Here are some conclusions and opinions of noted Valentino scholars, in no particular order. They were presented at the symposium on the life and career of Rudolph Valentino, sponsored by the film department at the University of Turin in 2009.
- Natacha Rambova was quite involved with the production of “Cobra,” perhaps more so than any other Valentino picture. She is said to have channeled her contributions to the script via automatic writing.
- The occult is a theme, for Rudy personally, and among many of the people who knew him.
- The original Valentino Society papers from the Leslie Flint collection are now at the Museo del Cinema in Turin. That museum, by the way, has quite a nice collection of Valentino memorabilia.
- Rudy showed his literary prowess early on when at age 13 he wrote an essay entitled “The Regiment Passes” while he was at boarding school in Perugia. The content is remarkable both for its depth and sophistication.
- Natacha contributed to Valentino’s career by supplying a context.
- Rudy’s underlying pathos is what made him so appealing to movie-goers.
- Rudy missed out on playing the lead in “The Spanish Dancer” opposite Pola Negri because he went on strike. Antonio Moreno got the part.
- Rudy sometimes described himself as a “lapsed intellectual.”
- The June Mathis penned RVG scripts (of which there were five) re-define masculinity as non-violent, sexually open, and curious. Her scripts also include elements of the spiritual or transpersonal. In “The Conquering Power,” the script had Rudy kissing his girlfriend’s knees. As that was deemed too daring, the scene was cut from the film.
- Everything Italian about Valentino was repressed. He was displayed, therefore, as an exotic, of various backgrounds. The only time he played an Italian is in “Cobra.”
- “Lo sguardo” ~ his gaze, perhaps his most powerful attribute!
~ Wayne Hatford
“Short Artistic and Sentimental Review” is the title of this unattributed Q & A, twenty questions that were posed to Valentino in 1922, soon after the release of “Blood and Sand.” His answers are both revealing and a reflection of the image he wanted to create in the minds of movie-goers at that time. This document was on display in 2009 at the Museum of Cinema in Turin, Italy, as part of an exhibit dedicated to Rudy’s life and career. Please note that strictly speaking not all of his answers fully align with the facts.
1. Your regular first and last name? Rodolfo Valentino; in English, it’s Rudolph.
2. Your nickname? Rudy
3. What is the first film you made? “The Married Virgin,” directed by Joseph Maxwell.
4. What is your favorite role? The one I played in my last film, “Blood and Sand.”
5. Do you like criticism? Yes, a lot.
6. Do you have a fetish? Yes, my wife.
7. What is your favorite color? Black Iris
8. What is your favorite perfume? Maharajah
9. What are your defects? I am irascible and nervous. I have a quick temper, plus many more.
10. Do you smoke? Yes, lots of cigarettes.
11. Are you a gourmand? Not really.
12. What is your motto? “Post Tenebras Lux.”
13. Are you faithful? Yes, very.
14. What is your ambition? For the world to like me.
15. What are your good points? I think I have one or two small ones, but I don’t know what they are.
16. Your favorite authors? D’Annunzio, Dante, Carducci, Maupassant, Hugo, Baudelaire.
17. Are you superstitious? No.
18. Your favorite composers? Mozart, Puccini, Mascagni, Wagner.
19. Your favorite artist? Raphael.
20. Your favorite photo? The one I give you.
Rather than attempt a full-blown analysis of Rudy’s astrological birth chart, I would like to focus on a few key elements. First of all, Rudy was born at 10:03 AM on May 6, 1895 in Castellaneta, Italy. This is the time indicated on his birth certificate, on display at Museo Valentino in Castellaneta, whereas the internet gives it as either 3 AM or 3 PM. With a 10:03 AM birth time, Rudy has 2 degrees Leo rising.
Think about it, the magnificent carriage, innate radiance, warmth and charm, all befitting what is commonly thought of as Leo energy interfacing with the world! These traits were Rudy’s calling cards, the lens through which he appealed to his fans.
Let’s also take a moment to note what sign is on the opposite cusp in his chart, the house of relationships, which in this case is Aquarius. Natacha Rambova, above all, fit the profile: she was strong, independent, creative, unusual, avant-garde, and at least as much of a friend as lover. Indeed, people who have Aquarius in the 7th house want friendship to be an important ingredient in any sexual relationship.
A couple of other crucial elements: Mars conjunct Jupiter in Cancer in the 12th house and Moon in Libra in the 3rd house.
The Mars/Jupiter connection created the exquisite sense of tenderness Rudy was able to convey in his screen characters, as well as providing him with strength and stamina. Mars in Cancer alone in the 12th would indicate a retiring nature. However, with Jupiter conjunct it and a Leo ascendant, he was wired to be an extrovert, even though he did require some alone time every day to re-charge his emotional batteries.
Moon in Libra speaks to an affable nature, friendly towards all, which Rudy, by all accounts, most definitely was. And it was in the 3rd house of his chart, ruled by Gemini and reflexively, communication. No wonder Rudy was so facile with languages! His thinking was often deep and complex as indicated by his own writings and musings. His was a lively wit, and he knew how to turn a phrase to his advantage, meaning he always gave people something to think about!
Finally, there is Venus in Gemini in the 11th house. Rudy had a huge number of friends and acquaintances, and he was intrigued by all of them to greater or lesser degrees ~ another reason why it was so easy for him to relate to people. However, he only allowed a few to enter the inner circle, the arena where he gave himself permission to be vulnerable. He approached both beauty and love with great curiosity, a hallmark of Venus in Gemini and formidable asset in his work as an actor.
Mr. Valentino, quite a multi-faceted individual ~ as we all are!
~ Wayne Hatford
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
“Let’s stipulate that I am/was half French to begin with and my mother had strongly embraced that language and culture, brought them to Italy with her, saw them as a trophy throughout her life. She delighted in speaking French to us as children. It was our own flavor, our refuge, something she thought would make us more able in the world. This is not to say that she did not love Italy, Puglia in particular. Anyway, French, in all its ramifications, seeped into our lives and we thought it grand, saw our capability with it as an entrée. (Door-opener.) So when I went to Paris during my teen-age years to, in fact, sow wild oats, try out the boulevardier (man about town) premise, I summoned my French parts, made them shine, and gathered my forces which later translated to the continental flair I was known to display as aspects of screen characters I embodied.
That we read in French, novels and history in particular, was a really nurturing part of my upbringing. Did I like the precision of French in composition? Not so much as a boy yet I was a sponge. I knew that language inside out, and admired the elegance inherent in the culture. Le Comte (Count) Valentino, perhaps an alter ego? Oh the excesses I knew while in the thrall of my first visit to Paris! How dandy it all was!” ~ Rodolfo Valentino
Am delighted to announce that my new book, “Rudolph Valentino The Untold Story” is now for sale via Amazon.com.
Who better to comment on the life and times of Rudolph Valentino than Rudy himself? Recollections from one of the greatest screen icons of all times, as told to Medium Wayne Hatford. Their third collaboration, this book sheds new light, quells rumors, addresses speculations, corrects the record ~ ‘write’ from the horse’s mouth! And Rudy delivers with wit and panache, the same magnetic charisma he displayed in films.
Read what he has to say now about his leading ladies, family, friends, lovers, wives, colleagues, films and more, his most cherished memories and adventures. A wealth of tantalizing tidbits and reveals, here is Valentino pulling back the curtain posthumously, testifying on his own behalf.
It was with his character in “The Sheik” that Rudolph Valentino cemented the image of ‘homme fatal.’ This role imbued him with the mystery of the desert, piquing the imaginations of women around the globe. In fact, after the release of this film ‘sheik’ became a code word for men who exuded danger, adventure and sexual allure, those whose charms were seen as irresistible. The term was also used derisively in some quarters, but in the long run that had little effect on Valentino’s popularity with fans. His brand of exoticism triumphed, and the imitators (other screen ‘latin lovers’) could never replace him.
I invite you to view both Sheik films and make up your own minds. Was this indeed the role he was destined to play, the one he is often most remembered for now?
~ Wayne Hatford
Having just viewed Valentino’s final film again, this time at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, I was struck, not only by the perfection of the script in terms of visual story-telling, but by what this role obviously meant to him on a soul level. He somehow knew that this was to be his last cinematographic effort and he wanted to leave us begging for more, to go out at the top of his game.
What is most interesting to me is that by playing both roles Valentino chose to reveal his inner self, seemingly in conflict, in the personas of the Sheik, paterfamilias, still vital and stubborn despite his age, and Ahmed, his prideful and passionate son. The script uses their perceived differences to advance the plot but my contention is that this role was particularly integrative for Valentino. Since he would never reach the age of fifty, he got to experience what being older might feel like, wearing the skin of the Sheik, père. Indeed, it must have been fun for him to play at that through the use of make-up and camera effects.
Valentino, as perhaps no other actor ever could, was able to project the father/son bond, on both sides of the coin, when they appeared together in split screen. How else could two characters be so solid and warm in each other’s presence while at the same time fully maintaining their respective individualities as defined by the script? The big fight scene near the end says it all, especially when the camera reveals father and son briefly linking hands as a sign of their mutual trust and support.
In my opinion, this dual role was therapeutic in some sense as, according to biographers, he did not have a strong bond with his own father. Here he was able to experience that, of his own volition. Having completed this film and already aware that it was going to be successful at the box office before he died, Valentino was able to leave this world knowing that he had given it his all. That is why, I believe, his star became fixed in the firmament and has never dimmed: because he truly showed us his heart!
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
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