A Biography
Rudolph Valentino


Rudolph Valentino was one of the most popular male stars of the silent film era. He was a major sex symbol during the Great Depression, seducing America's female population with his Latin looks and flashing eyes. Born Rodolfo Alphonso Raffaelle Guglielmi in Italy on May 6, 1895, he arrived in the United States in 1913. 

For awhile, Valentino held a job as a gardener in New York's Central Park when he became a nightclub dancer, replacing Clifton Webb (a future film star in pictures such as "Laura" and "Cheaper by the Dozen") as the dancing partner of an exhibition dancer known as Bonnie Glass. Unfortunately, Valentino was soon caught in a scandalous society divorce. He left New York with a theatrical company and traveled to San Francisco and then to Los Angeles. 

Valentino had an old friend in Los Angeles by the name of Mae Murray (the future glamour queen who would later star in films such as "Mademoiselle Midnight" and "Circe the Enchantress"), who found him work in his first film, "Alimony," in 1918, which lead to more minor roles in other films. Once more, Valentino found himself in the middle of, another romance gone bad when his marriage to an actress, Jean Acker, fell apart on their wedding night. This was shortly after Valentino starred in the film, "Eyes of Youth," in which Valentino played a professional co-respondent hired to romance Clara Kimball Young. In 1921, Valentino received a major break when he MGM's script department chief, June Mathis, suggested him for the lead in Rex Ingram's "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Valentino's role, however, would become the film's starring role as production ran. The film's premiere came on October 30, 1921, in New York. The film was a big success, but the relationship between Valentino and Metro became bitter when the studio refused to increase Valentino's weekly salary from $350 to $450 during the filming of "Camille." Less than a month after "Horsemen"'s premiere, Valentino left Metro for Paramount Pictures, which secured him a weekly salary of $500. There, Valentino starred in his most popular role in the film, "The Sheik," an adaptation of a best-selling novel by E.M. Hull. In the film, Valentino plays Ahmed Ben Hassan, prince of the desert, who has his eyes set on a woman played by the actress Agnes Ayres. The entire country practically went mad with "Sheik-mania," making Valentino the most popular star in Hollywood and one of the highest paid when Paramount doubled his
salary to $1,250 a week. In 1922, Valentino made four more films, including "Moran of the Lady Letty," with Dorothy Dalton, and "Blood and Sand," which was his most successful film of that year. in a scandal when he was charged and imprisoned for
bigamy. 

On August 23, 1926, less than five years after his big break in "The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse," Valentino's life and career came to a sudden stop when he died in New York of peritonitis. It might be hard to understand how Valentino managed to become the object of desire to much of the world's female population. Compared with the male sex symbols of today, Valentino seemed a little over-the-top.