Famous Veteran: Cesar Romero

Cesar Romero, Coast Guard veteran
Coast Guard veteran Cesar Romero's most memorable role was playing the Joker on the 'Batman' television series. (Courtesy photo)

The self-styled Latin from Manhattan, Cesar Romero, was born in 1907 in New York City to a well-off family. His father, an Italian immigrant, owned a company that imported and exported sugar-refining hardware, and his mother was a concert singer from Cuba. While they enjoyed financial success early in Romero's life, damage to the business in the late 1920s led Romero to support his family with revenue from Hollywood.

Romero first attempted a career in banking, but Lisbeth Higgins met him by chance and started him down a path of professional dancing. His success on the stage led Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios to pick him up for a role in "The Thin Man" in 1934. This led to him starring in "the Return of the Cisco Kid" and being taken on by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1937.

In 1942, Romero enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served aboard the USS Cavalier. Romero made a concerted effort to operate as part of the regular crew and didn't ask for any special considerations.

He won the respect of his shipmates who considered him one of the best winch operators they'd ever worked with. Romero's duties included shifting 18,000-pound barges from the transport ship into the water during assaults, operating as a powderman on the forward gun and others. During downtime, Romero entertained the crew with a variety show.

After the war, Romero played in numerous supporting roles and was often cast in the "Latin lover" archetype. He acted in many notable films, including "Ocean's 11," "Captain from Castile" and "Week-End in Havana." He also appeared frequently on television in comedies, dramas and, most notably, as the Joker on ABC's "Batman."

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