I had a sudden urge today to look on YouTube to see if any of Rudolph Valentino‘s silent movies were on it. And, yes, they are there! Like most people, I had heard about him, a silent screen heartthrob of the 1920s, dead at the height of his career of appendicitis — the “Latin Lover”, the “Sheik”.
I don’t know why it popped into my mind to do this today. I’d been out for a jog, then a walk in the forest with Ralphie, then I’d spent several hours editing my novel, then…hmmmm, I wonder if there are any Rudolph Valentino movies on YouTube?
I watched “The Sheik“, (1921) which was one of the films which made him famous (the other main one being “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, also released in 1921.
He’s 26 years old. It’s one and a half hours — and very fascinating. Agnes Ayres is a revelation a well. By 1921, he’s already appeared in 24 films — some as an uncredited extra — so he was no overnight sensation.
When Valentino arrived at New York’s Ellis Island in December of 1913 from Italy, he was 18 years old. He spent time on the streets and did odd jobs as a waiter and a gardener before he found regular work as a taxi dancer (a paid dancing partner) in New York’s dance halls, a skill he would use when he danced a fantastic tango in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, which was, incidentally, the first film to gross a million dollars. That was a lot of dough back then. It’s well worth watching the tango sequence:
Valentino’s final film, “Son of the Sheik” was released on July 8th, 1926. On August 15th he collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador in New York, In the hospital it was discovered that he had severe appendicitis. He was operated on, but he developed peritonitis (the same thing which was to kill Houdini a few months later), and on August 23, 1926, Rudolph Valentino died at the age of 31. His funeral in New York caused pandemonium, with over 100,000 people turning out, as this newsreel of the time reports:
Rudolph Valentino, the “Latin Lover”, never really died though. He lives on in his films, dancing the tango through time.
Oh, and when I read his biography on-line, I read something that sent a tingle down my spine. His birthday was May 6th.
PS: I hope the links work. If not, just go on YouTube and search Rudolph Valentino. You’ll find them all there.