It’s his birthday today, you know. The gorgeous silent film star was born in 1899 and died in 1968. It’s his death, of course, that most of us still fixate on. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The aging former star was allegedly beaten and choked to death with a lead dildo in his Laurel Canyon home by two teenage hustlers whom he had hired. The story first appeared in Kenneth Anger’s notorious exposé Hollywood Babylon: “Here was a man dying, as he had lived, extravagantly, choked in his own blood – the lead Art Deco dildo which Valentino had given him forty-five years earlier thrust down his throat.” Senses of Cinema disputes it, saying: “This has become the most widely known ‘fact’ about Novarro. It is recycled, without question, by the Hollywood scandal mill today. But unfortunately for Anger and his groupies, the famous sex toy appears nowhere in the police report – or in records of the young men’s trial for murder. Its existence is denied by everyone with first-hand knowledge of the case. There is no evidence that Novarro and Valentino were even friends, much less lovers. We know they shared two scenes in the 1921 Rex Ingram epic The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Valentino was the star, Novarro an ambitious young extra. Off screen, it is doubtful the two Latin Lovers ever met.” Whatever the truth, it’s sad that his death has overshadowed his rather wonderful life. His performances in Ben-Hur, Scaramouche, and countless others still hold up, and you WILL gasp the when you first see him on screen, he was THAT LOVELY. Happy Birthday, Ramon!