Posts Tagged With: Natacha Rambova
“Natacha was immensely admired wherever we went. But I became rather angry about that. In one of the cafes, we stopped at for supper, there was a group of officers present and they sat there, boldly, without attempt at camouflage, looking her up and down. I was just about getting ready for a good fight. Then it came to me that I probably did the same thing before I left Italy. I had forgotten that it is almost a custom of the country, a habit. But I felt resentment, because it really wasn’t a look of curiosity, polite or otherwise, It was a sort of mental undressing. The very boldness with which they did it should have disarmed me. For all the boldness of it, because of the boldness of it, I suppose, there was also a sort of naive innocence. It was stripped of all subterfuge, all attempt at concealment. In America, decidedly, had such an event taken place, I would have risen and smashed the offenders in their several jaws”. – Rudolph Valentino
It is with sadness that we announce the death of Helen Elizabeth Ducey, on March 25, 2021, at age 96. Born and raised in New Milford, CT, the daughter of Francis and Mary Reynolds, Helen was a lifelong resident of New Milford. Helen was predeceased by her husband of 68 years, Edward M. Ducey. She is survived by her three children and family members: her daughter, Susan Boldi and son-in-law, Fred; her sons, Richard Ducey and Kevin Ducey; grandchildren, Erin Boldi, and Christopher Boldi and his wife, Amanda, and their son, Mario, who is Helen’s only great-grandchild. She is also survived by one sister, Jane Lathrop of New Milford. She was predeceased by her sisters Marion Taylor and Lorraine Keilty. She is also survived by her brother-in-law, John Ducey and his wife Nancy. She leaves many nieces and nephews. A special thank you goes to Cindy Day who gave friendship and care to Helen for such a long time. Helen developed a love of dogs as a young girl, and that love continued as an adult with her beloved poodles and Yorkies. Helen developed a fashion sense starting when she was a schoolgirl helping to make her own stylish outfits. Her fashion style matured along with the times and she often modeled outfits at the boutiques and department stores at the urging and to the delight of the salespeople. She had a green thumb and, along with her late husband, Edward, filled the outdoors with beautiful trees, shrubs, and flowers; yellow roses were her favorite flower. She and Edward also loved to decorate both inside and outside every Christmas, and their house overflowed with holiday decorations.
One of the many happy times in Helen’s life was when she served as chauffeur/companion to Natacha Rambova, a dancer, playwright, and actress who was once the wife of silent screen star Rudolph Valentino. Miss Rambova, who lived in New Milford for several years prior to her death, didn’t drive, so she relied on Helen for transportation and companionship on weekly trips to New York City, as well as on brief outings around New Milford. When Natacha Rambova passed Helen took care of her beloved Yorkies.
Today is National Silent Movie Day and to celebrate this wonderful global event, I am contributing the following article “Rudy’s Influence on the Silent’s” to the National Silent Movie Day Blogathon. I would like to thank both “Silentology Blog” and “In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood Blog” for hosting this event.
In 1913, Rudolph Valentino’s arrival to this country with not much money from his transatlantic crossing and unable to speak English he did doing what he could to survive. Oftentimes, he faced homelessness, went hungry or swallowing his pride by taking lowly paying jobs. By doing so, he made just enough money to help with everyday expenses such as food, a roof over his head, or being able to take a shower. As job opportunities came and went it seemed at certain times life would knock him down. However, life always takes you places for a reason and it’s important to note, he learned a valuable lesson from each experience he faced. As time moves on he finds that living in New York was not working out. So, his friend Norm Kerry suggested a bright future awaits both of them in California and they made their way across the country to Los Angeles and an unknown future. Living in a new city, a determined Rudolph Valentino went on casting calls to all the major movie studios to no avail and found there were no immediate job opportunities in the motion picture industry for a virtual unknown. Eventually he found work as a movie extra and his enthusiasm was garnering him notice. In 1919, after making the movie “Eyes of Youth”, with Clara Kimball Young, it is written in Hollywood history that June Mathis, Metro Studio Executive noticed the talented actor and wanted him a virtual Hollywood unknown for the starring role in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. Although it took some time for her to to persuade studio bosses that he was box office gold and in the end motion picture history was made. From the first moment he appeared on the silver screen it was an immediate love affair with a movie going public. His smoldering good looks and romantic visage a global audience was forever ensnared and life as he knew it changed. What endeared him to a movie going public was his rags to riches story. He achieved the American dream as a hopeful immigrant in this melting pot country and his success gave every other immigrant hope for their own success story. The public was mesmerized by him and immediately wanted to know his life story. Every movie in which Rudolph Valentino appeared he was a dedicated professional. While his roles called for dramatic scenes often requiring physically dangerous stunts, he performed many on his own. There were times, he had contractual disagreements with several movie studios, However, everything always worked out for him in the end.
In the 1920’s and beyond, Valentino had enormous influence both in the fashion world and on film. His personal style was ahead of its time and always immaculately turned out. He had extravagant taste in clothing and wore nothing, but the best labels of the day and his style was always duplicated. Professional men wanted to know his style choices and what grooming products he bought. In a NY Times article, Valentino briefly grew a beard for a film and the degree of public outcry was overwhelming. Fans wrote asking him to shave, and the Master Barber’s Association threatened to boycott his films for the damage he was doing to their business.
Valentino was a consummate professional and one of the first actors in Hollywood who fought for creative content control over any movie he would appear in and better pay this battle resulted in a well-publicized feud launched against his employer Famous Players-Laskey Studio. In 1923, during a well fought court battle he struck a new deal that gave him exactly what he wanted. But his next films were not a financial success, and the blame was placed on his second wife Natacha Rambova. The newly formed United Artists Studios brought Rudolph Valentino on board and in the contractual agreement it was noted they did not want her on set and kept out of sight. In 23 Aug 1926, Rudolph Valentino died in New York City while promoting his final film “Son of the Sheik”. His influence on the silent’s is well noted and documented by Hollywood Movie Historians for the ages. His memory lives on through social media, books, films and the annual memorial service at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In a 21st century global community, Valentino’s work has garnered a new generation of fans that appreciate him and in the end, Silent Film Star Rudolph Valentino was one of the most profound actors of the era. His influence on the Silents will forever be known.
The movie studios decided the fans should be told that Rudolph Valentino was soon to marry Natacha Rambova. To the public at large Miss Rambova was revealed as Winifred Hudnut stepdaughter of Richard Hudnut millionaire cosmetics manufacturer. The dashing Valentino and the beautiful aloof and suddenly rich Rambova seemed like a prince and princess in a fairy story. Every effort was made to sharpen this impression. Valentino was suddenly endowed with a degree, Doctor of Agriculture. His deceased father was even elevated from village veterinary to head of an excellent old Italian family. Reporters flocked to Paramount Studios and the mystery of Natacha Rambova had always intrigued them and the revelations that she was the authentic and beloved stepdaughter of a multimillionaire was real news. Not even Valentino had known who she really was; he had first learned of Natacha exalted background from the newspapers. Nevertheless, he was overjoyed and believed himself the most blessed of men. He was going to marry a beautiful and brilliant woman whom he admired and adored and since he was now earning more that $50,000 a year, he didn’t need her money. However, it should be noted that Valentino should be careful on his spending habits since it’s a well-known fact he wants a family.
The 1920’s was a time period of social and economic change. People were tired of living a legacy of war and sorrow. They wanted to live life on their terms and not what society deemed as acceptable or tolerated. There was a hint of the curious in people. Eager to explore beyond their own backyards by going out into the world and try new things. But while these were deemed forbidden or taboo it didn’t stop the rich and famous. No, they led and mere mortals followed. For instance magic shows were something a sober upstanding and law abiding citizen would not normally attend. However, they became a public phenomenon and no one was more public and a forbidden marvel than Harry Houdini and his magic performances that made viewers believe. Also, people enjoyed participating in popular parlour board games such as seances or Ouija boards giving them a chance to communicate with the dearly departed. This too became a phenomenon making skeptics into believers. Lastly, Spiritualism became all the rage among many famous people or newly turned believers of the day. Famous author and noted believer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a strong advocate and was often found to lecture on his theories and beliefs. So strong was his beliefs that he felt Houdini had supernatural skills and even when the magic trick was explain he refused to believe otherwise. The author felt there was a commonality between spiritualism and motion picture industry. But let us not forget Doyle’s interest goes back further than Rudolph and Natacha. During and after WWI Doyle was a member of the Society for Physical Research and became friends with all sorts of people with a shared intriguing interest. Rambova’s interest started at a young age and believed strongly in reincarnation and automatic writing. She surrounded herself with people that had a shared belief and was firm follower of Madame Helen Blavatsky. When she became involved with Rudolph Valentino, she shared her personal beliefs. During the course of their relationship he became an enthusiast and newspapers have documented the couple’s belief extensively. June Mathis the woman who discovered him and other mother were also believers. However, when Valentino’s marriage to Rambova ended so did his interest with spiritualism. On his death bed he reconciled with the Roman Catholic faith. Rambova eventually reinvented herself as a world known Egyptologist and carried her belief to the grave.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave his final interview to Horace Leaf, published in October 1930 issue of Ghost Story.
This interview seemed a culmination of Doyle’s fanaticism with spiritualism. The writer starts out writing Conan Doyle’s last words to me were “Spiritualism is the most important fact in life, and we must make this world accept it in the interests of both worlds”. Towards the end of interview, he talked about how Doyle would talk to crowds about spiritualism and the mileage he traveled. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did make a promise and his final words were published in the New York Times that I have included in this blog post.
There has been no evidence that suggests the Valentino’s ever personally met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But at one time, all had a shared interest, in spiritualism and the great beyond. How fascinating it would be to read about them having a conversation where they share opinions on mutual interests. The spiritualism movement continued into the early 1930’s and interest declined thereafter.
Happy 🎃 🎃 Halloween
The clever little psuedo-russian dancer, Natacha Rambova is of course, a guarantee of her interest will dance at the benefit, so, taking it all in all, the affair is expected to be a great success and bring in a large sum that will go towards the wonderful work being done by the Society for French Wounded.
Theodore Kosloff. a graduate dancer from Petrograd and Moscow imperial ballet schools, formerly a member of Serge de Daighlleff’s famous Ballet Russq and latterly at the head of a miniature Ballet Kusse which came to Los Angelos last winter on the Orpheum circuit, has become so enamored of California and the movies that he has joined the local colony of artists. He is working in conjunction with Cecil de Mille at the Lasky studios at Holly Wood. With Vera Fredowa and lover Natacha Rambova,