25 Feb 1923 – Lolling Luxuriously at The Blackstone Hotel, Chicago Valentino Announces He’s Financially Broke

According to the standards that prevail among the stars of movie-land Rodolph Valentino is broke. He admitted it to the writer while reclining on a divan in his luxurious suite at the Blackstone Hotel which suggested anything but flatness of the pocketbook. He had just finished a “turn” at the Marigold Dance Hall, where he and his new wife have been working to keep the wolf from the door. “I may be broke” where his exact words, “but I will go back to polishing golf sticks if that is what I did before I became a movie actor before I will work again for the people who want me to grind out movie pictures like sausages”. “What if you lose your suit” I asked. “I will stay out of pictures for two years until my contract expires and then come back in bigger ones than ever”.  Looking back upon an hour spent with Valentino over a cigar and some delightful prohibition beverage that suggested the flavor of old Scotch it dawns on me that most of the talk as about the star’s lawsuit against his former employers Famous Players-Lasky. How he made millions of dollars for them and how they paid him a paltry $1200 a week when Mary Miles Minter, the “synthetic Mary Pickford” was drawing down $8000 in her weekly pay envelope and Dorothy Dalton was depositing $5000 to her bank account 52 times a year.  ” I was the biggest drawing card they had and they paid me less”, he complained with that modesty so characteristic of the actor and yet it didn’t sound immodest coming from Valentino because it was the simple truth. “Why did they treat you like that”? Rodolph admitted that he had been seduced to signing a three year contract that gave the producers all the best of it but the reason he did it because they told him it was “just like Thomas Meighans contract”. So he won’t work for them and they won’t let him make pictures for anybody else. They won’t let him appear on the stage either.  The astute contract-makers, however seemed to have overlooked dance halls and the guiles Rodolph, having been stung once, hired himself a lawyer who pointed out the way for him to make a living for himself and his young bridge Winifred Hudnut Valentino until the suit was settled. So he has been appearing here this week at the biggest and newest dance hall on the south side and turning them away although the hall accommodates 8000 people.  “They were packed in so tight last night” said Valentino with enthusiasm “that they couldn’t move then hands to applaud when my wife and I finished our dance”. That sounds like a new alibi but again it was only the truth. The act may have been a divver in Detroit but it went big here.  Valentino shies at all women these days.  The lady reporter send to interview him came back with a report Valentino said over the telephone he did not have time for an interview.  He was profuse in his apologies to me later and said he did not recall having refused an interview to a newspaper person “it must have been my manager who answered the telephone but usually it was no one he knew.  Once I heard him say “Mrs. Vernon Castle? But my dear lady I happen to know she is playing in Los Angeles? They use all kinds of names that think will attract my attention” said Valentino.  “It’s any wonder if sometimes I should refuse to see a real newspaper woman by mistake?.  George Melford, the director dropped by to say hello to Valentino on his way to the coast. It so happened we both reached for the door at the same time.  “Here is the man who directed me in “The Sheik” Valentino explained to me by way of introduction. “But I have forgiven him for it and it was a great money maker thee million dollars but oh, what a picture”.  Valentino made it plain that the kind of character his portrayal of “The Sheik” fastened on him was another source of his grudge against Famous Players. I It created the impression that I was an oriental sort of person who smoked perfumed cigarettes and reveled in the society of women, where as a matter of fact I smoke any kind of cigarette I can get and I like the society of men.  While Valentino was lambasting “The Sheik” so vociferously the man who directed him only grinned.  “You are looking fine Rudy”, George interrupted at last.  “Feeling pretty fit”? “Never felt better”, Rudy with his most charming smile, and weigh 135.  “He gives the impression in pictures of being larger”.  “What is my ambition? To make better and better pictures giving a different characterization to each. Next, I would like to play Don Ceaser de Bazen. There is a part that has been played on the stage by all the great actors in recent times, Booth, Barrett, Salvini, Mansfield actors I know couldn’t touch by a hundred miles but I would like to do my best.”
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