Ricardo Cortez is one of those great 1930's stars that is close to being entirely forgotten today, and it's a darn shame. I always look forward to seeing him on screen, whether he's playing a gangster, romantic lead or heavy dramatic role, he is always excellent.
I did a bit of research whilst looking for his picture today.. here are some tidbits: He was actually born Jacob Krantz in Vienna, before he was transformed into Spanish born, Latin lover Ricardo Cortez, in an attempt by studio heads to bring competition to Rudolph Valentino. He was the only star to ever have billing over Greta Garbo, in her first American film. Tragically, his wife, actress Alma Rubens, died in 1931 after they had only been married for about five years.
If you ever get a chance to see Symphony of Six Million, make sure you do. I just watched it this evening and I think it may just be Ricardo Cortez's best performance. Instead of being typecast in a typical gangster or Latin lover role, he plays a Jewish doctor from the slums who rises up to become a famous, wealthy doctor despite his own desire to run a humble clinic in the area he was raised. This role really gives Cortez the chance to shine, and show his acting chops, and I highly recommend it.
On a slightly more racy note, Cortez is also in one of my all-time favorite pre-codes, Midnight Mary (one of the most blatantly pre-code pre-codes there are.) Here's a link to a scene from the film-- scroll ahead to 8:00 to see what I'm talking about :)