With an anxious childhood and a determination that would inspire the athletes of triathlon’s, Rudolph Valentino’s rise to pop icon of the 1920′s and coined the “Latin Lover“ propels me to dedicate the next month to study of his life, loves, heart breaks, and successes.
Ladies and Gentlemen…I present to you a treasure in need of rebirth…
Valentino. Rudolph Valentino.
Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi di Valentina D’Antonguolla
A lengthy name given to a child of a French maiden and a veterinarian in Castellaneta, Italy on May 6, 1895..perhaps destined to be an inspiration for American film and entertainment. There is little known about Valentino’s young life other than he lost his father to Malaria at age 11 and his youngest sibling that previous year. He was described as restless and ill at ease. His brother claimed he dreamed most of his days away and felt he didn’t fit in to the life he was in. He became an adventuresome youth who had no interest in performing well at school. His mother sent him away to Genoa where he eventually obtained a degree in Agriculture and then to France to find work. Unable to retain employment, he became very introspective and isolated. Restlessness and agitation peaked and he became determined to experience the “New World”. With no ability to speak English he boarded The Cleveland and set sail to the US in 3rd Class. Rodolfo found himself enlivened as an 18 year old immigrant from a small country lifestyle to the fast paced life of a New York newcomer. As he spoke no english his job opportunities were limited but this did not deter him at all…he slept on the benches of Central Park and worked as a dishwasher in nightclubs around town. Frank Menillo (Valentino’s Godfather) then helped him get a place to live and a job as a taxi dancer. For 10cents a dance, Valentino danced the Tango with love hungry women and he quickly realized his allure to the opposite sex.
He began dancing with the New York society elite, but he was not settled with this job and felt a yearning for a respectable career and reputation. His affair and involvement in the de Saulles divorce and murder case sent him away to San Francisco (his Godfather had since relocated there) to avoid unwelcomed suspicion and possible deportation. In San Fran, at the age of 22, he soon met Norman Kerry, an actor, who suggested he try his hand at silent films. Kerry told Valentino that he had ”the look“. Valentino headed to Hollywood on Kerry’s advice and began making the rounds at studios. Due to his dark skin and unusual allure he was only cast as a “heavy” or villain but forged a living ($5 per day) in the low b-rated films.
Keeping in mind this was the silent film era, Valentino’s command for the English language was not an issue and he was quickly becoming quite fluent with the language and dialect. Silent films afforded him the added bonus of being mysterious and intriguing.
NEXT: Valentino marries a Lesbian.