With his dark good looks, muscular physique, heavy-lidded bedroom eyes and easy smile, Ricardo Cortez cut a dashing figure on the silver screen for over 5 decades. Originally signed by Paramount Pictures in 1922 as a cinematic “Latin lover”—a threat to Rudolph Valentino, by the early 1930’s, Cortez had successfully transitioned to sound motion pictures where he became one of the most popular and sought-after actors in Hollywood. Renowned for his professionalism, and for his ability to play a wide range of characters in all genres, Cortez eventually became recognized as one of the movies’ premier heavies. A list of his bad-guy impersonations on film is a veritable rogue’s gallery from sexy wastrels and trouble makers, to more nefarious gangsters, and maniacal murderers. Each bore the stamp of this underrated, long neglected actor’s unique artistry. At the peak of his popularity, in 1934 one astute critic proclaimed Ricardo Cortez the cinema’s “magnificent heel.”
The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Films of Ricardo Cortez is his dramatic story -- from his poverty stricken childhood as a Jewish immigrant’s son on the streets of Lower Manhattan, through his topsy-turvy personal and professional lives as an actor in New York and Hollywood. It’s all here -- the triumphs, the tragedies, the loves, the scandals, the personal and professional relationships, and most importantly, the film legacy of one of the most charismatic and prolific film stars of his day!
Nominee -- Theatre Library Association's 2018 RICHARD WALL MEMORIAL AWARD honoring "English language books of exceptional scholarship in the field of recorded or broadcast performance"
One of the "BEST FILM BOOKS OF 2017" - Huffington Post
This book is a significant achievement. . ." - Film International
"A superb book, written to hold the reader's interest. . . filling a void in film history." - Silents Are Golden
"The Magnificent Heel is not only a fitting tribute to Ricardo Cortez, but also an incredible look at Hollywood in the 1920's and 1930's . . . the universality of the actor's story makes this book a truly significant read." - Silent Film Quarterly
"The fascinating story, accuracy of detail and wealth of information is so vast, it might be among the most satisfying biographies ever written about a Hollywood star." - James L. Neibaur, noted author, critic
"If you ever wanted to know more about Ricardo Cortez, this 580-page book earns my seal of approval. . . These are the type of books that win awards." - Martin Grams Jr., noted vintage radio, television, and film author
"From stories of Ricardo Cortez's burgeoning career to the struggles the actor went through during the precarious transition to sound, Van Neste offers insight every step of the way. . . Enjoyable are the stories of the many Hollywood players Ricardo encountered on his way to completing over 100 movies . . . I highly recommend Mr. Van Neste's telling of this story." - Once Upon a Screen
"I love the book and the style of story telling is superb. . . I wish Margaret was still alive to see how beautifully Ric's story was told!" - Carol Bell, Ricardo Cortez's sister-in-law
"a vivid, revealing portrait of Cortez. . . Dan Van Neste gives this fascinating, but notoriously private actor and director his due. . . A must for fans of the actor and Precode lovers." - Kendahl Cruver, A Classic Movie Blog
" Mr. Van Neste has written an engaging, meticulously annotated history of Cortez . . . We could hardly put it down! " - Silver Screenings
"Enlightening and interesting, I recommend it as a fine addition to a classic film library." - Caftan Woman blog
"This biography has some of the most thorough research I have ever seen." - Vienna's Classic Hollywood
"one of the most interesting biographies I've ever come across." - Shadows and Satin