Rudolph Valentino - The Silent Idol & Birthday Boy

Happy 114th Birthday Rudolph Valentino

Rodolfo Guglielmi immigrated to America in 1913. In 1917, he traveled to Hollywood and by 1920 became a movie star. In 1921 he found the love of his life and by 1925 he’d lost her. Also in 1925, he was considered to be a “has-been” in the film industry. In 1926, Valentino was miraculously back on the top of the cinematic heap. The comeback was too late for he died on August 23, 1926, In that hurly burly 13 years, a cinematic legend was born.

It has been over 80 years since Rudolph Valentino struggled for that final breath on that hot and muggy August day. Silent film, Valentino’s art form died not long after he did. But many years later he is still remembered and revered. Hundreds of people visit his grave every year. His few films, when shown at festivals and revival houses always draw large crowds. Clearly there is still some magic left on that old silver screen.

Although his stardom lasted a brief five years, unlike those with much longer careers, he is remembered as an icon of the silent era unlike any other. His name still evokes a sense of mystery and of romance.

So on this day, not coincidentally Rudolph Valentino’s 114th birthday, I offer up a bit of shameless self promotion.. Please indulge me.

Fall 2009 will finally see the fully ripened fruit of my obsession with all things Valentino. That being the publication of my book, Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol - His Life and Films in Photographs.

The 1970's saw the birth of the "coffee table book". A large tome filled with luscious photographs. The form reached its peak in the 1990's, with the publication of beautiful large scale books on a number of photogenic Hollywood notables. Crawford, Garbo, Keaton, Chaplin, Pickford and Louise Brooks were all subjects in royal treatment (some more than once). But where was the book on Rudolph Valentino, that icon of silent film romance?

To date, no book has appeared and nobody else picked up the gauntlet, therefore the project fell to me. I’m a procrastinator by nature, so the gestation and labor period for this book was nearly the length of time that Rudolph Valentino lived. My original thoughts of “why won't someone” and "what if" or "wouldn't it be great if" slowly morphed into "why not me?" and eventually to "okay, let's just do it."

The Rudolph Valentino
website had a much shorter gestation period. At the time I created it there was little about Valentino on the web. I said to myself "why not?" I learned some HTML coding, took the plunge, and created one of the ugliest websites known to man. It looks better now.. It’s still rather low on the tech scale and lacks bells and whistles, but I am proud of the content. I've been webmistress of the Rudolph Valentino website for the last eleven years ...which has only increased my desire to do this book. Happy Belated Birthday Rudolph Valentino-- the time has finally come to celebrate your life and films in pictures.

The book will have plenty of eye candy and, I hope, enough substance to keep the film fans happy. It is not intended as a full-scale biography, such as Emily Leider’s 2003 biography Dark Lover. My book will fill in a few gaps which have been ignored or not fully covered elsewhere, but please do not expect a full bio, it's the photographs that will tell the story. Many of the photographs included are from my collection. I've been blessed that many other collectors have generously allowed me access to rare images and documents. A great number of these images have never been published. Those that were previously published have not been seen since the 1920s. I’m grateful that I’ve been trusted with these treasures.

On screen Valentino was the personification of a romantic ideal, a supreme feminine fantasy. Off screen, he was more simple man, a simple man of paradoxically extravagant tastes, who loved animals, tinkering with machinery, and riding in the hills surrounding his home, Falcon Lair.

Rudolph Valentino’s life has been examined in many excellent books, but his interior life is still an enigma. Writing and correspondence, much unavailable to the public, reveal more of the inner man. Valentino fans have much to look forward to with two upcoming books, the first drawing on the Valentino/Guglielmi family archive which includes much of Valentino's personal correspondence and the second being the updated
memoirs of S. George Ullman, Valentino's business manager and friend. Riches await.

The outer man, the charismatic, cinematic symbol and private person, we can examine though the many photographs that were taken during lifetime. That Valentino was handsome is a given. Charm and good humor, revealed in his more relaxed candid shots, are sometimes elusive on screen. It is said that Valentino rarely laughed and had little sense of humor. In private photos this tale is proven wrong, he often laughed and enjoyed life and its pleasures to the fullest.

A few names from the silent era still live in immediate memory. Louise Brooks and Buster Keaton still live in the public consciousness. Keaton is timeless, his comedy has not aged. In today’s more cynical world, it has become even more relevant. Chaplin, now seemingly out of fashion is much more an antique of bygone days (and the comedy people will hate me for making this blanket statement). Louise Brooks is an icon, a stirring presence who is better known today than she was during the silent era. Her cool appeal is the epitome of modern. Valentino deserves his place among this pantheon.

H.L. Mencken evocatively described Valentino after their brief meeting in 1926 as, “ who was catnip to women.” Valentino’s name still evokes an aura of romance, a melancholy whisper of days gone by, an intangible dream. It is my honor to at long last present his life and films in pictures.


Caroline said…
Thank you for posting this warm and eloquent tribute in remembrance of Rudy's 114th birthday.

Oh happy day when we can all curl up on our couches and flip throught the pages of your book...and dream the dream again.

Continued good luck with The Silent Idol! Get R Done!
rudyfan1926 said…
Thanks so much for your comments. Believe me, I am dreaming of that day as well. To be able to hold a copy in my own hands will be a thrill. I hope others wil find it thrilling as well.
DKoren said…
I just discovered your blog and am very excited to read about your upcoming book on Rudy! I will definitely be buying a copy. This post was a beautiful tribute, all on its own. Thanks for your hard work!
rudyfan1926 said…
DKoren, thanks for your kind comments and I'm happy to learn you're excited about the book, too. Thanks again.
"Mabel", a 20's fan said…
I'm so glad that you are putting out a book on Valentino. He has been neglected and forgotten about for far too long. "Dark Lover" was a great book, so I'm thrilled to learn of other upcoming books about him, which I intend to look into. Hope you never get rid of this website.
Giselle Schwerdtfeger said…
It's a great pleasure to have found your blog. My mood changes everytime i see Rudy dancing tango and singing El Relicario. Greetings from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Sildenafil said…
I haven't watched so much of his movies but I really like the way that they used to express something. It make things funnier and more surreal.

Popular Posts