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Hollywood Star Antonio Moreno was born in Campo de Gibraltar

Soraya Fernández · Photos: Fran Montes / Archives

The early life of Hollywood Star Antonio Moreno in Campo de Gibraltar

Los Barrios, the home of renowned actor Antonio Moreno. Throughout his career, he has starred in well over 100 films and has featured in posters alongside stars like Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, and Gary Cooper

Antonio Moreno was a Hollywood star and is considered the first ‘Latin Lover’ of American cinema. His name was Antonio Moreno, he grew up in Algeciras, San Roque, and Los Barrios, and went on to achieve the “American Dream” when he became a silent film star in the 20’s.

Antonio Moreno was one of the first actors to have a fan club and his name can be found embedded on a star on the Los Angeles Walk of Fame. He was also a ladies’ man of the cinema of that time.

He featured in close to 150 films and can be found on posters alongside cinematic luminaries such as Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, and Gary Cooper. With 44 years of experience, his final film was The Searchers, directed by the legendary John Huston.

His real name, Antonio Garrido Monteagudo Moreno was too difficult to pronounce in English, therefore he adopted the stage name ‘Antonio Moreno’ or ‘Tony Moreno’, as he was known in the United States.

Tony Moreno

He was born in Madrid in 1887 and spent his childhood and teenage years in Campo de Gibraltar. His father was a military man who was posted in Seville. Sadly, he died when Antonio was only a child.

At eight years old, Moreno and his mother moved to Algeciras due to financial hardships. Antonio worked in this city as a bread delivery man and then, whilst in Campamento, he taught British and American tourists how to play polo and golf in exchange for a few pesetas.

After arduous research, journalist Mar Díaz, captivated by the story of this now forgotten actor, has produced a documentary about Moreno’s life and career, entitled The Spanish dancer (2016).

He explained that Antonio was well liked by a Harvard graduate lawyer of Cuban origin and by one of the mayor of New York’s nephews, whom he helped. He was offered the opportunity to move to New York and to have his studies paid for. His mother agreed and Antonio crossed the Atlantic in 1902 when he was only 15 years old to follow the American dream.

Antonio Moreno Campo de Gibraltar

He began working as an electrician and in 1910 he temporarily returned to Campo de Gibraltar where he met the actress Helen Ware, who encouraged him to try his luck as a theatre actor in Broadway. He took on supporting roles until making his first debut in a silent film shortly after signing with Vitagraph. He also worked for Paramount and Metro Goldwyn Mayer, making him one of the most sought-after silent film actors before Rudolph Valentino.

In 1923, he married Daisy Canfield Danziger, a high society widow and heiress of an oil business family. They lived in a luxurious mansion called Crestmount but divorced after 10 years of marriage.

Some of his most prominent films were The House of Hate (1918) with Pearl White, My American wife (1922) with Gloria Swanson, The Temptress (1926), with Greta Garbo, and It (1927), with Gary Cooper and Clara Bow.

Of his extensive and somewhat unknown filmography, virtually half of the films have been lost forever.

In Spain, Moreno featured in María de la O (1936) alongside Carmen Amaya and Pastora Imperio, directed by Francisco Elias. Due to the Civil War the film was not released until 1939. This was the last time he set foot in Spain.

With the advent of voice recording in cinema, the life of Tony Moreno took another turn. He directed the first Mexican audio film and worked as a supporting actor for great directors until ending his career as an actor in The Searchers.

In 1967, Moreno died of a stroke at the age 79 . Those who have delved into his history say that he was even implicated in a famous crime that was never solved.

His remains rest in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles, California, where a district also bears his name.

Los Barrios honours his memory

Antonio Moreno Campo de Gibraltar

Moreno’s mother lived on Calle Alcaría in Los Barrios, where Antonio visited her whenever he would return to Spain. The house was said to be the finest house in town.

Locals boast of having been neighbours with the family and continue to keep their memories and history alive. In 2014, the City Council named a new street after him. There is also a commemorative plaque bearing his story where he lived with his mother. The official Los Barrios archivist, José Manuel Algarbani, is also determined not to forget who Antonio Moreno was and that he is an important part of the history of Los Barrios.

The early life of Hollywood Star Antonio Moreno in Campo de Gibraltar

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