With his dark good looks, muscular physique, heavy-lidded bedroom eyes, and easy smile, amateur boxer and Wall Street business man Jacob Krantz left Wall Street to cut a dashing figure on the silver screen for over five decades. Few knew that he was a Jewish man, when Paramount Pictures signed him in 1922, changed his name from Jacob Krantz to Ricardo Cortez, and widely publicized him as a “Latin lover” in the style of Rudolph Valentino, Antonio Moreno, and Ramon Navarro.
He worked in silent movies with top directors and stars, including The Next Corner (1924) with Lon Chaney, Cecil B. DeMille’s Feet of Clay (1924), The Pony Express (1925), Torrent (1926) with Greta Garbo, D. W. Griffith’s The Sorrows of Satan (1926), Mockery (1927) with Lon Chaney, and Excess Baggage (1928) with William Hanes. Within six years, chaos took hold of topsy turvy Hollywood as the industry converted from silent movies to talking pictures, yet Cortez successfully transitioned through Frank Capra’s The Younger Generation(1929), Montana Moon (1930) with Joan Crawford, as Sam Spade in the first film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1931), Wonder Bar (1934) with Al Jolson, The Big Shakedown (1934) with Bette Davis, Walking Dead (1936) with Boris Karloff, Charlie Chan in Reno (1939), and John Ford’s The Last Hurrah (1958). Renowned for his professionalism, and for his ability to play a wide range of characters in all genres, Cortez appeared in more than a hundred films and was recognized as one of the movies’ premier heavies in a rogue’s gallery of sexy wastrels and troublemakers, to more nefarious gangsters and maniacal murderers.
In 1934, one astute critic proclaimed him “the magnificent heel.” Relive his dramatic story, from his poverty-stricken childhood to Wall Street and on through Hollywood triumphs, tragedies, and scandals. The author draws from rare material gathered from key libraries and studio archives, much of which has never been published. 160 illustrations, including portraits, scene stills, and memorabilia from Cortez’ personal collection, including his last passport, scrapbook, a contract, and letters. Index, Bibliography, and extensive End Notes. About the author: Dan Van Neste articles have appeared in Classic Images and Films of the Golden Age, and he is the author of The Whistler: Stepping Into the Shadows. He currently lives in Lansing, Michigan.