He was born Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and originally intended to become a bullfighter like his father. When the family moved to the United States, however, he became interested in acting when he was picked at random for a role as an extra. He chose his screen name by combining the names of his favorite actors, John Gilbert and Ruth Roland. He was often cast in the stereotypical “Latin Lover” role.
Roland’s first major role was in the collegiate comedy The Plastic Age (1925) together with Clara Bow, to whom he became engaged. In 1927, he played Armand in Camille opposite Norma Talmadge, with whom he was romantically involved, and they starred together in several productions. Roland later appeared in Spanish language adaptations of American films, in romantic lead roles. Beginning in the 1940s, critics began to take notice of his acting and he was praised for his supporting roles in John Huston’s We Were Strangers (1949), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Thunder Bay (1953), and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). He also appeared in a series of films in the mid-1940s as the popular character “The Cisco Kid.” He played Hugo, the agnostic (and totally fictional) friend of the three shepherd children in The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, based on the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917. In 1953, Roland played Greek-American sponge diver Mike Petrakis in the epic Beneath the 12-Mile Reef. Roland played Dom Pedro II, the emperor of Brazil, in a 1963 episode, “A Kingdom for a Horse”, of the syndicated western television series Death Valley Days. In the story line, Dom Pedro in 1876 gets off his train to stretch his legs and is stranded near San Francisco, California. He comes across a widow (Patricia Huston) with a son (Butch Patrick) and a daughter (Andrea Darvi). The woman doubts his story, but her daughter is charmed by his wit and wisdom. His last film appearance was in the 1982 western Barbarosa.
Roland was married to actress Constance Bennett from 1941 to 1946. He had appeared with Bennett as the romantic lead in After Tonight, a 1933 World War I drama. His second marriage, to Guillermina Cantú in 1954, lasted until his death forty years later. Roland was nominated twice for a Golden Globe Award, for his roles in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Gilbert Roland has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6730 Hollywood Boulevard. Gilbert Roland died of cancer in Beverly Hills, California, in 1994, aged 88. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.
- December, 11, 1905
- Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
- May, 15, 1994
- Beverly Hills, California
Cause of Death