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Ramon Novarro Death: Brutally Killed on Halloween Eve

Ramon Novarro gay movie star
Ramon Novarro: MGM star circa 1923.

Ramon Novarro death: Silent film star brutally killed on Halloween eve 1968

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Ramon Novarro, the original (and most effective) Ben-Hur, Greta Garbo’s leading man in Mata Hari, and the star in the silent film classics Scaramouche and The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, was brutally killed on Halloween eve, Oct. 30, 1968.

Check out: “‘Ben-Hur’ Chariot Race” & “‘Whitewashing’ in Hollywood Movies: Racism?

Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro at

On Halloween morning, the bloodied corpse of the Mexican-born, 69-year-old former MGM star was found at his Laurel Canyon home in the Hollywood Hills. The next few paragraphs describing the crime scene are from the biography I wrote several years back, Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro:

At 8:30 a.m. on Halloween, October 31, [Ramon Novarro’s personal secretary] Edward Weber arrived at 3110 Laurel Canyon to report for work. The iron gates of the main entrance were open, but since the front door was locked, Weber had to use his keys to let himself in through the kitchen.

As he walked into the living room, Weber saw that it was a shambles. Furniture was overturned. A pair of eyeglasses lay crushed on the floor. Calling “Ramon,” he went into the darkened master bedroom. There was no sign of Novarro. He looked into the master bathroom. No one. Weber began searching other rooms, but Novarro was nowhere to be found. Thoroughly mystified, he returned to the master bedroom. Walking over to the window, he opened the drapes slightly. A slant of light entered the room, outlining a mass resting on the far side of the king-sized bed. In the now dim light, Weber realized he was looking at Novarro’s nude body, lying faceup. Only after his eyes adjusted to the dimness was he able to see how badly beaten that body was.

Futilely, he looked for life signs. Giving up all hope, he dashed back to the living room and called Novarro’s brother Eduardo, the police, Novarro’s priest at St. Charles Church, and [Novarro’s friend and sometime publicist] Leonard Shannon.

“Len, you better come right over. This is it. … Ramon’s been murdered.”

Paul and Tom Ferguson: The convicted killers

Two brothers originally from Chicago, Paul and Tom Ferguson, 22 and 17, respectively, were later accused, tried (each brother had his own defense), and convicted of Ramon Novarro’s murder. After being initially contacted by Paul Ferguson through a mutual acquaintance, the night before his body was discovered Novarro – who was gay and for decades had a serious drinking problem – had invited the two young men for an evening of partying at his home.

In reference to Novarro’s numerous drunk driving episodes – which had begun at least as early as the 1940s – Paul Ferguson’s defense attorney, Cletus Hanifin, blamed the victim for his death. “For forty years,” Hanifin told the jury, “Novarro had been an accident walking around looking for a place to happen.” (Somewhat ironically, Hanifin was likely unaware that Novarro had indeed been beaten up by a “houseguest” at least once before.)

Tom Ferguson’s defense attorney, Richard Walton, also placed the blame on Ramon Novarro, referring to the fact that although Novarro was known as an ardent Catholic, Tom Ferguson was a minor when he was invited to the actor’s home. Additionally, homosexual sex acts were illegal in California at that time – and would remain so until 1976. “Back in the days of [Rudolph] Valentino, this man who set female hearts aflutter, was nothing but a queer,” Walton told the jury. “There’s no way of calculating how many felonies this man committed over the years, for all his piety.”

District attorney James Ideman, for his part, blamed the Fergusons, accusing them of killing, beating, and torturing Novarro in order to find out the whereabouts of $5,000 the actor purportedly kept in his music room. (There was no money; the music room had cost $5,000.)

“Halloween Eve 1968: Death of Ramon Novarro” follow-up post: “Ramon Novarro Death: Convicted Killer Blamed Catholicism.”

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Thom -

Growing up I knew I was gay, but kept it hidden. In the late 50’s until now. I used to frequent a gay bar, I was under age. Many nights straight (closet gays) would open the door, shoot guns, throw rocks, Molotov cocktails, anything they could find. thankfully no one ever died. Police would never help.
These people now a days have no idea what we went throw.

David Lee Wilson -

How sad to have your life end in such a horrible way. Watching Ramons films on TCM today……a very versatile actor and great screen presence. A true Hollywood talent!!

Katherine K. -

I grew up hearing the name of Ramon Navarro, not really knowing anything about him other than that he was a silent film star. I was watching TCM , and they were offering one of his movies,,,so I decided to watch it. I was mesmerized by his beautiful face, fine voice, and natural acting ability. Afterwards, I “Googled” him & learned more about his life and his BRUTAL death. How sad that his life was a constant struggle between his faith and his homosexuality. I find it almost offensive that the subtitle on his photograph lists him a “Tragic gay star” instead of just acknowledging his stardom without defining him by his gayness. Yes, his sexuality was a reason for having the murderous Ferguson brothers present, but it was their greed that led to his death. His homosexuality was secondary to the situation.

Don Ruge -

Just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Navarro” and can recommend it highly. Not only is it a touching story of a gay man struggling to attain his own “American Dream” of heterosexual fame and fortune, but it’s also an in-depth study of the movie industry in its infancy. Bravo, Mr. Soares!

Linda -

How sad…I just turned on t.c.m. to find him singing! I had only seen him in silent movies,,,that is horrible! Such a beautiful man.

Kriz Kizak -

Ramon Novarro films on TCM today. How handsome and charming. And he Sings! The film world created and lost a shining star!.


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