Rudolph Valentino Overview:

Legendary actor, Rudolph Valentino, was born Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla on May 6, 1895 in Castellaneta, Italy. Valentino died at the age of 31 on Aug 23, 1926 in New York City, NY .

Early Life

Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla was born on May 6th, 1926 in Castellaneta, Puglia, Italy. His father moved the family to Taranto nine years later. By some accounts, Valentino was a difficult and spoiled child. When he was eleven Valentino's father died of malaria and his behavior only worsened, as his mother was more interesting in dotting on the boy than disciplining him. He was a poor student and was eventually expelled for bad behavior. He was enrolled in military school and graduated at 15. He then applied for the Italian Naval Academy but failed the physical examination and was rejected. He ultimately ended up studying at the Royal Academy of Agriculture earning a degree in the science of farming. He then visited Paris and became enamored with cosmopolitan lifestyle, eagerly learning about fashion, dancing, and high-culture. He did not, however, maintain job and soon returned to Italy with no money in his pockets. After remaining unemployed at home, his mother gave the 18 year old a steerage ticket to the U.S

Journey to New York

In 1913 Valentino hoped upon the S.S Cleveland. According to legend, he then proceeded to use the rest of his money to upgrade his ticket from steerage to first class. There he enjoyed the culture, food, and atmosphere he had grown accustom to in Paris. He arrived in America December 23, 1913. He continued to live beyond his means after arriving in New York, finding himself broke and sometimes homeless. He would spend the next few years on the outskirts of society working as waiter and a gardener. It was while working as a server in an Italian restaurant where another waiter taught him The Tango and soon he gained employment as a full time dancer. He became a taxi-dancer:  a young male dancer who accompanied lonely upper crust women to their society parties. It is also rumored he worked as prostitute. These claims maybe based on the simple fact the Taxi-dancers were a "low" position n in polite society. During his time as a taxi-dancer, he met and befriended Chilean heiress Blanca de Saulles, wife of big business man John de Saulless. During their messy divorce proceeding, Valentino testified on her behalf about her husband's infidelity. Soon after, Saulless used his political connects to get Valentino arrest on vice charges that were later dropped. When Blanca shot her husband to death during a custody battle, Valentino joined a theatre troupe and headed west to avoid any further bad publicity.


When the troupe Valentino joined disbanded in Utah, Valentino immediately looked for other work and soon ended up in a production in San Francisco. During this time Valentino met a young actor, Norman Kerry, who suggested he try his hand at film acting. The two then moved to Los Angeles, living in the Alexandria Hotel. Valentino immediately found work as once again as a Tax-idancer while using his free time to meet Hollywood High Society. He soon began audition for role in Hollywood, gaining bit parts in films like Patria, Alimony, and All Night. The studios began playing up his dark-good looks, casting him as the "exotic" villain. He continued to carve his career out of bit parts through out the late 1910's and early 1920's. It was 1919 film The Eyes of Youth, that would give Valentino his big break when screenwriter June Mathis took notice of the handsome young actor. Although credited as screenwriter, Mathis essentially had the power of a Producer on her films, selecting cast, crew, and director.  She insisted that Metro Pictures hire the unknown actor in her next film, the WWI epic The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Although initially reluctant to cast the darkly handsome young man as the films lead, Metro eventually gave in to Mathis's demands. Valentino immediately captured the hearts of the female population with his first scene in which he fights for a chance to dance the Tango with a beautiful woman. The film was huge commercial and critically success, and one of the first films to gross over million dollars. Valentino was clearly a now a major star, even if Metro did not treat him as such. Despite the success of The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, Metro next cast Valentino in a bit part in the B-movie, Uncharted Seas. He next worked on the Mathis penned Camille, which was considered too avant-garde for commercial success. In 1921 he starred in yet another Mathis film The Conquering Power opposite Alice Terry. The film was substantial critical and commercial hit, yet Metro refused to give Valentino the respect and money he felt he deserved. After the film release, Valentino left Metro Pictures for the studio Famous Player-Lasky, and took Mathis with him on the way out.

Latin Lover

Unlike Metro, Lasky took full advantage of Valentino's star power by casting him The Sheik. Valentino was cast as Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, a Bedouin chief who lusts after and eventually woos cultured, Anglo-Saxon woman. Although the film was released to mixed reviews it was an outstanding commercial success, making over a million dollars within it's first year. The film would solidify Valentino's image of Hollywood premier "latin-lover" and helped shape the trajectory of his career and eventual legacy. At this point in his career, Valentino was inspiring full-blown mania. Rumors even spread that some women even fainted while watching The Sheik.

In 1922, Valentino worked on four feature length films. The first two releases, Moran of the Lady Letty and Beyond the Rocks were not critical success but did make substantial money at the box-office. He would collaborate again with Mathis for his next film Blood and Sand. In the film, Valentino plays famed bullfighter, Juan Gallardo who finds himself caught in sorted love affair. The film was critical and commercial success, becoming one of the most financially successful movies of the 1922. After completing the film, Valentino found himself in the middle of a media circus after his marriage to actress/designer Natasha Rambova. Because Valentino failed to wait a year to remarry after divorcing his first wife, Jean Acker, he was arrested on bigamy charges. He then was forced to pay a fine and wait another year before finally marrying.

Later Career

By the end of 1922, Valentino was unhappy with his contract at Famous Players and decided to strike. The Famous Players then filed suit him. The two entities would end up in public battle. Valentino wrote an open letter for photoplay titled, "Open Letter to the American Public," arguing his case and the Famous Players responding by stating the star was more trouble then he was worth, calling him a temperamental diva. Other studios showed interest in the star but the Famous Players did not want that and extended his contract, thus preventing any employment at other studios. Now in $80,000 in debt, filed another suit and was granted the right to work, but not as an actor. He and his wife then went on a yearlong dance tour, sponsoring by Mineralava beauty products and even judging beauty contests.

In 1924 Valentino returned to Hollywood and was offered a $7,500 a week contract with Ritz-Carlton Pictures. They had negotiated a deal for him to finish out his tenure at Famous Player-Lasky while still working for Ritz-Carlton. His first film under the contract was the French period piece Monsieur Beaucaire. Already called out by some critics for his slightly androgynous look, the film cast Valentino is an even more effeminate light than before. The film was commercial and critical flop with much of the blame going to Valentino's wife Natasha Ramova, who was said to have undue creative control over Valentino's films.  For his film, The Hooded Falcon, Valentino and Ramova traveled to France for costume, and in the process spent much of films budget. The film was a flop and Ritz-Carlton terminated their contact with Valentino.

After his termination from Ritz Carlton, Valentino signed a contract with United Artist for $10,000 a week. The contract also excluded Rambova from the production of his film also stipulated she not be allowed on set, causing a rift in their marriage. His first film for United Artist was The Eagle. In the film Valentino reverted back to a more masculine image as a Russian Solider seeking revenge against the Czarina. The film was critical hit and did well at the box-office.  After the films release, Valentino traveled to Europe and lived lavishly as he and wife began divorce proceedings. In 1926 he began filming The Son of the Sheik. Although he loathed the image, he desperately needed the money. It was to be his last performance.

Tragic Death and funeral

On August 15th, 1926 while on a promotional tour for The Son of the Sheik, Valentino fell ill and was hospitalized. He was discovered to be suffering from both appendicitis and gastric ulcers and was immediately sent off for surgery. After the operation, Valentino developed peritonitis followed by a severe pleuritis relapse. Rudolph Valentino died August 23, 1926. He was 31 years old. His funeral was one of the most elaborate of anyone in Hollywood. For three days, thousands and thousand of people crowed to the funeral home to say their final farewells to America most famed Latin Lover.


(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. In addition, Valentino was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 1994. Valentino was never nominated for an Academy Award.

BlogHub Articles:

2018 Calendar

By Michele on Oct 20, 2017 From Timeless Hollywood

Donna Hill?s 2018 Valentino calendar is now available.? This year?s theme is in Costume.?? To view the calendar and get yours please visit Read full article

2017 Calendar

By Michele on Oct 30, 2016 From Timeless Hollywood

Donna Hill’s 2017 Valentino calendar is now available.? This year’s theme is and Friends.?? To view the calendar and get yours please visit Read full article

2nd Annual Blogathon

By Michele on Feb 7, 2016 From Timeless Hollywood

Last year?s blogathon was such a success I?m doing it again this year. I hope to see some exciting topics on such a bright star that left us too soon. Please grab a banner and help spread the word. When: Sunday, March 27, 2016 To sign up pick a Valentino film or topic to write abou... Read full article

2016 Calendar

By Michele on Sep 28, 2015 From Timeless Hollywood

2016 marks the 90th anniversary of The Son of the Sheik.? Donna Hill’s Valentino calendar for 2016 will honor this classic movie.? To view the calendar and get yours please visit Read full article

Estate Catalog

By Michele on Mar 15, 2015 From Timeless Hollywood

After ?s death an estate auction was held on December 10, 1926 at Hollywood?s Hall of Art Studios. S. George Ullman was the Administrator and A.H. Weil was the auctioneer. A 95 page estate catalog was printed with a detailed listing of all the belongings to be auctioned off. What so... Read full article

See all articles

Rudolph Valentino Quotes:

[last lines]
Lord Hector Bracondale: Darling, we have passed the rocks and here are the safe waters beyond.

Ahmed, the Sheik's Son: [the Sheik picks up a thick bar of iron and bends it into a u] I will bend you to my will, as I bend this bar of iron.
[the son straightens the bar back out]

read more quotes from Rudolph Valentino...

Share this page:
Visit the Classic Movie Hub Blog CMH
Related Travel Sites

See All Related Sites >>
Also a Taurus

See All Tauruses >>
Rudolph Valentino on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame

See All Walk of Fame Stars >>
Rudolph Valentino Facts
In 2009 The Rudolph Valentino Society was created to honor his legacy.

In 2011, 'Affairs Valentino' by Evelyn Zumaya was released by The Rudolph Valentino Society. The biography drastically repaints the life of Valentino with newly found court documents, accounting ledgers, and unpublished memoirs and memories by his manager George Ullman and Godfather Frank Mennillo.

He was voted the 32nd Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

See All Related Facts >>
Related Lists
Create a list

See All Related Lists >>