Archive for May, 2015

Visiting the final sites of Rudolph Valentino’s life and death

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

Visiting the final sites of Rudolph Valentino’s life and death

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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During a recent visit to New York I stopped at some sites related to Rudolph Valentino at the end of his life. Specifically, the former Polyclinic Hospital where the screen-idol died and St. Malachy’s Catholic Church where his funeral was held.

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The picture on the left is the Polyclinic Hospital as it appeared circa 1926.

On the right is how the building appears today.

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New York’s Polyclinic Hospital and Medical College (345 West 50th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), where Rudolph Valentino died, played host to the ills of many prominent people over the years. Actress Mary Pickford, gangster Arnold Rothstein, singer Peggy Lee, and Marilyn Monroe are only a few of the famous folks who passed through these doors. After Valentino’s death, the 334-bed hospital remained politically and financially strong, and continued to function for decades as a totally independent hospital. A merger with the French Hospital in 1972, however, paved the way for bankruptcy and its eventual closing in 1976, fifty years after Valentino’s death. The former hospital building, while still standing, is now residential. The eight-floor suite where Valentino died is most likely reconfigured. Still, the windows on the east side (showing above), though some are bricked up, remain visible.

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The photo on the left is the Valentino funeral procession leaving St. Malachy’s Church.

On the right is how the church appears today.

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Founded in 1903, St. Malachys Catholic Church (239 East 49th Street, between Eighth Avenue and Broadway), today known as “the Actor’s Chapel,” still ministers to Broadway’s Catholic actor. Valentino’s New York funeral was held here, as was the 1929 marriage of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., to Joan Crawford.

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The interior of St. Malachy’s Church

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While visiting St. Malachy’s, I lit a candle in Rudolph Valentino’s memory. I am not of the Catholic persuasion s0 I hope I broke no laws.

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Mina Crolius Gleason, Mother of actor James Gleason

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

Mina Crolius Gleason, Mother of actor James Gleason

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MINA CROLIUS GLEASON

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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On this Mother’s Day we remember Mina Crolius Gleason, the mother of playwright and actor, James Gleason.

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Born Arabella Crolius on June 9, 1858, in Boston, her family had been in the theater for generations. She was on the stage as a child, appearing with her four brothers and sisters at the historic Castle Square Stock Company Theater.

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Following her marriage to William Lawrence Gleason, she went on tour with him in Charles Frohman’s road shows. Later, the couple appeared in stock at Oakland and at Elitch’s Gardens in Denver.

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Her son, James Gleason, was one of the most successful American playwrights and actors, in stage and films. Gleason made an impression in roles in such films as Meet John Doe, Here Comes Mr. Jordan and The Bishop’s Wife. He made his debut on the stage as a 4-months-old baby carried in his mother’s arms.

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In April, 1927, Gleason wrote a part in The Shannons of Broadway especially for his mother, but she fractured a hip while stepping down from a train at Gallup, New Mexico. She was unable to act in the play, although her son postponed the production on her account.

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Now an invalid, Mina was confined to her home at 117 North Maple Drive in Beverly Hills. On June 26, 1931, she was rushed to the Osteopathic Hospital and it was there she died the following day from heart disease. She was 73.

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Mina Gleason’s death certificate

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Mina’s funeral was held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills with interment, along with her husband’s ashes, at Hollywood Cemetery (Section 8, in the vicinity of John Huston).

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