Dynasties don’t last very long in Hollywood. The House of Westmore lasted longer than most 58 years of makeup wizardry and one remnant remains. He is Frank Westmore still practicing the family trade. Frank remembered when George and sons Mont, Pere, Ern and Wally branched out to all categories of film beauty male and female. Mont provided Rudolph Valentino with his famous latin look. First washing the actor’s hair and slicking it down with Vaseline. Frank remembers his brother modified the heavy penciling of Rudy’s eyebrows by plucking them and reshaping them to an arch over his heavy eyelids thereby making his eyes look larger. He lightly shadowed Rudy’s jawline giving it a more defined ascetic look. Mont reduced the heavy eye makeup, lightened the lip color, and added Vaseline to make the lips shine. Result instant sex symbol.
Monthly Archives: May 2017
During his 1923 Seattle visit, Rudolph Valentino was in the midst of a dispute with his studio, Lasky-Paramount. Battles over power and control were being waged behind-the-scenes, but publicly the actor claimed to be protesting the cheap program films to which he had been assigned, as well as the practice of block booking. In an era when popular movie stars routinely appeared in three or four new film releases a year, Valentino resisted the studio’s demand that he work. (Block booking was an early distribution practice whereby a studio would tie the releases of major stars to less ambitious efforts. Exhibitors wishing to screen “marquee” pictures had to sign exclusive agreements that forced them to also show the studio’s third-rate potboilers. Exhibitors strongly protested this arrangement. For failure to work, Lasky-Paramount eventually suspended Rudolph Valentino, and went as far as to obtain a court injunction preventing the actor from appearing onscreen until after his Paramount contract expired on February 7, 1924. The studio felt they had called Valentino’s bluff, since he and second wife, Natacha Rambova (formerly Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy) were heavily in debt. But the pair countered by mounting a personal appearance tour organized by George Ullman (later Valentino’s business manager), and sponsored by Mineralava, a beauty clay company. For 17 weeks, the couple gave dance exhibitions across the United States for a reported $7,000 per week, keeping Rudolph Valentino in the public eye and, based on their commercial pitches for Mineralava, providing the company with valuable exposure. The tour began in the spring of 1923 in Wichita, Kansas, where public schools closed on the day of his appearance. Despite the excitement that Rudolph Valentino brought to almost every stop on his itinerary, the star’s arrival in Seattle was relatively low-key. The Valentino’s were expected at 9:40 in the evening on May 30, 1923, traveling from Spokane in the star’s private rail car. From the train station, they were to be whisked to the Hippodrome at 5th Avenue and University Street, where Valentino was slated to help judge a combination dance contest/beauty pageant at 10:00 p.m. According to publicity for the event, the pageant served as a national search to help find the star’s next leading lady (a role which eventually went to veteran Paramount actress Bebe Daniels. Unfortunately, their train arrived much later than expected, and the Valentino’s entered the Hippodrome well after the dancing competition. The actor then sat with other judges behind a curtain for the remainder of the beauty pageant, which concealed him from the audience, most of whom had come solely for the opportunity to see the motion picture star in person. When all was said and done, Rudolph Valentino personally selected Katherine Cuddy, a local stenographer, as the beauty contest winner, turning down the half-hearted challenge of Seattle Mayor and fellow judge Edwin J. Brown (1864-1941) on behalf of another contestant. It is hoped that Brown’s candidate did not know that the Mayor was championing her cause, for the next day it was widely reported that Valentino rejected her for having bad teeth. (Ironically, Brown — who was a prominent Seattle dentist as well as a doctor, lawyer, and politician — did not notice this defect. The Valentino’s followed the beauty judging with an electrifying demonstration of their famous Argentine tango, recreating the dance scene from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Both were dressed for the part; as one account put it:
“It is in Rodolph’s [sic] blood to wear black velvet pantaloons and stamp his black patent leather boots and click castanets. His manner was quite Argentine; his hair quite brilliantine” (Dean). Natasha Rambova was also clad in black velvet, offset with a red Carmen like shawl. “[She] is very brave to put on a ten dollar pair of black silk stockings so close to her partner’s three inch silver spurs, noted Times reporter Dora Dean. The Private Valentino Dean managed to sneak backstage after the exhibition and take a spot in Rudolph Valentino’s dressing room, where she found the actor quite blunt about all the attention his appearances had been garnering. The moment he arrived at the Hippodrome, for instance, a large crowd of girls — “starving for romance,” the actor noted with some disdain — surged toward the stage. Adoration of this sort wore on Valentino, for it overshadowed his attempts to be taken seriously as a performer. “`From persons who saw the Four Horsemen I have received intelligent letters of appreciation,’ [Valentino] said. `I like them better than the adoring notes from little girls who want me for their sheik.’ `But what are you going to do, when all those darling girls want to see you ride [in] the desert and gnash your teeth?’ he was asked. “`Ah, they should stay at home with their husbands,’ said the slick-haired actor” (Dean). Wanda Von Kettler, writing for the Star, also managed to get herself into Rudolph Valentino’s dressing room at the Hippodrome. It must have been a crowded place: Mayor Brown and Washington’s Lieutenant Governor William Jennings “Wee” Coyle (1888-1977) also fought for space amongst a crowd of reporters and fans. According to Kettler: “Beside Rodolph Valentino sat Mrs. Valentino, his tall and slender brown-eyed wife, in her Argentine dancing costume. “He surveyed his guests. Then told them that he wasn’t a `sheik.’ “`Of course,’ he declared, with a somewhat resigned laugh, `I’ve gotten considerable publicity because of the name. But I don’t know if it’s been the right kind of publicity. The very sentimental girls think I’m all right. They like me. But what about the intelligent women – and the men? Don’t they think I’m a mollycoddle? They do. When I go back in pictures, after the fight with the movie concern is over, I’m going to prove that I’m not the type they think I am …’ “Valentino plans to write a book. He confided so to some of us Wednesday night. “`It’s going to be a book on the tango,’ he declared. `I’m going to teach all America to dance that dance. Everybody seems to like it, so why not help them learn it.’ “‘Dancing,’ he added, `is the greatest stimulant of the day, and is more and more being recognized as such. Since the event of prohibition it has increased 50 per cent.’ “Valentino doesn’t `mind’ the letters he receives from admiring ladies. “`I’m very glad to know,’ he explained Wednesday night, `that I’m being appreciated. I like to hear the opinion of the public, whether it’s for or against me. But I know the ladies aren’t `in love’ with me. They’re in love with an `ideal’ and they sometimes write to me as a result.’ “As for Mrs. Valentino – being a sheik’s wife doesn’t bother her at all. When asked about her stand on the matter, she laughed and replied, `I want him to be popular. The more popular he is, the better I like it'” (Kettler). Following the Hippodrome appearance, the Valentino’s traveled northward for scheduled engagements in Vancouver, British Columbia. They returned to Seattle on June 1, 1923, for a visit to Children’s Orthopedic Hospital, where they were guests of honor at the institution’s Pound Party. An annual charity event, the benefit took its name directly from its open request: In lieu of donations, the Hospital accepted a pound of anything — food, clothing, etc. — which could be used to help those in need. The Valentino’s were the hit of the function, which a spokesman later declared the most successful in the history of Children’s Orthopedic. In total, the event netted a record amount of food and clothing and almost $400 in donations, $10 of which came from the actor himself. Credit for the success was given solely to Rudolph Valentino’s appearance, which garnered much more public interest than past charity drives. It also attracted hundreds of fans to the front lawn of the Hospital, mostly young women hoping to catch a glimpse of the actor as he came and went from the gathering. Thankfully, the throng outside conducted itself in an orderly fashion and the party went off without a hitch. After partaking in an afternoon tea and reception, the Valentino’s went from bed to bed throughout the Hospital, visiting nearly every child and showing a sincere concern for their well-being. “A few of the sheik’s queries concerning child culture demonstrated a decided lack of knowledge on the subject but a willingness to learn,” the Post-Intelligencer got several nurses to admit afterward. “He was quite exercised over the lack of teeth in the mouth of one baby, age eight days” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2, 1923). After the Pound Party concluded, the Valentino’s slipped quietly out of the city, making their way first to Tacoma, then back down the coast toward Hollywood. The last word on Rudolph Valentino’s 1923 Seattle appearance fell to the Star, which produced a column entitled “Letters from Chief Seattle” after the city’s Indian namesake:
“I have met many movie stars, and most of them were painfully conceited. I am glad to see that egotism plays but little part in your character. It is more or less evident that you have been grossly caricatured by envious persons. Come back to Seattle soon and stay longer.”.
CHIEF SEATTLE” (“Letters to Chief Seattle”).
Rudolph Valentino arose at 5’oclock this morning, hurried into his clothes and dashed off to work. He is doing that every morning now for the sheik of the screen is taking his return to the movies seriously. At 7 o’clock every night Director Sidney Olcott tells him that will be about all for the day and that he can run along now but be sure to be on time in the morning. He has been saying the same thing for two months now and he probably will be saying it for a month longer until the picture “Monsieur Beaucaire” is completed. Then Rudy will have a whole week in which to rest before he plunges into the work of making his next picture. It is a strenuous life indeed that Rudolph is leading these days, but it certainly agrees with him. For all of which, he gives entire credit to two persons Mrs. Valentino who sees, that he eats only the right things and Chris Schnurrer his trainer who sees that he gets plenty of exercise. “My business is to see that the boss is kept al pepped up” said Chris as Rudolph bent low to touch with his lips the fingertips of the lovely Doris Kenyon, “look at him – ain’t he full of pep”? Rudy certainly did seem to be “full of pep” and yet Mrs. Valentino, gazing on the same scene didn’t seem to be a bit jealous. “Isn’t she sweet”? she asked. Mrs. Valentino wasn’t so hard to look at herself. The process of pepping starts at 5 o’clock every morning in a basement room of the Long Island studio which Chris has fitted into a gym. Here he gives Rudolph his daily fencing lessons to prepare him for one of the scenes in the pictures play that is still to be made. Afterwards the star has a busy half-hour with the pulley weights and then a vigorous rubdown at the hands of his trainer who boasts that he once performed a similar office for the Chicago Cubs. “What do I do next”? asked Rudy “I eat some breakfast” with the accent on the “some”. Actual work before the camera does not start until 9. But making up one of the principal actors in a costume play requires from an hour up to two hours. Adjustment of the wig alone consumes fully an hour. “It requires a world of patience to make a picture” remarked Valentino after the scene finally had been taken and retaken several more times and there was more standing around while waiting for the next scene. “But it is more fun than touring the country giving dancing exhibitions”.
On account of the cold with which Rudolph Valentino has been suffering for the last few weeks, he has hardly been able to talk and has practically had to halt work on his new picture “The Son of the Sheik”.
Being a bred-in-the-bone feminist, I am sure glad to finally stumble across a story based upon an interview with Mrs. Rudolph Valentino that gives her a fair break. Somehow the picture of Winifred Hudnut Valentino as the old-fashioned typed Pekingese fondling female did not ring true. And her lord and masters outbreak anent his noble craving for home and fireside and kidlets sounds quite posey and stagey and as though fresh from the fertile brain of that unoriginal lot, press agents, rather than warm and quivering from his own sorrowing heart. But most of the remarks accredited to Mrs. Valentino sound true. Her dissertation on the folly of an American girl marrying a European husband sounds mighty sensible to me. “Foreign men have such different ideas of marriage from Americans. Boys in Europe are taught to consider themselves much more important than girls. These boys, brought up to consider themselves lords of creation, expect wives to be subordinate. A wife is someone to make him comfortable, minister to his wants, provide sympathy when he needs nothing, keep herself well in the background”. And we regard this especially worthy of thought as it comes from Mrs. Valentino’s ruby lips. “Now I don’t mind doing all this. It’s a pleasure to make one’s husband happy and comfortable when one loves him. But what wore me out was my foreign husband’s acceptance of all these things as though they were merely my duty, my day’s work, instead of a consideration for him and a matter of love”. And, apropos of Rudy’s paternal manifestations readers may recall his heralded yearning for offspring with which his wife wouldn’t oblige the ex-wife fires one like this. “Rudy might like noiseless, dressed up children, but – “. And that unfinished sentence is only What Every Woman Knows. Then about the matter of Mrs. Valentino working. “I work because I was energetic. A man’s love doesn’t compensate for the boredom and depression of being a loafer. For a woman to give up all work just to devote herself to loving a man is a great mistake. Because only an egocentric wants a woman to devote her life to admiring him”. Well and ably spoken Winifred Hudnut Valentino or Natacha Rambova. We’re for you. You have a good head and said head has doped out a much better analysis of why your marriage failed than has either your erstwhile Rudy or his press agent.
Howard Kemp, Justice of the Peace, in this Gretna Green woods adds this one to the ‘meanest thieves list’. Of the thousands of boxes that contained wedding rings of couples he married, the miscreant who entered this place made off with only one the box in which Rudolph Valentino purchased the ring he gave Natacha Rambova when the justice married them a number of years ago.