Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926)

Rudolph Valentino - Silent Film Star - Colorized & Copyrighted, All Rights Reserved

Rudolph (“Rudy”) Valentino was born and christened – are you ready for this? – Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla, in Castellaneta, Italy, in 1895. His mother thought he was the most beautiful baby in the world, and pampered him, to the exclusion of her other two children. As a result, Rudy grew up spoiled; he was kicked out of several schools, until finally obtaining a diploma in, of all things, farming.

Valentino’s early life was marked by failure. He was a Navy drop-out, and ended up begging on the streets of Paris in 1912. In 1913 he managed to travel to New York on a small inheritance, where he was soon after booked by police for petty theft and blackmail. Valentino found work as a dancer, performed in nightclubs, and eventually made his way to Hollywood. He began in films circa 1914, playing villains, dancers, and gigolos. While still a bit player, he married Jean Acker, an actress who separated from him after only a few weeks. Their divorce wasn’t finalized until 1922 however, and when Rudy married his second wife, art director Natacha Rambova (born Winifred Hudnut), the authorities claimed his new marriage wasn’t legitimate, since he had not waited the full year after the divorce to remarry, which was the law of the land in California at the time. Rudy was jailed for three days, and had to pay a $10,000 fine for bigamy.

No person ever possessed as much film “star quality” as Valentino, or so tradition has it. By the 1920’s he was generally typecast in silents, usually playing the passionate, romantic Latin lover or Arab type of leading man. Inside contacts brought Valentino the lead in “The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse” (1921), a smash hit at the box office. His performances in “Camille” (1921), and “The Sheik” (1921) made women swoon. “The Sheik” initiated a fad in Arabian style interior decorating across America. “Blood and Sand” (1922) followed, another hit. Then after that “The Eagle” (1925) scored successfully, and that was followed by “The Son Of The Sheik” (1926), which many believed to be a better film than the original “The Sheik.”

Rudolph Valentino and 2nd wife Natacha Rambova

Rudolph Valentino and 2nd wife Natacha Rambova

Valentino’s second wife Natacha Rambova began to manage his career by 1924. While fighting with Paramount Pictures for more artistic control over his films, Rudy wrote and published a best-selling book of poetry called “Day Dreams”, and then went on an extensive tour as a dancer. As much as the women sighed over Valentino, the men in the audience generally disliked him. In 1926 The Chicago Tribune attacked Valentino publicly, calling him a “Pink Powder Puff.” Valentino countered by challenging the writer of the article to a boxing match, which, of course, never took place. Rudy often did appear in elaborate costumes in his pictures, but he also made several more contemporary-style films, like “The Conquering Power” (1921), a very fine film, in which he dressed in old-fashioned suits and clothes…but these films were often ignored; even today few people will bother watching them, preferring to see Rudy “in type” as the sheik or Latin lover.

Newspaper headline, Valentino nearing death

In August, 1926, Valentino was rushed suddenly to a hospital in New York, with a perforated ulcer. He died an agonizing death from blood poisoning and pleurisy. She would have no real reason to lie, but actress and paramour Pola Negri in her autobiography stated that Valentino was concerned about a receding hairline and was taking a drug – probably illegal – to stop his hair loss. Could the drug have precipitated his death at such a young age?

When his death was announced, many American women became hysterical. Some fans committed suicide. Rioting broke out in the crowds who were waiting to see his open coffin at his public viewing (though they didn’t know that his body had been replaced by a wax dummy – a second casket in a back room contained his real body). Valentino’s corpse traveled cross country by train, and he was laid to rest in what was originally intended to be a temporary gravesite in a Hollywood cemetery, generously donated by his scriptwriter after it had been discovered Rudy was broke at the time of his death. However Valentino remains in that crypt till this very day, right next to his scriptwriter and her husband, and that section of the cemetery is off-limits to the public. After his death, Valentino’s fan clubs developed into cults, and the public’s huge reaction to his death did not go unnoticed in the financial districts. Due to Valentino, and his sensational death, movies were finally recognized by Wall Street as a legitimate, lucrative business.

~ Copyright © 2004

To download a 374 kb image of a vintage bio on Valentino, from “The Blue Book Of The Screen” (1924), please click HERE

To download a restored vintage recording in MP3 of Vernon Dalhart singing the Valentino song, please click HERE
(This song was released upon Valentino’s death)

Rudolph Valentino Photo Gallery

Photo One Photo Two Photo Three Photo Four Photo Five Photo Six

Rudolph Valentino’s Silent Films

Son of the Sheik, The (1926) …. Ahmed, the Sheik’s Son/Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan
Cobra (1925) …. Count Rodrigo Torriani
Eagle, The (1925) …. Lt. Vladimir Dubrovsky, aka The Black Eagle and Marcel Le Blanc

Rudolph Valentino and Nita Naldi in A Sainted Devil - Lost Film

Nita Naldi looks intimidated by the intensity of a look from Valentino
in “A Sainted Devil” (1924)

Sainted Devil, A (1924) …. Don Alonzo Castro
Monsieur Beaucaire (1924) …. Duke de Chartres/Beaucaire
Young Rajah, The (1922) …. Amos Judd
Blood and Sand (1922) …. Juan Gallardo
Beyond the Rocks (1922) …. Lord Bracondale
Moran of the Lady Letty (1922) …. Ramon Laredo

Rudolph Valentino as a sheik...what else?

Rudy as the Sheik…what else?

Sheik, The (1921) …. Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan
Camille (1921) …. Armand Duval/Manon’s Lover in Daydream
Conquering Power, The (1921) …. Charles Grandet
… aka Eugenie Grandet (1921) (USA)
Uncharted Seas (1921) …. Frank Underwood
… aka Uncharted Sea (1921) (USA: copyright title)
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The (1921) …. Julio Desnoyers
Stolen Moments (1920) (as Rudolph Valentine) …. Jose Dalmarez
Wonderful Chance, The (1920) …. Joe Klingsby
Once to Every Woman (1920) …. Juliantimo
Cheater, The (1920) (uncredited) …. Extra
Passion’s Playground (1920) (as Rudolph Valentine) …. Prince Angelo Della Robbia
Adventuress, An (1920) (as Rodolph Valentino) …. Jacques Rudanyi
… aka Isle of Love, The (1922) (USA: reissue title)
Eyes of Youth (1919) (as Rudolfo Valentino) …. Clarence Morgan
Nobody Home (1919) (as Rodolph Valentine) …. Maurice Rennard
Rogue’s Romance, A (1919) (as Rudolph Volantino)
Big Little Person (1919) (as M. Rodolpho De Valentina) …. Arthur Endicott
Virtuous Sinners (1919) …. Bit Part
Delicious Little Devil (1919) (as Rudolpho Valentina) …. Jimmie Calhoun
Homebreaker, The (1919)
Married Virgin, The (1918) (as Rodolfo di Valentini) …. Count Roberto di San Fraccini
… aka Frivolous Wives (1920) (USA: review title)
All Night (1918) (as Rudolpho di Valentina) …. Richard Thayer
Society Sensation, A (1918) (as Rudolpho De Valentina) …. Dick Bradley
Alimony (1917) (uncredited) …. Dancer
Patria (1917)
Seventeen (1916) (uncredited) …. Extra
Foolish Virgin, The (1916) (uncredited)
Quest of Life, The (1916)
My Official Wife (1914)

To learn more about Rudolph Valentino visit his profile on The Internet Movie Database


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