Born on 25 Jul 1901, Union Hill, New Jersey, Augusta Appel who changed her name to Lila Lee was a famous silent film actress who made a score of films but to those fans of Rudolph Valentino she was his co-star in the 1922 movie “Blood & Sand”.
Lila Lee was discovered at the age of 5 when she appeared with Gus Edwards School Days Review. At the age of 12, she was signed by Paramount Studios and from there a star was born. Lila Lee had a lot of career ups and downs she was finally forced to retire due to ill health. Lila had appeared on radio, television and Broadway her career spanned more than 50 years. She was married a total of three times. She died on 13 Nov 1973.
His full name was Rodolpho Alfonso Raffaelo Pierre Filberti Guglielmi de Valentina D’Antonguolia and his most secret ambition in life was to be a farmer. But sighing women in the 20’s knew him as Rudolph Valentino, the greatest lover the screen ever had. Even Clark Gable was a runner up for the title admitted that. Valentino died just 35 years ago on 23 Aug 1926. A veteran NY police officer still recalls the orgy of adulation stated by 100,000 mourners at Campbells Funeral Home. Needless to say, 9 out of 10 mourners at that funeral were all female. Thirty five women claimed he had fathered their children but all claims came in after his death. There was no Valentino heir from the two marriages he had. Some actresses like Mae Murray spotted the Valentino sex appeal even before he became famous. Mae was a top star of the silent era, was a Ziegfeld star on Broadway before coming to Hollywood. In the WW1 era some of the NY fancy night clubs had paid dancers and Valentino was one of them at Maxims. “I saw him before I danced with him” Mae recalls. He was like a sensual animal stalking the jazz jungle. Mae said that Valentino who almost starved in NY took the job to keep faith and bone together. “How this young man danced”, Mae remembers “It was the real tango” they way I had seen it danced on the streets of Paris. From this meeting a romance developed and Valentino later appeared in two Mae Murray Pictures. “I always remember Rudy being as open as a child” says Mae. but the women of the 20’s who never missed a Valentino movie say him as anything but a child. But there was more than mere virility to the Valentino appeal. He was an actor of great emotional force but a rarity was he had brains and class. Old timers say that famous nostril quivering in love scenes was invented by Valentino but directors and producers made him do it. It used to make grandma feel funny all over even though it looks corny today. Valentino landed in NY in 1913 an Italian boy of 18. Some accounts say he came here penniliness. Miss Murray says he had 800 GBP on him which he spent on good living until it ran out within a year. Within that time he was ballroom dancing in places where Clifton Webb as Bonnie Glasses former dance partner danced. But as he often confided in friends he still wanted to become a farmer on a large scale. He joined a company that traveled to San Francisco and Valentino tried to sell bonds and he failed. A chance meeting with an actor decided his fate. He went to Hollywood but he could not get work. Finally after 3 months he got a extra job at $5.00 a day. Then Miss Murray seen him and chose him to be her leading man. In 1921, Famous Players-Lasky foreruner of Paramount Pictures signed Valentino. In 1926, a life cut short has been forever mourned. The Lady In Black is missing the woman who was Valentinos best known mourner. In black shoes, black hat, and a heavy black veil she would visit his crypt and sit there. Often appearing with one white rose and a dozen red ones. Her visits were daily for the first three years and annually on the anniversary of his death in 1926.
It seems possible since the “dream lover” of the roaring twenties Rudolph Valentino is being revived in books, movies, magazine articles and exhibits. Even a few Valentino products have appeared in the marketplace. Women adored Valentino, but men were not too fond of him as he became a legendary star of the silent movies, and one of the first to endorse products, which almost all stars do today. The Valentino craze not only filled movie houses with adoring women but also stocked store shelves with brand-named products such as olive oil, cigars, candy and beauty supply tins. After he made his most famous film, “The Sheik” it became his nickname and it also became a part of the language. A “sheik” was a woman’s man. Several major magazines are reported planning articles on Valentino. The revival of the movie lover contains the staff for setting trends, styles, and fashions. Already a few products have appeared. Some major department stores have sold large beach towels showing Valentino in one of his love scenes. The love scenes from the romantic movies appear ready made for the manufacturers of bed linens and covers. There might have been more Valentino Pictures today if it wasn’t for a fight the actor had with Adolph Zukor, then president of Paramount Pictures. Valentino wanted a raise from his $350 a week. Many stars were making thousands of dollars a week. As a result, Zukor prevented Valentino, at the height of his career, from making films for two years. Meanwhile, Valentino endorsed products and made dancing tours with his second wife. His second wife was cosmetic heiress Winifred Hudnut whose stage name was Natacha Rambova. She became rather demanding of him in public. And she gave him a “slave bracelet” which men didn’t wear in those days. But he was still wearing it when he died, months after their divorce. Despite Valentino’s domestic problems his work as an actor is just as effective today. In the Valentino Era, men wore pegged pants. Spats, stick-pins, four-in-hand ties, collar clasps and suits of several cuts all of which would be a bit of a contrast to the looser more casual clothes of today. The slicked down hair look, though, could be another thing and a great contrast to the long hair of recent years. If it becomes fashionable it could cause a barber boom.
The lavish wardrobe of Rudolph Valentino will not go on the auction block with the remainder of his personal effects now being sold here. George Ullman executor of the film star’s estate, ruled Thursday. The announcement was made as Ullman opened Valentinos trunks preparatory to placing their contents on sale. “I can’t do it,” he said. “Those clothes nearly talked to me. Rather than let anyone else have them, I’ll buy them myself if necessary.” Mrs Teresa Werner an aunt of Natacha Rambova, divorced wife of Rudolph Valentino and a share holder in the estate, with the actor’s brother and sister, was among the purchasers at today’s auction. She paid $70.00 for two sterling silver picture frames. Adolphe Menjou and Ernest Torrance, screen actors were also successful bidders, Menjou paying $56.00 for a small brass incense burner and Torrance $170 for an antique painting on a wooden panel.
Recent dispatches from Los Angeles tell of Rudolph Valentino having addressed 5000 Hollywood High School students at a gathering in Memorial Auditorium where he talked to them on the ethics of scholastic sports. The address was loudly applauded by the boys as well as the girls. The celebrated screen star also introduced to the students Federico Beltram-Masses noted Spanish painter who declared the greeting of the students had touched him more deeply than any other he had received in this country. Valentino translated the words of Beltram-Masses as the great artist English is not fluent. Beltram-Masses appeared with a deep gash on his forehead revealing him and Rudolph had been in an automobile accident which might have been serious as they were returning from San Francisco. The car struck a gulley and careened. The star was shaken severely but little hurt.
On 27 Dec 1924, Angelita Cuccinello recently picked by Rudolph Valentino from among 10,000 contestants as Chicago’s Prettiest Girl was killed by a skidding truck. Her body laid unclaimed in the morgue for three days. She was saved from burial in Potters Field last night when Mrs. McGarity, blind wife of a lake captain paid a debit of gratitude by providing a fine coffin.
“I will say that the love made me do what I have done was prompted by the noblest intention that a man could have. I loved deeply. But in loving I have erred.”..Rudolph Valentino on marrying Natacha Rambova early.