The Mexican born actor with his dark eyes and macho good looks relocated from Mexico with his parents to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution. His dream was to become a bullfighter like his father but that was not to be. He turned to acting and started getting bit parts in movies as an extra in 1918. His first listed movie credit is in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" 1923. He quickly befriended actor Rudolph Valentino which opened doors for him in 1920.
publicity still from "The Dove" 1927
Gilbert's first major role was playing Clara Bows love interest in "The Plastic Age" 1925 but it was his reviews in "Camille" 1927 starring Norma Talmadge that launched his career playing Latin lovers and then cowboys for many years to come. He starred with Norma Talmadge in a few silents and they were romantically linked together during this time then with the advent of talkies Norma's career suffered and soon ended while Gilbert's career thrived with his romantic leads continuing.
with co-star and off screen love interest Norma Talmadge in "New York Nights" 1929
with Norma Talmadge
In the 1940's and 1950's Roland's career flourished in popular Westerns under the helm of such great directors as John Huston's "We We're Strangers" 1949, Vincente Minnelli's "The Bad and the Beautiful" 1952 and later in John Ford's "Cheyenne Autumn" 1964. Gilbert's most recognized role was playing the character Cisco Kid in six movies during the 1940's. Gilbert married actress Constance Bennett in 1941 and they remained married until 1946. Their marriage produced two gorgeous daughters (A post on the beautiful Constance and Norma Talmadge to follow).
Roland's hand signed photo from my collection with his distinctive red pen.
Gilbert's career lasted into the early 1980's playing character actors in Spaghetti Westerns. His last film was "Barbarosa" 1982. Thats quite a career spanning six decades and included over 120 films. Gilbert married a second time in 1952 to Guillermina Cantu, their marriage lasted until his death from cancer in Beverly Hills, CA 1994. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.
Interesting Gilbert Roland Facts:
He was nominated twice for a Golden Globe Award during his career for his roles in "The Bad and the Beautiful" and "Cheyenne Autumn".
His nickname in Hollywood was Amigo.
His birth name was Luis Antonio Damaso de Alonso. He chose the name Gilbert Roland after his two movie idols John Gilbert and Ruth Roland.
He described his first meeting with the great Rudolph Valentino as terrifying as his hands would not stop shaking from nerves.
During WWII he served in the U.S Army Air Force.
He's the only man to have portrayed both the hero and the villain of a single serial.
His affair with Norma Talmadge resulted in her divorce from Joe Schenck. She eventually lost interested in Gilbert before they would marry and went on to marry comedian George Jessel.
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