Douglas Fairbanks

Mr. Hollywood! If ever there was a quintessential figure, someone audiences could rally around as both hero and rogue, it was Doug. He had the magic, the one that propelled him to great heights. Of course, that he had control over his pictures was paramount. He did not need to kowtow to studio demands or act in simpering productions, stale pieces of bread, even crusts, which is what I would liken some of the product of those days to be. And Doug was a really nice guy, funny, witty, always with a sly sense of humor. His physical prowess obviously delighted viewers, made him, for a while, top box office. And he picked his projects well, wished me all the best with “The Eagle” and “Son of the Sheik” once I had joined the United Artists stable of stars.

We were a bit competitive physically, had to show off to each other once in a while, our abilities with riding and sports. I have fond memories of Doug, and how our careers were, in a way, complimentary. My favorite Fairbanks film was “The Thief of Baghdad.” An incredibly impressive work of art and it was fun to watch!” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Agnes Ayres

“My co-conspirator, for that is how we felt and even remarked upon while constructing the ‘Sheik’ films. We exchanged pregnant glances off set and sometimes on, when demanded by the director. Some would say my performance as the Sheik was eye-popping and it was that at times, again as the director so required. But, all in good fun!

Agnes was both very down to earth and quite a proper lady, though she also did not blush when there was a slightly risqué joke being shared. She and I discussed our roles a fair amount, especially during the second outing. I lament the chagrins she faced with her husband and personal life. Post-Sheiks, she apparently was high strung and had some difficulties reconciling her reality. This was not foreshadowed in our interactions; I was unaware of it at the time.

Agnes so graciously returned, as you know, for a small role in “Son of the Sheik.” I think our work together was solid and I shall forever be indebted to her for a great deal of my success or rather how I most impressed the public, which was in this vehicle, not my preferred means of conveyance but ultimately rather effective. There was never any romance between us yet we were able to play at that, hint of its existence in how we comported with each other. She remains in spirit but we are not in touch at the moment. Dear Agnes, such a formal name! She found herself in a position of great envy, breathing life into Mrs. Hull’s confection.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

(Excerpted from “Rudolph Valentino The Untold Story” ~ 2014)

Nita Naldi

Nita played many roles in Rudy’s life, the most important of which were co-star, friend, and intimate. Excerpted from “Rudolph Valentino The Untold Story,” here are some of his observations on their personal rapport, also her impact on movie-goers.

This woman was one of the best foils any actor could ever have! We were opposites but that allowed us to compliment each other. Attractive but not pretty in a conventional way, she could convey the most nefarious mannerisms, vamp-like behavior that was thoroughly, and morally, bankrupt. Nita and I were great buddies and the rumors are true. We did once explore when everything seemed new. Then we had a laugh about it later, curiosity having paid its due. Without Nita to support me, I could not have mastered those roles as effectively as I did. She was an icon and, of course, the women in the audience were not threatened by our kisses, knowing that we would not truly succumb.

Nita was the archetype of temptation every time we appeared together on screen. In real life, however, she was blasé, never took Hollywood too seriously, yet grateful that her look, and demeanor, were so perfect for the moment. I remember her fondly. Love, Rodolfo.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Charlie Chaplin

Here Rudy recollects about his interactions with Charlie, especially when they were both associated with United Artists Pictures.

Although he was somewhat of an enigma, I found him rather brilliant, engaging, and conversant on any number of subjects. He was also quite eclectic in his personal tastes and very sure of himself professionally. We did socialize upon occasion but never approached the border of intimate friends, the kind who would share most things.

During “The Eagle” shoot, he appeared several times to reassure me, and the cast, I suppose to marvel at our accomplishments, be the goodwill ambassador for United Artists Pictures. He knew our work would please the public, had a smell for that kind of thing.

I did not witness any of the quirks that have been assigned to Mr. Chaplin over the years, nor did I ever observe him in character as the little tramp, even though hints were there, present in the way he moved ~ body language you say today. I remain grateful for the opportunity he, Doug, and Mary gave me: to become a part of their film family.” ~ Rodolfo Valentino

Erich von Stroheim

From my new book on the life and times of Rudolph Valentino, to be published in the fall of 2014: Rudy’s observations on one of the most creative, and controversial, directors of all time.

One of Hollywood’s most notable personalities, he traded on his German ancestry. We met, of course, although casually, on several occasions and I was very familiar with his work, his explorations of some of mankind’s baser instincts, and with such visual cues so as to sear them into the minds of those who watched his productions. He possessed great creativity which mostly flowed freely though he would self-block from time to time, leading to cost overruns and friction with powerbrokers, studio heads, or accounting departments.

A von Stroheim film I fondly remember is “Foolish Wives” where he was also on screen. He did not achieve the pinnacles others did as far as consistent popularity and box office but his films sparked controversy and therefore were the subject of many discussions. His Prussian bearing was slightly affected yet no one questioned it ~ part of his allure, the attraction that was von Stroheim. He and I did not have a strong connection but I admired his ability to be daring, stretch limits, call attention to some of the issues of the day.” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Gloria Swanson

In 1922, Paramount cast Gloria with Rudy in the film adaptation of Elinor Glyn’s novel, “Beyond the Rocks” ~ a confection that allowed them both to toy with their celebrity. Once believed lost, this picture reflects their joy in being a screen couple. Here Rudy reminisces about the shoot and his relationship with Ms. Swanson. This is an excerpt from my new Valentino project in which he comments on some of the people and events that colored his life, including his leading ladies. ~ Wayne Hatford

My darling co-star! How we pranked each other, almost every day, and in every way! What creativity our endeavors did require! She was so much fun to work with and she did not consider me an inferior, not Miss Swanson, she of the ‘glorified’ heights! Her career was at a summit, somewhat akin to the one portrayed in our film. Her eyes sparkled, winked a lot, as we took the scenario, tongue in cheek. This saved the production actually as the audience reacted to our levity in a positive way. Had we been too serious, we could have easily gotten the hook.

Gloria and I did not broach intimacy, knowing, as we did, that that move would have been disastrous. Instead, we rode, in motorcars, and on horses, were friends who understood the most intricate aspects of each others’ psyches without having to have direct experiences with them. Bravo, Gloria! You were always a tour de force!” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Cecil B. DeMille

One of the greatest seers of all time! What people do not know or at least not consciously so is that Mr. DeMille could read the public pulse better than most anyone in Hollywood. Not even the studio execs had a better nose for what would sell. And then he was brilliant in the execution, making loads of cash for Paramount along the way. He tweaked American sensibility, soothed it yet also was quite challenging, holding up a mirror so that we could look at ourselves. What a pioneer! What a student of morality! The mores of the 1920’s were never clearer than in productions that flourished under his hand. Then too, the studio knew every DeMille picture was going to contain a certain amount of moxie. A man totally in tune with his times, he adapted, also did excellent work in the sound era, having a lengthy and laudable career. We only superficially crossed paths but I observed him on his sets, saw how he challenged his actors, and worked with their occasional insufferableness too ~ truly a gifted individual!” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Jonathan Rhys Meyers

From time to time I like to comment on current actors, and their miens. Mr. Rhys Meyers would have been a great silent era star as he has mastered the art of pause; in fact, his acting is pregnant with them, to excellent effect. And, he always does more with less, which is to say he engages, meshes, both with his characters, internally, and externally, with his audiences. No matter his nationality, he can play any role he desires, and his ear is keen to language. Possessing great poise and a sense of personal destiny, these attributes join to make him quite intriguing to the public. Bonne continuation, Monsieur! Je vous salue!” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Tom Hardy

A brute of a man, or so it seems, to the audiences he plies. But, by Jove, he is a sweetheart, really his primary attribute. Someone of few words when engaging with the public yet he will not be quiet in the company of friends, true friends. There, a torrent of words spills forth, like drops in a swift-moving stream. Mr. Hardy will continue to develop his skills, become an even more renowned actor than he is currently perceived. In so doing, he personifies some of the mystique that was more rampant in my day which, along with his ability to enthrall, will only continue to increase his appeal to moviegoers. Here’s to a long and illustrious career!” ~ Rudolph Valentino

Michael Fassbender

“A charming man who is the prototype for a new kind of movie star. He is not magnetic in the traditional sense yet he fascinates all those who cannot take their eyes off of him. Hypnotic in some respect and he fully inhabits his roles. You can feel him inside of them, as you observe him on the screen. Mr. Fassbender has a dual nationality, and in that sense being bi-cultural, as I was, offers him a unique world view, especially because his countries of origin are not always the ones on everyone’s tongue. Michael is a kind soul, generous to those around him, gregarious too, eager to learn, hungry for experience which he translates into the id and ego of each of his characters. Bravo, I say! An auspicious beginning to what promises to be a lengthy career. And, there is the sexual quotient ~ opaque, mysterious, yet available, lurking, full-bore ~ all simultaneously. A stand-up kind of guy, especially for his female fans, and he is mostly unaware of the effects he engenders, which are always cathartic!” ~ Rudolph Valentino