NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

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djv2800

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NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostSat Mar 25, 2017 7:36 pm

Hello, My name is Dan Van Neste and I'm an author and biographer. Many of you know me from all my many articles in Classic Images and Films of the Golden Age magazines. I’m very proud and excited to announce the publication of my new book, The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Films of Ricardo Cortez. (BearManor Media). The following is the back cover summary which gives you a good idea of what’s inside.

With his dark good looks, muscular physique, heavy-lidded bedroom eyes and easy smile, Ricardo Cortez cut a dashing figure on the silver screen for over 5 decades. Originally signed by Paramount Pictures in 1922 as a cinematic “Latin lover”—a threat to Rudolph Valentino, by the early 1930’s, Cortez had successfully transitioned to sound motion pictures where he became one of the most popular and sought-after actors in Hollywood. Renowned for his professionalism, and for his ability to play a wide range of characters in all genres, Cortez eventually became recognized as one of the movies’ premier heavies. A list of his bad-guy impersonations on film is a veritable rogue’s gallery from sexy wastrels and trouble makers, to more nefarious gangsters, and maniacal murderers. Each bore the stamp of this underrated, long neglected actor’s unique artistry. At the peak of his popularity, in 1934 one astute critic proclaimed Ricardo Cortez the cinema’s “magnificent heel.”

This is his dramatic story -- from his poverty stricken childhood as a Jewish immigrant’s son on the streets of Lower Manhattan, through his topsy-turvy personal and professional lives as an actor in New York and Hollywood. It’s all here -- the triumphs, the tragedies, the loves, the scandals, the personal and professional relationships, and most importantly, the film legacy of one of the most charismatic and prolific film stars of his day!

The book is available in paperback and hardback versions through all the main online retailers. There's a "look inside" on Amazon. If anyone here has any questions, I would be only too happy to answer them. Thanks! :)
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silentfilm

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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostSun Mar 26, 2017 4:00 pm

Congrats on getting your book published, Dan.
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostSun Mar 26, 2017 7:57 pm

Another salut, fellow BearManor guy!

-Craig
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostMon Mar 27, 2017 12:58 am

How interesting!

I was watching WONDER BAR on Saturday night - it is one of his best films!

Looking forward....
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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djv2800

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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostMon Mar 27, 2017 11:47 am

Thanks, everyone! So nice to touch base with you all! This book took five years to produce and lots and lots of legwork, both by me and a couple of excellent research assistants who scoured libraries and archives for material. It’s a very large volume (584 pages) -- really two books in one. Part I is a biography (roughly 300 pages). Part II focuses on his films. Lots of background details on the making of Cortez’s 100+ feature films -- production notes, salaries, casting, etc.

I too really like WONDER BAR! As many of you know, it’s a controversial film marred by the racist musical number, “Goin to Heaven on A Mule” (penned by the legendary songwriting team of Al Dubin and Harry Warren.) It’s a shame because the movie is otherwise excellent. For all who are interested, the book contains lots of background details regarding the making of WONDER BAR including a nasty feud between Cortez and the film’s star Al Jolson.
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostMon Mar 27, 2017 1:55 pm

Just watching him in Rubber Racketeers.Good even in this dross.
Anyway you sold me and I've bought it.
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djv2800

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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostMon Mar 27, 2017 3:18 pm

I'm delighted to hear it! Thank you very much! I'll be interested in what you think of it. Be sure to let me know. By the time Cortez made RUBBER RACKETEERS, his heyday was long over, but he wanted to continue to work, and gave his all to this bad guy role made on poverty row (Monogram).
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostMon Mar 27, 2017 8:30 pm

A big fan of THE WALKING DEAD, here.
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostMon Mar 27, 2017 11:39 pm

"I too really like WONDER BAR! As many of you know, it’s a controversial film marred by the racist musical number, “Goin to Heaven on A Mule” (penned by the legendary songwriting team of Al Dubin and Harry Warren.) It’s a shame because the movie is otherwise excellent. For all who are interested, the book contains lots of background details regarding the making of WONDER BAR including a nasty feud between Cortez and the film’s star Al Jolson.[/quote]

I always fast forward through the "Mule" number. The rest of the film is a gem, perhaps my favourite pre-code musical. I am not surprised that Cortez and Jolson hated each other - it helps their performance on screen. I once interviewed Teddy Krise (principal clarinet in the Warner orchestra) who told me that this was the last film where the actual Warner orchestra appeared and played live on set. Looking forward to getting your book very much.
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostTue Mar 28, 2017 12:54 am

My favorite Ricardo Cortez picture is SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION. Story by Fanny Hurst, sort of a medical version of THE JAZZ SINGER. And a landmark score by Max Steiner.

Cortez surrenders his dashing Latin persona and plays a Jewish doctor from the lower east side who rises to Park Avenue.

And I love his feature film swan song appearance in THE LAST HURRAH.
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostTue Mar 28, 2017 12:11 pm

Am really enjoying your posts! Thank you so much! All of you have great taste in Cortez movies may I say. THE WALKING DEAD is an exceptional B+ movie highlighted by the great direction of Michael Curtiz, a virtuoso lead performance by the great Karloff, and a standout supporting cast headed by Edmund Gwenn, and Cortez. The noted historian Greg Mank’s groundbreaking work on Karloff and the making of his films including WALKING DEAD, was enormously helpful to me in my efforts to relate the back story of the making of this movie.

Good advice, brendangcarroll, regarding fast forwarding the “Mule” number. Otherwise the movie is first rate! I believe director Lloyd Bacon was secretly pleased about the Ric/Al feud which almost ended in fisticuffs. It made for some intense scenes. Lots of really entertaining production note type material on WONDER BAR in the book retrieved from the Warners Archives.

SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION was Ric’s most personal film, because it mirrored his own life and he’s terrific in it. It was the only time in his career he actively pursued a part in a movie and it payed off. And as you are probably aware, SYMPHONY was one of the first films to have a score throughout (by the great Max Steiner.) John Ford’s THE LAST HURRAH was another really personal movie for Cortez that reunited him with many of his old acting buddies from years past, ironically for the last time. All involved considered the movie special, and it sure was. I didn’t fully appreciate HURRAH until I started doing the research on this book. Now it’s one of my all time fav films.
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostWed Mar 29, 2017 12:53 am

Returning to WONDER BAR again, I think WB must have been embarrassed by the "Mule" number once the picture wrapped because the trailer deliberately fails to include "a single flash" from it.

Another interesting tid-bid is that Jolson insisted he had to be recorded "live" on set for his opening number. He refused to use playback. It must have created enormous headaches for the sound dept and accounts for the huge amount of echo in this number.
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostWed Mar 29, 2017 12:35 pm

Jolson owned a piece of the movie and threw his weight around throughout the production. This placed him in the crosshairs of all the other main cast members and crew. The archives are largely silent regarding reasons why the Mule number was included. My theory is that Jolson and/or WB brass thought his Al's audience would be disappointed if he were not to appear in a blackface number. At the outset of the production there was an effort afoot to cast black actors in the number, but Warners' brass shot that idea down in a shockingly racist letter found in the archives. (which I quote from in the book).
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostWed Mar 29, 2017 4:08 pm

I see. That would explain why poor Hal LeRoy had to get blacked up for the number. I don't think his career ever recovered from this one. Thanks for the info.

Jolson did GO INTO YOUR DANCE the following year and tried to get Dubin and Warren's classic number LULLABY OF BROADWAY taken out of GOLDDIGGERS of 1935 and added to his film....but by then, his influence was waning and Jack Warner refused, especially as Buzz Berkeley had already had the enormous, elaborate nightclub set built for the shoot.

Interesting times at Warners back in the mid 30s.... :)
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 9:41 am

djv2800 wrote:And as you are probably aware, SYMPHONY was one of the first films to have a score throughout (by the great Max Steiner.)


Yes, we released the score as part of our 3-CD box MAX STEINER THE RKO YEARS.

I also arranged to have the theme from SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION as our wedding march at Rye Community Synagogue way back in 1981. Played by Harp and Violin (Max would have insisted on the harp!!!).
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 11:09 am

Thanks for the great commentary, and interesting info., guys I'm enjoying the back and forth! Regarding your comment, brendangcarroll, yes, it's a crying shame the very talented Hal Leroy was stuck doing that number. Even in 1934, it was in very poor taste. I think you're right, it did impact the rest of his career. I sense you are a Warners fan. I am too. The WB produced some great product during the 30's and 40's, and the Warners' filmmakers, particularly their repertory company was second to none. Cortez was part of that legendary group from 1934-37.

Thank you very much, Ray Faiola for posting the Cortez appearance on the Fleischmann radio show. I had heard that one before, but there are probably many here who have not. One of Cortez's most prominent radio gigs was as substitute announcer for Guy Lombardo's NBC radio show, "Pleasure Cruise" in 1935. Thank you also for the information regarding the CD set of Max Steiner at RKO. I will definitely have to check that out!!
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 2:48 pm

My love for Warners started when I began to write the biography of Erich Wolfgang Korngold in 1972 (published 1997!). I have spent decades researching the period, the files, the films and have visited the Warner backlot on numerous occasions, as well as being fortunate enough to interview many of the stars, musicians, studio perosonnel, producers, directors and many other old-timers from WB. So any book that sheds new light on the studio and the era goes right to the top of my shopping list!
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 9:09 pm

The estimable RadioGoldindex lists nine Cortez broadcasts as being in circulation:

http://radiogoldindex.com/frame1.html
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djv2800

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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostFri Mar 31, 2017 1:36 pm

Thanks for the information regarding your Korngold book, brendangcarroll. I will be on the lookout for it. He did so many of the great Flynn classics. One of my favorite films of all time is ADV. OF ROBIN HOOD- a near perfect movie! Thanks to you wich2, for providing the radio appearances. There's a list in the Cortez book, but my guess is its not entirely complete.
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostFri Mar 31, 2017 3:20 pm

Coincidentally I have just finished reading your Korngold blog.I found it a good read.korngold is my favourite film music composer.I still have the RCA album.
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostSat Apr 08, 2017 1:11 am

Thanks Wingate, glad you enjoyed it!
"Korngold has so much talent he could give half away and still have enough left for himself..." Giacomo Puccini (1921)
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostSat Apr 08, 2017 12:53 pm

I'm looking forward to reading your book. I've always been a Cortez fan...he's one of those actors who, in my opinion, never gave a poor performance in his career. And at the risk of being impaled, I loved him in THE MALTESE FALCON (and that version of the movie in general).
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostSun Apr 09, 2017 10:26 am

Shhh! Best not to say it too loudly! LOL Seriously, you are not alone in your admiration for the 1931 MALTESE FALCON. I can’t tell you how many people I have encountered who share your enthusiasm for the film and Cortez’s excellent work in it. I am proud to be a part of that minority. Although I do believe the Huston version to be the definitive one overall, it’s doubtful it would have been so good had it not been for its 1931 ancestor. Huston clearly was influenced by Del Ruth’s version. There’s lots and lots of fascinating material about the 1931 FALCON in this book, (much of it taken from the Warners and RKO archives). I do hope you'll check out the book!
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostSun Apr 16, 2017 2:11 pm

Have you got the low down on BUNCO SQUAD wherein, Ricardo was reunited with the ex-wife of his erstwhile good friend, George O'Brien?
"This bar of likker is now a bar of justice!"
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostMon Apr 17, 2017 9:19 pm

Thanks for your interest. The book is divided into two parts. Part I is the biography. Part II is a filmography. In Part II, each of Cortez's 100+ films (including BUNCO SQUAD) has a separate section which includes cast, crew, availability, reviews, trivia, etc. BUNCO SQUAD paired Ric with his old pal, George O'Brien's ex wife, Marguerite Churchill for the third and final time. They had worked together previously on MAN HUNT (1936), and THE WALKING DEAD (1936).
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostWed Apr 26, 2017 12:22 pm

RICARDO CORTEZ DAY ON TCM - THURSDAY APRIL 27, 2017

Yup, from dawn to 6PM, it's non stop Ricardo Cortez all day, including some work with Ford and Capra. You can check out the exact times on TCM.com, but the films to be shown are, in sequence:

TORRENT
THE YOUNGER GENERATION
THE MALTESE FALCON
TRANSGRESSION
FLESH
THE HOUSE ON 56TH STREET
MIDNIGHT MARY
THE PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOD
"This bar of likker is now a bar of justice!"
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostWed Apr 26, 2017 2:51 pm

Thanks for mentioning it. In remembrance of the 40th anniversary of his death in 1977, TCM is having a day long Ricardo Cortez marathon featuring nine films. As his biographer, I would not have chosen this particular nine, but I am so grateful they are doing this, and there are some goodies included here, among them Frank Capra's THE YOUNGER GENERATION, John Ford's FLESH, and Robert Florey's HOUSE ON 56th STREET. Set your dvrs!
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Re: NEW BIOGRAPHY OF RICARDO CORTEZ

PostMon Aug 21, 2017 1:55 pm

Hi, everyone, Dan Van Neste here. On Saturday and Sunday, August 26 & 27, 2017, I will be the guest author at the Silver Screen Oasis, a renowned blog/discussion board devoted to vintage movies and the talented people who made them. I’ll be there to discuss my book, “The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Films of Ricardo Cortez,” fielding questions on the life and career of this underrated, too long neglected star. You are all cordially invited to join me on either or both days. To take part, you need only register (which takes less than a minute). Even if you don't have a specific question, drop by for the discussion or to just say hello. I look forward to seeing you. Thanks so much!

http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/" target="_blank

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