In 1950, Gloria Swanson, a former costar of Rudolph Valentino starred in the academy award nominated movie titled Sunset Boulevard about a faded silent film legend named Norma Desmond. Throughout the movie there are several scenes that refer to Valentino. The first is her 1929 Italian luxury automobile an Isotta-Fraschini 8A, for $28,000. This car symbolized luxury and elegance in the Silent Film world and Norma (Gloria) said this was the same type of car Valentino owned. The car used in Sunset Boulevard is now displayed in Museo Nazionale dell ‘Automobile in Turin.
The second is Norma and Joe (William Holden) dance the tango together. To shoot the tango, cinematographer John Seitz used a device called a Dance Dolly, which amounted to a sort of moveable platform on wheels. Nothing special there. But when you learn that Seitz first introduced the technique to shoot Valentino dancing the tango in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, you might be more than a little impressed.
“Valentino said there’s nothing like tile for a tango!” — Norma Desmond to Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard (1950)…
Research shows there is nothing that truly says Valentino preferred tile to tango. In 1922, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino did dance the tango together in the silent film “Beyond the Rocks”. So I would like to believe Valentino did prefer tile to tango on.
The costume designer is Natacha Rambova featuring one of her early designs and worn by Gloria Swanson in “Don’t Change Your Husband”.
Agnes Ayres does not like to have anybody sing in her dressing room. But her chief faith in luck is bound up in a wonderful Columbia Clock which has been in her family for years. It is a marvelous mechanism, being made entirely of wood and although of a great age is still running. Miss Ayres firmly believes that her success depends upon the possession of this clock, and so carefully, does she guard the treasure she will not even allow it to be photographed. Her movie colleague, Rudolph Valentino has declared to friends he has no superstitions. But one might wonder why he waited until 14 March to be married to the delightful Natacha Rambova when he could of done so on the 13th as well. Perhaps the fascinating Mrs. Valentino objects to the fatal number. Who knows might be because his first wedding ceremony took place on 13 May. Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. has no faith in crystals or superstitions. Gloria Swanson loves black cats and so tender was her care of the original two pets of the Lasky Studio they sent for all their friends, in-laws, and descendants until 327 cats now live on the lot. This is lucky for the butcher and the cats. Theodore Kostloff treasures a pre-war ten rouble gold piece, now worth $2 million in paper money. Bebe Daniels grandmother has a wonderful collection of dolls and few people know this is a direct result of Bebes belief that good luck follows the purchase of a new doll. Lila Lee is very superstitious about the beginning day of a new film. If she leaves her home in the morning, forgetting something important, she will not turn back herself, but send a messenger after she reaches the studio.
1919 – Gloria Swanson’s costume designed by Natacha Rambova.
Gloria Swanson is living in Falcon Lair, the old Rudolph Valentino luxurious mansion while she forgets movies and takes up television. Miss Swanson was imported again to Hollywood, but this time to narrate and star in a Crown Theatre television film series for Bing Crosby Productions, and for her brief stay she rented the Valentino Home. In “Sunset Boulevard” the film that sparked her movie comeback, she played a one-time movie queen who lived in a fabulous home of the silent movie era. Thus, I drove up the hill to the Valentino mansion to see if real life was imitating the movies. the Italian-style Valentino house looks like a chateau from the bottom of the hill. But its actually a tidy nine-room house and there isn’t even a swimming pool for Bill Holden to float in, as in “Sunset Boulevard”. But there is an empty guest house, over the garage like in the movie. Miss Swanson wasn’t wearing dark glasses and a long cigarette holder, but a coat dress billowing with petticoats. “Yes, I’d love to do another beautiful picture, but it would just be compared to Sunset. “Three in Bedroom C” was and its like comparing soufflé to steak. I took “Sudden Fear” to Paramount and they turned it down, but well that’s past. “I’ll never do another play either and if its a failure its a waste of time and if its a success, your tied up for another year”. In her television movie, “My Last Duchess” she once again portrays a faded movie star. “This is the tenth actress I’ve played” she smiled. “I’m like the proverbial butler in the movies. I don’t know why people think of me as portraying actresses”. after the TV series, Miss Swanson will return to New York City to her dress business, which is branching into hats, hosiery, perfume and health bread. Also, she will write her autobiography from 1920-1930 “the rise and fall of a legend”. The Gloria Swanson the movie studios created is as amusing and startling to me as everyone else. “You know, the stories about my throwing cats over Pola Negri’s transom But those were exciting days, people had dreams and now the movies have been regimented. Nobody dreams anymore, said the lady of the Valentino house”. The last time, I visited this house, was to attend a séance by some fake mediums who put in a call to Valentino’s ghost and there was no answer. The next tenant, Miss Swanson said was heiress Doris Duke. Miss Duke promised parties not séances.
Gloria Swanson rivals Rudolph Valentino as a “Best Seller” when it comes to film popularity.
The papers leaped at the story which he gallant Rudy pulled as the cause of the separation which, by the time this appears, will have developed into a Parisian divorce decree. Natacha, he says, was not a home body. She didn’t want children. She would not cook the spaghetti. She was fond of dogs. She wanted to work. His reflected glory did not satisfy her. She wanted her own career. Bunk! Bunk served with piffle sauce. Publicity for Rudy. But old stuff. Do you remember the way Gloria Swanson set the dear old souls of Paris wild over her when she said she wanted five or six children? I believe she meant it, because I have seen her with her two children. She adores them. Her own baby, little Gloria, was not enough, and so she adopted a boy and named him Joseph Swanson, after her father. But I have never heard of Mr. Valentino hanging around an orphan asylum, and I cannot quite visualize the picture of the sheik walking the floor of a cold California night crooning the junior to sleep. It was not, in my opinion, playing the game to midst an effort for sympathy and publicity at the expense of the woman, even if it were true – which I doubt. And we must hand Mrs. Valentino credit for her attitude in the whole matter. She would not live with him and his friends, told him so, got out, leaving her belongings to him, and went on her way, avoiding any opportunity to publicise her- self at his expense. Divorce is no joking matter, but I cannot hold back a little snicker at Rudy crying on the shoulders of the public and yearning for kiddies. THERE is nothing vindictive or downright mean about Valentino. He’s a pleasant chap and a fine actor, whose delusion is that he is also a business man. Natacha has been criticized for managing his business affairs. But we have got to admit that in this case her management was much more commendable than his. To add to her troubles, the F. B. O. Company, for whom Miss Rambova made a picture because she needed the money, changed its name to “When Love Grows Cold” after it was finished, with the frank purpose of capitalizing her marital troubles. Miss Rambova protested that it would harm her and create the impression that she was the one who was profiting by deceiving the public into believing it was a screen revelation of their love wreck.