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Ramon Novarro was worried about his future in 1930, and it was more than the normal jitters facing any silent actor transitioning to sound. Along with his personal troubles as a gay actor living a closeted life in Hollywood, he'd recently discovered his personal assistant had bled his accounts dry. Luckily he was offered a dream role in a project originally titled "The Singer of Seville", as an aspiring opera singer in love with a novice nun he can never have. Novarro, who once nursed operatic ambitions, was thrilled to rise to the challenge. "Now that the screen has combined sound with acting," he told one interviewer, "there is no need for me to give up one art for the other." (The only thing he didn't like was the title change.) The shoot was exhausting, especially for co-star Rene Adore, who was suffering from tuberculosis and collapsed on the last day. (Being pushed too hard on this movie contributed to her death two years later.) The movie did well at the box office, and Novarro followed up the triumph by directing and starring in the Spanish language version La Sevillana (1930), the first time he spoke his native tongue on screen.
By Violet LeVoit