4 Apr 1938 – Mystery of the Lucky Valentino ring

When the late Rudolph Valentino’s effects were auctioned off in December 1926, items put on the block included emeralds, rubies, sapphires set in pins and rings and were valued by Executor George Ullman at $50,000. What happened to these jewels after their sale is not known today.  But a simple silver ring, which may not even have belonged to Valentino, has helped keep alive the memory of the handsome Italian boy with the hypnotic smoldering eyes, who rose from sweeping out halls in new York to become a $1,000,000 a year movie star and to be known as the greatest lover of the screen before his untimely death at age 31.  The modest silver band was found by movie starlet Rochelle Hudson in 1939, 13 years after Valentino’s death.  Miss Hudson were in the hills above Falcon Lair, the hill-top home occupied by Valentino at the peak of his fabulous career.  The glint of a small object in the path caught her eye and she picked it up and saw it was tarnished.  There was a brief speculation on how it happened to there.  Without giving it further thought, Rochelle put the band in her picket and continued the hike.  Later that day, Rochelle tossed the ring on her dressing table and forgot about it.  It was found by a maid who cleaned it with silver polish.  As the maid was rubbing the inside of the band, she gasped at the words began to be legible “Rudy Valentino 24”.  The maid excitedly showed the discovery to Miss Hudson.  However, the actress was to young to have known much about the greatest of all movie screen lovers.  She had seen only one of his pictures and could not remember the name.  Rochelle ran the following ad in the classified section of the Los Angeles Examiner: “Ring found, man’s bearing inscription “Rudy Valentino 24”if the mysterious veiled woman who has made an annual trip to Valentino’s grave can identify herself, I will gladly make a present of the ring to her “BOX H9284”.  The news ad first appeared on Tuesday 5 December 1939 and ran for three days with no response. A reporter reading the ad, had given it additional publicity for a story in the news section of the paper. Miss Hudson was surprised.  “I expected at least 50 people claimed to be the ‘mystery’ woman she said.  “Even if there isn’t such an actual person, at least I thought some of Rudy’s admirers would tr to get the ring”.  A short time later, Rochelle gave the ring to a publicity man, Bev Barnett, who made further efforts to find the “woman in Black” without success.  Giving up the search he put the ring in a dresser drawer, in his home. In Feb of 1940, Barnett’s home was robbed, and the Valentino ring was among the missing things.  The rings history began to get even more interesting from this time on.  On 29 October 1940, a neighbor came to the home of Los Angeles Police Officer William F. Mollie and reported that someone was trying to break into her house.  Molle went to investigate and in the rear of the house, he suddenly was fired upon by the bandit. The officer emptied his service revolver at the fleeing man and chased him down the street.  Policeman Molle testified later “he ran right past my wife, Helen, who was standing on our front lawn.  My gun was empty, so I couldn’t have protected her.  As I run past her, she handed me another gun.  “I caught the man, shoved it in his back and he choked:  don’t shoot me anymore.  I’ve got enough then he collapsed from two bullet wounds in the abdomen”.  The lone-wolf burglar, identified as James Willis, dd from his wounds.  In his pockets, was a key which led officers to a warehouse in South Los Angeles and $75,000 in loot.  Among it was the Valentino ring.  Barnett went down and claimed the ring and recovered everything else that had been taken from his house.  Thus, the silver band became known as the lucky ring.  “if the ring hadn’t shown up” said Barnett, “I wouldn’t even have known that other stuff was there”.  Superstitious Hollywood always loves good luck trinkets. Some time later, Gene Autry was in a dispute with Republic Studio. He filed suit to break his contract.  “How about that ring of Valentino’s? he asked, the publicity man.  “Let me wear it”. Gene wore the ring during the first trial of his suit against the studio, which eventually resulted in his departure from Republic.  After World War II the ring came into possession of Actor Robert Armstrong who eventually sent it to a Mrs. Cooper of Chicago, long a collector of Valentino relics.  She in turn, sent it back to Hollywood to James Gleason following the death of his wife, Lucille.  There is no great intrinsic value to the ring, and nobody knows if it is even an authentic souvenir of the screen’s great lover.  If it didn’t belong to him, where did he get it? Did one of this wives or feminine admirers give it to him? Jean Acker his first wife, has said she knows nothing of it.  But then the inscribed date, 24 was after their marriage had been broken up.  Rudy married Winifred Hudnut known as Natacha Rambova in Mexicali, Mexico on 14 May 1922.  A few days later, the famous bigamy charges hit the headlines because Valentino’s divorce from Jean Acker was not due to be final, until 11 Mar 1923.  The excitement died down when Valentino and his exotic bride said the would not live together in California until they could be remarried.  They did go through with the second ceremony in Crowne Point, Indiana.  This was in 1923.  In 1924, the date on the ring, Rudy and Natacha were living in Whitley Heights, in the hills above Hollywood.  Whether it ever belonged to him or not, the ring has done more to keep alive the memory of Valentino than any of his treasures that went under the auctions hammer.  It probably will keep cropping up again as long as Hollywood believes in good luck

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