General Background… Was an Italian actor, sex symbol, and an early pop icon of the 20’s Known as the “Latin Lover” one of the most popular international stars of the 1920s one of the most recognized stars of the silent film era The Sheik and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Early Life Valentino was born May 6, 1895 as Rodolfo Guglielmi in Italy to a middle-class family. His father, Giovanni Guglielmi, died of malaria when Valentino was 11. Had an older brother (Alberto), and a younger sister (Maria) His mother, Marie Barbin, spoiled him. Valentino did very poor in school so his mother sent him to an agricultural school. Valentino spent some time in Paris, where he became a talented dancer and then returned to Italy for a while.
New York Unable to keep a steady job, he departed for the United States in 1913. There he got a job as an under-gardener on the estate of a millionaire. He neglected his work and was fired. For a time he was homeless and at one point contemplated suicide. Then, got a job as a busboy in an Italian restaurant where he was introduced to the world of Dance Halls and Cabarets. A waiter taught him how to dance. Soon became a full-time dancer at the restaurant. Got most of his income by working as a gigolo which helped him to become a ‘ladies’ man’ Rudolph became the star attraction at Maxim’s which is a high class dance club in New York.
Became very good friends with Blanca de Saulles who was unhappily married to a businessman John de Saulles. When the couple divorced, Valentino took the stand to support Blanca de Saulles claim of infidelity. Her ex-husband, using his political connections had Valentino arrested. The trial and scandal was publicized leaving it hard for Valentino to find a job. Valentino decided to get away and headed for San Francisco.
The Beginning His first role was a small part as a dancer in the film Alimony. He had caught the eye of screenwriter June Mathis, who insisted that he play the lead in her next feature, The Big Little Person. Played in some films mainly as an extra or a dancer. No major roles. usually playing the villain because of his "foreign" looks.
First Major Film June Mathis casted Valentino in a silent film. Worked for Metro (Motion Pictures Corporation) The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was released in 1921, becoming a huge success. It was one of the first films to make $1,000,000 at the box office. Because Valentino didn’t get along with the director, the Metro studio was paying him poorly. Starred in a few other little films. Valentino's final film for Metro was The Conquering Power. The did well at the box office. After the release, Valentino made a trip to New York where he met with several French producers. Valentino quit Metro to return to Europe for a hope of more pay and more respect.
The Sheik Valentino joined a new studio, Famous Players-Lasky. In The Sheik, Valentino played the starring role as Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan. The film was a major success and created his imagie and legacy. Starred in other films as major roles, but none were as famous as The Sheik.
List of Valentino’s Films
1919 A Rogue’s Romance
1919 Nobody Home
1919 Eyes of Youth
1920 An Adventuress
1920 Passion’s Playground
1920 The Cheater
1920 Once to Every Woman
1920 The Wonderful Chance
1921 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
1921 Uncharted Seas
1921 The Sheik
1922 Beyond The Rocks
1922 The Young Rajah
1926 The Son of the Sheik
1919 Big Little Person 1919 Virtuous Sinners 1919 The Delicious Little Devil 1919 The Home breaker 1918 The Married Virgin 1918 All Night 1918 A Society Sensation 1917 Alimony 1917 Patria 1916 Seventeen 1916 The Foolish Virgin
1916 The Quest of Life 1916 La Corsara
Marriages Valentino’s first marriage was at the beginning of the rise of his career. His wife was actress Jean Acker, who was actually a lesbian. When Valentino found out the couple split apart, but never legally separated until 2 years later. Met NatachaRambova on the set of one of his films. Got married, but Valentino was arrested since he had not been divorced for a full year. Forced to live separately from Rambova. Ended their marriage very bitterly and got a divorce. There has been some controversy after his death whether Valentino was a homosexual or not, and it was reported that although he wasn’t gay he admitted to having a one-night stand with another man.
Valentino’s Death On August 15, 1926, Valentino collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador in New York City. an examination showed him to be suffering from appendicitis and gastric ulcers. He was operated on and it was a success but his condition had become so terrible by then that it was spreading throughout his body. On August 23rd, the actor fell into a coma and died a few hours later at the age of 31 An estimated 100,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects at his funeral. His female fans were devastated, suicides of some fans were reported.