Posts Tagged With: Rudolph Valentino
30 May 1923 – Screen Heartthrob Rudolph Valentino makes personal appearance in Seattle Mineralava Tour
On May 30, 1923, film star Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926), in the midst of a personal appearance tour that took him to all parts of the country, arrives for his only known visit to Seattle. The actor gives a dance exhibition, thrilling local audiences with a glimpse of his famous Argentine tango, and lends his movie star persona to Children’s Orthopedic Hospital on behalf of their annual fundraising effort. Trouble in Paradise 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 Minerlava, 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 Minerlava, 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. “The Sheik” Comes to Seattle 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 Valentinos 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 Valentinos 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 Valentinos 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 [sic] 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). The Pound Party Following the Hippodrome appearance, the Valentinos 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 Valentinos 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 Valentinos 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”. After the Pound Party concluded, the Valentinos 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”). From Man to Myth Some six weeks after his Seattle visit, the actor came to an agreement with Lasky-Paramount, which allowed him to return for an additional two films at $7,500 per week. More importantly, the agreement gave the Valentinos complete creative control over both projects. But the triumph was short-lived. After finishing his Lasky-Paramount contract, Rudolph Valentino jumped to United Artists, where studio executives were adamant that Natasha Rambova — who exercized tremendous influence on her husband’s career — not interfere with their pictures. Valentino agreed to this stipulation, but it led to conflict within the marriage and helped bring about its demise. Still, the United Artists period was a successful one for the actor professionally. He made two of his better films with the studio, The Eagle (1925) and The Son of the Sheik (1926), a semi-sequel to his 1921 monster hit.
Amonsgt the furor raised throughout southern California and the whole country by the marriage of Rudolph Valentino, dashing film»star, to Winifred Hudnut in Mexicali last Saturday, comes a new angle and once causing considerable comment —will Valentino establish a motion picture company in Mexico City’? It came to light yesterday that this was one of the main topic of conversation between Valentino and Mexican officials at the wedding dinner served at the home of Mayor Otto Moller in Mexicali. Today it is understood that speculation is rife among Mexican officials regarding a remark alleged to have been made by Valentino at the dinner to the effect that “there was nothing to hinder him from taking such a step.” Also, the rumor that Richard Hudnut, father of Winifred Hudnut Valentino, the bride, is on his way to Los Angeles seems to bear a special significance in the eyes of those familiar with the details in so much it might mean the first step toward capitalizing such a film company in Mexico. It is understood Valentino was acquainted with the natural scenic beauties of Mexico while here and with the great possibilities of natural facilities for outdoor settings and given some intimation that the Mexican government would welcome him with open arms and give him co-operation in every way toward establishing an industry that would mean much to Mexico. It is thought that if the company is formed Valentino will costar with his bride in motion pictures made especially for Mexico, protraying Mexican Spanish life and thus blazing a trail for an industry so far undeveloped to any extent in that country.
According to Irwin Zeltner (1971), “Hollywood has had many famous feuds, but cannot compare with the feud between two 1920’s silent film stars Gloria Swanson and Pola Negri. At the time, both were two of the most exotic women this town had known and experienced. The battleground was Paramount Studio in which their movies were made. When I first met Gloria Swanson, I was a bit startled by her voice. It was anything but musical. She was charming, but I quickly noted she spoke with an unmistakable midwestern accent. My first impression of her was she appeared tiny. Reared in Chicago by her U.S. Army officer father, in her early teens she was employed as ribbon clerk in a store not far from the stockyards. Somehow, like so many other famous discoveries, she landed a job with Mack Sennett Studios. She was standing in the doorway of a shack on the Sennett lot one day, when the great star maker Cecil B. Demille chanced by. DeMille, as he told me later, did a double-take and his intuitive perception told him this young lady had personality, charm, and appearance wholly distinctive. In a short while Miss Swanson was before the DeMille camera clothed in costumes that then were a shock to Hollywood. Her hair was done up in bizarre styles, and in a few lessons, she was taught to gesture with an elongated cigarette holder. The soon-to become famous Miss Swanson was thus prepared for the roles she was assigned to, and these were mostly females of questionable morals. With everything against her, she somehow remembered her public-school motto “Perseverance Wins”. How well I remember how exciting my duties were in behalf of two of her productions “Feet of Clay” and “Madame Sans Gene” released a couple of years later. These activities brought me in close contact with Miss Swanson and during one of our frequent meetings I was astonished when she spoke out most critically of Pola Negri who had appeared on the Hollywood scene to challenge Gloria’s pre-eminence as “Queen of the Movies”. “Mr. Zeltner”, she said I am the topmost female star of our industry and I cannot seem to get our Paramount Studio to subdue that Pola Negri woman, that foreigner, that gypsy. I listened carefully, as Gloria after a moments rest continued her tirade. Her eyes glinted, and she was relentless and more sharply demanding than ever. It was not long in coming a showdown with Paramount Studio officials and Adolph Zukor a kingly little man who was President. In his effort to calm the tempestuous Miss Swanson, Zukor offered her a contract in which Paramount was to pay her upwards of one million dollars annually. But she would not give an inch. About this time, I had luncheon with Miss Swanson, and no sooner had sat down when I ventured to inquire about her latest Paramount offer. Her reply was quick “Mr. Zeltner I am forming my own production company. I am the reigning female star of the movie world and determined to remain as such”. I will make arrangements to release my pictures through an affiliation with United Artists. She would be joining Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplain, Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino. It was not long, after Gloria now complete master of her fate, realized her star was glowing less brilliantly. Gloria carried her head high, persevered as was her wont and never for a moment allowed her battle with Pola Negri to lapse. Miss Negri kept up the challenge. However, it was now Hollywood History that Miss Swanson won that war, and for along time sustained her exalted position. It was producer Ernest Lubitsch, who brought the gifted Pola Negri to America and to the Paramount Studio. Here she immediately clashed with Gloria Swanson. I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Negri on the day of her arrival. This very exotic female was a genuine gypsy. Her father died in exile in Siberia after he had become involved in Poland’s fight for independence from Russia. Miss Negri in my opinion was a beautiful and talented woman. She achieved considerable success on the Warsaw stage. In Berlin, impresario Max Herinhardt directed her to state and screen stardom. Miss Negri was well-known on the European Continent as a dancer, having graduated from the Russian Imperial Ballet School. Her combined abilities were now being praised in movie and stage circles in America and juicy contracts were being offered to her. Somewhere in between Miss Negri married and then shelved a real count. The one thing, I keenly remember of Miss Negri on the day of her arrival was that she kept reminding all and sundry that she was a countess. It was only natural for Lubitsch, to star her in his epic “Gypsy Blood”. This of course, was produced by Paramount Studio. Her role was that of a sultry vamp, and the picture was a box-office success. Soon as the cameras started to grind on this picture, and all through production her famous clash with Gloria Swanson on the same lot flared and it forthwith, grew in intensity. The battle between them both was so bad Paramount officially shifted Gloria to the East Coast Studio. Later when they sent her to Paris, one of her first achievements was to acquire a titled husband a marquis. Now her fight with Miss Negri was really joined. While this was all going on, Miss Negri was succeeding in turning everyone in Hollywood against her. She held everyone and everything in contempt. She avoided all social contacts, remaining in solitude and her music and literature and an occasional visit from a European friend. Miss Negri found herself completely rejected and she took great comfort in the romance and love that quietly existed between her and Rudolph Valentino. Incidentally, I was one of only a few close friends of Rudy’s to know of this romance. When word came to Miss Negri in Hollywood the Latin Lover was on his deathbed, she made a transcontinental dash to be at his bedside. It is true among Valentino’s last words were “If she does not get here in time, tell her I love her”. This message which she received in Hollywood, gave her license to display great grief and some have said was laying it on too thick. About this time, her popularity started to rapidly decline, and Paramount Studios found it hard to sell her films. Heroic efforts were made to remold the temptress image, but everything fizzled. Abruptly she went back to Germany, where she was understood and admired. Again, she married to a fake Prince and I was not surprised by the news at all. I received a cable invitation to come to Germany. This and a later letter detailed her desire for American promotional campaigns for her pictures. She was frank enough to state our methods applied to her German Films would rebound in her favor in the U.S. and this she wanted more than anything else. Even though she was offering me an amount more than what I was currently earning I respectfully declined. My regard for Pola as an actress never wavered and nor my respect until one day, I received authentic information from a remarkably close friend in American news that Miss Negri was linked with Adolf Hitler. My friend queried her on this, and she never denied the association with the Fuhrer. Her only comment was that there had been many prominent men in her life, with Valentino heading the list”.
Zeltner, I. (1971). What the stars told me: Hollywood in its Heyday. Exposition Press.
Reports in circulation here today that Winifred Hudnut, bride of Rudolph Valentino had sent in her permanent resignation as art director for Nazimova were denied here today by the United Studios. “Wo have received no official word from Miss Rambova since she lofts here,” it was declared. “It is possible the resignation may have been sent to Mme. Nazimova, who is away, but we have heard nothing about. Mme. Nazimova will not return until June 1. and there is no way for ns to check up on the rumor.”, Miss Hudnut, under the name of Natcha Rambova, was employed as art director by Mine. Nazimova at the United Studios up to the time of her separation from Valentino, now under a charge of bigamy. Miss Hudnut took her vacation at the time of the wedding and has made no formal communication [since. Her leave of absence has ‘not yet expired, it was. stated. Preparations to bring to a final the California statute prohibiting marriage within a year from the granting of interlocutory decrees of divorce were being made by counsel for Rudolph Valentino today. The ultimate decision is expecting-to be brought to the ‘supreme court in an effort to defend the marriage of Valentino in Mexicali and similar marriages of at least twenty other picture stars and persons said to be under investigation. The strongest efforts will be made to quash the case against Valentino in’ the justice court, was learned today, but both state and defense are preparing for a long series of appeals. The attorney in charge of Valentino’s defense dared that hundreds of marriages in the State of California believed themselves to be united will depend on the outcome of this court. The district attorney’s office continued its efforts to piece meal its case against Valentino will be arraigned before Justice Vincent Bowser.
Rudolph Valentino birthday was on Mother’s Day and a dinner at the home of Pola Negri celebrated his special day. On being questioned as to what birthday it would be Rudy safely remarked he would be just one year older than he was last year, and it was not a matter to be laughed about. Pola has not yet left for that love test separation, her last reason being that the rate of exchange abroad or her health, or the health of her mother had suddenly determined the silent film actress to cancel her sailing arrangements a week ago. Rudy meanwhile is staying up nights reading stories to find one for his next picture.
On reaching Chicago, from escaping the madness she was forced to leave behind when she married Rudolph Valentino in Mexico. It was revealed by her friends that until her marriage she was Winifred de Wolfe daughter of Mrs. Edgar de Wolfe and niece of Elsie de Wolfe, well known interior decorator. This discovery recalled the fact a world-wide search was being made for her in 1916, when she suddenly disappeared from New York. Two Senators and a Russian Ambassador participated in the search. She refused to discuss this disappearance when asked about it tonight. Neither would she say anything about her relationship with a married Theodore Kosloff, Russian dancer with whom she was found as a dancer going by another name of Vera Fredov. In 1916, she left her home and told her mother the married Kosloff was the only person in the world who could develop her talents. After months of searching she was found with his troupe in Chicago. Later on, Kosloff declared “Miss De Wolfe came to my studio in New York. She wanted to dance the Russian dance. She was not like those other girls who would come to be thinking I could help them. “Altogether she is the same as a blue diamond. Her family did not want her to go on the stage, but it is her life not theirs. Some girls dance and sing but never have I seen such a clever girl as she to get what she wanted. I prepared to give her a chance on the stage. She designed and sewed costumes and did whatever I asked she was dedicated.
With a Mexican band blaring In the town plaza, Rudolph Valentino, movie star, and Natacha Rambova, were married at Mexicali, Mexico, last Saturday, according to unconfirmed reports reaching here today.
Winifred “Shaughnessy” Hudnut, bride of Rudolph Valentino, passed through here this morning bound for New York. In a long letter to her new husband, she stated “everything will come out all right and I will be with you shortly.”
What if Rudy Valentino married Pola Negri, Winifred Hudnut hopes he will buy the bride pretty things. Lawyers’ bills prevented Winifred from having real jewels when she was Mrs. Rudy, she says, and he never mentioned his passion for a family. Pola loves Rudy, she has said at Los Angeles, but is waiting to see if her affections are the same when she returns from Europe four months hence.
France, Pola Negri became Princess Mdlvani this afternoon at 5 o’clock in the little city hall of this small french town when she was married to Prince Serge Mdivani, a brother-in-law of Mae Murray. Pola’s husband, she announced several days ago on arriving, is her ‘‘greatest love,” greater even than Rudolph Valentino. Charlie Chaplin or her first husband, who was a Count. Pola and Serge were childhood sweethearts, she said, and the Prince was urging his love upon the film beauty even before Valentino. We are sure that Rudy if he was still alive would wish her well.
25 Feb 1923 – Lolling Luxuriously at The Blackstone Hotel, Chicago Valentino Announces He’s Financially Broke