09 Jan 1976 – Former Motion Picture Executive Misses Silent Movie Star

If you happen to possess a “personally autographed” photo of screen actor Rudolph Valentino, chances are that it was actually signed by another Rudolph. Rudolph Hagen, Neptune City who is now 75 spent nearly 40 years in the motion picture industry, behind the scenes in production and distribution of silent and sound movies. In 1925, Hagen was in charge of accounting for Ritz Carlton Pictures in Hollywood was temporarily recruited to sign several hundred photographs of Valentino to fill the requests by his adoring fans. “I studied Valentino’s signature and remember that it was very unique with the letters d and a being different. After some practice, I was able to duplicate it almost exactly” he recalled. Valentino was under contract with Ritz Carlton at the time starring in its first production “Cobra” with Nita Naldi, a well-known vamp of the day. Mr. Hagen saw a great deal of Valentino at the studio and was impressed by his friendly manner. “He was very nice to everyone and very much the gentleman. He spoke with a slight Italian accent which women found charming” Mr. Hagen explained. Throughout the four months it took to film “Cobra”. Hagen remembers, Valentino followed a strict program of exercise. “Valentino had a very trim athletic physique which he maintained through a vigorous exercise regimen. He encouraged all of us at the studio to exercise to keep fit. He was an excellent dancer and horseman as well. At the age of 30, Valentino appeared to be in the best of health. Following completion of “Cobra” Valentino was to star in “The Hooded Falcon” for Ritz Carlton a film written by his controversial wife Natacha Rambova. “We obtain a vicious wild falcon for the movie and had to hire a bird trainer to care for it. The studio spent approximately $50,000 in preparation for production”. Because of the constant demands and interference on the part of Valentino’s wife who wanted control over every phase of production, and the projected $900,000 cost of the film, “The Hooded Falcon” never materialized. Following the cancellation of Valentino’s contract. It was Hagens responsibility to tie-up the loose ends of the production giving the studio staff its final paychecks, taking inventory of the wardrobe, and returning all props, including the wild falcon. “Cobra” was Valentino’s last completed picture for the studio. He died suddenly in 1926. “It was sadly ironic that a man who was so devoted to physical fitness should die at such an early age. His life style was incredibly luxurious with rich food and drink every day. He crowded 70 years of living into a mere 36”. After the bankruptcy of Ritz Carlton, Hagen declined an offer from studio boss J.D. Williams to join him in England where he was starting a new production company, British National Pictures. However, Williams gave him letters of introduction to several motion picture executives. One letter led to Harry Warner, President of Warner Bros. who offered him a job that was to last 32 years. In the same year, Hagen met his first wife Irene Hussey whom he married in 1927. Hagen’s rise in the motion picture industry was a far cry from his humble beginnings when his first job in 1928 was in bookkeeping for First National Pictures, which distributed silent films. There he became associated with one of the founders at First National and later Ritz Carlton. When asked to assess the changes in movies over the years Hagen said “I miss the glamour of the old films they had star value. I’m nostalgic for the movies of Rudolph Valentino, James Cagney, Barrymore etc. They lack the important ingredient and that is star quality.

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