Gilbert Roland was a Mexican-born American actor who starred in more than 100 films, from silent movies to westerns to dramas. He was best known for playing the Cisco Kid, a Mexican Robin Hood figure, in 11 films in the 1940s. He also worked with famous actresses such as Norma Talmadge, Mae West, and Priscilla Presley. He died of cancer in 1994, at the age of 88. Here is a brief overview of his life and legacy.
Early Life and Career
Gilbert Roland was born as Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso on December 11, 1905, in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. He moved to El Paso, Texas, with his family when he was a child, fleeing the Mexican Revolution. He dreamed of becoming a bullfighter like his father and grandfather, but he changed his mind when he saw a movie starring Rudolph Valentino. He decided to pursue a career in Hollywood and took the name Gilbert Roland from his favorite actors, John Gilbert and Ruth Roland
He started as an extra in silent films, but he soon got his first major role in The Plastic Age (1925), opposite Clara Bow, who became his fiancée. He then starred in Camille (1926), with Norma Talmadge, who was his lover for several years. He became a popular leading man in the late 1920s and early 1930s, playing romantic and adventurous roles. He also appeared in Spanish-language versions of American films, catering to the Hispanic market
The Cisco Kid and Beyond
In the 1940s, Roland reinvented himself as a western hero, playing the Cisco Kid in 11 films. The Cisco Kid was a character created by O. Henry, a charming outlaw who helped the poor and oppressed. Roland added his own flair to the role, making the Cisco Kid a sophisticated and witty gentleman. He also did his own stunts and horse riding, showing his skills and charisma. He became one of the most popular and highest-paid actors of the decade
Roland continued to work in various genres, such as comedy, drama, and musical. He received critical acclaim for his performances in The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). He also appeared in some of Elvis Presley’s movies, such as Love Me Tender (1956) and G.I. Blues (1960), and became friends with him and his wife, Priscilla. He also worked on television, appearing in shows such as The High Chaparral, Bewitched, and Wagon Train
Personal Life and Death
Roland was married twice, first to actress Constance Bennett, from 1941 to 1945, and then to Guillermina Cantu, from 1954 until his death. He had two children with Cantu, a son and a daughter. He was also romantically involved with several other actresses, such as Norma Talmadge, Lupe Velez, and Dolores del Rio. He was a loyal and generous friend to many people in the industry, and a proud supporter of the Hispanic community
He was diagnosed with cancer in 1993, and he died on May 15, 1994, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea. He was honored by various organizations for his contribution to film and culture. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2004. He was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, in 1952 and 1964
Legacy and Tributes
Gilbert Roland left behind a legacy of film and friendship that touched millions of people around the world. He was one of the first Hispanic actors to achieve success and recognition in Hollywood, and he paved the way for many others. He was also a versatile and talented actor, who could play any role with charm and grace. He was loved and respected by many fans and fellow artists, who paid tribute to him on social media and in documentaries. Some of the celebrities who mourned his passing include Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, Jerry Schilling, Joe Esposito, and Bill Gaither.
Gilbert Roland was a remarkable man who used his gifts to entertain and inspire others. He will be remembered as one of the legends of Hollywood and a faithful servant of the Lord. May he rest in peace and sing with the angels in heaven.