Monday, February 29, 2016

Rare Rudy Photos from Jean Acker's Scrapbook

Here are two rare photos that were from a scrapbook Jean Acker had compiled.  The writing in white at the bottom of the one picture is of her own handwriting.  I do not know the two other men with Valentino in the posed photo.  The other photo by Shirley was done circa 1919 - 1920.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Where Did Valentino's Flowers Go? - No! POLA, No!

Something I have always found interesting.... on the arrival at St. Malachy's Church there is a full length floral spray on top of Valentino's casket.  In the photo taken during the service, the floral arrangement is noticeably absent.   Then upon it's departure from the church they have returned.

I guess we can be thankful for small mercies that Pola Negri's over-the-top spray of flowers were prevented from being put on the casket.  Can you imagine if it had been allowed?  All photos would portray the huge P O L A  as it would have been visible to everyone as the casket was taken from Frank E. Campbell's to St Malachy's Church and then back to Campbell’s.   Ben Lyon said "It would make it look like an opening night for her"

Arrival - flowers are in place

During - flowers are missing

Leaving - flowers have returned

Pola Negri's casket spray of flowers ordered & made
but due to obvious reasons they were forbidden to be put on the casket.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Valentino Estate Items

Always rare, not to mention expensive are authentic items that Rudolph Valentino owned.  That is why the Valentino Estate catalog is so prized by true Valentino fans.  The estate catalog was mostly compiled by Valentino's beloved handyman/overseer Luther H. Mahoney.

Here is a sample from my own collection:  The India Engraved brass decanter is shown in a color modern photo.  Below is a photograph of the living room at Falcon Lair.  You will see the brass decanter sitting on top of Rudy's piano.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Valentino Film Footage at Mae Murray Wedding June 27, 1926

The Mae Murray - David Mdivani wedding occurred on June 27, 1926  Rudolph Valentino, as a favor to his long time friend Mae Murray agreed to serve as best man at the wedding.  No one in attendance that day at the Ambassador Hotel knew that in less than 60 days Rudolph Valentino himself would be dead.

Mdivani turned out to be a bad move for Mae Murray.  On his advise she walked out on her MGM contract thus putting her on the L.B. Mayer blacklist.  After the birth of their son, things took a turn for the worse; the depression hit and Mdivani duped Mae out of her fortune.  The Mae Murray story is heart-breakingly sad.  It's well documented in the wonderful book "Mae Murray - the Girl With the Bee-Stung Lips"   Author Michael G. Ankerich spoke at the 2012 Valentino Memorial Service the year the book was released. He read passages noting the Murray-Valentino friendship and alliance.

Film footage has never surfaced of the 1926 wedding festivities, however here are two frames that show that it was indeed filmed.  In these frames everyone seems so happy. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Alberto Guglielmi Arrives September 1, 1926

Sadly, Alberto Guglielmi did not arrive in time for the New York funeral of his brother, the late Rudolph Valentino. (Alberto had not yet announced he was legally changing his surname to Valentino)  The funeral had been held two days prior on August 30, 1926 at St Malachy's Church.

However, when his ship arrived in New York, Alberto was met by Rudolph Valentino's manager, S. George Ullman.  Ullman and Pola escorted Alberto to the Frank E. Campbell's Funeral Church to view his brothers remains.  After Alberto's brief viewing, the casket was closed for all time.

Alberto Guglielmi, (center) clearly overwhelmed and distraught, was escorted by Ullman (left) to his suite at the Ambassador Hotel.  This photo was a candid newspaper photograph taken as he exited the car upon arrival at the hotel, September 1, 1926

Friday, February 19, 2016

Valentino The Villain - Stolen Moments 1920

While we all love Valentino's portrayals as the romantic lead - its often spoken just how delightful he was in some of his pre-star films when he was cast as the smarmy villain.  He seemed to relish in the role.  The last film he completed before striking stardom in the Four Horseman was just such a film.

Valentino, who is billed as Rodolphe Valentino portrays Jose Dalmarez who uses blackmailing among other underhand tricks in this love triangle with so many twists and turns you tend to forget some of the gapping holes in the plot. However we cant be sure it's the films fault. 

You see, originally released in December of 1920 at full length, it was cut down in late 1922 to 3 reel size (aprox 30 minutes) The footage was narrowed down to spotlight Valentino's role, for at the time of the re-release of the cut-down version, Valentino was absent from the screen due to his strike against Paramount.  Unseen screen footage of Valentino was pure gold to the box office and Select Pictures Corp. shrewdly decided to capitalize on this, figuring most movie goers had not seen the (then) unknown Valentino when the movie had its original release in 1920.

Sadly, all that survives of the film is the cut-down version and it is on lower quality 16mm film stock.

However - here is a scan of a rare surviving 35mm nitrate film fragment of the original release which shows the scene in which Valentino was introduced in the film.  Naturally, he's smoking!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Norman Kerry - Early Valentino Champion

It's been well documented that Norman Kerry befriended Rudolph Valentino prior to his entrance in films.  He had such faith in Rudy's ability that he allowed him to stay with him at the Alexandra Hotel - then the plushest accommodations in downtown Los Angeles.  He took Valentino on casting rounds with hopes he would spark interest.  There were few offers aside from heavy/villan roles for the foreign looking Italian.  However Rudy persisted and the rest is history.  

June Mathis is often given credit for having "discovered" Rudy.  No - she gave him his big break by casting him in the Four Hourseman, but I believe the credit belongs to the true person who "discovered" Rudolph Valentino that would be Norman Kerry. 

The Kerry-Valentino relationship is an odd one at best.  After Valentino's assent to stardom he had no further communication with Norman Kerry. There are dozens of photographs of Rudy with several male pals of the era  Robert Florey, Douglas Gerrard, Paul Ivano, Beltran Masses, Manuel Reachi, just to name a few,  but you never ever saw Norman Kerry. 

However, when Valentino died, Norman agreed to be a pallbearer at the September 7, 1926 funeral in Beverly Hills.  Alas, the day before the funeral he broke his ankle and had to be replaced in the line-up.  However, he did attend the service on crutches.

Norman Kerry died in 1956 of an undisclosed illness.

Norman Kerry in his prime; co star of Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, He Who Gets Slapped were among a few of his silent films.

A rare still from "Passions Playground" 1920 Starring Katherine McDonald and Norman Kerry
Katherine is in center; Norman is to the left; Rudy to the right, with arm outstretched.

Another rare shot - late 1926 at the Griffith Park meeting of the Breakfast Club.
Norman Kerry (center standing) leads one of Rudy's horses in the solemn tribute
the club paid to their fallen member; Rudolph Valentino.  Notice one of Rudy's riding
boots was placed backwards in the stirrup as is the tradition.

Norman Kerry, left, presents a trophy in this photo taken around 1954

Final resting place of Norman Kerry at Holly Cross Cemetery. He is near
Jean Valentino and also Jean Acker

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

British Versions of Valentino's Poetry "DAY DREAMS"

Rudolph Valentino penned a book of poetry while on strike from Paramount.  His quest for creative control in the productions he was the star had created a huge power struggle that ended up with Valentino walking out on his contract.  While the rift would later be settled; it took Rudolph Valentino off the screen from November 12, 1922 with the release of The Young Rajah - until his return on August 11, 1924 with Monsieur Beaucaire.

In the meantime he hastily wrote a book of poetry entitled "Reflections" but was renamed before it went to press in 1923 as "Day Dreams"  It was an instant hit and sold many copies.  It was published in Great Britain also in 1923 but with a bold blue cover.  The contents were exactly the same as the American version. 

In 1924 when Monsieur Beaucaire was released in London, the press book for the film shows that they released a paperback version of Day Dreams as a promotional tie in to the movie.

Both the blue hard cover as well as the paperback edition are much harder to find and on the collectors market are more valuable than the red covered American version.

Blue hardback edition, and paperback version of Daydreams

Page from the 1924 press-book for Monsieur Beaucaire

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Valentino & Rambova - Hollywood Royalty

She rarely, if ever smiled.  However, she was an enchanting, stunning beauty of her time. Hollywood did take notice. So did Rudolph Valentino. That description would refer to Natacha Rambova the second wife of Rudolph Valentino; alas their marriage would crumble after two difficult years. (1923-1925)  Her story has been told in detail and depth in the scholarly researched book 'Madam Valentino' by author Michael Morris. I recommend you reading it!

Here is a vintage movie magazine that featured both Mr & Mrs Valentino on the cover identified as "The Valentino's"  Below that is the actual photo that the cover artwork was based upon.  No matter what your opinion of Rambova may be, the mere mention of her name in Valentino circles still draws heated discussion. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Falcon Lair - Juan Romero's Reign 1936 - 1945

While Falcon Lair will forever be associated with Rudolph Valentino, in truth Rudy owned the house but for a very short time. Less than 18 months.  True, he made changes to the house which was only two years old when he bought it in the spring of 1925.
After his death the house went on the market in the famous auction in December 1926.  However the winning bidder of the home never paid, nor took possession of the home.  Infighting between the Valentino family heirs and executor of the estate, S. George Ullman caused the home to remain empty and vacant for a whole decade after Rudy's death.  In 1936 a man named Juan Romero entered the scene and purchased the property.
Juan Romero respected very much the Valentino legacy which he inherited with the home.  However he made his own imprint on the home that lasted so long that many people associated some of the changes Romero made as being done by Rudolph.
It was Juan Romero who put the cement paths and pillars in the rear of the home.  It was Juan Romero who knocked out the back wall of Rudy's bedroom (which had two circular windows) and extended the length of the room by 5 and a half feet, with arch windows.  It was Juan Romero who switched out the  original Spanish style fireplace mantles in the library and living room and replaced them with marble.
However, 9 years later, for reasons unknown, Juan Romero lost interest in the property and in 1945 sold the home to Gypsy Buys.  He placed all the furnishings on the auction block, and for a second time, a Falcon Lair sale was held.  While Romero did own several original Valentino estate items, none of these were included in the Falcon Lair auction of 1945.
Copies of this auction catalog are very rare.
Here are some rare photos that show Juan Romero and the Falcon Lair auction of 1945

Juan Romero looks at some of his Valentino Estate items

In the living room of Falcon Lair; Juan Romero views various Valentino Estate items he owns

The cement pillars/fencing in the rear of the property was all put in by Juan Romero

The 1945 sale.  Items were listed as "removed from Falcon Lair" as if to hint
that Valentino had owned them.  Nothing in the catalog contained items that were
owned by Rudolph Valentino.  The only Valentino connection would be the phrase "removed
from Falcon Lair"

Front page from the "removed from Falcon Lair" 1945 sale

Romero's piano as depicted in auction catalog

Here is the piano in the catalog when it was in Falcon Lair.  It is in the exact
same location in the living room as where Valentino's own Piano was located

Friday, February 12, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day - Valentino Style

Happy Valentine's Day!
Here are two vintage Valentine's Day cards from Rudy's era that, in the spirit of the
holiday, play up  Rudolph Valentino's reputation as 'The Great Lover'.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Remember Valentino

Twelve years after his passing, Strand Press issued a small paperback booklet with 85 pages of reminisces of it's author Beulah Livingstone.  Livingstone was a publicist for United Artists.  On page 10 of the booklet she states "My first real friendship with Valentino started from the time he joined United Artists in early 1925."

She tells several insider stories that were, at the time, 1938 not known to the general public. It was exactly one of these stories that became famous.  She, in her role as UA publicist, attended the 1925 premiere in New York Mark Strand Theatre for 'The Eagle'  and after the movie, upon his exit, Rudy's limo (with Ms Livingstone in it) was completely surrounded by over-eager fans.

In order to clear a path of escape for his driver, Rudy reached into a box of brass "Eagle" coins that were movie premiums given out by theaters.  Rudy leaned out of the window and tossed the coins in all directions and as the fans scrambled to get them, it afforded them the ability to escape in the vehicle.  Beulah Livingstone passed away on January 12, 1975

Beulah Livingstone

"Eagle" coin that is still a prized Valentino collectable today

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chocolate Rudy - The Collectable Cards

Shortly after Valentino's passing, there were ingenious ways used to market the Valentino image in the form of a tribute or reproduction of photographs. Even some of his films were marketed in 16mm as 'show at home' prints.
However,one chocolate company in Europe created an idea of having a small card portraying Rudy placed in each bar of chocolate they sold.  The idea being that if you bought enough, you could get all 18 cards that make up the complete set.  I am not sure as to how many were able to put together a complete set, but here is how it looked when they did!   Vintage Rudy

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"The Return of Rudolph Valentino" - Carol McKinstry

Spiritualist Carol McKinstry would write in her book "The Return of Rudolph Valentino" saying that he first appeared to her dressed as The Sheik on the night of December 7, 1926.  She said only his head and shoulders were manifested and he spoke to her about a screenplay he would write through her hands.

The screenplay/story was called "A Warning From Out The Ages"   Apparently the communication didn't come easily nor quickly.  McKinstry did not finish until late fall of 1938, a full 12 years after she had started. Valentino then penned an introduction where he opens with "Hail All!"

Carol McKinstry moved from her Washington DC residence to Hollywood in spring of 1941.  She found that the studios in Hollywood held little to no interest in such a unique project. McKinstry pressed forward and had Valentino's former business manager, S. George Ullman read the first draft.  Too polite to call it out as he saw it, but you can read through his very careful wording.  Ullman said:

"the substance of his message is more profound than his language in life, but his development can certainly be extremely marked during the years since he left us"

McKinstry proclaimed this as an endorsement and continued to shop it around.  Yet, with no doors in Hollywood opening she decided to put it into book form.  While this would take years to occur, she was a keynote speaker at many spiritualist topical events and at one point announced that she planned to start a Valentino Memorial Church of Psychic Fellowship"    On Valentino's birthday May 6, 1946 she got the current owners of Falcon Lair (Gypsy Buys) to allow her to conduct a séance in the living room. She was joined by small crowd which included Rudolph Florentino who attended that evening dressed in sheik attire.

Her book came out in 1952 and did not become the sensation she had hoped it would.  Carol McKinstry slipped out of public view after the late 1950's with the spiritualist craze having already peaked.  I am not sure how she finished out her life, but there is no doubt Carol McKinstry was an interesting lady.

Published 1952

Séance held at Falcon Lair on Rudy's birthday

McKinstry poses as if in deep meditation with Rudolph Florentino
 behind her for the newspaper

1956 letter from Carol McKinstry to Mrs. La Russo 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Alberto Valentino Letter On 10th Year of Rudy's Passing

Below is a hand written letter from Alberto Valentino dated August 25, 1936, just two days after the 10th anniversary of his brothers passing.  Alberto wrote to the Adeline Linnell, who was the chairwoman of the Chicago Valentino Memorial Club.  He expressed his appreciation for the floral arrangement that was sent on behalf of the Club, for the Valentino Memorial Service.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Valentino Association - London

After Rudolph Valentino's death in August of 1926 there were a lot of sincere parties who wanted to gather funds to pay tribute to this most remarkable movie star.  Some wanted the funds to go to charity work in Valentino's name, others wanted something more tangible such as a statue or chapel.

Rudy's manager upon his death, S. George Ullman, became the figurehead 'President' of the main drive to raise funds for a memorial for Rudy.  He got much support across the ocean from "The Valentino Association" which used his name and Valentino clout to organize on their end.  Here is some interesting correspondence from 1927 in which Ullman writes a kindly letter to Miss Nora Pye who resides in London, and gets her in touch with Miss M.C. Elliot who runs the London Valentino Association.  Miss Elliot would remain involved until her death in the 1980's  By the time of her death the club had long since been renamed The Valentino Memorial Guild and headed by Leslie Flint.

Letter from S. George Ullman to Miss Pye

Information sheet sent to people who inquired about donating/joining
 the Valentino Association in London

Oversize business card for The Valentino Association and Valentino
International Memorial

Nice letter to Miss Nora Pye from Miss M.C. Elliot  circa 1927

This receipt shows that Miss Nora Pye joined the Valentino Association

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Valentino Memorial Clubs, Guilds & Associations

In the days before the internet with Facebook Groups, and Yahoo! groups, the only way to communicate with like-minded fans was to enlist membership within a given group.  In the case of Rudolph Valentino, there were many such clubs organized after his passing in 1926.

The most noted were located in Hollywood, California, Chicago, Illinois, and London England.
There were several more than sprang up and disappeared almost as quickly.

Here for you to enjoy is a collection of rare membership cards and business cards that were connected with these various Valentino clubs and guilds.  As of this date, all have disbanded.

Most famous Valentino Guild maintained by legendary Lady In Black, Ditra Flame. Her Valentino Guild was active from 1927 to her death in 1984

A later version of the Valentino Guild's membership card

Business card of Valentino Guild.

Membership of the Chicago Valentino Memorial Club.  This club had famed Valentino photographer Mabel Sykes (often credited as Valentino's favorite) as the club secretary.  Mabel Sykes often held the club meetings at her home. This club was most active in the late 20's thru the 1930's.

The 'Valentino Flappers' Club started after the 1951 release of 'Valentino' starring Anthony Dexter.  It's members were mostly teens who were not even born when Valentino was alive.   James Dean was about to burst upon the screen and teens of that era identified with him, rather than a star who died before they were born.  Thus, this club only existed a couple of years. 

This is the last known club for Valentino.  Called the 'Rodolfo Valentino Club' it was started by Estrellita Del Regil who claimed that her mother was the original Lady In Black, and became one herself at the annual Valentino Memorial Services to 'carry on' her mothers work - as she now called herself on the membership card "The Great Lady In Black'.  Her own sister denied any truth to the story.  I haven't found anyone who admitted to joining this club. 

In the early 1990's there were newsletters that were created and sent out.  Those will be covered in another post.