When the late Rudolph Valentino’s effects were auctioned off in December 1926, items put on the block included emeralds, rubies, sapphires set in pins and rings and were valued by Executor George Ullman at $50,000. What happened to these jewels after their sale is not known today. But a simple silver ring, which may not even have belonged to Valentino, has helped keep alive the memory of the handsome Italian boy with the hypnotic smoldering eyes, who rose from sweeping out halls in new York to become a $1,000,000 a year movie star and to be known as the greatest lover of the screen before his untimely death at age 31. The modest silver band was found by movie starlet Rochelle Hudson in 1939, 13 years after Valentino’s death. Miss Hudson were in the hills above Falcon Lair, the hill-top home occupied by Valentino at the peak of his fabulous career. The glint of a small object in the path caught her eye and she picked it up and saw it was tarnished. There was a brief speculation on how it happened to there. Without giving it further thought, Rochelle put the band in her picket and continued the hike. Later that day, Rochelle tossed the ring on her dressing table and forgot about it. It was found by a maid who cleaned it with silver polish. As the maid was rubbing the inside of the band, she gasped at the words began to be legible “Rudy Valentino 24”. The maid excitedly showed the discovery to Miss Hudson. However, the actress was to young to have known much about the greatest of all movie screen lovers. She had seen only one of his pictures and could not remember the name. Rochelle ran the following ad in the classified section of the Los Angeles Examiner: “Ring found, man’s bearing inscription “Rudy Valentino 24”if the mysterious veiled woman who has made an annual trip to Valentino’s grave can identify herself, I will gladly make a present of the ring to her “BOX H9284”. The news ad first appeared on Tuesday 5 December 1939 and ran for three days with no response. A reporter reading the ad, had given it additional publicity for a story in the news section of the paper. Miss Hudson was surprised. “I expected at least 50 people claimed to be the ‘mystery’ woman she said. “Even if there isn’t such an actual person, at least I thought some of Rudy’s admirers would tr to get the ring”. A short time later, Rochelle gave the ring to a publicity man, Bev Barnett, who made further efforts to find the “woman in Black” without success. Giving up the search he put the ring in a dresser drawer, in his home. In Feb of 1940, Barnett’s home was robbed, and the Valentino ring was among the missing things. The rings history began to get even more interesting from this time on. On 29 October 1940, a neighbor came to the home of Los Angeles Police Officer William F. Mollie and reported that someone was trying to break into her house. Molle went to investigate and in the rear of the house, he suddenly was fired upon by the bandit. The officer emptied his service revolver at the fleeing man and chased him down the street. Policeman Molle testified later “he ran right past my wife, Helen, who was standing on our front lawn. My gun was empty, so I couldn’t have protected her. As I run past her, she handed me another gun. “I caught the man, shoved it in his back and he choked: don’t shoot me anymore. I’ve got enough then he collapsed from two bullet wounds in the abdomen”. The lone-wolf burglar, identified as James Willis, dd from his wounds. In his pockets, was a key which led officers to a warehouse in South Los Angeles and $75,000 in loot. Among it was the Valentino ring. Barnett went down and claimed the ring and recovered everything else that had been taken from his house. Thus, the silver band became known as the lucky ring. “if the ring hadn’t shown up” said Barnett, “I wouldn’t even have known that other stuff was there”. Superstitious Hollywood always loves good luck trinkets. Some time later, Gene Autry was in a dispute with Republic Studio. He filed suit to break his contract. “How about that ring of Valentino’s? he asked, the publicity man. “Let me wear it”. Gene wore the ring during the first trial of his suit against the studio, which eventually resulted in his departure from Republic. After World War II the ring came into possession of Actor Robert Armstrong who eventually sent it to a Mrs. Cooper of Chicago, long a collector of Valentino relics. She in turn, sent it back to Hollywood to James Gleason following the death of his wife, Lucille. There is no great intrinsic value to the ring, and nobody knows if it is even an authentic souvenir of the screen’s great lover. If it didn’t belong to him, where did he get it? Did one of this wives or feminine admirers give it to him? Jean Acker his first wife, has said she knows nothing of it. But then the inscribed date, 24 was after their marriage had been broken up. Rudy married Winifred Hudnut known as Natacha Rambova in Mexicali, Mexico on 14 May 1922. A few days later, the famous bigamy charges hit the headlines because Valentino’s divorce from Jean Acker was not due to be final, until 11 Mar 1923. The excitement died down when Valentino and his exotic bride said the would not live together in California until they could be remarried. They did go through with the second ceremony in Crowne Point, Indiana. This was in 1923. In 1924, the date on the ring, Rudy and Natacha were living in Whitley Heights, in the hills above Hollywood. Whether it ever belonged to him or not, the ring has done more to keep alive the memory of Valentino than any of his treasures that went under the auctions hammer. It probably will keep cropping up again as long as Hollywood believes in good luck
Miss Marian Fowler appearing with the ballet choris at the Roxie Theater in New York City had met and was entertained by Del Casino, a distant relative of the late Russ Colombo. He wears the ring previously owned by Silent Film Star Rudolph Valentino and left to him by his cousin. He was offered $300.00 for the platinum ring with an agate setting, that originally cost $7.00 but refused the offer.
From the shadow of death yesterday came a strange story of a 39 year old former Ziegfeld dancer she married Movie Sheik Rudolph Valentino a year before his death, bore him a daughter and lived in mystery for 20 years. During that time, it was said she paid annual visits to his grave as the legendary “Lady in Black”. The story unfolded yesterday as a result of an asserted suicide attemp by Marion Wilson, glittering Broadway before she came to Hollywood in the history-making 1920’s. It was told by Miss Wilson’s third cousin Perry Combs of Hollywood. While Miss Wilson was in a Santa Monica Hospital suffering from the effects of an attempted overdose of sleeping pills Combs declared: “my cousin told me she and Valentino were married in 1925. She kept it a secret she feared news of the marriage might hurt Valentino as a romantic actor. “She became pregnanat and went abroad to have the baby a girl in either Italy or France. The baby was a girl, now about 19 or 20 years of age and has never been in the United States. Valentino setup a trust fund for her and she grew up with his sister. Combs said the daughter is now in London attempting permission to come to the United States to visit her mother. Although denying miss Wilson known on the stage as Marion Benda, ever married Valentino George Ullman, the former matinees idol manager and room mate at the time of his death in 1926, admitted Valentino and the stately beauty were friends. “Rudy dated her from time to time” said Ullman, “but I’m sure there was no marriage. As for her having a child by Rudy, there were 35 other women who advanced that claim after he died”. Ullman said Valentino and Miss Wilson were out dancing together the night he was stricken with the illness that proved fatal and she was with him when he was put to bed for the last time. “I believe had Valentino married her Ullman said, “I occupying the position I did in his life would certainly have known of the event. He squired her about New York on a few occassions but their relationship was short and formal. Miss Wilson was married to Dr. Blake Watson in 1932, shortly after her divorce from Baron Von Boechlin a German. Released from the hospital late yesterday, Miss Wilson moved to a waiting automobile in a wheel chair and driven to an undisclosed location in North Hollywood. Although at first reluctant to discuss her claims to having been Valentino’s wife, she finally declared “You can go to New Jersey and find out whether I was married to Valentino or not”. Apparently on the verge of collapse Miss Wilson refused to name the city in which such proof might be found. She did, however deny being the “woman in black”. There was never a “woman in black” she wearily declares “that was just a publicity stunt put on by the studio”. Combs, who found Miss Wilson unconscious late Friday, said that during the week she had taken 68 sleeping pills. Friday he added she took 10 more and became despondent intimating she might commit suicide. Combs said he left Miss Wilson on an errand for her and when he returned found her lying on the floor and called police, six more capsules had disappeared from the bottle in his absence Combs said. At the time of Valentino’s death, following production of his final movie “Son of the Shiek” Miss Wilson and her pseudo husband were planning for the future and were hoping he would retire in five years, Combs declared. He said Miss Wilson and the actor were married in France. But what happened to her declaration of look in New Jersey? No response. He said she adopted the stage name of Benda becase she once posed for the artist Wladyslav Benda creater of the famous Benda Mask. She and Valentino were introducted by Ben Ali Haken a Hollywood producer, Combs said. A woman who asked her name not be revealed said Miss Wilson told her Valentino and her had two children. One was a girl 20 years living with Valentino’s sister in London and the Boy a 16 year old serving in the Italian Army.
When Rudolph Valentino, the Universal player drove his car to victory in the road race between Naples and Rome in 1905, he saw an amateur motion picture photographer grinding an ungainly looking camera at the finish line. The camera was set low to the road Valentino said, and as I swept by I thought for an instant that it was a hand organ and wondered if the monkey would get under my car. After the race, I examined the contrivance, and laughed in a superior sort of way when the fellow assured me that he had a splendid moving picture of me as I passed him at seventy miles an hour. A week later, the photographer sought admittance to the Valentino estate at Taranto and showed his film to the astonished young man. That evening the drawing room of the palatial home was turned into a motion picture theatre. With a crude projecting machine that jumped and flickered dismally, the photographer exhibited his film of the race. Little did Valentino think on that summer’s evening that he would one day be a celebrity of the screen and that he should have the distinction of supporting Dorothy Phillips as one of her leading men in her greatest Universal success “Once to Every Woman”.