stuff of supermarket tabloids but the complexity of a human being who is by turns likable and unlikable, both an incredible success and a dismal failure. In the process of examining Novarro's life, Soares also creates a memorable portrait of the world in which he moved, the great stars of the era, and the great failures of the studio system in handling Novarro himself. It is a remarkable accomplishment.
This is a very dark, very bitter look at both fame and its consequences, and at the inability of an incredibly talented man to ride the crest of fame's wave to a safe shore. A remarkable accomplishment, and one that should do much to return the luster to a once famous but now obscure name. Strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon reviewer