The morning of Monday, Aug. 16, 1926, while at my father’s chateau in Juan les Pins on the Riviera, I received a cable from George Ullman, sent at Rudy’s request, telling me of his sudden illness and operation. This came as a great shock to all of us for we thought him in the best of health. Although the message hinted that the illness was grave, we had no idea how grave it was. Aware, as we were, of Rudy’s splendid strength and unusual physical resistance, it did not occur to us for a moment that he might not recover. Nevertheless, the news worried me and, in the unexpected anxiety it aroused, all the petty resentment of our misunderstandings faded from my mind. Once again, he was the same old Rudy, in trouble, and he needed me. I cabled immediately that I would come to New York by the first sailing if he wanted me. “I never received an answer to that cable.” If Rudy received it at all it was while he was in a state of unconsciousness. Death came with unexpected swiftness. Even as the next two days passed we did not realize the danger. Mr. Ullman continued to notify us almost hourly of each slight change in Rudy’s condition and the news in his cables, as .they came, seemed favorable rather than discouraging. The actual presage of his death came through psychic communications. It happened that as guest at the chateau at that particular time was George Wehner, the distinguished American psychic, who had led us far along the ways of understanding of the spirit world. It had become our custom to have family sittings from time to time, with Mr. Wehner acting as medium. Wednesday evening during one of these sittings, while Mr. Wehner was in a state of deep trance, Rudy “came through.” We were first aware of his presence by mutterings of a few almost incoherent words and the repeated calling of auntie’s name and mine. This did not surprise or terrify us. Those who have investigated psychic phenomena know that it is not at all unusual for the consciousness of a person still living in the earth world to manifest itself or communicate at a distance while the body is sleeping or unconscious. On waking the person may remember these experiences in the form of a dream. Friday morning my cable from Mr. Ullman brought us news that Rudy was better—greatly improved and on the road to recovery. We were enormously cheered. That evening we were impressed to have another sitting. Almost immediately after Mr. Wehner was in trance, Black Feather, Rudy’s Indian friend who once had saved his life, “came through” to tell us that he was the chief and would not leave him. Then Jenny spoke, saying she had been constantly with Rudy since the beginning of his illness. He himself had seen her and called her name as he was taken to the ambulance. In confirmation of this X received a letter from my sister in New York the very week of Rudy’s passing, giving me details of his illness; explaining among other things, that Mr. and Mrs. Ullman had told her that Rudy kept calling the name of “Jenny” as he was being taken in the ambulance from his hotel. These communications from Jenny and Black Feather worried me. I could not reconcile them to the cheerful news of the morning’s cable for they seemed neither happy nor hopeful. And now, to cause me ever greater concern, a teacher from whom Rudy and I had received many lessons in the past, took control and talked to me gently, kindlv of personal things between Rudy and myself, and with such compassion as I had never heard him use. He spoke of Rudy’s great love for me, his life, his character and career, and explained that his term on this earth schoolroom was completed. Within the next few days he would pass to another plane of consciousness in this ever-continuing life. Early next morning I cabled Mr. Ullman for news of Rudy’s condition. The cable was not answered. What was there to say? We had been given the answer the night before, but had refused to accept it as truth, for what we do not wish to realize we try to stifle in our hearts. Monday morning I awoke to find the atmosphere of my room heavy with the perfume of tuberoses—and then I knew Rudy had passed on. When on Tuesday the delayed cables arrived announcing his death, I was grateful to the prophecy from the other world whose kindness and understanding had softened the cruelty of this news. The third day after his passing Rudy came to us for the first time, led by his mother, Gabriella. His attitude of mind, resentment at having been taken at the height of his career while his work he felt was not yet completed, made this first contact an unhappy one. He spoke not clearly but incoherently, remained with us only a moment, called auntie’s name and left suddenly. Then his mother spoke with us. She was almost distracted by his state of mind and regretted the day she had ever allowed him to leave Italy. What was the benefit of a success that had brought him to such bitterness aad anguish? Then others came to comfort us. They explained in a beautiful way that Rudy’s attitude was only natural. With all the force of world thought and grief directed upon him, nothing else was possible. We must have patience and each of us try to help him in our several ways. They, too, would help him, and this first darkness and despair would soon pass. It has, for I have communicated with Rudy very often since then and I know he is happy, still continuing on another plane the work he only began on this earth. Many will smile at what I am writing now, give it no credence, I discard it as the phantasms of my I brain. But a few years ago those same people would have smiled with I equal skepticism at the messages I the radio brings us to-day. How, I they would ask, can voices picked | out of the air be transmitted by an; unseen force over miles of empty | space? To-day no one doubts the validity of radio transmission. It is I just another scientific phenomenon to which yesterday we were blind. Each new development of science, from the steam car to the aero-plant, from the lightning rod to the telephone was at first hailed as a fraud by those who had not yet tested it. In the astounding revelations of the last quarter century, we are only beginning to comprehend the unseen forces of the universe which man has not yet utilized. Those who have not yet received test messages from the other world find it difficult to believe in communication after death. The man who has never heard a radio would be loud to declare that there is no such thing as music In the air about us. But we who have listened to it pay no attention to his beratings. We know he has never investigated it. For this reason, I am untouched by the stupid criticism of those who insist it is impossible for me to talk with Rudy, who has passed on to another plane apart from and above my own. How do I know these messages are not frauds? Can I see Rudy or touch him? But when my mother calls me by long distance phone from Chicago or from Paris, I cannot see her, but I hear her voice and I know it is she by the idiosyncrasies of her speech, by what she says and the way she says it. Fraud or impersonation would be impossible. The same is true of my messages from Rudy. If during the period I knew and lived with Rudolph Valentino I did not learn to know him better than to be duped by fraudulent messages, then I am a gullible fool! Fraud is for those who are willing to accept it. Truth is for those who seek it. Thus, I dismiss the subject for my belief is secure. Rudy was dead—yet he still lives, for life is ever-continuing. In all contemporary history there is only one young man who in his 20s was strong enough to withstand the great deluge of fame, adulation and flattery that was heaped on Rudolph Valentino.
Posts Tagged With: George Wehner
Add to the horrors of house to house canvassing and the collection of bills and the threat of red-haired psychic woman, who calling upon her control, was seized with a superhuman strength and threw a fresh expressman down the stairs. And if you don’t believe it, there it is in print on page 111 of “A Curious Life” by George Wehner an interesting but doubtful book. Mr. Wehner in the book admits he is possessed of a familiar and so he ought to know whether a red-haired lady in possession of her favourite spirit could throw a big man down stairs like the gander descending upon the man who wouldn’t say his prayers. He says she can. Among Mr. Wehner’s spirits is Frank “who generally opens my séances by whistling very beautifully”. Leota, rechristened Lolita by Dorothy Benjamin Caruso is a guide frequently difficult to understand. She is a wise-cracker and apparently an Indian. Alestes reveals the hidden meanings of dreams and in no such manner as that of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Dr. Freeman is the guide who helps the author go into a trance, while Rudolph Valentino is breaking his heart trying to become one of Mr. Wehner’s guides. Black Hawk on the other hand has already succeeded and can tell what is ailing people with an uncanny precision not usually associated with a dead Indian Chief or an eight-cylindered motorcar.It is all very interesting and doubt less Mr. Wehner believes it is all very true. The reader, addicted perhaps in such material and non-occult matters as the march of Eli Yale through Georgia or the slaughter wrought by the Athletic batsmen on the Cubs pitching staff will be more likely to raise an eyebrow to ask how the author gets that way. It might be recorded however that Valentino told Natacha Rambova he knew she would come to the séance in New York. Which suggests that Mr. Banton, the District Attorney and Mr. LaGuardia, the candidate for Mayor, and Mr. Enright who didn’t solve the Dot King and Elswell murders, might better get into consultation right away with Mr. Wehner. Perhaps Black Hawk or Alestes or Lolita or Rudolph Valentino could tell them who really did shoot Arnold Rothstein.
First off, I want to thank you for this opportunity to interview you for my blog. Mr. Robert L. Harned, a noted author, is going to be writing a future article for a publication yet to be determined about George Wehner who was a friend of Natacha Rambova in the mid to late 1920’s. Mr. Harned’s mother Ms. Sally Phipps was a silent film actress with Fox Pictures who personally knew George Wehner. However, Ms. Phipps never knew nor met Natacha Rambova.
1. Your mother must have led an interesting life. Could you please tell us a little about her and her connection to George Wehner?
My mother, Sally Phipps was only three years old and the veteran winner of several beautiful baby contests when she appeared as the Baby in the film “Broncho Billy And The Baby.” It was made at the Niles California Essanay Studio in late 1914. Her memories of the early years at Essanay include sitting on Charlie Chaplin’s lap and enduring a frightening stage coach accident. In her teens, she was a Fox Studio star appearing in 20 films, including a cameo in the classic “Sunrise.” There were bad times also. She was on the set of her Fox two-reel comedy “Gentlemen Prefer Scotch” in 1927 when word reached her of the tragic death of her father, a state senator. But in that same year, she was selected as one of the 13 Wampas Baby Stars, starlets that were considered destined for future success. Despite her popularity in Hollywood, she left for New York where she became the darling of gossip columnists, particularly Walter Winchell. She appeared in two Broadway shows, made a Vitaphone comedy short, and married and divorced one of the Gimbel department store moguls before she darted off for India and around the world travel. Back in New York, there was another marriage, two children, and later a stay in Hawaii. Earl Wilson wrote about her in 1938 when she was working for the Federal Theatre Project during the WPA period — headlining his column “Wampas Ex-Baby Lives On WPA $23 – And Likes It.” She received the Rosemary (for remembrance) Award shortly before her death in 1978. Her images — especially her pinup photographs — have become highly collectible. Although Sally may never have met Natacha Rambova, she claims to have rented an apartment previously owned by her, a fact corroborated in several contemporary newspaper articles. The unit was in an apartment building at 320 East 57th Street, near Sutton Place. Sally rented the apartment for a period during her September-May stint, playing the ingénue in the Kaufman and Hart comedy hit “Once In A Lifetime” during the 1930-1931 Broadway season. Sally Phipps was always attracted to the occult world and through it developed several close friends. One of these was George Wehner, whom she first met in 1933. They stayed friends throughout the 1930s, with an interruption in the fall of 1939 when Sally left for a one-year stay in India. After she arrived back in New York City in February 1941, Sally phoned Wehner to tell him she was in town. A man answered the phone — Alfred Marion Harned, my future father. He took Sally’s message, since Wehner was not at home. Several months previously, Wehner had hired Harned, a local New York City orchestrator, composer, copyist, and instrumentalist, to write out the orchestral parts for his new Piano Concerto No. 1 – for 27 different instruments of a symphony orchestra. Harned had consented to take up residence in Wehner’s house during the multiple month process, so that he and Wehner could work together intensively without interruption. Several days after Sally’s leaving the phone message and then having been welcomed back by Wehner, she was invited to a séance at his house where she met Harned in person. Within six months, Sally and Harned were married. They left New York in June, eloped to Mexico, and were wed there in August. As a final note, the Piano Concerto No. 1 did get premiered in August 1941 at the Sculpture Court of the Brooklyn Museum, performed by the New York City Symphony Orchestra, with soloist Greta Lederer.
2. As a son of a famous actress you must have enjoyed hearing about your mother’s life. Do you have a favorite story?
Sally loved talking about working on the film “Sunrise,” when she was only 15½. Director F.W. Murnau’s “Sunrise” (Fox — 1927), starring Janet Gaynor and George O’Brien, is one of the great feature films of the silent era and also a multiple Academy Award winner. Sally was particularly impressed with how Fox film studio built a replica of a large modern city on its back lot, with tall buildings, streets, running streetcars, and even an amusement park. Sally was cast in a minor part in two small but poignant scenes in the amusement park sequence. Sally, with her partner, Barry Norton, dances cheek-to-cheek across the screen, into a gradual close-up. The couple is first admiringly observed by Janet Gaynor, and a little later, during a pig chasing sequence, is discovered by George O’Brien in a kissing clinch. While watching the film, Sally loved pointing herself out to me in those scenes.
3. You recently wrote a book about your mother. Could you tell us about the book and where could it be purchased?
My book is a detailed biography of my mother’s personal and professional life from her birth in Oakland, California through to her death and burial in New York City. It took me four years to complete the work. The book includes 150 pictures, a filmography, a bibliography, and an index. It can be purchased in print edition ($14.99) or as an e-book ($9.99) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace. Below is the Amazon link:
4. This blog as you know is about Rudolph Valentino. Are you a fan?
I am definitely a fan, for many reasons. Besides Valentino’s obvious good looks and his ability to wear his costumes well, he has many other wonderful cinematic qualities. He has athletic grace and agility. Needless to say, he dances superbly, several times in his films. I love watching how he uses his hands so expressively. He is also a very good actor, particular when it is necessary for him to show his sensitive side. Take for example his tender scenes with his mother in “Blood And Sand.” In “Camille,” he subtly underplays throughout the film. In addition, for many of his films, you get the wonderful boon of Natacha Rambova sets and costumes.
5. Are there any future projects you are working on?
You have already mentioned that I will be writing an article about George Wehner in the near future.
Recently, I began writing for a new magazine, “Silent Film Quarterly.” Its first issue came out in the fall of 2015. I will have an article published in its second issue (winter 2015-2016), called “Sally Phipps Began Her Film Career At Essanay.” The article covers her work in late 1914 through early 1915 as a three-year old actress at Essanay, a Bay Area film studio. I have also submitted another article for the magazine’s third issue. This summer, I began a new book about my grandfather, Albert Edward Bogdon, my mother’s father. He was an amazing character. He was the son of poor Russian/Lithuanian immigrants and grew up in the Pittsburgh area. He began work as a magician in his adolescence and continued in this field until he joined the Navy after the U.S. entered World War I. He later earned a law degree, moved to Denver, got elected State Senator for the Denver area, but was then cut down by an assassin’s bullet at age 36 in June 1927. My grandfather Bogdon is only one of the many colorful characters in my family, many of which have already been touched upon in the already-published book about my mother, “Sally Phipps: Silent Film Star.” Their stories will keep me busy writing for many years.
Pola Negri, whose engagement to Rudolph Valentino was announced shortly before the actor’s death, today declared the making public of messages said to have been received from the astral plane by the actor’s ex-wife Winifred Hudnut, was “shocking, profane, and commercial”. The messages, Miss Hudnut declared, were received by her from Valentino through the mediumship of George Wehner, with whom she arrived in New York Thursday from Europe. The messages did not mention Miss Negri.