Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by


Ricardo Cortez
(The Torrent)

- by Néstor G. Acevedo (Greg) -


Ricardo Cortez ( 1899-1977) was groomed as a Latin Lover, but there wasn't a drop of Spanish blood in his veins. He was born of Hungarian and Australian parents, who later immigrated to New York.

His real name, Jacob Krantz, young jack worked as a Wall Street runner and then trained as an actor, before arriving to Hollywood. Tall, dark and handsome, he was taken up by Paramount as the heir to Valentino, but the manufactured star could never equal the great original, and type casting limited his silent career to rather wooden performances, in suitably romantic vehicles.

Nevertheless, he had the distinction of being the only Hollywood actor to be billed above Garbo in her first American film, The Torrent (1926), a prelude of things to come for the young Swede.


Jacob Krantz, was born in Vienna, Austria into a Jewish family in September 18, 1899 (same day and month of Garbo). Hollywood executives changed his name to Ricardo Cortez to appeal to filmgoers as a “Latin Lover,” to compete with such highly popular actors of the era as Rudolph Valentino, Ramon Novarro, and Antonio Moreno (whom will opposite Garbo in the next film, The Temptress). When the rumour began to circulate that Cortez was not actually Latin, the studios tried to pass him off as French, before they finally admitted his Viennese origin. He began his career playing romantic leads with actresses like Greta Garbo, in The Torrent. (1926)


This was Greta Garbo's first American film. She was only twenty (20) years old but already had 2 great  films in her repertoire, Stiller's 1924 The Saga of Gosta Berling, in Sweden, and Pabst's The Joyless Street,  1925 in Berlin. Also shorts commercial films in Sweden. Stiller her mentor went that same year 1925 to Hollywood with a contract with Garbo. MGM were skeptical, Louis B. Mayer told Stiller, “American men don't like fat woman” referring to Greta, before they get to Hollywood. At first the studios had no idea what to do with their two European imports, Irving Thalberg head of production, was unimpressed with Garbo, s screen test, and cast her in The Torrent, a stunning piece of nonsense in which she played a Spanish Prima Donna.

The script by Vicente Blasco Ibañez (from the novel Entre Naranjos) would seem to be tailor made for Garbo;  It showcases her strengths, magnifies her assets and there is no pesky language problem to deal with: a Swedish actress can play a Spanish temptress with no suspension of disbelief. Ricardo Cortez, did an admirable job and did something that few romantic stars of the day ever would have done in a film: allow himself to look unattractive, appear foolish and to grow old ungracefully. This is when the extraordinary cinematographer,  William Daniel's met Garbo- (they went on to make 20 films together).


Thalberg was MGM's undisputed “boy wonder.” At twenty-six he had risen from office boy to production manager, becoming the most powerful man in the organization after Mayer. For a man knows for his fiery temperament, Thalberg showed unusual restraint on meeting the haughty Stiller. Sjostrom played the role of  interpreter, and if the half-hour encounter ended cordially and with promises of early action, it was thanks to  his quickness in changing Stiller's often-pompous utterances into congenial-sounding and reasonable conversation. The meeting ended with Thalberg agreeing to give Garbo a new screen test under Stiller's personal direction and supervision.

The result of the test was electrifying.  It impressed Mayer, Thalberg, and very executive who saw it. Immediately the studio went into action.  The next day Garbo herself started being remolded. Mayer order her teeth perfected, saying there was too much  space between them. He also demanded that she lose more weight before filming began. Dressers set to work on her hair. It was not easy for the script department to find a story suitable to Garbo's broad-shouldered stature,  Which was considered “unusual” by conventional Hollywood standards- female stars were generally petite, Garbo was quite tall, and Glamour was the order of the day.

Filming of The Torrent, directed by Monta Bell, had just started when Alma Rubens, playing the lead role of Lenora opposite Ricardo Cortez was taken sick. Bell heard the news from his assistance as they walked to the projection room to look at rushed of some flood scenes. But instead, they found themselves staring at Garbo, inexplicably been mixed up with the rushed. Realizing the mistake, the projectionist stopped the test to change the film, but Bell called him to let it run.

Bell climbed into the projection room to look at the can and its label.  It read: “Greta Garbo, Swedish actress” and the date of the test. Seized with excitement, Bell rushed out in search of Irving Thalberg. “I want that girl for ' The Torrent',” he spluttered. On learning that Alma Rubens  had dropped out, (Alma Rubens, was the wife of Ricardo Cortez) Thalberg agreed to replace her with Garbo. This was the beginning of the Great Greta Garbo.

Production of The Torrent took only six weeks, the results of Stiller's coaching and his unique understanding of his actress were apparent in Garbo's performance. The film premiered in New York's Capitol Theatre, on February 21,1926 and was a breaking box-office record.


Ricardo Cortez, “was rude, nasty, pompous and everybody hated him” says Lina Basquette, who later co-starred with Cortez in Frank Capra's The Younger Generation (1929), in which he played a Jew who changes his surname to gain social acceptance. “He was one of the first “temperamental” male stars because he thought he was going to be the next Valentino. In Capra picture, even Jean Hersholt couldn't stand him, and Jean loved everybody! Cortez took pride afterward, in claiming (erroneously) to be the only person ever billed above Garbo. “No one had any idea she was going to bust into a topflight star,”

Cortez told Kevin Brownlow forty  years later. “She was unknown, kind of a gawky individual, not what we'd consider an attraction, tall and not especially beautiful, said Cortez about Garbo. The structure of the face and eyes, I think, is what people were attracted to. Strange quality, introverted, electric.”

On the set, Cortez was highly disdainful of a newcomer with whom he felt “stuck.”  Faced with his contempt and separated from Stiller, Garbo withdrew even further. Her state of mind was revealed one day to cameraman William Daniels, who heard her say, “I'm important.” someone replied, “why you're the most important person around.” And she said, “Important Garbo-important sardines -  just the same.”

Still struggling with English, she meant, “imported”. Indeed, her first real language classroom was the Torrent set. Cortez resented her from the beginning, because he felt himself a great star who had condescended to work with this “dump” Swede who was nobody.

Having decided that Garbo was a nonentity, Cortez treated her as such. During the shooting of the eponymous rainstorm, both actors were drenched with cold water. Borg was waiting Offstage with blankets for Garbo, Cortez came over him: “Here! Give me those blankets!” ‘But they are for Miss Garbo!” Borg protested. Without another word, Cortez took the blankets from him and walked off. “Let him have them,” said Garbo when she saw what happened. “You mustn't let yourself be bothered about a pumpkin like that."


Starting with small parts, the tall 6”1 (1.85 m) dark Cortez, was being groomed by Paramount to be the successor to Rudolph Valentino. But Cortez would never be viewed, or consider himself as the equal to  the late Valentino. A popular star, he was saddled in a number of run-of-the-mill romantic movies which  Would depend more on his looks than on the script.  Pictures like Argentina Love (1924) and The Cat's Pajamas (1926), did little to extend his range as an actor.  He did show that he had some range with his role in Pony Express (1924), but roles like that were few and far between. With the advent of sound, Cortez made the transition and he would play Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1931) (aka Dangerous Female ).

Never a great actor, Cortez was cast as the smirking womanizer in a number of films, and would soon slide down into “B”movies. He played a newspaper columnist in Is My Face Red? (1932), a home wrecker in A Lost Lady (1934), a killer in Man Hunt (1936), and even played Perry Mason in The Case of the Black Cat in 1936. After that year (1936) Cortez hit a lean patch for acting and tried his hand at directing. His career as a director ended after a half dozen movies, and his screen career soon followed. He retired from films and returned to Wall Street, were he had worked as a runner decades before. This time, he returned as a member of one of Wall Street's top brokerage firms and lived a comfortable life.  He died on 28 April 1977, in New York, New York, USA.


   Ricardo Cortez was cast as Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina (Love) but Thalberg did not like the footage and they re-cast with
       John Gilbert.


Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide, New York Times Reviews
Frederick Sands, Sven Broman, The Divine Garbo
And Tony Fontana-IMDb.
Edited by Néstor G. Acevedo (Greg)

Lars Hanson
Antonio Moreno
John Gilbert
Nils Asther
Lewis Stone
Robert Montgomery
Clark Gable
Ramon Novarro
John Barrymore
Joan Crawford
Melvyn Douglas
Herbert Marshall
George Brent
Fredric March
Robert Taylor
Henry Daniell
Charles Boyer
Constance Bennett
More Garbo Filmpartner


... nach oben

© Copyright 2005 – – Germany – TJ & John – The Webmasters