While there is a long way to go to see enough Latinxs on the silver screen, way back in The Silent Era of filmmaking (about 1911 to 1926), there were Latinxs holding it down for la cultura. In particular, we had Mexican stars, such as Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez, Gilbert Roland, and Ramon Novarro, making their first marks in Hollywood. We’re talking everything from a swashbuckling adventure, to an Indigenous romantic drama, to a Jazz-age college film, to spooky horror.
And you can watch these groundbreaking films online today. Yes, you can go back to before there was sound in film, to see the very first Latinxs on the big screen. So let’s push for equality in Hollywood by taking some time to celebrate the wins we’ve had and our long history in the industry. Read below to learn more about four of our favorite silent films starring Latinxs that you can stream right now, including where to watch them.
Dolores del Rio is credited as the first Latina crossover star in Hollywood. Before the Mexicana was a star of such Old Hollywood films as Flying Down to Rio and Maria Candelaria, she starred in the 1928 silent film Ramona. Based on the novel of the same name, Ramona tells the tale of a half-Indigenous, half-Scottish woman raised by a Mexican family in 1850s California. Discrimination leads to tragedy, as Ramona loses one important person after another. Watch it on Amazon.
The Gaucho (1927)
Want to see a silent film starring the Old Hollywood Mexican star Lupe Velez? Then travel back to 1927 with the adventure film The Gaucho. When a girl is saved from falling off a cliff and develops the power to heal, a shrine of gold forms at the site of the miracle. When the gold is stolen, the gaucho is there to save the day. Velez stars alongside another big star, Douglas Fairbanks, playing the titular gaucho and Velez’s love interest, in this film set in the Argentinian Andes. Watch it on YouTube.
The Plastic Age (1925)
The Plastic Age is a 1925 silent film that chronicles college life during the Jazz Age. Based on the book by Percy Marks, it follows Hugh Carver, a student who gets mixed up with party girl Cynthia Day (played by the iconic Clara Bow). It becomes a love triangle when Hugh’s roommate Carl Peters also falls for Cynthia. Peters is played by Mexican actor Gilbert Roland, who went on to appear in films such as King of the Bandits, The Bad and the Beautiful, and Cheyenne Autumn. Watch it on YouTube.
Another adventurous, swashbuckling film starring a Latinx is the 1923 version of Scaramouche. It stars Mexicano Ramon Novarro, as a French lawyer who becomes a clown to get revenge on the man who killed his friend. Novarro was one of the legendary “Latin lovers” of Old Hollywood and is credited as the first Latino Hollywood star. To see more of his work, check out Mata Hari, Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ, and The Laughing Boy, where he stars alongside Lupe Velez. Watch it on YouTube.