Rudy’s experiences with the major studios he once called home can be likened to a “montagne russe” (roller coaster) in terms of propulsion and up and down motion. Universal was his first important employer, and four of the films he did there, along with his respective leading ladies (Carmel Myers and Mae Murray, each X 2) helped launch his career, their popularity at the time providing heft. In these movies, Rudy got to explore his playful side, even experimenting with pratfalls in “All Night.” He was also cast as a non-ethnic, certainly not the case later on.
Then, following a string of small roles and bit parts, Rudy signed with Metro to star in the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” an unqualified hit and the first instance of million dollar box office. Here Rudy was at the top of his game, the pieces coming together to create one of his most memorable roles. All that, and the tango too!
In a move one could only deem blasé, the studio then cast him in a series of lackluster, though at times interesting, follow-up films where his innate luminescence always ended up transcending the material. In truth Rudy probably would have created interest with the visual equivalent of reading a phone book; such was the magnetism he projected. Personally I like everything he did on screen, all his roles to greater or lesser extents, because they exuded magic, an ephemeral, quixotic spark.
Metro’s indifference soon translated to Paramount’s gain, as he started working at Famous Players-Lasky where they immediately cast him in what was to be his seminal part, Ahmed the Sheik. Loads of interest and box office cash resulted and Paramount knew they had a phenomenon on their hands. Unfortunately, they, like Metro, did not follow up very well. Several decent pictures ensued but only one other really notable one, “Blood and Sand.”
Rudy’s final employer was United Artists, the studio founded by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffin. His last two films were quality projects, and each allowed him to shine, again at the top of his game. By all accounts, he was delighted with his work in “The Eagle” and “Son of the Sheik” the latter providing an opportunity to reprise Ahmed, this time père et fils (father and son.) The roller coaster ride ended on a high point, and Rodolfo left this world at the peak of his fame, a level of renown that continues to this day! ~ Wayne Hatford