I had promised myself one Valentines Day I would watch The Sheik, to celebrate one of Hollywood's boldest romantic figures of the 1920's, Rudolph Valentino. He became a silent film star and it's greatest Lover with a series of films guaranteed to promote that image, but was tragically dead by thirty-one of peritonitis.
He was also many a girl's first crush of that Era including my main Character, Clemmie MacAnalley. I write historical mysteries and while researching came across his name many times as a great symbol of the Silent Film Era. Even if we don't understand the sexual allure today I have been assured it was there and every bit as real to the movie goer then as now. When she spoke of him my Grandmother had a twinkle in her eyes. Her Mother had been a huge fan. After all it was before the Media blitz of today in which so many Stars are shown to have feet of clay. The Studios controlled their images and did a great job at protecting them.
He was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D'Antonguolla in Castellaneta Apullia in Italy. A sickly, coddled Child he grew up to take an agriculture degree but came to New York at the age of eighteen.
Valentino bused tables, he drove a cab and eventually he befriended a Chilean Heiress but due to the subsequent scandal of her divorce and his arrest he left and joined an Operetta Company. He eventually met Norman Kerry who thought he should try his hand at the Film Industry. At first he was cast as a series of heavies but got his break in 1921 in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was a film that made $1,000,000, an enormous sum in that day.
His image was solidly made though in The Sheik which cast him as the "Latin Lover." His legacy was one destined to last to thousands of Women. His films became the epitome of Romance to those fans. When he became ill an information booth was set up to answer the hundreds of inquiries at Polyclinic Hospital. On the eighth day a Priest pressed a Crucifix to his lips. He died two hours later. At his death, Women had hysterics. Huge Crowds estimated up to 100,000 people, gathered to pay their last respects. Songs were written about him and several books.
The Woman in Black carried a red rose and was seen mourning at Valentino's grave every August 23. It was thought at first it was a publicity stunt but if so there have been several copycat mourners. At present the Woman in Black is a Tour Guide at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery named Karie Bible.
"Bible dons a period costume to evoke Hollywood's iconic Lady in Black, who mourned at the silent film star's crypt, but she considers herself more of a "Historian in Black."
In his short time as a Hollywood star of the screen, the handsome Rudolph Valentino left a sensuous mark on the history of Hollywood. He was a product of his time in that lavish, flamboyant decade.
Ref: "Cemetery tour guide loves her dead-end job." Los Angeles Times 26 Nov. 2012