Valentino's Scandalous Beard
Bewhiskered Valentino in New York, November 1924
I have a rather silly obsession having to do with Rudolph Valentino and this has everything to do with Rudolph Valentino sporting that beard for a project that was never filmed, The Hooded Falcon. People call me a heretic to cover up that gorgeous face with whiskers, so what? Personally, in my humble opinion, I don't think it detracts by covering up. It adds to an already very handsome countenance. Other "rudyfans" may disagree with me but I think he looked awfully dashing in that beard.
The fans of the time may have been dismayed since facial hair at that time was not common (Doug Fairbanks’ moustache being an exception to that rule). This was as true in real life as it was on the screen. Villains were traditionally those wearing the moustaches and beards. This was done often to distinguish them from the clean shaven, 100% all-American heroes who populated the screen. No upright young man would be seen in a moustache or beard, but to be a “baddie,” you just had to have a brush! The only other exception to that rule would be in the case of a period or historical film, case in point, the 1924 epic The Sea Hawk with Milton Sills bewhiskered as the hero.
Valentino in An Adventuress
The fuzzy Rudolph Valentino seen on this chilly November day was not the first time Rudolph Valentino wore a moustache or a beard. In private life, his face was no stranger to a little hair before he was famous. Several early photos of the young Valentino, still reasonably new to American shores, show him with a jaunty moustache. Once he began working in pictures on a regular basis, since he was often cast as a villain, moustaches and/or beards (of varying styles) could be seen such films as Stolen Moments, The Wonderful Chance and An Adventuress. In many cases, the facial hair was quite fake, applied by the make man or Valentino himself. The styles varied from a dapper handlebar to a small “Chaplin style” moustache. As shown above, he also sported a monocle to great effect!
Even though Valentino had been off the screen for some time, he was still a man of great influence in style and taste judging by the reaction to his appearance in New York. The public (and news hounds it seems) had short memories. Perhaps it was because Valentino was not the influential star in 1920 he was in 1924, his beard and moustache in the last portion of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were forgotten. They also failed to put two and two together and remember he sported some stubble in The Conquering Power, and came back at the end of that particular film with a very distinguished Van Dyke beard.
A relaxed Valentino on the Leviathan
As was the usual custom, the press saw him on the S.S. Leviathan before disembarking. Valentino returning in 1924 was news. Valentino wearing a beard was BIG news; more than that, this beard was revolutionary! Posing on deck with Natacha and alone (with his beard and a winning smile) Valentino’s image made the pages of virtually every metropolitan newspaper across the country, from New York, to Chicago, to San Francisco, to Los Angeles. The headlines made note, Rudolph Valentino had returned to U.S. shores, triumphant with a new contract, en route to his Hollywood home with a little more than his wife and the beautiful Nita Naldi in tow. Along with his new cars (which he had ordered the previous summer), trunk loads of antiquities, gifts for friends, costumes for The Scarlet Power (later retitled The Hooded Falcon), Valentino came home with something the Barbers of America would not stand for, a fashion revolution, a mustached and bearded face! Why if even 1/3 of the young males in America followed suit, the business of barbering would be ruined!
* * * *
Valentino Back With Whiskers—Don’t Want Foliage—Too Much Trouble—but it Grows on Rudy Tells Girls at Pier
New York November 10 (by Universal Service)
The Sheik came back home today looking more sheikish than ever. “Come out from behind that foliage Rudolph. We know you,” said a bevy of girls when Valentino and his wife tripped down the gangplank of the Leviathan.
“I can’t, it’s grown on,” said the sheik. It was a reddish black hirsute growth on chin and lips that gave the Valentino countenance a decidedly Moorish cast. “Don’t want it—too much trouble. But, can’t help it. New picture you know. After that, back to the barber shop,” declared Rudy.
The Valentino’s have been summering on the Hudnut Estate in Nice and are now back for work. “When we were in Spain, I was taken for a Moor, with no end of trouble,” said the sheik. “I don’t want to be a sheik.”
A few old timers standing by looked at Rudy’s whiskers and signed. They seemed to remember a time when two whiskered lads were just starting out in the cough drop world. “Maybe they’ll come back in style now,” they said.
* * * *
The Movie Sheik’s New Moorish Beard
Rudolph Valentino, the movie sheik, returned from Europe to the United States this week wearing a Moorish beard of reddish hue. He also wore cerise suspenders to match the whiskers. He has been in Spain in search of “color” for a picture in which it is said he will play the part of a Moor.
* * * *
When the Valentinos and Miss Naldi left New York they were hounded by a curious public and press, when they reached Chicago, more of the same. They were obliging as they posed before leaving Chicago, Rudy always dapper, tipping his hat, Natacha looking slightly bored and Nita, enjoying herself, looking at Rudy! Days later they finally reached their destination, the West Coast, they were greeted rapturously at the Santa Fe train station by hundreds of friends and fans. Newsreel footage shows Valentino laughing and smiling, waving to well wishers and shouting greetings to friends he spies in the crowd surging about the train. The Valentinos and Miss Naldi posed for the cameras, for the newsreels and were loaded with flowers. Through the crowds came the official greeting in the form of acting Los Angeles Mayor, Boyle Workman. Accompanying Mayor Workman was a representative of the Barber’s of America, armed with a straight razor poised for Rudolph Valentino’s throat! It was a publicity stunt, and several photos exist of Valentino laughing as the razor gets close to his beard! Rudy was obviously enjoying himself this day. He was back in California, about to begin work under the banner of Ritz-Carlton Productions, shooting a story penned by his lady love and co-starring his favorite leading lady Nita Naldi.
Valentino about to get a close shave
The good times continued to roll and Hollywood also took a few jibes at the bearded Rudy and the effect his whiskers would have on the film industry. Natacha may not have enjoyed it, but I suspect Rudy, eager to rid himself of the beard, likely laughed long and hard with one look at the editorial cartoon in Photoplay Magazine.
Doug Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Pola Negri, Charlie Chaplin,
Jackie Coogan and William S. Hart as shown in Photoplay Magazine's
scathing (and hilarious) commentary on the publicity
surrounding Valentino's bearded state.
The Hooded Falcon was not meant to be. All that survive are tantalizing costume shots of Valentino posing as the Moor. No costume tests appear to have survived of Nita Naldi. Rudolph Valentino wore a beard in his next film, Cobra, in the flashback sequence. This beard, however, was applied by the makeup man as Rudy had finally shaved.