3 Aug 1944 – What Was it Like Being Rudolph Valentino

Rudolph Valentino has been gone almost 18 years and I am still being asked: What was it like being Rudolph Valentino? Every famous person more or less the victim of his own legend and none more so that Rudolph Valentino who came to be called “The Sheik” and Rudy hated that tag, especially after it became a byword for what is known as wolfing today.  Valentino’s outstanding characteristic when away from the camera was shyness.  He hated dancing for that reason. His career with Bonnie Glass and later Joan Sawyer, doing ballroom dances, brought him too close to his audience.  He was an eternal boy but understood his capabilities. He knew he registered best in romantic roles. He was a failure when he departed from them, although he was persuaded to do so more than once.  Valentino was practically a chain smoker. He drank red wines, loved good food, ate voraciously, cooked well and liked to cook.  He appeared almost ordinary in golf or business clothes; was superb in anything approximating a costume such as riding clothes, fencing apparel, or lounging robes.  Kept a large library of books with costume plates which he studied religiously. Remainder of his library was distinguished with rare volumes mostly in foreign languages which he understood.  He hated sets of books and never bought them.  Al Jolson was instrumental in bringing Valentino to Los Angeles. Norman Kerry who was a life-long friend, helped him over tough days. Rudy was hopelessly extravagant and died broke. He bought a Mercer with his first permanent salary of $125 a week spent most of it on repairs. Later cars were Voisins and Isotta Frashchini’s. He loved machinery and had a workshop in his garage.  Once took his car apart and put it together again. Was a typical small boy in this respect. His most enduring business friendship was with Joseph Schenck of Fox Studios for whom he made “Son of the Sheik” and “The Eagle” two of his greatest successes.  Valentino attributed much of this to his ability and judgement.  Valentino danced in Gauman prologue’s before he made good in his movies.  Mae Murray gave him his first chance and they were always good friends. He was deeply interested in supernatural things during his marriage to Natacha Rambova – chiefly automatic writing. Had no small superstitions. He never permitted anyone, even his wife to see him disheveled.  He had no shabby, comfortable old clothes. Spent a fortune on his wardrobe which was always new.  Kept himself in superb physical condition result of two disappointments.  As a boy he was turned down by the Royal Naval Academy because he lacked one inch in chest expansion. Air Force turned him down in World War I because of defective vision. Physical routine included sparring with Gene Delmont and Jack Dempsey, who was a good friend. Loved horses a white Arabian Stallion Ramadan, was his favorite.  A Harlequin Great Dane, Doberman Pincher, and a Celtic Wolfhound, were all with him constantly as was a black cocker spaniel given to him by the Mayor of San Francisco at the time.  He was sincere about his trade as an actor. But he had problems trying to find what he felt was his greatest goal his own family.

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