Posts Tagged With: Douglas Gerrard

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1922 – Rodolph Valentino’s Screen Smile, Which Really Masks a Sad, Sad Heart.

EVERYBODY who goes to the movies knows Rudolph Valentino knows him, of course,as he moves about on the screen, knows his eyes, his smile and his red-blooded heroic deeds. Certainly he seems to be a very happy young man, full of chivalry, with a soul above whining about the little things which would harass a less noble character. But all this on the screen. The real truth is that Rodolph Valentino is unhappy. Very unhappy. Of course, he has been divorced from his first wife but that isn’t what is distressing him. Je has married another wife; but there is no cloud of trouble here, at least not yet. Rut still Valentino, the
heroic lover of the movies, is very, very wretched. It is because his salary is too low, his movie masters are so mean to him and so cruel to his new wife and he isn’t given any allowance to pay for postage stamps to mail his picture to the millions of dear girls who write for his photograph. Unhappy Rodolph’s pitiful story is enough to bring tears to the eyes of Adeb the Chess Automaton if it wasn’t for a more tragic twist to the misery of the unhappy screen hero he is being followed by detectives. Now who in the world would dog the tracks of Rodolph Valentino? Some love sick girl in disguise who seeks to be near him? Oh, no. A real, hard-boiled sleuth, just like the detective story detectives, and Valentino says he knows who is hiring these hounds and why. The reader has seen Valentino’s manly form and heroic deeds on the screen. Now the reader may step behind the scenes and see poor Rodolph almost sobbing tears in his dressing room. With heaving bosom The Great Lover cries aloud “I cannot endure the tyranny, the broken promises, the arrogance” of unjust masters. Down in the solemn atmosphere of New York’s Supreme Court lie the long legal documents in a law suit in which Valentino and his employers of the movie company have locked horns. And here it is in these documents that Valentino lay bare the anguish of his soul and reveals the misery which his movie smile has always hidden from the audience. Who, indeed, beholding Mr. Valentino the swaggering, fascinating toreador in his screen play, strutting toreador among his conquests who could suppose that behind that devil-may-care manner lay an aching heart and a scorched rear anatomy. Yet, says Mr. Valentino, in his sworn statement: “They transformed a part of a public general dressing room by placing a partition at one end, thereby constituting a small, impromptu dressing room composed Mrs. Valentino says they told her the girls were all crazy about Rodolph and that he was having a good time and that she might as well too”. Three of the walls open on the fourth side, and without any roof whatever, letting a burning sun shine in, and heating the chair so that I could not sit on it. “As my costumes were such that I could not wear underwear and was naked each time that I changed my costume, this condition was almost impossible. There was no floor in the studio and I was compelled to stand in the sand. There was a very small mirror, although I had requested a full length location mirror, which is usually given to the stars and leading players in order that they may properly arrange all of the details of their costumes. “An empty wooden barrel was given to me for a seat which as a few days later changed for a chair. When I first sat-down on the chair between changes of my costumes I was burned, and jumped up and did not sit down again upon it.” Nor was it enough that Mr. Valentino should be forced to sit on a red-hot chair. His troubles with dressing rooms and costumes continued. A still worse thing happened to the hero of “The Four Horsemen” hear it in Rodolph’s own words: “Whenever I was not acting on the set (the stage) and was tired or needed rest, I was compelled to ask the hospitality of some more fortunate play, who had a couch, or to put a coat on the car? t on the concrete floor of my own dressing room and use it as a pillow, or lie on the floor until I was called. By doing this with the skin-tight costume that I was wearing and not allowed to take off while resting, several rips or tears would occur, causing delay until they were repaired. “I was several times severely reprimanded by Mr. Eyton, the general manager, for matters that were trivial and were not my own fault. Among them was a reprimand for appearing with a rip in my costume that had been caused wholly by my being compelled to lie down on the floor of my room.” Horrors! Valentino has split his trousers. It will partially console Mr. Valentino’s many sympathizers to learn from his own words that he is not one to flaunt the manly beauty that has made him famous. Rather, with becoming modesty, he seeks to conceal it. But this was not always practicable “During the period of the taking of the bull fight at the
Western ranch in a scorching sun and during the windy, dusty day, I was compelled to make as many as eight complete changes during the day. There were no dressing room accommodations provided for me at all notwithstanding that I had requested that a small dressing room be built near the location, and I was compelled to make changes in my open touring car where possible, or more frequently under the embarrassing and undignified conditions of making the changes in the open. “After three days of arduous work I told the business manager of the company that it was shameful that I should be treated in that manner and compelled to walk in the scorching sun and through the dust more than one hundred yards every time I was compelled to make a change, and must make this change in full sight of everyone else. “My Toreador costume weighs with its embroidery about fifty pounds and is skin tight. For the type of work that I was doing in working with a dangerous bull I needed all the strength and rest possible.” Not all of Mr. Valentino’s complaints are of this nature, of course. He had thought, it seems, that his contract was like that of another star with regard to its main provisions, one of which may come as a revelation to many people. The clause that Valentino imagined would be in his contract provides that the actor shall make at least one picture a year in New York, and shall be given transportation for himself and his wife to New York and back. It also provides the star with an opportunity to reside six weeks or longer in New York City once each year in order that in his off hours he may see all of the places, have access to libraries and books on costuming, manners and customs, armor and other physical conditions of the various periods, he may attend art exhibitions and musical performances, mingle with the people of New York, observe contemporary habits, modes and style and freshen himself up for the following year’s work. But after Mr. Valentino had signed his contract, he was unable to find this provision in it. There was also, in the contract on which Mr. Valentino thought his contract was modelled, this provision: “The company shall at its own cost and expense furnish all photographs of the artist necessary to distribute among the public and shall attend to the artists ‘fan letters.” But this clause seems to have been omitted from Mr. Valentino contract. It was certainly very careless of Valentino to sign a contract without reading it, and reading every word of it. He will know better the next time. A movie star expects to get admiring letters from the public the more letters he gets, the bigger he is. But somebody must open and read these “fan” letters and pay the postage for mailing the star’s much coveted photograph. Mr. Valentino valued the “fan” letters and wanted his pictures sent to everybody who asked but he had an idea that the movie people ought to pay for it all. “The cost to me of furnishing photographs to distribute among the public in response to the letters that I directly receive and the cost of attending to my ‘fan’ letters is at the present time approximately $200 per week and this has been rapidly growing and is now rapidly increasing so that I have no doubt that before the expiration of the first year the said contract this cost will equal or exceed $500 per week,” Valentino asserted. “I have just received word from my secretary that in the last week the number of requests for my autographed photograph, which letters contained no money or provision for the photograph or postage, amounted to $1,385. She tells me that she cannot handle the work and that I must get an additional secretary, a second typewriter and larger office accommodations.” What is somebody else signing those treasured “autographed photographs”? Girls can it be that the photo of Rodolph you thought he sent you and that lovely written message and the dear boy’s own signature is from the hired secretary and that Rodolph never even saw your letter? Then, too, it seems that certain friends of Mr. Valentino were not permitted to visit him while he was at work, that his personal press agent was denied co-operation, and that on one film, at least, the names of two women were featured with his. What Mr. Valentino has to say in his testimony in regard to not being advertised always on all occasions as the sole star of the picture, is very interesting. It appears that there was a clause in his contract that his name should be the only one used in big type or prominently mentioned in advertising all his films. Rodolph introduced in testimony photographic copies of some advertising of one of his films, as follows: “RODOLPH VALENTINO with Lila Lee and Nita Naldi” while Mr. Valentino is full of chivalrous deeds as the public sees him on the screen, he did not consider it a chivalrous thing to share the glory of his picture with very charming women like Miss Lila Lee and Miss Nita Naldi. Chivalry and business are two different things. Commenting on why it was a serious affront and damage to him to have the names of these two young women printed on the
advertisement of, the film, he said “This matter is one of great importance in the motion picture business, the mention of others on the bill weak the effect of the sole starring of the of the production and dilutes it. If company can feature two other names it can feature a dozen of them with the name of the star and the effect is lost among the other names.” And again the Great Lover complained of another time when the names of the same two young women and an actor named Walter Long and other star were printed in the advertising much his damage. Valentino complains these words “As appears by Exhibit G, I was advertised as follows: ‘With Lila Lee, Nita Naldi, Walter Long and other stars.’ “The reaction of the public mind such forms of advertising and the diminished value of the thereof to me is shot by the article from the first page of New York newspaper of September 11, 1922, hereto annexed and marked Exhibit C. etc.” Mr. Valentino further explains he can’t share his glory with anybody in these words: “The motion picture company is also enabled by such a method to use which I am sole star to divert at attention to other growing players, to whole attention is thus diverted from me an seriously effects my commercial value and by encouraging the public to look upon such growing players as a star or near star soon launches him or her as a sole star. All stars in motion pictures with any experience in the business uniformly insist upon this exclusive fixture in the contracts.” Mr. Valentino, recently married Natacha Rambova alias Winifred Shaughnessy or Winifred Hudnut, adopted daughter of the perfumery Hudnut’s before the decree had been signed divorcing from Jean Acker, his first wife. California authorities arrested Mr. Valentino on a charge of bigamy and released him. There seems to have a sort of gentlemen’s agreement. Mr. Valentino does not exactly ‘ employers for his marital troubles, he does assert that they told him I would prefer he remained “single,” as he calls it. Furthermore, he says, they far from anxious to bail him out. Finally, it was decided that it what is a good time for Mrs. Valentino to visit adopted parents in the East while bigamy clouds were hovering over It is painful to record the following even Mr. Valentino’s employers deny it. To put it bluntly, the new Mrs. Valentino was forced to travel from California to New York in a lower berth As Mr. Valentino remarks “brutality on the part of the company sending Mrs. Valentino East in a lower berth would be more apparent, perhaps to one in the motion picture business knowing the conditions and practice thereof.” It is true that Mr. Fred Kley, assistant general manager, swears to this “It was not requested to secure a compartment drawing room. I asked Valentino particularly if he wanted a lower berth an repeated to me that he did not want a compartment or drawing room but he wanted a lower berth.” Sure but His Managers Are Mean to Him and His Pictures to His Admirers? It was not Mr. Valentino’s desire to have Mrs. Valentino “constantly annoyed by newspaper representatives who would not leave her in peace, her requests to that effect, and she was several times compelled to appeal to the train conductor for protection,” as he asserts. And now comes the melodramatic Touch his detectives are prowling about, as the reader will soon see. Valentino has followed his wife to the Adirondack camp of the Hudnuts. This was after their sudden marriage and the bigamy clouds had safely rolled by. Here is the beginning of the detective melodrama as Mr. Valentino tells it “At North Creek, I was informed by the conductor on the train, who knew me personally, that a passenger had stated that he was interested in me, as he was a newspaper representative, and wanted an interview. I was interested, and at the next station left the train, saw where the man was standing, and approached close to him to see if he wished to talk to me. He saw me but made no effort to approach or converse with me. This man was a very tall man with a long, loose gray overcoat and a closely cropped moustache. I would recognize him if I saw him “I proceeded to the Waldorf-Astoria where I occupied a room. A man called at the hotel to see an employee of the hotel, and stated that he was a detective employed by the Fly Detective Agency and he made inquiry about me. This man an answered the description of the person who followed me on the train. “The only object that my motion picture employers could have for sending a detective to Foxlair Camp was to attempt to secure or claim that they had secured Some evidence at Foxlair Camp, which Would be a crime under the New York State laws, and then by threats and persuasion to secure my continued employment by the company.” Is it any wonder then, that Rodolph Valentino should end his affidavit thus “I cannot work for this motion picture corporation. I cannot endure the tyranny, the broken promises, the arrogance or the system of production. I cannot forgive the cruelty of the company to Mrs. Valentino. I cannot look forward to a sure eclipse of what promises to be a lasting career of great success, provided that I am permitted to make productions consistent with my drawing power.” Mrs. Valentino adds her affidavit to her husband’s accusations. She tells of her distress because of the lower berth incident, and of the unsympathetic treatment which she says the motion picture company official? accorded her. “When I first arrived,” Mrs. Valentino says “and at my first interview with the president of the company, he seemed to work himself into a rage and asked me how we could have been such fools as to have done such a thing and that the company would lose millions by our action; and that Mr. Valentino was ruined and that his pictures were already being stopped in various cities; that Mr. Valentino would get ten years in prison; that so far as the company was concerned he was ruined for them, and that they were through with him. “The general manager of productions frequently told me that I was foolish to remain at home and worry and that I should go out and enjoy myself. On several occasions he said in effect “You are a great fool to sit and worry about Valentino because the girls were all crazy about him and he is having a good time out there and his love for you will not list. He is an actor. My distress and agitation were extreme. I frequently wept after retiring at night and turned out the lights with reluctance because in the dark, fears and self-reproach could not be banished.” Mrs. Valentino, too, speaks of hounding by detectives. But she, like her husband, leaves the telling of the vivid details to their faithful friend, Douglas Gerrard. Mr. Gerrard is an actor and motion picture director and he makes a very good affidavitAfter relating in some detail his education and career Mr. Gerrard makes a place for himself in history by dating his friendship for Valentino from the time five years ago when Valentino repaid a loan of twenty-five dollars. This extraordinary experience the finding of an actor who promptly repaid a loan so affected Mr. Gerrard that he swore eternal friendship for Valentino, says Mr. Gerrard, B. A. (Dublin, Trinity College.) I first met Rodolph Valentino at the end of the year 1917 when he was well-known in Los Angeles. I sympathized with Mrs. Rodolph Valentino No. 2, Who Was Treated “Cruelly” by Having to Sleep in a Lower Berth, and a Lot of Other things with Valentino because he spoke very poor English, had difficulty in obtaining employment, and I suspected that at times he was actually hungry. I took no other interest in him at the time. “One day early in 19I1, Valentino asked me to loan him twenty-five dollars, which I did out of sympathy, and, perhaps, from the motive of economy, since I knew that if he did not repay me he would not ask for more. “Shortly thereafter, Valentino obtained a position and repaid me my loan from his first week’s salary, and when some time later he attempted to borrow from me a much larger sum, I made the loan willingly. This was also promptly returned. On a number of occasions, I made loans to Valentino and I have found him to be scrupulous about making repayment as soon as he obtained employment. “Mr. Valentino always lived quietly and economically and was most earnest about his work. Later Mr. Valentino and I became close friends and although he was unknown, I took an interest in him and introduced him to friends of mine. At seven or eight big parties given by me at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, where men and women were present, he made a distinctly favorable impression by his courtesy and consideration to certain of the older ladies, mothers of young ladies present, while other young men of the party were dancing with and paying attention only to the younger feminine guests. This was not from any motive whatsoever except innate courtesy and kindness.” Mr. Gerrard then goes on to describe his friend’s character. In addition to being kind to old ladies. Mr. Valentino, according to Mr. Gerrard, was economical (despite the twenty-five dollar loan), mild tempered, conscientious about his work an<l not given to gossip. He corroborates Mr. Valentino’s affidavit as to the dressing room incidents, and tells how he and others put up the bail when his friend had been jailed for bigamy. But his most effective writing is his description of a midnight battle with detective* in the wilds of the Adirondack “On Sunday night, August. 27, 1922 at about eleven-thirty o’clock, Mr. and Mrs.
Valentino and myself were playing three handed bridge in the living room at the Foxlair Camp. Mr. Richard Hudnut was in New York City and Mrs. Hudnut had retired to her bedroom just over the living room. “The living room at Foxlair Camp is a very large room, completely surrounded by windows with an entrance from the hall at one end and an exit on to the large veranda at the other end. “Outside of the living room door leading to the veranda is a screened space. At each side of this is s screen door so that the progress of one walking around the porch need not be interrupted. The screen doors fit tightly in order to keep which Weighed Fifty Pounds, Was Skin Tight and Split Open in the Trousers One Day Be cause of the Cruelty of His Manager mosquitoes and prevent their swaying in the wind on stormy nights. “As we were playing bridge at about eleven-thirty p.m., Mrs. Valentino said in a quiet voice there is someone on the  ‘porch. I heard the screen door open.’ “I said: ‘Nonsense. I heard no one and it may be an animal.’ “Mrs. Valentino answered “I know the sound perfectly and there is no wind and it is not an
animal.’ “Mrs. Valentino then stepped to the door leading on to the porch, opened it and locked it  that she was going to close the door, as it was growing cold, and as she did she locked it. “Mr. Valentino thon went upstairs and peered out of Mrs. Hudnut’s bedroom, but could see nothing, as there was a fine, drizzling rain, no wind and the night was intensely black. “After some time Mrs. Valentino again said, I have a feeling that there is some one on the porch.’ “I procured an automatic pistol and walked out of the door at one end of the hall (the hark door of the hall) tramped noisily around the whole veranda, turned and walked noisily back. As I approached the door I saw a form a little darker than the darkness of the night. ‘After some time Mrs. Valentino again said, I have a feeling that there is someone on the porch.’ I procured an automatic pistol and walked out of the door at one end of the hall. As I approached the door I saw a form a little darker than darkness of the night at the end of the porch. I held my gun pointing at the object and would have spoken at any sign of disobedience would have shot this outline except at the moment she called out from her bedroom in a very nervous and alarmed voice, ‘There is someone walking around on the porch.’ “From the testimony of Douglas Gerrard. an intimate friend of the Valentino’s. The end of the porch? I thought that it was a cloth hanging out then, but in order not to take chances I held my gun pointing at the object and would have spoken and at any sign of disobedience would have shot this outline except at the moment Mrs. Hudnut called out from her bedroom in a very nervous and alarmed voice, ‘There is someone walking around on the porch.’ “Not wishing to disturb Mrs. Hudnut and not really thinking that the object was any more than a cloth. I went inside and told Mr. and Mrs. Valentino that there was nothing out there, but casually mentioned the cloth, when upon Mrs. Valentino stated that there was no cloth out there and that it was doubtless a figure of a man. “Mrs. Valentino was so distressed that I began to take her seriously, and I went out of the doorway at the front of the hall and walked stealthily down to the front veranda, outside of the living room, turned the corner, and as I turned I distinctly heard a stealthy movement ahead of me. Thinking it might be a muskrat or an animal of some kind I went very cautiously through the first screen door and closed it very gently. “By this time I was on my knees hidden by the wooden portion of the glass door leading into the room. From this position I still could not see anything until I stood up and peered around the corner of the second screen door, when I saw a tall man in a slouch at and a long overcoat creep cautiously parallel on the rear porch to my course down the length of the front porch. He then dropped to his knees and looked into the window of the living room. “The shock of this apparition paralyzed my faculties for a second. “We were separated only by one screen door. I quickly pushed open the screen door nearest me and shouted “What are you doing here? Stop! Hands up!’ and rushed through the door. “Instead of raising his hands the intruder turned and apparently jumped over the stonewall behind him, although I did not see him as he passed into the outer darkness. I shot and rushed after him, and not knowing the premises, ran with violence against the stone wall surrounding the veranda, the force of which caused me to bounce somewhat over the wall, whereupon a hand reached out from the other side, caught me around the back of the neck and flipped me to the ground on the other side. I fell a distance of five feet on my back, which left me breathless. “My military training had taught me that in a similar situation one must not make a sound, although I was badly hurt and semi-conscious as I fell the intruder struck me a glancing” as I laid on my back covering my mouth with one hand to prevent any sound of my breathing while holding the automatic pistol in the other hand. I then cautiously rolled over from my back and lay on my face and stealthily looked around. On all sides it was black, except in one direction, where the horizon created some light, and in I looked I heard creeping in that direction, and after trying to locate it through the tall grass, to in the direction of the sound. “The intruder then rose to his feet and started running, and I took careful aim and shot a third time. “The stranger let out a wailing prolonged ‘Ah-h.’ almost as a woman might scream, but he passed out of sight. “In the morning our investigation showed fingerprints and footmarks all about the place. The footmarks showed that the man must be a tall man because of the size of the rubbers that he wore. In the soft dirt on the top of the stonewall surrounding the veranda were the marks of a man’s fingers as if he had hung on the wall on the side away from tin house, where the wall is high, and dropped to the ground.” Now, what have Mr. Valentino’s employers to say to all this? They, too, have filed affidavits. How do they explain what Mr. Valentino considers slights, insults and abusive treatment? They don’t bother to explain most of them. Even if so much of Mr. Valentino’s charges were true, they say in effect, it would have nothing to do with the case. The president of the motion picture company remarks “The final excuse now proffered by the defendant for deserting his employment is a mass of trivialities, which he alleges have worked to his discomfort and inconvenience. “There is only one issue involved has Valentino broken or threatened to break his express negative covenant not to engage his service to others than the plaintiff?” Then he goes on to tell how, when actors, directors, camera men and stage were ready to begin the filming of “The Spanish Cavalier,” “with reserved modesty the defendant (Mr. Valentino) proclaims his services to be worth $2,000 per week and nonchalantly intimates that he will not resume his work with the plaintiff unless he is paid that amount, regardless of contract.” After denying; certain of Mr. Valentino’s charges, with which were not here concerned, the president of Valentino’s movie company continues “The opposing affidavits are remarkable for their inconsistencies and contradictions. These contradictions will be pointed out herein: “1. Defendant plead the meagerness of his salary of $1.250 per week and regards it as ‘brutal’ that a woman should be permitted to travel from California to New York in a ‘lower berth.’ and then offers much testimony ns to the simplicity and economy of his tastes, habits end mode of living. “2. Defendant boasts of his physical prowess and then complains about alleged inconveniences and discomforts. “4. Defendant extols his singular merits and submits attestations of his great genius, elaborately sets forth his merits, modestly announces that his services are worth ‘in excess of $1,OOO per week, or $2.000 per year, then concludes with the denial that his services are special, unique or extraordinary. “I am at an utter loss to understand why the defendant should become so exercised over the fact that his wife had to occupy the lower berth.” I have often considered myself fortunate in being able to obtain a lower berth. That people of culture, refinement and respectability and occupying high positions in life ride in lower berths is a matter of common knowledge. The defendant’s viewpoint is well illustrated by his notion that to purchase a lower berth for a lady constitutes ‘brutality.’

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