Was the first Latin lover Spanish or Italian? According to the documentary "The Bronze Screen," Spaniard Antonio Moreno establishes the type, best seen in 1923's "The Spanish Dancer."
But Hollywood immortalizes the Latin lover with Italian star Rudolph Valentino, whose reputation is set when he plays a tango-dancing Argentine in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (1921). The film establishes a different kind of leading man with darker looks that at first makes the studio nervous. Valentino comes to hate the label.
“Horsemen” director Rex Ingram continues the type when he helps persuade Mexico-born actor Jose Ramon Gil Samaniego to change his name to Ramon Novarro and compete with Valentino in “Scaramouche” (1923).
The Latin lover trope persists through the years. As recently as 2017, Mexican actor and filmmaker Eugenio Derbez feels the need to poke the stereotype through comedy in “How to Be a Latin Lover” (2017).