Rudolph Valentino - In Memoriam - August 23, 2017

Although his eyes glimpsed bitterness and sadness,
They saw a dream that few folk ever see - "
In Memoriam -Photoplay Magazine 1926

Every August 23rd from 1927 to the present day, a memorial service has been held in Hollywood to commemorate and remember silent screen star Rudolph Valentino.  If you care to attend in person, the service is held at Hollywood Forever in the Cathedral Mausoleum and the service begins at 12:10 p.m.  There are speakers, readings and displays of Valentino memorabilia. 

If you are not local, for the first time ever, the services will be live-streamed via Facebook Live, so no matter your time zone, you can be a part of the memorial.  The FB Live feed will be broadcast on the Group We Never Forget Rudolph Valentino, at approximately 12:10 (PST) join the group and watch!

The Hollywood funeral mass at the Church of the Good Shepherd and subsequent burial was, in fact, Valentino's second funeral mass.  Valentino was first memorialized in New York City at St. Malachy's.

Valentino's casket at St.Malachy's

After his untimely passing on August 23, 1926, his body was transferred from the Polyclinic Hospital to Campbell's Funeral Parlors for preparation for burial.

News photograph of The Polyclinic Hospital
(now converted to apartments)

Valentino's casket engulfed by floral tributes in the famous Gold Room at Campbell's Funeral Parlor

It was decided early on that the fans would be allowed on final glimpse of a man few of them would have seen walking and breathing in ordinary life.  Valentino's final battle was a terrible ordeal and the funeral arts could do little to hide the ravages his body endured in those final days and hours of his agony.  Nevertheless, the curious crowds came.

The shock of his early passing combined with the huge crowds that had waited outside the hospital for news of Valentino and later filled the Broadway in front of Campbell's ensured that this was to be no ordinary funeral rite.  It was more like a riot.

Throngs Fight to View Rudy's Body: Police holding back part of the great throng of admirers, mostly women and children, who literally fought their way into Campbell's funeral parlors, New York City, to view the magnetic face of Rudolph Valentino, famous screen start (sic) and idol of millions of motion picture lovers. (Original Acme New caption)

It did not help that this happened in mid-August, the weather was warm and humid.  The crowds on the street were impatient and grew unruly waiting to see Valentino on display.  It ended up being a fiasco, mobs behaving badly and a police force unused to dealing with this kind of crowd.

Vast Crowd Waits for Last Glimpse of Movie Sheik: Some of the many thousands that stormed the Campbell Funeral Parlors at 66th. Street and Broadway, N.Y.C., to obtain a last glimpse of Rudolph Valentino. Note the majority of men in the photo.  Hundred(s) were injured during a stampede for the doors. (Original Acme New caption)

News reports estimated that approximately 75,000 people were rushed past Valentino's bier at Campbells during the 23 or so hours he was on display.  There is little doubt there were fans among the throngs who did sincerely mourn the passing of Valentino.  The merely curious crowds likely outnumbered them.  This was a sight that New York, nay any major city, had really witnessed before.  All for the benefit of the newsreel cameras, too.
Crowd Mourns Death of Noted Film Sheik: Part of the vast crowd pictured outside Campbell Funeral Parlors at Sixty-sixth Street and Broadway, N.Y.C., where the remains of Rudolph Valentino, Sheik of the silver screen, was carried from the Polyclinic Hospital, for burial preparations. (Original Acme News caption)

George Ullman, Valentino's manager, decided to close the doors and this resulted in panic from the crowds wanting to get in.  Windows were broken, women fainted, people and policemen got hurt the fracas.  More police were deployed and more crowds were let in to file quickly past Valentino. 

Many Broadway, Hollywood and industry notables attended Valentino's funeral mass, by invitation only.  They included Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the Talmadge sisters Constance and Norma, Marion Davies, his first wife Jean Acker attended with her Mother.  Former boss Adolph Zukor was an honorary pallbearer.  Though Valentino was not a practising Catholic, he received last rites before his passing and his funeral was traditional Catholic services.

Marion Davies and her sister Ethel Douras enter St. Malachy's.
Tomorrow, as has been the tradition, Valentino will be memorialized in Hollywood on the 91st anniversary date of his passing. Modern day fans will fill the entry of the Cathedral Mausoleum and pay tribute to a man who thrilled millions nearly a century ago.


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