Duncan Renaldo was an actor best known for his portrayal of the Cisco Kid on film and television in the '40s and '50s. For a time in the 1930s, he was better known as "the man without a country."
His career was going great guns in Hollywood until in 1930 he applied for a passport to Africa [to film the movie Trader Horn]. He was an orphan, whose assorted foster parents had taken him all over the world, but they all assured him he really had been born in Camden, N. J. He listed that town as being his birthplace and that was a serious mistake.This first-hand account leaves out one juicy detail: Renaldo and co-star Edwina Booth were rumored to have had an affair while filming Trader Horn. Renaldo's wife found out and reported his illegal entry into the United States during their divorce proceedings. He may indeed have been an orphan, but he was also a stoker aboard a steamship who came ashore in 1921 and never left.
While he was appearing before the cameras in Africa, the immigration bureau was looking up his record. It became increasingly confusing.
"The officials eventually found birth certificates showing I had been born in four different countries," he recalled. "I had served in the U.S. army during the World war and I was willing to be listed as anything the officials wanted to call me, but I went to trial, anyway, on charges of being an alien illegally in this country." [The Zanesville (Ohio) Signal, Sept. 22, 1939]
Renaldo's claim to have "served in the U.S. army during the World war" also bears scrutiny, given his reported 1904 birth date. A June 1936 AP article said that he served for three years with "the famous 77th Regiment of New York" after jumping ship, which—if he served at all—would be more plausible. [Update: According to court records, Renaldo actually arrived in 1917, which would have given him time to enlist in America as an extremely young doughboy.]
Having been found guilty of perjury, Renaldo was sent to McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary near Seattle for 18 months. He was released and pardoned by President Roosevelt in January of 1936 thanks to the appeals of his friends in Hollywood, but he still faced deportation. The court had ruled that he was a Romanian citizen named "Vasile Dumitree Coghieanas." Romania had no record of his birth, and refused to give him a passport. Again his friends intervened, and in the spring of 1936 the United States agreed to grant him a passport, but only if he traveled to Tijuana and re-entered the country "on the Rumanian quota." Renaldo became a U.S. citizen in 1941, exclaiming, "I finally made it, thank God!" He died in 1980, and was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Santa Barbara, California.