Seventy years after Rodolfo Valentino’s death, the events to celebrate the Hollywood hero are multiplying: the Postal system is dedicating a stamp and a special cancellation, the fan clubs are programming evenings with his films, and a CD-ROM about his life is released. |
Rudy, you're a myth
The first latin lover was an agricultural specialist who emigrated to America to buy a farm. He became an actor only by chance and had immediate success. Loved by women, hated by Mussolini and fascism, he also went through a lawsuit for bigamy. A fascinating and controversial person who cultivated many interests: from poetry to painting, from singing to boxing. His death, at only 31 years, is still a mystery today. Just like the doubt on his presumed homosexuality...
23 August 1926. Rodolfo Valentino, one of the greatest stars of mute films, dies at the Polyclinic Hospital of New York, due to a perforated ulcer and appendicitis.
Seventy years have passed; he died at the age of only thirty one years, the star who made the women go crazy, and turned on the hearts of millions and millions of onlookers and made all husbands jealous; he conquered Hollywood and America, but had to abide by the censorships of Mussolini and the indifference of the Italians. Upon his death, three fans committed suicide, thousands of people went to his funeral, and an infinite number of letters, telegrams and flowers arrived from all parts of the world; Hollywood, from Fairbanks to Chaplin, honored with respect the figure who was considered one of their most famous representatives. From that moment on, Valentino entered history as a myth.
Everything began about twelve years before, when an Italian emigrant named Rodolfo Guglielmi came to America from southern Italy, as many do, with an aggressive will to succeed and find fortune. Up to that moment, he had not concluded much in his short life; a high school diploma in agriculture and a few months of habits and fun in Paris, where he learned how to dance tango. But now in the United States of America, the land of hope where dreams come true and fortune smiles at you.
He tried various types of occupations, from taxi-driver to waiter, and was later hired as a dancer by the Bonnie Glass company for a tour of the United States. At the end of this tour, he went to Los Angeles and then on to Hollywood. A friend of his, actor Norman Kerry, encouraged him to make films, whereas Rodolfo’s intentions were to buy a piece of land and a farm. He obtained, in any case, some minor parts in various films beginning with the pseudonym of Rodolfo of Valentina. He had his big chance in "The four knights of the Apocalypse" thanks to the interest and willingnes of June Mathis, a very influential woman at Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The film was a success and Rodolfo di Valentina became Rodolfo Valentino: Hollywood opened its doors to him.
With the film "The Sheik" he was able to make millions of women enthusiastic and passionate; his eyes slightly squint but penetrating when he looked straight at you, (due to the fact that he was short-sighted and therefore had to slightly squint his eyes to focus on an image); his attitude of a decisive man but indulgent, capable of giving himself completely to the woman he loves and to do things that others wouldn’t dare, and his undisputed expressive capability, all conquered the excited hearts of his female audience.
For the men (those not jealous or envious) he was an example to follow. To start out, his private affairs did not have the same success as his movie carrier. Being married with the actress Jean Aker, he divorced only after one month. He remarried after a few years with Richard Hudnut’s stepdaughter (the king of cosmetics), set designer Natasha Rambowa, a versatile artist, known on the set as "Camille". But the separation with his ex-wife was not yet official and therefore he was accused of bigamy and was obligated to go through a lawsuit.
In the meantime, he argued with his production agency, the Famous Players - Lasky, because he was not satisfied of the artistic decisions of his producers, remaining without a job for two years until his contract expired. He met an agent from Mineralava, George Ulman, who later became his manager and proposed a public tour for a cosmetic clay. He accepted and went back to dancing along with his wife, an ex-dancer at the time. The tour was a great success; the public loved him, the film industry demanded him.
He went back to Hollywood and did "Monsieur Beaucaire". He then concluded a contract with the United Artists of Chaplin and Griffith and interpreted "Black Eagle" and "Son of the Sheik"; the latter consolidated his success as an actor and the myth of the great latin lover, but when the film appeared on the screens, Valentino, the man of dreams, the fatal lover had already died.
Rodolfo Valentino although a successful artist, conserved in a few aspects the simple side in his character, without ambition. His personality in any case was versatile, eccentric, with thousands of interests (he recorded songs, published a book of poetry), loved sports (horses, boxing, fencing) and painting.
But together with Rodolfo Valentino a controversial and discussed figure emerged (from different sources the doubt emerged that he was homosexual). His death, just like that of Marylin Monroe, remains a mystery: there is who, among his biographers and his friends, who says that he was poisoned, others who sustain that what killed him was a strong punch in the stomach.
The first latin lover slides away from Hollywood and his fans at only thirty one, leaving behind thirty three films. He is a myth that lasts even today.
Agostino De Bellis