Day 364 of Colourisation Project – May 6
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
His birth name was Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla.
Born this day, May 6, 1895, the Italian-born, American actor, better known as Rudolph Valentino, the quintessential Latin lover, the Ricky Martin of Hollywood’s silent movie era, was Hollywood’s first male sex symbol.
In his brief career, he starred in over 30 silent films, including the ever popular The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), The Sheik (1921), Blood and Sand (1922), The Eagle (1925), and The Son of the Sheik (1926); films which firmly established his reputation as the archetypal latin screen lover.
A deeply exotic and alluring man, he was responsible for bringing the Argentine Tango to America, first performing it in on the big screen in 1921 and later in a successful American national dance tour with his second wife, Natacha Rambova, who, like Valentino himself, was once a professional dancer.
From the moment he danced that tango in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), one of the highest-grossing films of the silent era, a mania seemed to grow around him. Women reportedly fainted when they saw him in his next picture The Sheik (1921), a desert romance in which a Bedouin chief wins the heart of a cultured, English woman and again in Blood and Sand (1922), where as the bullfighter Juan Gallardo, he falls under the spell of a charming seductress.
Rumours have persisted since the 1920s about Valentino’s sexuality. However no evidence has surfaced to suggest he was anything other than heterosexual and any claims to the contrary have so far been disproved. Valentino fought a constant battle against innuendo about his masculinity. A few months before his death, an editorial in the Chicago Tribune attacked his masculinity, referring to him as a “pink powder puff”, accusing him of “effeminisation of the American male”. (What were they afraid of?)
An infuriated Valentino responded with a challenge to a boxing match, writing,
“You slur my Italian ancestry; you ridicule upon my Italian name; you cast doubt upon my manhood. It’s so unfair. They can say I’m a terrible actor if they like, but it’s cowardly and low to hold me up as a laughing stock and make fun of my personal tastes and my private life,”
Valentino struggled with the public and media perceptions of him, telling a Herald Examiner reporter,
“This man calls me a ‘spaghetti-gargling gardener’s helper.’… As for being a gardener’s helper, I specialized in college in landscape gardening because in Italy, that is as fine an art as architecture or painting.”
A lawsuit was pending, when Valentino was suddenly taken ill, whilst on a promotional tour for The Son of the Sheik (1926).
Rudolph Valentino died on August 23, 1926, at the age of 31, from a ruptured ulcer and peritonitis. With mass hysteria engulfing his fans, Valentino was given a grand send-off. For three days, thousands crowded the funeral home to view his body and say their good-byes. Over 100,000 mourners caused a near riot at his funeral in New York. A funeral was also held in California.
In 1960 Valentino was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6164 Hollywood Boulevard.