Dec 1926 – Story of Mary Nolan and Rudolph Valentino’s Piano

In 1835, Boston Massachusetts, Hallet and Davis founded a factory which started making high quality pianos. In 1867, during a Paris exposition, world famous composer Franz List played one of their pianos during a performance and they gained world-wide recognition. The company was so well known for their high-quality products that in 1911 Pope Pius X ordered a piano for the Vatican and awarded them a medal in recognition of their high-quality work produced.

In 1925, Hallet and Davis Company was sold to the Premiere Grand Corporation of New York. In 1926, when Valentino ordered his Hallet and Davis Piano with Angelus player, this musical instrument was considered advanced for its time. The Angelus was a brand of player piano mechanism built by the Wilcox & Piano & Organ Company and was an advanced version of the mechanical player system. In Dec 1926, the Valentino Estate held an auction and subsequently published an estate catalog listing all personal items to be sold, paying off massive debts. The Hallet and Davis, with Angelus player piano was item catalogue number 89. Many of Valentino’s friends would purchase his items in remembrance and one of these friends, Imogene “Bubbles” Wilson alias Mary Nolan, former silent film star and Ziegfeld follies girl bought this massive piano. Her later years were marred by drug problems and lived in obscurity. In 1947, Mary Nolan, moved to a newly built small stucco bungalow consisting of 3 bedrooms, 1932 square feet of space located on 1504 S. Mansfield Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. When she moved in, she brought minimal furniture and an extremely large grand piano with intricate carvings that had formerly belonged to Rudolph Valentino. Besides the piano Mary paid homage to the late actor by keeping a picture of him in a gaucho costume on the music rack. In 1948, Mary Nolan died of an accidental suicide. She was not married and had no children. On 7 Apr 1949, Hart Auctions announced due to her death Valentino’s piano would be auctioned off once again. Future owners include Frances Faye, Danny Kay’s second cousin who reported she found the item at a local antique shop. The status of the piano remains unknown by this author today.

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