11 Sep 1921 – Louella Parsons Interview with Rudolph Valentino, NY Telegraph

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Rudolph Valentino is a very polite young man. I know because he waited for me for over an hour and never frowned or acted as if one of his relatives had disinherited him. To keep a man waiting whether he is an actor or merely in the ordinary walk of life is the surest test of his disposition. Most of the other sex consider it a personal affront if they are kept waiting over five minutes, and few men can control their temper if they have to cool their heels for any longer time. No one could be blamed for being late Tuesday night. The rain came down in torrents and held all the theatregoers stranded waiting for taxis that passed back and forth without any thought of stopping. I waited, too. In the lobby of the Lyceum Theatre after the opening of “The Easiest Way” for some conveyance to get me the block and a half. Mr. Valentino had been more fortunate. He had found a cab and reached his destination some minutes earlier. He was not difficult to identify–the Julio of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” His straight hair and very dark eyes photographed on the screen as they are. He is one of the people who looks exactly in real life as he does on the screen. The same trick of expression, the same smile and the same bow are all there making one expect for a moment that Alice Terry as Margaret or perhaps as Eugenie Grandil will step into the scene, and take her place beside young Valentino. Since his Metro engagements–both of which brought him pleasantly before the public, Mr. Valentino has made another picture–“The Sheik” for Jesse Lasky–and in this he plays the colorful role of the leader of the Arabs, a lawless but captivating bandit of the desert. Mr. Valentino characterizes his work under George Melford. “As wonderful, great, marvelous,” and a few more adjectives, indicating he liked his stay at the Lasky studio. But it is to June Mathis young Valentino pays his greatest tribute. “She discovered me,” he says. “Anything I have accomplished I owe to her, to her judgment, to her advice and to her unfailing patience and confidence in me.” Up to the time June Mathis insisted that Mr. Valentino be cast as Julio in “The Four Horsemen” he had been playing “heavies.” He made several pictures for Universal, and it was in a minor role Miss Mathis saw him and decided he was the type for the young Spanish boy. In this she had to meet the objections of several people on the Metro lot who believed it was ridiculous to give the young inexperienced boy this important part. “I worked hard to justify her belief in me,” he said. “We all worked hard in ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.’ We were striving to reach an ideal–it was Rex Ingram’s first big picture; my first and Miss Terry’s biggest chance. There was no thought of any personal ambition in that one picture; we were all working for a cause.” “Perhaps that is one reason the results were so satisfying,” I suggested. “I am sure of it,” he replied. “No picture can be great, unless the mental atmosphere is clear. Every one is influenced by the spirit that is present–whether it is kindly, helpful and unselfish, or whether it is malicious, envious and unfriendly.” Mr. Valentino speaks with an accent. He looks Spanish, but he is Italian. He was born in Genoa and came to this country seven years ago. “I was only a boy,” he said. A child, I thought, and he must have read my thoughts, because he replied: “I was eighteen. I am now twenty-five.” He looks younger. He was very poor when he first landed here. In Genoa he had planned to be a famous agriculturist. But New York was not conducive to furthering that ambition. There are no farms in the city here and he had no money to go to the country, so he danced. “Please,” he said, “do not talk much about my dancing. I never liked it, but it was the only thing I could do.” His dance engagements led to the screen, not an unnatural metamorphosis by any means. And now he is here to talk business. He has an offer from a film organization, but he says he is superstitious and will not mention names until his contract is all signed, sealed and delivered. Mr. Valentino is a Nazimova enthusiast. Either people like madame or they do not. There is no middle ground where she is concerned. He belongs to the former class. He played Armand in “Camille” and says he owes much to her suggestions and to her instructions. “Madame had a hand in the direction, too,” he said. “Ray Smallwood directed the picture, but madame told me how to play the big scenes. Some people think my portrayal of Dumas’s Armand is better than anything I have done, even Julio.” Still one thinks of Rudolph Valentino as Julio. He may do many things –possibly better things, but always there will be the remembrance of the hot- blooded Spanish boy, who stands out as one of the finest characters the screen has given us. Yes, it is as Julio one thinks of young Valentino, and it will be as Julio he will progress and win a place for himself. Mr. Valentino does not regret the years he has spent playing villains. He says the experience has made him see from two angles–first as the villain would act, and secondly, in the eyes of the hero. “I always recall what Mr. Tourneur said one time. “‘If only the screen heroes would not be so perfect the villains would once in a while do a good deed.'” “And that,” said Mr. Valentino, “is what I consider fundamentally wrong with motion pictures. We distinguish too much between people. After all a bad man may have a kindly impulse some times. No one is entirely evil, and a good man may be motivated by a spirit that is not all good. We are all human. I believe if it were possible to picture human nature as it really is with good and bad in all of us the motion pictures would be better.” And I am not sure that Rudolph Valentino is not right. There is indeed so much that is bad in the best of us and so much that is good in the worst of us that it should be filmed as is. Mr. Valentino is having the time of his young life in our big city. Will all the theatres opening and the tennis matches being played, he is being royally entertained. He had much to say about Suzanne Leglen and her tennis playing, having seen her last Sunday in her double match. “The American people were so generous,” he said. “They applauded and applauded her quite as if her unfortunate mistake at the opening game had never occurred.” “The Japanese player who lost won just as many cheers as the victor. I like that spirit. It is typical of the America people. They are so warm hearted and so good. It’s a great country,” he said, squaring his shoulders, “and I am glad I am here.” Young Valentino still likes to dance, if not for the entertainment of others at least for his own pleasure. It was after 12:30 when we left the Claridge and he was headed straight for the Palais Royal to join a party. He is young and gay and happy, with all the spirit of youth and the impulse to get the most out of life while he may. But whatever happens he says he will never forget June Mathis. She is his guiding star or some other equally poetic symbol in his life. He is, you see, an Italian and expresses himself in the extravagant language of his race.

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One thought on “11 Sep 1921 – Louella Parsons Interview with Rudolph Valentino, NY Telegraph

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