Rudolph Valentino

Rudolph Valentino (May 6, 1895August 23, 1926) was an Italian actor.

He was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antoguolla in Castellaneta, Apulia, Italy to a solidly middle-class family (his father was a veterinarian), in the same year as the invention of cinema.

He studied and qualified in Agricultural Science at Nervi in Genoa. He spent some time in Paris, where he became a talented dancer, and then returned to Italy for a while. In 1913 he left for America, following the advice of Domenico Savino, a friend of his and of tenor Tito Schipa. He landed in New York where he worked for a while as a dancer and obtained a certain local fame. It has been said, but never proven, that during this period he also was a gigolo and that he had judicial troubles for prostitution-related matters (he was held as a material witness in the aftermath of a raid on a brothel, but never actually charged with any crime).

Missing image

He next joined an operetta company that soon disbanded in Utah; from there he reached San Francisco, California, where he met the actor Norman Kerry, who convinced him to try a career in cinema, still in the silent era. After small parts in a dozen films, in 1919 he was married for a few hours to Jean Acker (1893-1978), a part-Cherokee film starlet who was a lesbian. The marriage was reportedly never consummated and they were divorced in 1922. After catching the notice of legendary screen writer June Mathis who had been impressed by his role as a "cabaret parasite" in The Eyes of Youth, he then achieved full success in films in 1921 with The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. That same year Valentino became a great star, with the release of The Sheik.

On May 13, 1922, in Mexicali, Mexico, Valentino married art director Natacha Rambova. This resulted in him being jailed for bigamy, since his divorce from Acker was not yet final. They remarried a year later.

Blood and Sand, released in 1922, further established Valentino as the leading male star of the day. However, in 1923 a dispute with Paramount Pictures resulted in an injunction which prohibited Valentino from making films with other producers. He traveled to Europe and had a memorable visit to his native town. Back in the United States, he was criticized by his fans for his newly cultivated beard and was forced to shave.

After his separation from Rambova, Valentino had an affair with the actress Pola Negri. During this time he made two of his most critically acclaimed and successful films, The Eagle (based on a story by Alexander Pushkin) and The Son of the Sheik, a sequel to The Sheik.

An animal lover and owner of several dogs and horses, Valentino's Irish Wolfhound was named Centaur Pendragon and his Dobermann Pinscher Kabal.

In 1926 he died in New York, New York as a result of septicemia a short time after surgery for an acute perforated gastric ulcer. (There were unsubstantiated rumors that he had actually died from aluminum poisoning after eating food prepared in aluminum cookware or that he had been shot in the stomach by a jealous husband.) An estimated 100,000 people were said to have taken part in his funeral. Hollywood legend relates the story that thousands of women lined the streets, causing riots. Several of his fans were even said to have committed suicide. The popular rumor that the funeral home displayed a wax effigy of Valentino rather than the body to protect it from frenzied mourners is probably groundless. His studio continued to receive fan mail well into the 1930's, and, presaging similar rumors about the American rock and roll legend Elvis Presley, there was even talk that Valentino was not dead at all but had faked his demise to escape the pressures of stardom.

He is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. His reputation still stands as a legendary sex symbol of androgynous appeal. Rudolph Valentino has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and, in 1994, he was honored with his image on a United States postage stamp designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.

For several years on the anniversary of his death, a mysterious woman in black was seen laying flowers on his grave. Her identity has never been firmly established.

To this day, many fans (some dressed as sheiks or ladies in black) make an annual pilgrimage on the day of Valentino's death to his crypt at the Hollywood Forever mausoleum.

In 2004 Beyond the Rocks a Valentino film co-starring Gloria Swanson and believed to have been lost was rediscovered in a private collection in the Netherlands. It was screened for the first time in over 80 years at the Cannes film festival in May 2005.


Valentino was also supposed having acted, at the beginning of his career, in the following films:

  • The Battle of the Sexes (1914)
  • My Official Wife (1914)
  • Seventeen (1916)
  • The Foolish Virgin (1916)

Other names by which he was known:

  • Rudolph DeValentino
  • M. De Valentina
  • M. Rodolfo De Valentina
  • M. Rodolpho De Valentina
  • R. De Valentina
  • Rodolfo di Valentina
  • Rudolpho De Valentina
  • Rudolpho di Valentina
  • Rudolpho Valentina
  • Rodolph Valentine
  • Rudolpho De Valentine
  • Rudolph Valentine
  • Rodolfo di Valentini
  • Rodolph Valentino
  • Rudi Valentino
  • Rudolfo Valentino
  • Rudolf Valentino
  • Rudolph Volantino

Further reading

  • Emily Leider (2003), Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino, ISBN 0374282390

External links

eo:Rudolph VALENTINO it:Rodolfo Valentino he:רודולף ולנטינו pl:Rudolph Valentino pt:Rodolfo Valentino


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