27 Apr 1930 – Life Secrets of Valentino Revealed

Valentino was never given credit for the real art he had. His unusual abilities were neglected to emphasize the grosser side – sex appeal, women, night life, flirtations – anything that would create a wider shop girl public and a few thousand more fans.  This forced him into a role he hated to play, a role in which he was unhappy.  But Hollywood gossip accomplished its aim.  Rudy was too young to realize how stupid public criticism is. He was too young for the fame that came to him. In his forties or fifties, perhaps, he might have stood up against that tidal wave of adulation and flattery, but in his twenties it wasn’t human not to be broken by it. The accumulation of it all warped his entire personality until, eventually it made him ashamed of the that finer side of his nature, not seen or understood.  This is the essence of his tragedy, as I shall try to make clear. People who knew him on the screen were invariable surprised when they met him in private life to discover what the real man was like.  If they expected to find the sheik they were disappointed. Recently, I met in London a well-born Englishwoman whose hero he had been for years. She said, she had dreamed of him; she was crazy over him. This woman said to me “when I met Valentino himself, I was amazed to find not my romantic hero, but just a boy quite frank sincere. Why, he is only a child. At first, I was disillusioned, but in another way I liked him the more”.  There were two distinct Valentinos the artist and the man. The one was swashbuckling cavalier who flashed across the screen into the hearts of millions. The other was a simple boy with a childish sensitiveness often mistaken for weakness by the undiscerning and the prejudiced American men, particular, had no use for him. They looked down on him and criticized which hurt terribly, for he was pitifully anxious to be liked and respected. Had they taken the pains to know him, they would have given both; he couldn’t talk business, politics or the stock exchange.  He had no mentality for such things. They lay beyond his grasp because he had utterly no interest in them. If I, myself tried to talk business I couldn’t get his attention. He would be thinking how handsome his horse would look in his new silver trappings from Mexico, or how much speed he could get from his new motor car.  He had a mania for motors.  He would rather lie under an automobile in a pair of greasy overalls, tinkering with the engine, than go dancing at a night club with the most attractive woman in the world.  Cultured, cosmopolitan men liked his finer side and the self-styled hundred percent American with his lack of culture and his one-track mind wrote him down as a weakling and looked to find nothing good in him.  All the romance and attraction association with his name, and which men of this type so resented, lay only in his acting.  In reality they resented it because it was a charm they so sadly lacked.  The trouble with Rudy was, he lived a few hundred years too late.  He should have been born in the middle ages, where men wore armor and fought duels and won their spurs by riding a horse into battle to fight for a principle. There was nothing in the coward in the physical sense of the word.  Yes, there were two sides but he had a sense of fun, but no humor. He couldn’t stand flippant criticism of his acting.  He welcomed the serious constructive kind, but the mash notes how he despised them. I have seen him pitch them all into the fire swearing vociferously the while. Later, when they came in tons, his secretaries took charge of them and showed only the intelligent ones which he answered personally. When he was making a picture nothing else existed.  He didn’t act the part he lived it.  The character he was portraying was a personality with which he identified himself, until he became its living entity. It was as though he made that character a shell into which he stepped, with all its mental workings and physical habits. This transfiguration began when he started studying the script and continued until the last camera shot was finished.  Then he discarded the shell and became Rudolph Valentino again.  When in “Blood and Sand” he was playing the role of Gallardo the toreador of the peasant class, he discarded all his fine manners to assume those of a peasant. He ate like a peasant and walked like none.  While doing the early part of the picture where Gallardo is a young boy Rudy was impish and prankish about the house.  He laughed and mental reactions were those of a boy of 13. He was not a great actor in the sense of Sara Bernhardt or Edwin Booth.  Sarah Bernhardt intelligently studied a role until her brain dictated the emotions.  Rudy couldn’t get anything in his brain until he had first felt it emotionally.  He had no initiative quality but startling dramatic ability that absorbed everything about a role to the most detailed mannerisms.  In his movie “Monsieur Beaucaire” he would take a pinch of snuff he intuitively knew these things. I felt Rudy was psychic as we both discovered and his extreme sensitiveness enabled him to tune in on a personality of phase of life and so interpret it faultlessly. Herein lay his genius.
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