12 Jan 1926 – Valentino Sets the Record Straight on his Disasterous Marriage

I have been reluctant to write on this subject, but so many interviews, purporting to come from me, have been printed that I think it maybe best to put myself on record over my own signature.  I shall have to disappoint the reader who expects something sensational. I did not beat Natacha Rambova my former wife.  She did not throw flat-irons at me. Sorry, but we did not do those things.  Nor did I object to her having a career her own career. Nor did I demand that she bear children. I wanted her to have what she wanted, in so far as I could get it for her. In other words, I wanted her to be happy, and tried as any man would, to make her so.  There was never any issue about her staying at home and keeping my house.  No woman that anyone knows stays at home and keeps house anymore. Los Angeles wives have their own cars, as a rule, and go and come as they please.  Fortunately, I was able to free my former wife from housework and from all forms of drudgery.  If she wanted to keep house I would have “fired” the servants and let her “express” herself in that way.  If she wanted children I would have engaged nurses and urged her to “express” herself in that way. She did not want to do these things and frankly I did not give them any thought. Dissatisfaction in marriage as in other family life is apt to be cumulative.  There is no sudden erratic or dramatic offense which determines one to “leave home” to be rid of the presence and influence of relatives and out of the environment at all cost.  There is often a steady decline in mutuality of interest, in sympathy, in esteem.  The child which leaves the home does so because of a long series of misunderstandings, or thwarted plans, which leads him to believe that he can best accomplish the thing he feels it in him to do if he is away from those who blindly or selfishly or arbitrarily “love” him.  He suffers a loss of material things the safeguards and comforts of home goes hungry, or maybe or is undernourished over a period of years to enjoy a mental and spiritual freedom which seems to more than compensate for the lack of what his family considers “the real things”.  So, it is apt to be with a young man who is too closely circumscribed by an ambitious girl. At first, she stimulates him to “bigger and better” things.  She is indeed generous and helpful. He is touched and flattered by her consecration to his aims, her devotion to his interests. Eagerly they plan his career.  He welcomes her counsel, and following it, finds it sound.  Sound, because in the first flush of life, while she is much enamored of him, she is thinking with her heart, rather than her head, and intuitively arrives at correct conclusions. She has “guidance’s” and powers of divination which calculating women can never exercise for the man she seeks to promote for gain and self-aggrandizement only.  They marry.  She gives up her career, if she has one, to better and more completely aid him in his.  Almost imperceptibly but slowly and surely her attitude changes. It gradually dawns on him that, while she has given up her career, she has not given up a career. She has started on a new one, which is to “manage” and make a success of him. Now, you will say, a man should be deeply grateful for that.  Yes, and no.  Wait a minute.  In the friendship and courting period’s, she considered him, weighed and advised him with relation to his profession or art he was trying to master, with relation to the public or patrons he was trying to serve, to please, to win, to hold. She was anxious for him to do the finest and best thing it was in him to do; and at the same time, please or conciliate those with whom he had to deal promoters and make those little concessions to pride and vanity and even pocketbook, which would make for lasting success in the long run.  She was disinterested, and able to see him at long range, and his true relation to others.  With marriage and the needles and pins routing of everyday living servants, household budgets, clothes, his friends, her friends, his family, her family and the like she inevitably began to consider him, and then, also, with relation to herself and her relation to him. Would they interfere, would they presume to give advice or make plans without first consulting her? In other words, would they usurp her position as friend, guide and philosopher, would they jeopardize her place and power?  Then there enters the ever-present question of money much money. Keeping up an establishment, entertaining, and all that, seems so necessary; and if one does not make money, more and more money, one falls behind the procession.  And of course, once having got in the procession, there is nothing for it, it seems, but to stay in. There is the couple ahead, which would turn and stare, and the couple behind, which might titter, and the couples on either side who might exchange knowing looks, as if a pair fell out and walked along quietly by the side of the road.  Acquaintances must be appraised according to their places in the procession. People must be cultivated or discarded in direct proportion as they might help or hinder one in “getting on” socially, professionally, or financially. Those lovable and improvident soul’s writers, artists, musicians who follow their own rather than publics tastes must not be “picked up”.  They “aren’t” anybody, don’t know anyone of importance and are often a little “seedy” in appearance, and run down at the heel.  The most charitable in the procession regard them as a lot of harmless nuts. The others are careful not to regard them at all.  Were they alive, and living in Hollywood, Byron and Wilde would be very much in demand at smart affairs.  The Browning’s would be sought after by a very small clique.  Keats, Shelly and Burns would scarcely get a bid to dinner, no matter how badly they might need one, nor how much bright and beautiful conversation they might bring to a table.  Now, I am being a Latin, am not what you Americans call “practical” by later. No Latin is, or can be, practical 24 hours a day. We maybe as mercenary, or more mercenary, than you in the barter of our wares, or talents; but we spend ourselves and our money in different ways.  This is an experience which I believe I have in common with the American husband that after a few years of married life he finds only those of his friends of whom his wife approves, remaining; only those of his or her relatives of whom she approves, visiting; and all of her friends, whether or not they like him, or he them, invited to the house on each and every occasion.  Well that happens when a man discovers he is being “managed” in every department of life life, those in which he may need direction, as well as those in which for the sake of his own development, he should be allowed volition and selection?  The result is that all “management” becomes irksome to him.  He suddenly becomes as assertive as he has been “easy”.  He finds that he can hire a competent counselor and business advisor, and “live his own life” so to speak.  What does the wife do when her husband’s career is taken away from her? She can go back to her own career, or take up a new one, or wash her hands of careers, and be just a wife; for after all a business manager has not tender womanly breast a tired actor may lay his head of an evening.  If her love is greater than her pride, she will surrender gracefully, and make the adjustments which will enable them to start all over again on a new basis.  If her pride is paramount, she will probably slap him across the face with a bill of divorcement.  The world knows what happened in my case, and that is the answer.  I have no regrets, no remorse.  I enjoyed being married to Natacha and did my utmost to make her happy. Whatever she may say or think now, she too got a lot out of our life together both in material things and good times. She cannot tax me with the old “you have taken the best years of my life etc”.  The best years of her life are yet before her.  She is as ambitious as ever she was, as high-spirited, as bright and keen.  She can still achieve anything within her logical range. I bear her no ill-will and wish her the best of success.  Neither am I broken-hearted. Nor am I out of a home.  I have a secretary, and I have a few dependable servants, so I am week taken care of.  This summer I brought with me from Europe my brother and his wife.  They supervise my household, and I may entertain whom I like, when I please; and have that “monarch of all I survey” feeling which is so nourishing to the male ego.  Perhaps this account of my second wreck on the reefs of matrimony will give the lie to the line which has been tacked onto me. That I am “a great lover” both on and off the screen.  I suppose it is intended for a compliment, but I do not relish it. I wish above everything to be known as a great artist and am working earnestly and steadily to that end. I hope eventually to be given a picture which will demand something more than a physical performance, and I want to be ready when the times comes. After all, a man gets tired of being talked about and written about as though he were a processional “handsome” man.  For this reason, I need to concentrate on my work and plan for my future as never before.  And what may happen is on the lap of God. However, I must admit that I am not insensible to the charms of the fair sex.

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