Duncan Renaldo, the dashing star of scores of romantic movies, rode to his greatest fame as television's Cisco Kid during the 1950s.
Renaldo's life was as adventurous in fact as any fictional role he played during his long career.
Orphaned at an early age, he had no recollection of his parents and never knew exactly where he was born, although he believed it was in Spain.
He became a merchant sailor at 13 and was stranded in the United State in 1922 when his ship burned at dockside in Baltimore. Shortly afterward, he got a janitorial job in New York's old Tec Art movie studio, became a scenery designer and eventually got into producing, writing and acting.
His first starring role came in 1929 when he played in "Trader Horn," which took two years to film and became one of the greatest hits of the 1930s.
Just before the picture premiered in 1931, Renaldo was arrested by U.S. immigration authorities on charges of entering the country illegally.
His trial became one of the sensations of the time. He was convicted of perjury for claiming he had been born in New Jersey. After serving 18 months in federal prison, he was granted an unconditional pardon by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The pardon came the day before he was to complete his term.
After the prison experience, his career was in ruins and he started over as a janitor at Republic Studios. A few months later a producer "rediscovered" him, cast him in a series of westerns with such beginners Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
By the 1940s he had reestablished himself as a box-office draw. All told, he said, he made 164 motion pictures, but it was television and his role as the early California hero Cisco Kid — created by short-story writer O. Henry — that made him a superstar with young Americans.
Between 1949 and 1955, Renaldo starred in 159 Cisco Kid episodes, riding at the side of co-star Leo Carrillo, who played his sidekick Pancho.
He was proud of the fact that neither Cisco nor Pancho ever killed anyone; they defeated the bad guys by using their wits.