“Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen.
I am merely the canvas on which women paint their dreams. “
Rudolph Valentino – 1923
To the uninitiated, the smolder of Rudolph Valentino in this photograph will explain his lure. Especially if you apply it to the 1920’s. The Roaring 20’s had begun liberating urban women to their sexuality, and Valentino became their sexual icon. His death at 31 years of age initiated an inflamed hysteria in women, young and old.
I had the good fortune to attend ‘The 87th Annual Valentino Memorial’ on August 23, 2014. This is the longest running memorial…annually since Rudolph Valentino’s death….The ceremony starts at the time of his death, 12:10 p.m. This is a very beautiful ceremony in tribute of a one of the most magnetic and charismatic stars of the silent era.
With the great success of The Sheik and his subsequent rise to celebrity as the ‘Latin Lover’, Valentino was asked if his love interest in the film, Lady Diana, would have fallen for a ‘savage’ in real life.
Valentino had a surprising answer for the time.
“People are not savages because they have dark skins. The Arabian civilization is one of the oldest in the world…the Arabs are dignified and keen-brained”.
To voice this opinion in 1921, held a wisdom not just unpopular, but bordering on scandalous in 1920’s America.
Obviously, Rudolph Valentino was not just a pretty face.
Judging from the pictures of his book collection in his library, he was very well read to support his rebellions against not only Hollywood’s biases, but also the world’s.
The photographs of his graceful home at No. 2 Bella Drive, a retreat he called Falcon Lair, is further evidence of Valentino’s taste and elegance.
After his death, an auction was held, and everything auctioned off including his wardrobe. At the memorial, some of Valentino’s personal items from Tracy Ryan Terhune’s collection were on view including a huge leather bound volume of Shakespeare (infamous for photos).
Christopher Riordan, who lived at Falcon Lair before it was destroyed to make room for a new house, lovingly conveyed a portraiture of the acres of gardens and private oases that once surrounded the house.
Marilyn Slater and Christopher Riordan
I could not have had a better companion than Marilyn Slater for the ceremony. Ms. Slater, authority on Mabel Normand, but also on all the other personalities of the silent films era as well as Hollywood. Well, you name it, and Ms. Slater knows about it. In case you are curious, her website is http://looking-for-mabel.webs.com/
Yes, Rudolph Valentino was graciously presented in videos, music, poetry, and memorabilia in the midst of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery with its peacocks, verdancy and flowers with the Hollywood Sign as backdrop.
This was truly an inspiring afternoon.
I urge anyone who has not gone to mark their calendars for next year’s event. You will not be disappointed!
And here is a link to a wonderful overview of the event http://looking-for-mabel.webs.com/valentino87thmemorial.htm
A lovely turbulent to an icon that affected how women experienced sexuality on the screen and began to understand their relationship to a movie star. And still experience that relationship.
As usual, such insight into history. You bring a profundity to every topic. Thank you, Marilyn….
I loved your review and it was my first time attending as well. I had such a wonderful time and plan on visiting again next year.
Thank you and I love your site. I don’t know if the link registered so that anyone that sees mine goes to yours…Loved the pix of the actual memorial in the rain….big black umbrellas everywhere. So appropriate to the occasion….