Posts Tagged With: Natacha Rambova

12 Oct 1930 – The Truth About Rudolph Valentino By Natacha Rambova

Startled as I was. I looked back at my cards and said in a low voice to the boys: “Don’t look up or appear to notice it, but someone is on the veranda; I just saw the screen door open a trifle”. Nonsense said Rudy. “It’s only the wind”. “But no wind is blowing it’s too sultry”. Then again, that ghostly opening of the door and back of it the outline of a man. So I said in a still lower voice “I see a man peering in. Uncle Dickies revolver is in his top bureau drawer. Gerry, you run up and get it and Rudy and I will keep on playing cards as though we had noticed nothing”. Gerry arose, saying nonchalantly, “It’s my turn to get the drinks tonight” and sauntered unconcernedly out of the room. Rudy and I sat there, not daring to look up lest we spoil the neat little game we had planned, waiting for Gerry to come back. But why didn’t he come? What had happened? We never suspected that revolver in hand, he had run quickly down the backstairs, out the back door, and tiptoed stealthily along the veranda to the front of the house. The first we heard was Gerry’s voice ringing out “Damm you! Hold up your hands or I will shoot”. He had taken the eavesdropper by surprise. Rudy and I stood spellbound during the scuffle in the dark that followed. It was punctuated by muttered growls, the thud of heavy bodies then a silence that seemed interminable, and at least three quick shots. Far out in the darkness an agonized scream. Then dead silence. We both rushed to the window shrieking, “Gerry, Gerry are you killed”? NO answer. Like a flash Rudy bounded up the stairs shouting, there’s a shotgun in your mother’s room. I flew after him at equal speed. Mother who had retired early was lying in the darkness when Rudy burst in shouting “Gerry’s been killed” where is the shotgun? While mother fumbled for candles we had no electricity at Foxlair Rudy seized the gun and was off. I was hanging on his coat tails. “Don’t do it Rudy”. I was screaming. “You’ll be disfigured for life. Remember you belong to the screen the public”. Followed another scuffle in the dark, this one between Rudy and me, which ended with both of us flying out the front door into the night. When some 10 minutes later we returned, mud-bedraggled still toting our gun, we found Gerry standing in the living room, so thoroughly drenched and mud-encrusted that only the whites of his eyes and his teeth shone through the clay mask to identify him. He was administering first aid to mother, who a moment earlier, had entered the living room with her candle and mistaking Gerry for the miscreant had screamed for help and fainted. And now the story came out as much of it as we ever learned. Gerry on the veranda, had seized picked himself up, ran after the man and shot at him blind three times just like that. The station master at North Creek told us, when we made an inquiry that a stranger had left by the early morning train, a man who was in evident pain and walked with two canes holding one foot from the ground. He was well dressed, tall, young and good looking. He had driven up in a Ford car with another stranger, bought a ticket for New York and boarded the train, while his companion drove quickly away. One heavenly summer morning we sorrowfully bade goodbye to the beautiful mountains of Fox Lair. The trouble awaited us in New York was far worse that we had feared. Rudy suddenly found himself involved in a colossal litigation against the wealthiest, most powerful organization in the motion picture industry. Its giant tentacles were so far ramifying, its influence so widespread that Rudy, in his efforts, to combat them, was helpless as a lone swimmer in mid-ocean with every current and wind against him. His fight made cinema history. Other screen actors since motion pictures began had their tiffs and bouts with producers. These were mere children’s quarrels in comparison, in which the children were spanked and made to behave. Rudolph Valentino was a world famous star, the popular idol of two continents, with a gigantic following of fans, enormous pulling power at the box office. All the facts involved were so startling, the punishment he had to take was so severe, that the case, at the time, blazed in newspapers over the entire world, in headlines line those a few years ago, had announced victory or defeat in a war zone. But this was back in 1922 and 1923 the world very quickly forgets. I will briefly review the highlights. As soon as we perceived that the case could not be dismissed in a day, or a month, or a year, we made the best arrangements we could for a protracted stay in New York. Since mother and Uncle Dicky (Richard Hudnut) could no longer postpone their trip to Europe, we wired my aunt, Mrs. Werner always out first aid in trouble, to come on from the coast to be our chaperon. Mother and Uncle Dickie sailed off on the Olympic one morning wishing us good luck, which we needed and early the same evening auntie arrived from the coast. I must tell you about my beloved aunt Mrs. Theresa Werner. The world is familiar with her name because Rudy remembered her in his will. He loved her as much as I did even more, he used to tell me. As no other woman in the world could have done, she took the place of his own mother. Her home was in Salt Lake City, Utah but she often visited us in California and was one of those rare people who could be the third in a household without having the other two cordially wish she wasn’t. Auntie was never there when we didn’t want her and always there when we did, the most tactful, kindest, and most thoroughly adorable woman who ever lived. And how delighted we both were to see her. Auntie and I setup housekeeping in an attractive apartment on West 67th Street, while Rudy moved to the Hotel des Artistes to share an apartment with his friend, Frank Menillo. Gerry, exhausted by his long-term of service as companion and ex-officio chaperon, had by this time fled back to Hollywood. Under these arrangements both Rudy and I could have a taste of home life and still comply with the rule for “separate residences”until the long year should pass and we could be remarried. The first part of our litigations with Famous Players was very unfortunate. Our case was inadequately handled painfully so, we learned by that time it was too late to make amends. The facts which had made the real breach between Rudy and his producers were not even mentioned in the affidavit which our lawyer drew up. Famous Players promised Rudy first, that if he would finish “The Young Rajah” in Hollywood even though I had to fly to New York, that he might make his other pictures in the east, where we could be together. Second, that he might have the privilege of choosing his own director, his own pictures, in the future. None of these promises had been kept, which constituted Rudy’s case against them. But these important facts were not mentioned in the papers our lawyer drew up. The only points stressed in the case he made were ridiculous, petty annoyances, and complaints that Rudy did not have a dressing room of his own and between shots he had to sit on a stump in the sun: that he bawled out before the extras and prop boys in the studios other things that belittled him in the eyes of the court and the public.. What man in his sanity would go to court for petty grievances like these? Why a so-called lawyer should be so little interested in winning his case was something neither Rudy nor I could understand until later. As a result, Famous Players-Laskey were granted a complete injunction against Rudy, one of the most paralyzing injunctions ever issued by an American court. It barred him from production of any kind, not only on the screen and stage but from any kind of work whereby he might earn a legitimate livelihood. By the terms of this injunction he couldn’t even sweep the streets for a dime, drive a taxicab, or pull weeds in anyones garden nothing whereby he might support himself. And our finances in their usual precarious condition. Of course, this violated the personal liberty of a citizen of the U.S. so it was quickly modified. Yet, even so, it was bad enough. I, myself could have supported us both quite easily by dancing in vaudeville. Many offers of this kind were made but always when I found came to accept them I found there suddenly and mysteriously withdrawn. We checked on every side. Fortunately, a friend in need, Joe Godsol, then president of Metro came to our rescue. What we would have done without is generosity and kindness, I scarcely dare think. The help he gave us was entirely free from any security on Rudy’s part indeed, we had none to offer. Joe did not even ask interest on his loan nor accept it when offered. This unselfish proof of friendship will never be forgotten. Although the monetary debt was paid immediately the injunction was modified to permit Rudy to work, yet there are some debts money cannot pay. Our debt to Joe is one of these. Rudy’s case against Famous Players-Lasky finally settled after long litigations was significant in this respect. Now everything became suddenly quite different. On the Famous Players-Lasky lot in Hollywood every star had his or her special dressing room; private bungalows sprung up like mushrooms everything was done to make their work agreeable as possible. This sudden right-about-face in this treatment of actors was very amusing to us who had a sense of humor likewise gratifying. This radical change in attitude extended to all other organizations in the industry. But all this is a little ahead of my story. In his litigation with Famous Players-Lasky things continued to go badly until Rudy and I changed lawyers and secured Max Steuer to handle our case.


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26 Jan 1926 – Natacha Rambova in Maryland


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8 Aug 1936 Silence Stirs Anxiety for Miss Rambova

Anxiety over the safety of Natacha Rambova former dancer and wife of the late Rudolph Valentino, who is a resident on the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain, was expressed yesterday by her aunt, Mrs. Teresa Werner. According to Miss Werner, she has not heard from her niece directly since the beginning of the present civil war in Spain. However, Miss Werner said she received a cable yesterday from friends saying that Miss Rambova was unharmed. Her niece, is now the wife of Alvaro Urzaiz, retired Spanish Naval officer.

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28 Oct 1929 – Roerich’s Shrine

On Manhattan’s socially outworn Riverside Drive, a skyscraper-Museum, dedicated to one man, was formally opened last week. The man was Professor Nicholas Constantinovich Roerich, famed Russian painter-writer-explorer-philosopher. The brick skyscraper, designed by Architect Harvey Wiley Corbett, uniquely graduated in tone from deep purple at the base to white at the top, symbolizes “growth,” houses more than 1,000 of Professor Roerich’s exotic paintings, is dedicated to international culture, world peace. Present at the dedication was the Professor himself and his two apple-cheeked sons. His audience wandered through the museum, marveled at the “Hall of the East” in which 100 ritual lights burned before a Tibetan shrine. The audience included turbaned Indians, grave Chinese, eager U. S. intellectuals, a brown woman with gems fastened in her nose, a plump white woman wearing a jingling Colombian Indian costume. Kermit Roosevelt dropped his eyes against curious stares. Natacha Rambova, white turbaned and weighted with gold invited the avid to her studio. Esoteric prattlers shook the Professor’s hands and looked for cheese wafers to nibble. There were no refreshments.
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27 Jun 1948

Natacha Rambova was reported the first woman to wear turbans on American streets. Now that it is a popular thing La Rambova goes bareheaded.


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24 Mar 1928 – Male Movie Stars More Fussy about their hair

A woman is fundamentally the same, whether she is a movie star or a Park Avenue society but the happiest moment in her life is when her hair turns out just right. That does not mean that women have a corner in the personal vanity market. NO woman in the world could be more fussy about their hair than a male movie star. These are the deductions of an expert, Ferdinand Joseph Graf, for three years, the official hairdresser to moviedom who is now at Arnold Constables. Mr. Grafs first job with Famous Players was to prepare the wigs for Valentino in “Monsieur Beaucaire”.  Natacha Rambova the stars former wife, brought him out to the studio from the 5th Avenue beauty parlor she patronized for that purpose. He liked the work so well and the stars apparently liked him so he well became the official hairdresser at the studio for three years.

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18 Jun 1922 – Scientists interests in Movie’s Happy Endings

Distinguished French psychologist Pierre Delenne, declared the other day his belief that much acting in the emotional dramas of the films may easily unfit men and women for meeting successfully the problems of reality which they have to face in every-day life. According to his theory, they can become so accustomed to the romantic, rose-colored glamour which the movies throw about everything that when they come into the harsh glare of actuality they are likely to be hopelessly blinded or to see things in such a distorted way that they make the saddest kind of mistakes. The movies are capable of more harm in this respect than the speaking stage, he thinks. While on the speaking stage an actor may play the same part for a year or longer, in the movies he crowds into the same space of time a great many different roles. Working at this continual high pressure in the world of make-believe, the movie actor may easily become obsessed, Professor Delenne thinks with the idea that everything must have a happy ending, particularly where love is concerned. That the swift triumph of true love over all sorts of obstacles is inevitable is the very breath of life of most of the great film successes. The scenario writers, directors, and continuity men hammer away at this false notion so persistently and elaborate it in so many ingenious ways that it is no wonder the actor should often get to taking it for the solemn truth. The awakening from his blissful dream that love is a n irresistible force comes when he runs against the stern realities of civilization’s laws and social conventions things which in the world where he has been living have been overcome with greatest ease. All this is extremely interesting to us here in America, where the movies had their birth and have reached their greatest development. Everybody will at once think that very possibly this theory maybe the true explanation of the extraordinary series of scandals in the motion picture world, which former Postmaster General Will Hays is now doing his best to bring to an end. Certainly it would seem that some such theory as Professor Delenne’s offers the only plausible excuse for the desperate changes which Rodolph Valentino, the famous heartbreaker o the films, has lately taken with his love. Unless he were obsessed with the idea that love must inevitably have its way and that there is bound to be a happy ending to every heart-burning romance, what could have possessed him to risk a prison term in order to possess the woman he loved, a few short weeks before the law said he should? In the movies, Rudolph Valentino ran to Mexico with the beauty for whom he “just couldn’t wait any longer” would have been quite all right. Such trivialities as the laws of the State of California would have been cast lightly aside or else bent in a way that would have served the scenario writers purpose just as well. And the final close-up of Rodolph and his perfume heiress would have shown them clinging to one another, approved of by everybody and tasting the first of an ever-lasting bliss. But, as Rodolph Valentino and Miss Hudnut have learned to their sorrow, the laws on the subject of bigamy are not the negligible things the scenario writers and movie directors would have us believe. What they planned to be the most fascinating of romantic dramas gives promise of winding up in a dismal tragedy just the sort of an unhappy last reel which no popular motion picture would tolerate for a minute. Instead of possessing the bride for whom he yearned with all the fire that has made him one of the most famous of screen lovers Rodolph Valentino is separated from her by width of a continent. In her home in the East she hides, distracted by anxiety over her lover’s predicament and by the pitiless publicity that has been thrust upon her. Out in California, alone and broken hearted, he impatiently awaits trial on a charge that may land him inside the gray walls of a state prison. “But even the fear of a prison term could not dim the flame of love that blazed so hotly in their hearts. Captions like this are of frequent occurrence in the films. Evidently Rodolph Valentino thought the sentiment they express founded on a truth which could be turned to the advantage of his love hungry heart. But now he and his perfume heiress know that only in the make-believe world of the films is love able to defy the law in such high-handed fashion. Bigamy is not so lightly regarded in real life, and for those suspected of it there are troublesome sheriffs and prosecuting attorneys, stern judges, and juries to be reckoned with. According to Professor’s Delenne’s theory many movie actors are in a condition quite similar to that of an unfortunate shimmy dancer who cannot keep from shimmying. They have loved so often and with such made impetuosity on the screen, and all their dreams have so invariably come true, that they have become carried away with the idea that such things are as easily possible in real life. So it was, it seems, with Rodolph Valentino. In the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” “The Sheik” and countless other film successes he was always the all-conquering lover. He loved with an intensity that acknowledge no obstacles, brooked no delay. And just like this should it  known in the California film world as Natacha Rambova. He had only recently received an interlocutory decree of divorce from Miss Jean Acker, the screen actress, and until the final decree was granted he had no legal right to marry again. But Valentino, with all the impetuosity that has made him famous as a screen lover fled across the Mexican border with his sweetheart and they were married. The close-up that followed was a grim contrast to the happy endings which are the delight of the movie goers.


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May 1923 – Mineralava Dance Tour Stop Seattle, WA

During his 1923 Seattle visit, Rudolph Valentino was in the midst of a dispute with his studio, Lasky-Paramount. Battles over power and control were being waged behind-the-scenes, but publicly the actor claimed to be protesting the cheap program films to which he had been assigned, as well as the practice of block booking. In an era when popular movie stars routinely appeared in three or four new film releases a year, Valentino resisted the studio’s demand that he work. (Block booking was an early distribution practice whereby a studio would tie the releases of major stars to less ambitious efforts. Exhibitors wishing to screen “marquee” pictures had to sign exclusive agreements that forced them to also show the studio’s third-rate potboilers. Exhibitors strongly protested this arrangement.   For failure to work, Lasky-Paramount eventually suspended Rudolph Valentino, and went as far as to obtain a court injunction preventing the actor from appearing onscreen until after his Paramount contract expired on February 7, 1924.  The studio felt they had called Valentino’s bluff, since he and second wife, Natacha Rambova (formerly Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy) were heavily in debt. But the pair countered by mounting a personal appearance tour organized by George Ullman (later Valentino’s business manager), and sponsored by Mineralava, a beauty clay company. For 17 weeks, the couple gave dance exhibitions across the United States for a reported $7,000 per week, keeping Rudolph Valentino in the public eye and, based on their commercial pitches for Mineralava, providing the company with valuable exposure. The tour began in the spring of 1923 in Wichita, Kansas, where public schools closed on the day of his appearance. Despite the excitement that Rudolph Valentino brought to almost every stop on his itinerary, the star’s arrival in Seattle was relatively low-key. The Valentino’s were expected at 9:40 in the evening on May 30, 1923, traveling from Spokane in the star’s private rail car. From the train station, they were to be whisked to the Hippodrome at 5th Avenue and University Street, where Valentino was slated to help judge a combination dance contest/beauty pageant at 10:00 p.m. According to publicity for the event, the pageant served as a national search to help find the star’s next leading lady (a role which eventually went to veteran Paramount actress Bebe Daniels. Unfortunately, their train arrived much later than expected, and the Valentino’s entered the Hippodrome well after the dancing competition. The actor then sat with other judges behind a curtain for the remainder of the beauty pageant, which concealed him from the audience, most of whom had come solely for the opportunity to see the motion picture star in person. When all was said and done, Rudolph Valentino personally selected Katherine Cuddy, a local stenographer, as the beauty contest winner, turning down the half-hearted challenge of Seattle Mayor and fellow judge Edwin J. Brown (1864-1941) on behalf of another contestant. It is hoped that Brown’s candidate did not know that the Mayor was championing her cause, for the next day it was widely reported that Valentino rejected her for having bad teeth. (Ironically, Brown — who was a prominent Seattle dentist as well as a doctor, lawyer, and politician — did not notice this defect. The Valentino’s followed the beauty judging with an electrifying demonstration of their famous Argentine tango, recreating the dance scene from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Both were dressed for the part; as one account put it:

“It is in Rodolph’s [sic] blood to wear black velvet pantaloons and stamp his black patent leather boots and click castanets. His manner was quite Argentine; his hair quite brilliantine” (Dean). Natasha Rambova was also clad in black velvet, offset with a red Carmen like shawl. “[She] is very brave to put on a ten dollar pair of black silk stockings so close to her partner’s three inch silver spurs, noted Times reporter Dora Dean. The Private Valentino Dean managed to sneak backstage after the exhibition and take a spot in Rudolph Valentino’s dressing room, where she found the actor quite blunt about all the attention his appearances had been garnering. The moment he arrived at the Hippodrome, for instance, a large crowd of girls — “starving for romance,” the actor noted with some disdain — surged toward the stage. Adoration of this sort wore on Valentino, for it overshadowed his attempts to be taken seriously as a performer. “`From persons who saw the Four Horsemen I have received intelligent letters of appreciation,’ [Valentino] said. `I like them better than the adoring notes from little girls who want me for their sheik.’ `But what are you going to do, when all those darling girls want to see you ride [in] the desert and gnash your teeth?’ he was asked. “`Ah, they should stay at home with their husbands,’ said the slick-haired actor” (Dean). Wanda Von Kettler, writing for the Star, also managed to get herself into Rudolph Valentino’s dressing room at the Hippodrome. It must have been a crowded place: Mayor Brown and Washington’s Lieutenant Governor William Jennings “Wee” Coyle (1888-1977) also fought for space amongst a crowd of reporters and fans. According to Kettler: “Beside Rodolph Valentino sat Mrs. Valentino, his tall and slender brown-eyed wife, in her Argentine dancing costume. “He surveyed his guests. Then told them that he wasn’t a `sheik.’ “`Of course,’ he declared, with a somewhat resigned laugh, `I’ve gotten considerable publicity because of the name. But I don’t know if it’s been the right kind of publicity. The very sentimental girls think I’m all right. They like me. But what about the intelligent women – and the men? Don’t they think I’m a mollycoddle? They do. When I go back in pictures, after the fight with the movie concern is over, I’m going to prove that I’m not the type they think I am …’ “Valentino plans to write a book. He confided so to some of us Wednesday night. “`It’s going to be a book on the tango,’ he declared. `I’m going to teach all America to dance that dance. Everybody seems to like it, so why not help them learn it.’ “‘Dancing,’ he added, `is the greatest stimulant of the day, and is more and more being recognized as such. Since the event of prohibition it has increased 50 per cent.’ “Valentino doesn’t `mind’ the letters he receives from admiring ladies. “`I’m very glad to know,’ he explained Wednesday night, `that I’m being appreciated. I like to hear the opinion of the public, whether it’s for or against me. But I know the ladies aren’t `in love’ with me. They’re in love with an `ideal’ and they sometimes write to me as a result.’ “As for Mrs. Valentino – being a sheik’s wife doesn’t bother her at all. When asked about her stand on the matter, she laughed and replied, `I want him to be popular. The more popular he is, the better I like it'” (Kettler). Following the Hippodrome appearance, the Valentino’s traveled northward for scheduled engagements in Vancouver, British Columbia. They returned to Seattle on June 1, 1923, for a visit to Children’s Orthopedic Hospital, where they were guests of honor at the institution’s Pound Party. An annual charity event, the benefit took its name directly from its open request: In lieu of donations, the Hospital accepted a pound of anything — food, clothing, etc. — which could be used to help those in need. The Valentino’s were the hit of the function, which a spokesman later declared the most successful in the history of Children’s Orthopedic. In total, the event netted a record amount of food and clothing and almost $400 in donations, $10 of which came from the actor himself. Credit for the success was given solely to Rudolph Valentino’s appearance, which garnered much more public interest than past charity drives. It also attracted hundreds of fans to the front lawn of the Hospital, mostly young women hoping to catch a glimpse of the actor as he came and went from the gathering. Thankfully, the throng outside conducted itself in an orderly fashion and the party went off without a hitch. After partaking in an afternoon tea and reception, the Valentino’s went from bed to bed throughout the Hospital, visiting nearly every child and showing a sincere concern for their well-being. “A few of the sheik’s queries concerning child culture demonstrated a decided lack of knowledge on the subject but a willingness to learn,” the Post-Intelligencer got several nurses to admit afterward. “He was quite exercised over the lack of teeth in the mouth of one baby, age eight days” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 2, 1923). After the Pound Party concluded, the Valentino’s slipped quietly out of the city, making their way first to Tacoma, then back down the coast toward Hollywood. The last word on Rudolph Valentino’s 1923 Seattle appearance fell to the Star, which produced a column entitled “Letters from Chief Seattle” after the city’s Indian namesake:

“Dear Rudy:

“I have met many movie stars, and most of them were painfully conceited. I am glad to see that egotism plays but little part in your character. It is more or less evident that you have been grossly caricatured by envious persons. Come back to Seattle soon and stay longer.”.

CHIEF SEATTLE” (“Letters to Chief Seattle”).

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