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SUAVE ACTOR WHO PLAYED TV’S JOKER DIES AT 86

SHARE SUAVE ACTOR WHO PLAYED TV’S JOKER DIES AT 86

Cesar Romero, the actor whose versatility won him roles ranging from a gigolo in "The Thin Man" to the Joker of the "Batman" television series, has died. He was 86.

Romero died Saturday evening from complications related to a blood clot that developed while he battled severe bronchitis and pneumonia, said Gary Miereanu, spokesman for St. John's Hospital and Health Center.During six decades in Hollywood, Romero was often cast as a gigolo or the other man, but he claimed to have escaped the title of Latin Lover.

"When I started in motion pictures in 1934, they said I was going to be the next Valentino," he recalled in 1984. "I was never a leading man, and very seldom did I do a picture where I got the girl. But I was saddled with the label because I had a Latin name. My background is Cuban, but I'm from New York City. I'm a Latin from Manhattan."

With his striking good looks Romero proved a reliable actor in musicals, comedies, dramas and Westerns. He made his biggest impact with the public as the evil, pun-cracking Joker in the faddish "Batman" series of the 1960s.

Romero remained active into the '90s, appearing in television movies. He marked his 80th birthday as Jane Wyman's husband in the TV series "Falcon Crest."

"He was just a dream, a very, very gentle man and a very giving person," said Wyman, a friend of Romero's for more than half a century. "He never turned anybody away who asked something of him. He was absolutely remarkable."

Romero was born into a distinguished Cuban family in New York City on Feb. 15, 1907. He was the grandson of Jose Marti, leader of the Cuban revolt against Spanish rule.

The yen to act came when Cesar played four roles in "The Merchant of Venice" at boarding school. But he danced his way onto the professional stage.

"I was a helluva good dancer," he said in a 1984 interview. "It was the only way I knew how to get into show business."

Romero danced in Broadway shows and began acting in plays.