The Murder of Ramon Novarro

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 5, 2008 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals


Silent screen actor Ramon Novarro (1899-1968) was one of early Hollywood’s leading actors. He got his big break in the 1923 movie Scaramouche, and went on to play the title role in 1925’s Ben Hur and later appear with Greta Gardo in Mata Hari. benhur-192537.jpg

Novarro was gay. Even under pressure from MGM studio head, Louis B. Mayer, Novarro  refused to contract a “lavendar marriage”–something most homosexual stars did to keep their contracts and stay out of gossip columns.

He was also a devout Roman Catholic all his life, and at one time considered becoming a priest.

Ramon Novarro was murdered by two brothers, Tom and Paul Ferguson, whom he paid to come to his Laurel Canyon home for sex. Tom was 17 and Paul was 22. Novarro had slept with Paul a number of times before. On this night he brought along his brother to help him rob Novarro. The two young men believed that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro’s house.

Paul had sex with Novarro, and then the brothers beat and tortured him looking for the money. After they left the house, he suffocated in his own blood.

To avoid Novarro’s slipping into unconsciousness, the brothers dragged him into the bathroom, slapping him awake with cold water. Novarro staggered into the bedroom. Collapsing on his knees, he sobbed: “Hail Mary full of grace.”

Tom’s defense attorney, Richard Walton, placed the blame for the murder on Novarro. “Back in the days of Valentino, this man who set female hearts aflutter, was nothing but a queer. There’s no way of calculating how many felonies this man committed over the years, for all his piety.”

Paul Ferguson blamed his Catholic background: “When he kissed me, I reacted like a Catholic, what they call homosexual panic. Some old guy in the desert says, ‘Kill homosexuals.’ It’s inbred…I was too drunk to be civilized. Whatever my most primitive moral standings were, I reacted. It had nothing to do with Novarro, nothing to do with his being homosexual. It all had to do with how I saw myself. And the fact that my brother was there. And that he could see me in that homosexual act. It all had to do with my Catholic upbringing, with my five thousand years of Moses. And that’s the only reason why this whole thing happened. Because that’s what society teaches you…I think after I hit Mr. Novarro…I turned around and sat down on the sofa. I got up and went to find (Novarro) in the bedroom. ‘This guy’s dead’…We didn’t go there to rob him.”

Novarro was interred in Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.   His killers were released from prison after a few years.

Author John Rechy describes the murder in his blog, Speaking Out.  The events he describes are drawn from the book, Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro. beyond-paradise.jpg

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3 Responses to “The Murder of Ramon Novarro”

  1. Michael Says:

    The transcript of the court records conflict with the alleged ‘facts’ in this article.
    1.) The Fergusons had never heard of Novarro, let alone ‘slept with Novarro several times.
    2. The movitve of robbery is not a fact, rather a means of an anit-Catholic, anti-homosexual DA to gain a conviction against not only the Fergusons, but Novarro himself.
    3.)Murder requires premeditation. There was none. While a tragedy, it was a homicide, not a murder.

    I hope you will have the decency to clear up these matters and not damage any further the lives/memories of Messers Ferguson and Novarro.

  2. Doug Says:

    Not damage any further the life of Ferguson? PLEASE Whether it was “murder” or “homicide” the brothers beat a man to death in particularly horrible fashion. Paul Ferguson was later sentenced to jail for rape, one of two rapes he is known to have committed. There are no excuses for this animal.

  3. Alan Jones, Pittsburgh,PA Says:

    As a person who loves film history, and as a gay man, I admire the work of Ramon Novarro. He as an actor will always be admired. The bottom line here is, he allowed these young men to come to his home, his mistake, he had sex with the eldest brother, it happens all the time – men having sex with other men. . The tradegy is, these young men beat him for whatever reason. Hatred for his being gay. Wanting money as well. Perhaps a mixture of both, but Paul stated he had had sex with Ramon, and that he had issues around having sex with men. Sad whatever.

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