Let’s take a trip down memory lane and return to the silent film era to learn about the tragic and ill-fated life of Hollywood’s most enigmatic silent actor, Rudolph Valentino.
A Star Is Born
6000 miles east of Hollywood in a relatively unknown Italian town, Rudolph Valentino was born May 6, 1895. During his childhood, the town of Castellaneta was Valentino’s home. Located in the Apulian region of Italy, Castellaneta was the childhood home of Valentino and is now the home of 17,000 people. The town’s citizens won’t let knowledge of their most famous celebrity fade from memory.
Nowadays, in Castellaneta, you can visit the Rudolph Valentino Museum which showcases the actor’s original movie posters and a set reconstruction from “The Son of the Sheik.” There’s also a blue ceramic statue dedicated to the actor. Valentino might have left Castellaneta for the glitz and glamor of New York and LA, but Castellaneta has never forgotten its finest celebrity.
This silent film star was called everything but his actual full name. In fact, even after knowing his full name, most of us are just going to keep calling him by his stage name or his more flattering nickname, “the Latin Lover.” Rudolph Valentino was the actor’s stage name. He certainly pulled the wool over our eyes. Valentino’s full name was Rodolfo Pietro Filiberto Raffaello Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella.
We know some people have four names, but Valentino certainly is in the running for one of the longest names. We’re not so sure he would have become the notorious “Latin lover” if he had been cast in movies under this name. There probably wouldn’t be enough space on movie posters for all seven of his names.
Not even a decade after Hollywood’s establishment, Rudolph Valentino was born. Valentino didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. His father, Giovanni Antonio Giuseppe Fedele Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella was rather successful with the Italian military and rose to the rank of captain of the cavalry. Not quite done with horses, the former cavalry captain became a vet.
When Valentino was 11, his father passed away from malaria. His mother, Gabriella, was born in Franche-Comté, France, and picked up quite a snazzy job as a lady-in-waiting to the Marquess of Franche-Comté. Later, she settled down in Italy in Castellaneta where she had Valentino and three other children.
As the youngest child of the di Valentina d'Antonguella family, Rudolph Valentino was bound to be the apple of his mother’s eye. It didn’t help that he naturally was very good-looking and also a charmer. Throughout his childhood, passers-by couldn’t help commenting on Valentino’s good looks.
Valentino’s appearance and charm didn’t only have an effect on other people, but his mother, Gabriella, absolutely doted on him. In her eyes, he could do no wrong. This didn’t go down too well with his father who believed that his mother spoilt him and made him too soft. It seems like his father, a cavalry captain, wasn’t all the mark completely as Valentino wasn’t known for his military prowess.
Growing up in the 19th century and early 20th century entailed a lot of hardship and pain for most people. Compared to us, our 19th-century ancestors had it hard. Even a silver star icon like Rudolph Valentino who became one of the most known figures in classic Hollywood was not exempt from such suffering. Valentino was the youngest child of his family. Even before he was born, his family was beset by tragedy.
His eldest sister, Beatrice, passed away as a baby. Years later, tragedy would visit the family again. When Valentino was 11, his father, Giovanni, passed away from malaria. Valentino may have had two other siblings, but he didn’t have much opportunity to get close to his older brother who left Castellaneta for better schooling.
Misstep in the Military
Unlike his famous onscreen persona Julio Desnoyers in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” Rudolph Valentino wasn’t destined for a career in the military. His father might have risen to the rank of cavalry captain, but in the case of Valentino, the apple didn’t fall near the tree.
During his teens, Valentino signed up for the military but was rejected. The Italian military deemed the to-be actor too frail to join their ranks. Ironically, it was Valentino’s breakout role as a soldier in the Great War that made him a star. Clearly, his success in the army was only for the silver screen.
Not a Smarty Pants
Rudolph Valentino may have been a jack of all trades who later had a finger in almost every pie – from dancing to singing, acting, and writing poetry – but he wasn’t one for the books. In fact, during his youth, he struggled with school. Interestingly, his older brother excelled at school and was sent away at a young age. After the death of their father, Valentino, too was sent away to boarding school.
Afterward, when he was 17, he attended an agricultural college. Valentino didn’t only struggle with school, he very much seemed to dislike it. While at the agricultural college, he escaped to the romantic city of Paris.
Time in Paris
When Valentino was 17, he set off for Paris. The young man was full of ambition – he hoped to find work in the city and make a new life for himself. But the Parisian scene was something the young Valentino couldn’t break. He lived like a kind of rogue who had the right kind of connections. But he failed to find any true employment and spent all the money he had.
Though Valentino’s time in Paris proved to be mostly unfruitful, it was in the city where he learned to dance the provocative tango – something that would be beneficial to Valentino some years later. The once starry-eyed youth ended up in Monte Carlo. Not long after he ended up back home in Castellaneta.
Arrival on Ellis Island
A year after his stint in Paris, Rudolph Valentino realized he needed a fresh start. Donning his rose-colored glasses once more, Valentino dared to dream again. This time he looked beyond the boundaries of Europe to make a new start. His gaze fell on the USA. Armed with $4000 and visiting cards with fake family crests, Valentino climbed onboard the “SS Cleveland” and aimed to take the USA by storm.
On his voyage aboard the “SS Cleveland,” the young man caused quite a stir as every female wanted to get their chance to dance with him. While Valentino was dancing away, the “SS Cleveland” had reached the Upper New York Bay. In 1913, at the age of 18, Valentino arrived on Ellis Island.
The Big Apple Bites
The turn of the century – the last century that is – is filled with many stories of immigrants making their way to New York. If they made it past the immigration checks of Ellis Island, they were soon joining the hustle and bustle of New York City. Valentino was one such immigrant who made it past the Ellis Island immigration checks. He headed to New York City.
One thing he learned quickly was that the Big Apple bites. After blowing his inheritance, the young Valentino had to rough it up. He spoke no English. He also lived on the streets, slept on park benches, washed under fire hydrants, and did menial work as a dishwasher and gardener.
Burning Up the Dance Floor
One of Rudolph Valentino’s earliest moments where he stole the spotlight was performing the tango in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” More than 100 years later, Valentino is still associated with this scene where he’s burning up the dance floor. Valentino may have been a marvel on the dance floor, but his great moves were no accident. After Valentino was fired a busboy, he found a job dancing the tango with Joan Sawyer for $50 a week.
He soon found work as a taxi dancer a.k.a “a tango pirate” at Maxim’s Restaurant-Cabaret. This job involved wealthy women paying to have a dance with you. Of course, Valentino’s moves on the dance floor weren’t the only appeal. These wealthy women also sought the company of an exotic partner.
Almost a century later, Leslie Nielsen was the star of the comedy spoof, “Wrongfully Accused,” but silent actor, Rudolph Valentino, could have been the film’s star. During his time in New York, Valentino befriended the Chilean heiress, Blanca de Saulles. We’re not quite sure if Valentino’s boots landed up under the socialites’ bed, but de Saulles and her husband, John de Saulles, soon became embroiled in a nasty divorce.
It was a matter of time before Valentino was pulled into the matter. After Valentino took a stance to defend his heiress friend, John de Saulles had him arrested on the claims that he was a rotten person. With minimal evidence, it was clear that Valentino had been wrongfully accused. The price of the bail was lowered some days later.
Fleeing the East Coast
During this time working as a dancing professional, Rudolph Valentino made friends with the Chilean heiress, Blanca de Saulles. During the heiress’s nasty divorce, Valentino’s connection proved to be bad news. Her husband John de Saulles had Valentino arrested. Fortunately, Valentino got off lightly. But things took an even worse turn.
Blanca and John de Saulles' divorce ended up being a bitter struggle over custody of their son. The struggle came to an abrupt end with the Chilean socialite shot John to his death. Valentino had already learned the lesson of a dangerous connection and took the high road. Hoping to avoid scandal, Valentino fled to the West Coast, making sure to leave his alias Rodolpho Guglielmi behind.
Utah Touring Group
After spending about four years in the Big Apple, Rudolph Valentino left. He joined a traveling operetta group that was headed for Utah. As the name suggests, an operetta is a kind of mini-form of an opera. It’s not only shorter in length than an opera, but it tends to be light-hearted and it contains more dialogue (spoken word) than just music.
With the operetta touring group, Valentino got his first opportunity to bridge the gap between performing and acting. Interestingly, Valentino who’d become a silent star had to sing for this traveling group. Joining the touring operetta might have given Valentino his time to shine but the lights went out soon after as it disbanded – probably even before it got to Utah.
Stint on Sunset Boulevard
The name of this street isn’t also the name of Billy Wilder’s classic movie by mere chance. This iconic boulevard is the epicenter of Hollywood itself. Its 38km spans Hollywood, downtown LA, and Beverly Hills. Back in the heyday of Tinsel Town, if you wanted some screen time on the silver screen, you better head off to Sunset Boulevard.
After deciding that he wanted to pursue a career on the big screen, Rudolph Valentino moved to Sunset Boulevard in 1917. Clearly, Sunset Boulevard was a big deal. Valentino’s decision paid off as he landed a dancer in Emmett J. Flynn’s “Alimony.” His hard work didn’t pay off that much as his role in this film went previously uncredited.
It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know
Clearly, it’s not what you know but who you know. Rudolph Valentino wouldn’t disagree. After leaving the Big Apple for the City of Angels, Valentino had his eye on acting. However, the actor fell back on his profession as a dance instructor. Like women on the East Coast, wealthy women on the West Coast were only too happy to pay for dancing lessons with the Italian schmoozer. Valentino definitely was something of a schmoozer.
He knew exactly what to say to his wealthy female clientele as they would often lend him their luxury cars. Their helping hand went a long way as Valentino would often turn up for auditions with their cars. Somehow, we think Valentino’s motto would have been, “Fake it until you make it.”
This is something the silent actor probably clammed up about – his impulsive marriage to Jean Acker. After moving to the West Coast, Rudolph Valentino was invited to a party where he met the actress, Jean Acker. Out of the blue Valentino and Acker agreed to marry which came about after Acker dared him to marry her. We can definitely say that the two were compatible for at least two months as that’s how long their engagement lasted. Then, they married on November 6, 1919.
Though it took almost four years for the couple to finalize their divorce, they weren’t separated long after. Though Valentino was a notable silent actor, there were plenty of things that his wife Acker was not saying a peep about.
After her divorce from the silent film star, Jean Acker sued the actor so that she could still legally be called Mrs. Rudolph Valentino. That must have been confusing as Rudolph Valentino later remarried. Sadly, Jean Acker didn’t get her way. After her passing in 1978, the actress has been known as Jean Acker.
Of course, we can see Acker’s reasons for wanting to use the name Mrs. Rudolph Valentino as her career in Tinsel Town didn’t quite reach the heights that Valentino’s did. Acker had several small roles and cameos in movie productions and short films. If you’re quick, Jean Acker might have her way as you will see her name as Jean Acker Valentino on the credits roll.
Scandal Between the Bed Sheets
Valentino might have been Hollywood’s original Latin lover but, ironically, there was one person the actor never became the lover of – his wife, Jean Acker. On the night of their wedding, Acker supposedly locked Valentino out of their Hollywood hotel suite. No matter how much Valentino pounded on the hotel door, Acker never let him in. This state of affairs continued for their entire marriage.
This didn’t surprise many as before her marriage to Valentino, Acker had had a romantic relationship with a woman. Valentino might have been the darling of Hollywood, making female fans swoon, but there was one woman who didn’t lose her head around this silver-screen star. This is probably something the silent film star wanted to keep hushed up.
For those of you who’re familiar with the world of acting, the term “heavies” might mean something to you but for all of us, we’re in the dark. In short, “heavies” are the bad guys. They add all the conflict and spice to a story. And by 1917, Rudolph Valentino was sick of playing heavies. In fact, Valentino was so fed up with playing heavies that he was on the verge of leaving the West Coast and making another start in New York.
That was how he landed up in Greenwich Village in Queens. There he met Paul Ivano, a cinematographer of Serbian descent, who helped Valentino’s career get the direction it needed. One major focus became joining the cast of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
An Interesting Turn of Events
While Rudolph Valentino was on his way to Palm Springs, California, to film “Stolen Moments,” he started reading Vincente Blasco Ibanez’s novel “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Valentino soon learned that the production house, Metro Pictures, had acquired the rights to turn Ibanez’s best-selling novel into a motion picture. Valentino’s interest was immediately piqued.
Not only had he been reading the novel, but he had previously been in contact with Metro Pictures. Valentino made a detour and stopped by the Metro Pictures office in New York. When he pitched up at the New York office he learned that Metro screenwriter, June Mathis, had been trying to get hold of him to star in Metro Pictures' upcoming production. You guessed it – “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Problems on the Set
Actors aren’t easy to work with. Not all of them anyway. June Mathis had named legendary director, Rex Ingram, as the director of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” She also cast Rudolph Valentino in the role of Julio Desnoyers. However, Ingram and Valentino weren’t exactly bosom buddies. They were far from it. Ingram and Valentino argued about the interpretation of Valentino’s role. Despite the movie becoming a box office hit, the set was a tense place to be.
Mathis often had to play the role of peacekeeper. There wasn’t just tension between Valentino and the directors but also between the upcoming actor and the studio producers. They paid him a quite substandard salary of $350 a week and even made the actor pay for his own wardrobe.
“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
After the release of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” Rudolph Valentino became an overnight sensation. After all, the 1921 war film became the highest-grossing movie of that year. It even booted Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” from the top position. “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” proved to be the break Valentino’s career needed. Interestingly, it was Metro Pictures screenwriter, June Mathis, who working behind the scenes played a big role in helping Valentino’s career take off.
As an executive, Mathis pushed for Vicente Blasco Ibáñez's novel “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” to be made into a movie. The executive made other key decisions. Mathis named Rex Ingram as the film’s director. After spotting Valentino in a B-grade film, she cast him in the role of Julio Desnoyers.
The Latin Lover
Metro Pictures executive, June Mathis, insisted on casting Rudolph Valentino as Julio Desnoyers in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Valentino’s French-Italian heritage was a concern for other Metro executives. They were hesitant to cast Valentino with his distinctly Latin look in a main role. It just wasn’t the done thing in the era of silent films. Mathis stuck to her guns. After seeing the early footage, not only was she convinced that Valentino had to stay, but even changed the script so Valentino could show off his dance skills.
As Valentino had previously worked as a taxi dancer, Mathis wrote in the bar scene where Valentino performs the tango. After this iconic dance scene, Valentino became dubbed the “Latin Lover” and Metro’s production was a goldmine.
Fame At a Price
Even though, “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” became the highest-grossing motion picture of 1921 and the sixth-highest-grossing silent picture of all time, Valentino was not paid his due. The film made an astounding $1,000,000 at the box office. Valentino’s role as the “Latin Lover” contributed significantly to its earnings. Even after the film’s incredible success, Metro producers were reluctant to give Valentino the credit he was due. During the motion picture’s filming, Valentino earned $350.
The young star didn’t even get a raise after the movie raked in fortunes. Metro was so reluctant to see Valentino as a star that for his next film they cast him in the B-grade film, “Unchartered Seas.” Ironically, the Metro producers had a hand in bringing together Valentino and his second wife.
It must have come as quite a shock to Metro studio producers when the exotic Rudolph Valentino was a major success. They had been reluctant to cast him in their major motion picture, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” believing his exotic, Latin appearance would put audiences off. As there was plenty of money to be made, the production house soon recovered from their shock.
In 1924, after the merging of three players (Metro, Goldwyn, and Mayer) to become the powerhouse MGM, the production house decided to capitalize on the exotic look. They hadn’t missed the waves Valentino made with Latin appeal and started using the Mexican actor, Ramon Novarro, as their latest “Latin Lover” and sex symbol. Valentino had clearly started a trend that major players later capitalized on.
In entertainment, nearly everything comes down to appearance. Natacha Rambova was born Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy but adopted the Russian persona, Natacha Rambova, after she decided to become a ballerina. Her ballet career didn’t really take off, but her ex-lover, a ballet teacher, Theodore Kosloff, was hired by Cecil B. DeMille as a costume designer. Rambova became the main creative source behind Kosloff's costume design for DeMille.
Their relationship naturally broke down after Kosloff passed her work off as his own but in a matter of time, Rambova was noticed as a creative force of costume design who spent meticulous research in creating costumes. She and Rudolph Valentino met on the set of “Uncharted Seas” and later “Camille.” While “Camille” proved a flop, romance blossomed between the two.
A Bit of Bigamy on the Side
While the term ‘bigamy’ might have many of us scratching our heads, there’s one person who certainly knew the meaning of bigamy as well as the laws around it. Bigamy is the illicit action of marrying someone when you’re already married. Valentino may have made a hasty decision to marry Jean Acker, but he made a second rushed decision when he married his second wife, Natacha Rambova.
The two married in Mexico, but when the newlyweds returned to the USA, Valentino was charged with bigamy. Back then, California laws stated that individuals wait a year after getting divorced before they could remarry. As impulsive as ever, Valentino waited only two months and found himself back in jail. In March 1923, he and Rambova remarried.
A Sensational Trial
In 1922, once again Rudolph Valentino had found himself on trial. In his jail cells, the silent actor declared quite boldly his undying love for Natacha Rambova and that she was his wife no matter what California laws on bigamy stated. During Valentino’s court hearing, the degree of Valentino’s celebrity status became clear. So hysterical were Valentino’s female fans that he was assigned guards to stop him from being crushed by crowding flappers.
The flapper crowds took to the courtroom too. And like a true romantic hero, Valentino played his part well and treated his female fans to a romantic melodrama where he professed his love for his wife, explaining how it was his deep love for her that had been his undoing.
All in all, Rudolph Valentino starred in four Metro Picture productions. These included “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse,” “Unchartered Seas,” “Camille,” and “The Conquering Power.” When it came to Valentino’s career, clearly, Metro Pictures weren’t playing fairly, and the silent-film star wasn’t going to keep quiet about their unfair treatment. Valentino wanted better roles, better pay, and more respect. Even after “The Conquering Power” performed well at the box office and with critics, Metro still didn’t give Valentino his due.
Valentino decided to look for opportunities elsewhere. He soon met with French producers and joined the American production house Famous Players-Lasky. It seemed like Valentino knew where his bread was buttered as Famous Players-Lasky was the predecessor of Paramount Pictures – a production house focused on commercial success.
It seemed joining Famous Players-Lasky had been a wise decision after all. Soon after leaving Metro Pictures for Famous Players-Lasky, Rudolph Valentino was cast in “The Sheik.” While there were mixed reviews from the critics, audiences simply couldn’t get enough of the film. It didn’t replicate the fortune “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” made at the box office, but against a budget of $200,000, “The Sheik” made $1.5 million.
His role as the charming Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan also cemented Valentino’s status as a sex symbol. In fact, his performance as the irresistible Sheik surpassed his appeal as one of the four horsemen. Female fans apparently fainted after watching Valentino’s performance in the film.
Valentino Lashes Out
Being a super-famous celebrity certainly comes with plenty of perks but also some disadvantages. A major downside is that you’re bound to have some critics. It just comes with the territory. “The Sheik” might have been a box office sensation but not everyone was a fan. Writer Dick Dorgan, living up to his (first) name, took the opportunity to have a go at Rudolph Valentino in the magazine “Photoplay.” It clearly was a low blow as Dorgan even insulted Valentino’s mother.
Of course, everyone knows you can’t say anything bad about someone’s mother but Dorgan clearly didn’t get that memo. Valentino was beyond furious. He even stated that he would kill the writer. Dorgan eventually apologized and was banned from the studio, but still, Valentino’s anger wasn’t abated.
An Interesting Ad Campaign
For much of Rudolph Valentino’s short life, he became obsessed with being a masculine figure. He would often get himself worked up into a dizzy rage at the very mention of him being effeminate. Though some speculated whether he was really into women, Durex didn’t seem to have these doubts. Of course, we’re talking about Durex, the global condom brand. In the early 20s, the condom brand released “Sheik” condoms fashioned after Valentino’s role in “The Sheik.”
They believed male clientele wearing “sheik” protection would identify with the onscreen romantic and fulfill their lovers’ desires. What’s more interesting is that Durex never admitted that the robed figure on the tin of “Sheik” condoms was Valentino, but there wasn’t any doubt in the public’s mind.
Sure ‘vaselino’ is quite an outdated term, but it refers to a look where men used to grease their hear and comb it back. Think “Grease.” Almost like “Grease” but just way before it’s time. Men slicked their hair right back. It was a look that Rudolph Valentino made popular after the release of “The Sheik” in 1921. It’s true that many women were besotted with the silent-film star so many men tried to imitate the Italian actor’s look.
In his time, Valentino was a trendsetter of the slicked-back ‘vaselino’ look. Throughout the Roaring Twenties, men took the mirror, started greasing up their hair, and slicked it back. However, the look didn’t stop there. Only with a suave hairdo, fancy clothing, and jewelry was the ‘vaselino’ complete.
Ahead of its Time
In his tragically short life, Rudolph Valentino had much influence on entertainment. When Valentino was cast for the role of Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan in “The Sheik,” he took a new approach to portraying the non-white character. Even though the film was based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Valentino tried to distance himself from typical Arab stereotypes.
When asked whether the character Lady Diana would have really fallen in love with the sheik, Valentino had this to say, “The Arabian civilization is one of the oldest in the world ... the Arabs are dignified and keen-brained.” Apparently, the public agreed with Valentino’s portrayal as “The Sheik.” Not only was it immensely popular, but it spurred the release of several sequels and spin-offs.
A Change in Valentino’s Look
Within his six years as a silent icon, with greased-back hair and romantic charm, Rudolph Valentino became the ideal man of American female fans. American women were obsessed with him. And so did American men as many tried to imitate his appearance. After his marriage to the movie costume designer, Natacha Rambova, that all changed. Not only was Rambova his costume designer on movie sets like Camille, but he was also married to her.
We can’t exactly say Rambova wasn’t wearing the pants, but she had a definite say in what Valentino was wearing. Let’s just say Rambova’s wardrobe choices didn’t sit well with his fans. Though he was a film superstar, he had become Rambova’s personal mannequin on which she experimented with outfits, particularly more effeminate ones.
Four More Films
Rudolph Valentino had seemingly made the right decision leaving Metro for Famous Players-Lasky. The actor also had plenty of time on his hands as he was living apart from his new wife, Natacha Rambova. During this time, Valentino devoted himself to his productions with Famous Players-Lasky. After the release of “The Sheik,” over the next fifteen months, Famous Players-Lasky cast Valentino in a further four productions: “Moran of the Lady Letty,” “Beyond the Rocks,” “Blood and Sand,” and “The Young Rajah.”
Valentino wasn’t the only one to make the move screenplay writer, June Mathis, also joined Famous Players-Lasky. The two collaborated on the two productions “Blood and Sand” and “The Young Rajah.” While “Blood and Sand” was another Mathis-Valentino box office sensation, “The Young Rajah” was an expensive flop.
A Little Too Image-Conscious
Following his bigamy charges, Rudolph Valentino was found guilty, and in accordance with the laws of California, he and his new wife had to live separately for a year. After a year, the newlyweds with reunited. Valentino joined his wife, Natacha Rambova, at her family’s vacation home in Adirondacks in New York state. One night after hearing an intruder, Valentino immediately set about defending his new family and made for a shotgun.
Interestingly, Rambova prevented him from doing so. The costume designer warned her husband that if he came to harm, he might be killed or disfigured and that he would injure his acting career. Though her intentions were certainly misplaced, perhaps, Rambova did protect Valentino’s life.
Not Exactly Wearing the Pants
One thing that would haunt Rudolph Valentino throughout his career was that he wasn’t masculine enough. Though the silent film star went to great lengths to get the public to see him as a more masculine type, his marriage to Natacha Rambova only cast the actor in a more effeminate light. Rambova was clearly a tour de force.
Not only did the costume designer control Valentino’s very appearance, but she made some crazy demands of her husband including having him wear a slave bracelet. Though Valentino was an icon of the silver screen, many during the Roaring Twenties got the impression that he wasn’t wearing the pants in their marriage.
Valentino’s Spirit Guide
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration at all to say that Rudolph Valentino was bewitched by his second wife, Natacha Rambova. After all, Rambova had some witchy interests. One of the reasons why Rambova’s costume and set designs were so effective was because she had spent much time studying Egyptology, symbolism, and the spiritual teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff and Madame Blavatsky.
Her fascination with spiritualism also bled into her personal life as she soon took an interest in the occult. As we all know, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. By association, Valentino started taking an interest in the occult and would attend group seances. In fact, it was during these seances that Valentino met his spirit guide, a native American named Black Feather.
A Hint of Nepotism
Natacha Rambova’s influence over her husband led to a bit of good ol’ showbiz nepotism. It’s true the couple had met on the set of “Unchartered Seas” where Rambova was the set and costume designer. It can’t be disputed that Rambova was a talented designer and had great artistic vision. But Rambova certainly used her marriage to the major motion-picture actor, Rudolph Valentino, to give her career the boost it needed.
With her guidance, Valentino often arranged for Rambova to be hired for the set design of the movie he was filming. In total, the couple worked on seven films together and towards the end of Valentino’s career, Rambova and Valentino exerted more influence on the artistic direction of these films like “Monsieur Beaucaire.”
Tensions On Set
When Rudolph Valentino and eccentric costume designer, Natacha Rambova, tied the knot, not everyone was impressed. If Rambova’s controlling behavior was limited to her set and costume designers, perhaps, she’d have had more friends around the studio. But not everyone was her fan. As Valentino’s wife, producers and crew saw Rambova as too interfering. One of her pain points was the film actor’s contracts with the studios.
Often Rambova took it upon herself to negotiate – or rather renegotiate – her husband’s contracts. After a two-year hiatus, it was Rambova who decided on the terms of Valentino’s new contract, stating that her husband would earn $7500 per week. Famous Players-Lasky may have agreed to the deal, but studio producers weren’t all that pleased with Rambova’s involvement.
Valentino was certainly a committed actor. But he was also one for dramatics. After “The Young Rajah” flopped, Valentino was left with a bitter taste in his mouth. He was disappointed with his own performance, but he was equally upset with the production house, Famous Players-Lasky. Though Valentino was one of the biggest names in showbiz and had been part of two Famous Players-Lasky films that were box office hits – “The Sheik” and “Blood and Sand” – his salary was set at $1250 per week.
Some of his contemporaries like Mary Pickford earned $7000 a week more than Valentino. So, after returning to New York and discussing his future with the production house with his lawyer and wife, Valentino decided to go on a one-man strike against Famous Players-Lasky.
Keep It Real
As Rudolph Valentino’s career developed, the actor became more interested in the artistic direction of his films. The triumph of “The Sheik” at the box office was proof enough of Valentino’s creative vision. However, even the great actor’s artistic direction had its limitations, namely, budget. For the film, “Blood and Sand” the filming was supposed to be on location in Spain. Producers didn’t quite get the show on the road – not Valentino’s vision of a road exactly.
Filming instead took in a studio, leaving the silent actor fuming. Not only did it he believe that filming on location made the movie more real, but he was hoping to go to Europe to see his family who he hadn’t seen in almost a decade.
As soon as Rudolph Valentino got his foot into the showbiz door, there was no stopping him. From 1919 to 1922, the actor took on numerous roles. In 1919 alone, the actor had starred in seven movies. But, in 1922, Valentino and Famous Players-Lasky fell out. Valentino demanded better wages. At first, Valentino stopped accepting payments from the production house – even though he was still in debt to them – and refused to return to work.
Famous Players-Lasky filed a lawsuit against Valentino. Despite their lawsuit against Valentino, it soon became clear to the production house that they were losing a lot of money over the ongoing lawsuit against Valentino. They agreed to raise Valentino’s salary to $7000 per week. But the actor wouldn’t budge.
In 1922, Rudolph Valentino and the production house, Famous Players-Lasky, entered a lengthy lawsuit. It would take almost two years for the two parties to reach some sort of agreement. Though Valentino was one of the biggest figures in entertainment, for two years he couldn’t star in any movies. Famous Players-Lasky’s contract with the silent-film star meant that he was tied to the production house. Producers from other corporations approached Valentino with some roles.
June Mathis, whom Valentino had previously collaborated with on three occasions, moved to Goldwyn Pictures and hoped to cast Valentino in “Ben-Hur.” But the silent actor’s contract with Famous Players-Lasky was binding preventing him from joining any other production houses. It seemed like Famous Players-Lasky had really silenced the star after all.
A Letter to Photoplay
During his ongoing lawsuit with Famous Players-Lasky, Valentino tried to appeal to the one group of people who’d have his back – his fans. He wrote an open letter in Photoplay magazine hoping the American public would see his side. In the letter, Valentino explained that his refusal to work with Famous Players-Lasky wasn’t only a matter of money but also artistic direction.
What Valentino meant by artistic direction was having to film movies in a studio or on a set as opposed to filming on location. Valentino may have hoped his open letter would rally his fans to his side. But most Americans weren’t famous movie stars, so they struggled to empathize with the angry actor, especially since he was complaining about earning a salary they could only dream about.
Back to the Dance Floor
From 1922 to 1924, Rudolph Valentino went on a one-man strike against and for those two years his legal obligations to Famous Players-Lasky meant he couldn’t work as an actor. But Valentino had to get by somehow. Once again, the silver-screen icon fell back on something to make ends meet, namely dancing. Of course, this time Valentino was a global celebrity.
In 1922, he met George Ullman who convinced Valentino to become a brand ambassador and spokesperson for Mineralava Beauty Clay Company. The silver-screen icon donned his dancing shoes again and went on a tour of 88 American and Canadian cities. Not only did Valentino endorse the cosmetics company, but he even judged their beauty contests.
The lawsuit with Famous Players-Lasky also bought the romantic icon, Rudolph Valentino, time to pursue other interests like poetry. Anyone who had met Valentino wouldn’t have dared deny calling the actor a romantic at heart. It’s no coincidence that the actor bears the same name as a famous February 14 saint. True to his romantic nature, Valentino dabbled in a bit of poetry.
During his two-year hiatus, the actor released his anthology called “Day Dreams.” Of course, his wife, Natacha Rambova added her own spin to his poetry book, saying they were messages from Valentino’s spirit guide. Or perhaps, Valentino was just being his true romantic self.
Eventually, the two-year lawsuit between Valentino and Famous Playsers-Lasky ended. The two parties reached an agreement – or rather Valentino’s wife had reached one on her husband’s behalf. The production house agreed to pay their star actor $7500 per week and some creative influence and the actor would star in two of their motion pictures. Valentino’s first appearance after his two-year break was in the period romantic drama, “Monsieur Beaucaire.”
In the leading role, “Monsieur Beaucaire,” Valentino plays a besotted Duke de Chatres who goes undercover and adopts the persona of Monsieur Beaucaire. The movie’s storyline is kind of a mixture between a love triangle and “The Prince and the Pauper.” Naturally, audiences were impatient to see Valentino return to the big screen, but “Monsieur Beaucaire” clearly hadn’t met expectations.
The Returning Star’s Failure
When a big production fails, naturally people start to ask questions. The historical romance drama, “Monsieur Beaucaire,” had a huge budget. Of course, period films tend to have massive budgets as set and costume designs can add up. Fingers immediately were pointed at Rudolph Valentino’s wife, Natacha Rambova. The costume/set designer didn’t only have much say over the costume and set design but on the film’s artistic vision as a whole.
Even though Rambova had done her research and hit the nail on the head when it came to historical accuracy, American audiences weren’t pleased. 1920s Americans just knew what they liked and “Monsieur Beaucaire” wasn’t that. That same year, reflecting the American attitude, comedian Stan Laurel (of the Laurel and Hardy duo) released “Monsieur Don’t Care” overtly parodying the film.
Fallout with Mathis
Much of Rudolph Valentino’s initial success came down to getting the right opportunity at the right time. June Mathis, a legendary Hollywood screenwriter, was the individual who gave Valentino that opportunity. Of course, the actor’s success can’t be completely credited to her. Valentino and Mathis just made a legendary collaboration. They reproduced their success with “Blood and Rain” a year later. That’s what made their fallout that sadder.
After his return to film, Valentino dreamed up a film based on the Spanish folk hero, El Cid. He hired Mathis to write the script. But under his wife’s influence demanded the script rewritten. Naturally, this offended the legendary screenwriter. Apparently, the actor had gone too far. The insult to Mathis’ work led to the two falling out big time.
“The Hooded Falcon”
In 1924, silent movie star, Rudolph Valentino, and his wife, Natacha Rambova, returned from their holiday in Europe to their luxurious apartment at 270 Park Avenue. The couple didn’t return empty-handed. They were burdened with antiques they had bought from their travels. The antiques were to be used as props in their upcoming film “The Hooded Falcon.”
Interestingly, the showbiz couple’s luxurious apartment may have been rented for the sole purpose of storing their antiques. Though Valentino and Rambova went to great lengths to make the historical film based on the Spanish folk hero “El Cid” including writing the storyline, selecting their cast, and acquiring the movie’s props, “The Hooded Falcon” was never completed. They ran into financial troubles, and “The Hooded Falcon” never made it to the big screen.
A New Look
Most of us remember the soccer superstar David Beckham sporting a new hairdo every week. Though it’s just a hairdo, the paparazzi would do some somersaults trying to get snapshots of Beckham’s new look. Beckham’s not the only celebrity to generate a wild scandal every time he changes his look. In fact, the silent-film megastar, Rudolph Valentino, was the Beckham of the Roaring Twenties. Men modeled their look on the famous actor.
And female fans were so taken by his good looks that they sometimes fainted in movie aisles. But that changed very quickly. In 1925, after spending three months in France, Valentino returned to the USA sporting a new look – a mustache and full goatee beard. Female fans bemoaned his new appearance believing he had spoiled his good looks.
The Pink Powder Puff
Though Rudolph Valentino was one of the silent-film era’s biggest names and nicknamed Tinsel Town’s first “Great Lover,” the actor was riddled with insecurities, particularly about not being macho enough. Though the silent actor didn’t want to hear a peep about his lack of masculinity, an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1926, infuriated the actor homing in on his deepest insecurity.
The article was reporting on a talcum powder that had become available in the male washrooms of an upmarket hotel. The anonymous writer believed that this pink powder puff was a by-product of a trend started by Valentino, which was encouraging American men to be more and more effeminate. The piece literally blamed Valentino for the feminization of American men.
An Almost Duel
After reading the scathing “Pink Powder Puff” article which claimed that the silver-screen icon was using his celebrity status to make American men effeminate, Rudolph Valentino was furious. The article had clearly stuck a nerve. Of course, Valentino decided to respond in the most masculine way possible – he challenged to writer to a duel. This time it was the article writer’s time to remain silent. There was simply no response to Valentino’s challenge.
Of course, the writer had no real reason to keep hushed up as dueling was illegal. Even after a sympathetic journalist H.L. Mackenzie wrote an editorial defending Valentino’s character and putting down the anonymous writer’s attack on the actor, still Valentino wasn’t content. He needed to prove his masculinity.
A Boxing Match Instead
With dueling outlawed, Rudolph Valentino decided to challenge the anonymous writer of the “Pink Powder Puff” article to a boxing match. Even though the journalist, H.L. MacKenzie, reminded Valentino that the scandal would blow over, when he saw that Valentino had been deeply affected by the article, he suggested that he challenge the writer to a boxing match. The writer hadn’t fallen for Valentino’s bait. Instead, a boxing journalist, Frank O’Neill took Valentino up on his offer.
The match was held on the roof of New York’s Ambassador Hotel. With his masculinity very much restored, Valentino was victorious. What O’Neill hadn’t known was that Valentino had trained with heavyweight champion, Jack Dempsey. The boxing legend himself had no doubts of Valentino’s virility and machoness.
Not Quite the Ladies’ Man
One of life’s greatest ironies was Rudolph Valentino’s love life. Valentino was the silver screen’s “Latin Lover” and Hollywood’s first “Great Lover.” Just seeing him appear on the big screen was enough to send women into a dizzy spin. Forget about turning heads, Valentino’s effect on many female fans was hysteria and fainting. Even the actor ironically bore the same name as the saint of romantic love – St. Valentine.
However, his own love life was a dismal state of affairs. Or rather lack of affairs in the actor’s case. Onscreen, Valentino was the sophisticated charmer; offscreen Valentino was no ladies’ man. During an interview, the silver-screen star bemoaned his failed love life, stating “The women I love don’t love me. The others don’t matter.”
“The Most Disliked Woman in Hollywood in the 20s”
Some of Valentino’s friends and critics weren’t exactly thrilled with his second wife, Natacha Rambova. Their marriage was far from sunshine and roses. To put it mildly, Rambova was the controlling type. Not only was she banned from sets for being too interfering, but she also drove a wedge between Valentino and some of his friends like his long-time collaborator, June Mathis.
It wasn’t only people who knew the couple personally that couldn’t stand the controlling wife, but even Valentino’s fans were outraged at Rambova. The costume designer had full control over the movie actor’s wardrobe, which she took the liberty of experimenting with. Fans were outraged. From negotiating his contracts to controlling his appearance, Rambova became the most disliked woman in Hollywood in the Roaring Twenties.
After returning to the silver screen in 1924, Rudolph Valentino was visited by two of the biggest names in film at that time, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. The two actors approached Valentino with the possibility of uniting with United Artists, where Valentino’s salary would go up to $10,000.
Clearly, Chaplin and Fairbanks were looking out for their fellow actor. Valentino’s first United Artists film was “The Eagle,” where the actor starred in the lead role of Lt. Vladimir Dubrovsky. Valentino’s return to cinema didn’t start off well as many of the productions flopped. But “The Eagle” didn’t disappoint. Valentino made his comeback proving he still had what it takes.
Not a Happy Flapper
Though “The Eagle” gave Rudolph Valentino the steam his career very much needed in 1925, one person wasn’t pleased with his return to the big screen, namely his wife, Natacha Rambova. Valentino’s manager, George Ullman, managed to negotiate a contract with United Artists. Though the United Artists’ film “The Eagle” was the launching pad – or relaunching pad – Valentino needed, one of the terms of Valentino’s contract was that Rambova stayed out.
United Artists banned Rambova from having anything to do with their productions. Probably to appease the angry costume designer, Ullman gave Rambova $30,000 to fund her own film. While Rambova’s film went ahead, Rambova’s banning led to a major rift in the couple’s marriage.
A Second Divorce
By the end of 1925, Rudolph Valentino’s second marriage to Natacha Rambova was very much on the rocks. It clearly outlived its state of being on the rocks, when Rambova filed for divorce in December 1925. Despite their appearances in 1925 as a happy couple, their relationship was tumultuous at best. Rambova was the controlling type. From Valentino’s appearance to his studio contracts and to the very sets he worked on, Rambova dictated what Valentino did.
Though Valentino had thousands of adoring fans, Rambova had none. Rambova created conflict between Valentino’s friends and the producers he worked with. To make matters worse, Valentino still valued more traditional values and was hoping Rambova would settle into the role of a housewife. Rambova was having none of that and filed for divorce.
One Dollar in His Will
There clearly was a lot of ill will when Natacha Rambova filed for divorce from Rudolph Valentino. In fact, there had been such ill will borne towards Rambova, that the super successful silent-film star left Rambova a measly $1 on his will. Now, that’s one way to make a statement.
Of course, this was just a case of Valentino’s sardonic sense of humor and the bitter note on which the marriage ended. Valentino’s friends had long put up with Rambova’s overbearing personality. They were only too happy to stoke the actor’s anger and hint at him making that change to his will.
Though Rudolph Valentino had a very short career in entertainment, the actor was plagued by worries over his public image. Compared to the swashbuckling, sword-fighting Douglas Fairbanks, Valentino was considered effeminate. Fairbanks wasn’t only the “King of Hollywood” then but the epitome of masculinity. Valentino’s image often came under scrutiny. More than once it was hinted at that he wasn’t interested in women, but men.
In fact, allegations were made that he was romantically involved with another “Latin Lover” Ramon Navarro, who was very much open about being interested in men. Even though Valentino had married twice, these were dubbed as “lavender marriages” – marriages used to disguise one’s real romantic tendencies. These were just allegations and even now, no one really knows if there was any truth in them.
From a young age, Rudolph Valentino showed that he didn’t really have a handle on his spending. After his divorce from the costume designer, Natacha Rambova, Valentino became somewhat footloose and fancy-free. And we’re not complimenting his dance moves. Though Valentino had no idea that they were, the actor spent his last days hosting extravagant parties. Parties are expensive. And Valentino was having plenty of them.
The incredibly successful actor started revisiting his youth where he had financial struggles. At the same time, he was obsessively devoted to his public image. While most celebs try their best to avoid paparazzi, this wasn’t the case with Valentino who seemingly couldn’t get enough of the limelight. The actor often got involved with fickle press stunts to rebuild his public image.
“Son of the Sheik”
The lawsuit between Rudolph Valentino and Famous Playsers-Lasky meant that he was out of work for two years. When Valentino returned to the big screen, it seemed like Hollywood’s “Latin Lover” had left forever. After joining United Artists in 1925, the production house hoped to revive Valentino’s former success.
United Artists president, Joseph M. Schenck, bought the rights to E.M. Hull's follow-up novel, “The Son of the Sheik.” Not only did Valentino reprise his role as the Sheik, but he had a dual role, playing the sheik son’s. For his dual role in the film, the silent actor earned $100,000.
Valentino’s return to cinema didn’t exactly start on a high note. Both “Monsieur Beaucaire” and “A Sainted Devil” failed to make an impression on critics and audiences. Desperate to revive his career, Valentino reprised his popular role as the Sheik in the film’s sequel “The Son of the Sheik.” It turned out that Valentino made the right decision joining the sequel’s cast.
In its first year, the film made $1 million at the box office. In time, it would double that. The failure to relaunch his career had plagued him during his mid-career. But “The Son of Sheik” kept the wolves of insecurity at bay. Though Valentino didn’t know it at the time, he had exited his silver screen on a high note.
Romance With Pola Negri
In 1926, the American producer/actress, Marion Davies, threw a costume party. Two of the invitees were the Polish stage/film actress, Pola Negri, and silent-film icon, Rudolph Valentino. Negri asked Davies for an introduction to Valentino and in minutes love was in the air. Not only did the two soon couple up, but they were also spotted together.
Negri was certainly one who enjoyed hogging the limelight and she couldn’t get enough of the paparazzi, but, then again, so couldn’t Valentino. Previously burned in his romantic relationships, Valentino held back a bit. But perhaps, a long-term relationship with Negri would have worked out. Sadly, tragedy intervened and we’d never know whether the two lovebirds were meant to be.
This Polish actress, Pola Negri, brought a whole new meaning to the term femme fatale. Hailing from Poland, during the time when it was still a kingdom, Pola Negri moved to the United States in 1921 – when Rudolph Valentino’s career had taken off. Negri would become one of the leading sirens of the silent film era. Not only did her own career take off but she regularly was cast as the tragic hero – or in her case, the tragic heroine.
Not only was she a hit on stage, but also offstage. She had a brief romantic pairing with Charlie Chaplin and then sparks flew when she met Valentino. Negri’s distinctly European brand of sophistication and refined taste may have been the reason Negri and Valentino were a good match.
Rushed to Hospital
During his nationwide tour to promote his latest film “The Son of the Sheik,” Rudolph Valentino was staying at the Hotel Ambassador when on August 15, 1926, the actor collapsed. Valentino was immediately rushed to the hospital. The actor was diagnosed with appendicitis and gastric ulcers. Doctors had to perform an emergency operation. Following his operation, Valentino was still not in the clear. He had developed peritonitis – inflammation of the abdomen.
Valentino’s emergency hospitalization left the nation shocked. There were daily bulletins giving updates about his condition. Female fans waited at the hospital and kept vigil, hoping for the star’s recovery. Valentino’s condition may have come out of the blue but his romantic partner, Pola Negri, reported that Valentino often doubled up crying out in pain.
Even in his most wretched condition, Rudolph Valentino was still concerned with his public image. Immediately after his emergency surgery – and perhaps, in a state of delirium – Valentino asked a doctor whether he behaved like a man or like a pink powder puff. Even in his most vulnerable and weakest moment, Valentino’s public persona plagued him. His condition deteriorated further.
As weak as Valentino might have been and with the encouragement of his doctor, Valentino became resolute – he was going to overcome his illness. Though Valentino had made a name for himself as a silent-film star, his last words were poignant “Don't pull down the blinds. I feel fine. I want the sunlight to greet me.”
Death at 31
After his emergency surgery, doctors were initially positive about Valentino’s condition. Though he had developed peritonitis, doctors were still optimistic that Valentino would pull through. Things, however, took a turn for the worse. On August 21, a week after he was admitted to hospital, Valentino’s condition had further deteriorated. He had developed pleuritis – inflammation of the lungs – and the actor’s left lung was in a severely critical state.
The following Monday, on August 23, Valentino slipped into a coma and was never to awake again. The doctors confirmed that Valentino had contracted sepsis and his body was unable to fight it off. Valentino passed away at the young age of 31. The silent actor had truly fallen silent.
A Cursed Ring
It was the untimely death of the big name in entertainment, Rudolph Valentino, that spurred on conspiracy and alternative theories about the actor’s death. One popular theory was that the actor wore a cursed ring. A shopkeeper warned Valentino about buying a piece of jewelry, “The Destiny Ring,” but Valentino threw caution to the wind and couldn’t help buying the ring. Valentino died wearing the ring, but he wasn’t the only one.
The romantic ballad singer, Russ Columbo, died during a shooting accident when he was the owner of the ringer. When Columbo’s friend, Joe Casino inherited the ring, he was met with tragedy and the bonnet of a truck. Interestingly, a robber who stole the ring also had a similar misfortune after he was shot by a cop.
The untimely death of this silent star caused quite a stir that his funeral was anything but silent. It was probably deafening – excuse, the almost pun – as about 100,000 people attended. On August 30, 1926, a mass funeral was held in Manhattan at Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church a.k.a “The Actor’s Chapel.”
100,000 attending your funeral is clearly a marker of your fame, but Valentino was such an icon that a second funeral was held on the West Coast. For the second funeral, Valentino’s remains had to be taken from New York to California by train. Eventually, the actor was laid to rest in California’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
A Tragic Family Reunion
Back during the filming of “Blood and Sand,” Rudolph Valentino desperately hoped the filming would be on location in Spain. The actor hadn’t seen his family in almost a decade and hoped that he could travel to Europe to see his family again. He was deeply upset when Famous Players-Lasky decided to shoot the film on set. This backstory makes his family’s reunion much more tragic.
His older brother, Alberto, attended his funeral and was reported to have spent 13 minutes looking at the remains of his brother. Death at 31 clearly affected the older brother. In his state, Alberto remarked “My brother, my brother, what a disaster.” While Valentino’s life in many ways reflected a disaster, death at 31 was also a terrible tragedy.
A Twisted Funeral Performance
Actors are known for their dramatics. In fact, what would actors be if they weren’t dramatic? One actress who took making a scene to a whole new level was the Polish performer, Pola Negri. The actress had been romantically involved with Rudolph Valentino before his passing. And she gave him quite the send-off. First, the actress ordered a huge floral display of blood-red roses circled by white blooms. They spelled out the name, POLA.
Second, the actress made quite the performance, weeping and fainting over his coffin. Perhaps, Negri’s passion was understandable as the actress let slip that she and Valentino had been engaged before his passing. That said, her performance at his funeral was quite memorable.
Animal’s Best Friend
Rudolph Valentino didn’t only leave behind his friends and family members. It was well-known that Valentino was a great animal lover. Of course, he loved all animals, but he had a great affection for dogs and horses. The actor absolutely loved pooches. After a fan gave him an Alsatian Doberman puppy, Valentino took him everywhere even when the actor went away on road trips or stayed at snazzy hotels.
His dog, a Doberman pinscher called Kabar, mourned him deeply after his passing. At the time of the actor’s death, almost 3000 miles away, Kabar started howling uncontrollably. Alberto, Valentino’s older brother, tried to console and take care of the broken-hearted hound. Kabar was constantly sick and passed away roughly two years later after Valentino’s own passing.
Reconciliation With an Old Friend
One of the greatest great collaborations in Hollywood comes from the silent-film era, namely screenwriter, June Mathis, and acting legend, Rudolph Valentino. The two just gelled and when they worked together, there was something special in the works. Not only were they great collaborators but very good friends. Valentino’s marriage to Natacha Rambova drove a wedge between him and Mathis, causing them to fallout over a script. The two were able to repair their friendship on the set of “Son of the Sheik.”
When Valentino passed suddenly, Mathis allowed the actor’s remains to rest in her family crypt at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The following year, Mathis also passed away. Her husband arranged for her remains to rest in the crypt next to Valentino. In death, the two were reconciled.
The Rudolph Valentino Award
Though this actor passed away at such a young age, at the tender age of 31, almost a century later, his impact on cinema is felt. In 1972, the Rudolph Valentino Award was created to commemorate the beloved actor but to also celebrate his legacy. The award itself shows a gold figurine of Valentino from his memorable role in “The Sheik.” Every year until 2006, the award is handed out to actors who have obtained a high level of international success.
Other winners of the award include Elizabeth Taylor and Leonardo DiCaprio. Interestingly, the Rudolph Valentino Award stopped in 2006. This award accredited much success to Leonardo DiCaprio – something which the Oscars obviously didn’t. Maybe the Rudolph Valentino Award panel knew something the Oscars committee didn’t.
An “AHS” Tribute
Fast forward to the very much “talking” generation of movies and tributes are still made to the silent actor Rudolph Valentino, even though most of us haven’t seen a silent film once in our whole lives. Most of us have seen “American Horror Story.” If we haven’t had the guts to watch any episodes, we’ve probably heard of the killer series franchise.
Though “AHS” is the last place you’d find a tribute to Valentino, during season 5, starring alongside singer/actress, Lady Gaga, Finn Wittrock brings the legendary silent actor to screen. But he’s not silent in the “AHS” season. He’s very much talking. And “AHS” gives us a chance to visit his last resting place in Hollywood Forever Cemetery.