Archive for August, 2018

Showing this year ay Cinecon 54

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

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Beatrice Dominguez: Valentino’s “La Bella Sevilla”

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

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She was a vamp. With Spanish mantillas and high combs, and dancing to the sounds of a strumming guitar, she endeared herself to those she entertained. She was born Beatriz Dominguez on September 6, 1896, in San Bernardino, California. Descended from an old California Spanish family, a race of dons, her lineage can be traced back to old Castile who had been Americans for generations. Like her three older sisters, Beatriz was educated at Sacred Heart Convent, and like her younger sister Inez, she appeared in a few short films, but unlike Inez, she liked the medium. Her family, however, wanted her to be a doctor or lawyer; there had been no theatrical people or dancers in their ancestry. But dancing was in her blood. Her mother Petra, was born in Sevilla and never had a dancing lesson, yet she simply danced. Beatriz learned to dance from her. “You see,” Beatriz said, “Spanish dances are all symbolical.” And from her, too, she inherited the priceless mantillas, combs, jewelry and embroidered shawls that she wore.

In 1915 and 1916, Beatriz danced her way into fame when she appeared at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Diego. Billed simply as “La Bella Sevilla,” she lent the old Castilian touch to the air of the place.  To the click of castanets and a swirl of silken skirts, through an open archway she danced to the tune of the classic La Jota, black eyes snapping as the applause of the expositions throng bought in more crowds. When Theodore Roosevelt saw her dance, he called her “California’s sweetheart — fairest dancing daughter of the dons.”  .

While performing in San Diego, she had an uncredited role in the Douglas Fairbanks film, The Americano (1916). After the exposition, Beatrice returned to dancing in vaudeville.

“After I left San Diego,” Beatriz recalled, “and had danced at the Mission Inn in Riverside—I wished to act. I called at some of the studios and did not say that I was the premiere dancer at Balboa Park (San Diego). I simply registered as ‘La Bella Sevilla.’ Mr. O. H Davis, who was a vice-president of the Exposition, was appointed general manager of Universal. One day, when I called there, he suggested that I use my own name, because directors were rather afraid to employ a dancer because they reasoned that she could not act. I was baptized ‘Beatriz,’ but at the studios they have turned that into the American ‘Beatrice.’”

The newly rechristened ‘Beatrice,’ returned to films in 1919 in a small role in the Rex Ingram picture, The Day She Paid (1919) followed by another Ingram film, Under Crimson Skies (1920). Carl Laemmle saw her and considered her “an exceptional motion picture type” and gave her a part in The Fire Cat (1921) at Universal. Beatrice became one of the first Hispanic actresses to receive screen billing and to be mentioned in the press. Then, the film that she would be remembered for was offered to her. “Beatrice Dominguez, a Spanish dancer, has been engaged to play in the Metro production of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which Rex Ingram is directing,” the local trade papers announced. The film starred the relative newcomer, Rudolph Valentino and his dancing the Tango with Beatrice glamorized the dance and gave him instant celebrity.

Beatrice Dominguez’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

In December 1920, Beatrice appeared in the prologue to The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks during its seven week run at the Mission Theater.

In February, she was filming The White Horseman (1921) with Art Acord when she collapsed with a ruptured appendix; she was rushed to the Clara Barton Hospital at 447 South Olive Street. Doctors believed she would recover, but as with Valentino five years later, peritonitis set in; a second operation was necessary. She died from the complications of the operation on February 27, 1921. She was 24. One week later, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse opened in New York City to rave reviews and made Rudolph Valentino a star, in part because of the Tango scene with Beatrice. .

The home of Beatrice Dominguez at 2522 Elsinore Street in Los Angeles where her funeral was held. (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private home. Please do not disturb the residents) (click image to enlarge)

Beatrice’s funeral was held at her home at 2522 Elsinore Street, where she lived with her mother and sister Inez. The funeral mass was held at the Plaza Church in old Los Angeles with burial at Calvary Cemetery. .

(click on image to enlarge)

(click on image to enlarge)

At the time of her death, her role in The White Horseman was not yet completed, so they had to find a way to write her out of the remainder of the film. Her purpose in the film was to find a treasure. The director brought in a stand-in, of about the same height, dressed her in Beatrice’s costume and had her walk into the scene with her back to the camera and announce that she was called back to her home. She entrusted her mission to another, who was then responsible to find the treasure. Just before her death, she was signed to play the role of a Hindu girl in an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling story, Without Benefit of Clergy at the Brunton Studios (now Paramount).

 

The 91st Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial is coming up on Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 12:10 p.m. in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Be there. To learn more about the history of the Valentino Memorial, read the book, Valentino Forever: The History of the Valentino Memorial Service by Tracy Ryan Terhune.

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Valentino’s Lady in Black legend grows

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

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One of the legends that developed after the death of silent screen idol Rudolph Valentino, was about the mysterious Lady in Black. Many have claimed to be her and others have donned the black veil and dress in their memory over the past ninety-one years. Just a few that have laid claim or have been credited to the legend are Pola Negri, Marion Benda, Jean Acker, Estrellita del Regil and her mother Anna, and the one who is most accepted to be the original Lady in Black, Ditra Flame.

Another woman who has a claim on the legend is one that most Valentino fans probably have never heard of. Her name is Florence Harrison. Florence’s story is as mysterious as the woman she was alleged to be.

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Harrison’s claim to the title was not known until several years after her death and was made by her son. This is what is known. Several years ago, a copy of the book, Valentino As I Knew Him, written by the actor’s friend and manager, S. George Ullman, surfaced with the following inscription:

“In loving memory of Rodolpho Valentino and my beautiful mother, Florence Marie Rittenhouse (Marie Valentino) who died in Los Angeles of cancer on March 7, 1947. May my beautiful mother and the beautiful memory of her that I will cherish to my grave and Valentino, may they both rest in peace in each other’s arms! My mother was the original ‘Woman in Black’ and quit when others tried to copy her and make a cheap publicity stunt out of it. T. G. (Tony Guglielmi).”

Florence Marie Rittenhouse was born in Pennsylvania in 1900 to Charles and Lillian (Shuman) Rittenhouse. A professional pianist, Florence married Samuel Harrison and moved to Washington D.C. There the Harrison’s had three children: Warren, Thelma and David. One day in 1934, according to family lore, Florence and her eleven year-old son David, left Washington and moved to California, never seeing her family again. Nothing more is known about Florence until her death from breast cancer on March 7, 1947 at the County General Hospital in Los Angeles. Florence’s remains were returned to Washington D.C. for burial at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Florence Harrison’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

As for David, he enlisted in the Army in 1942. The family claims that he had mental health problems and apparently was not able to live on his own. Were his problems a result of his stint in the Army, since they would never have inducted him if those problems were present.

 

The Tony Guglielmi (Guglielmi was Valentino’s birth name) that signed the book was most likely Florence’s son, David Harrison, but why would he sign it that way? By calling her “Marie Valentino,” was he implying that his mother was married to the actor? Did David, who was born in 1923, believe that he was Valentino’s son? Was Florence one of the many anonymous Lady’s in Black that appeared at Valentino’s memorial over the years? Or were these the wild delusions of a mentally disturbed young man? All we have is a brief inscription on the title page of a Rudolph Valentino biography, so unfortunately we may never know. Florence Harrison is one more name added to the already crowded legend.

The 91st Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial is coming up on Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 12:10 p.m. in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Be there. To learn more about the history of the Valentino Memorial, read the book, Valentino Forever: The History of the Valentino Memorial Service by Tracy Ryan Terhune.


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Can Gable be another Valentino?

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Latest gift to womenkind dissected

By Harry Carr, Los Angeles Times

August 2, 1931

 

Have the movies found in Clark Gable another Valentino? Every time Gable appears on the screen, an electric shock runs through all the female hearts for miles around. Women are mad about him.

His fan mail looks—for bulk—like the letters to the A.E.F. in France. Letters passionate, adoring, swimming with emotion. But he will never be another Rudolph Valentino.

Valentino had something that Gable hasn’t. No other actor had ever appeared who had what Valentino had. It is a quality hard to describe.

Had he been a woman, I should have said that he stood for the universal Earth-Mother. He was the most fascinating of all characters—the primitive man with a veneer of top hats and shining shirts.

Valentino was more primitive in his heart than our old roughneck friend Bull Montana. He was graceful, charming, finished in his manners—yet he was absolutely primitive. He was the mating call.

He was the warm earth opening its heart to the sun in springtime. He was the cave man dressed up. His instincts were those of childhood.

I remember sitting one night with Mrs. Valentino in their home on Whitley Heights. It was a wild revel of artistic direction—floors of black marble with scarlet cushions on a divan that belonged in the last days of the Imperial Rome. We were looking at Rudy who sat across the room. He was talking to Gloria Swanson. He was graceful, winning—charming.

“Just a primitive child,” said Mrs. Valentino, with half-cynical amusement. “What he would like to be doing is repairing a carburetor on an automobile—or playing with his tallan bulldogs. Do you see the point? And did she?

He liked to touch power. He liked to feel that he could control the great finished engine of steel; he liked to fee the giant strength of those fierce beasts. He liked to realize that they loved him; that he could wrestle and rough-house and punish them, but that they would tear anyone else to bleeding shreds.

Just so he liked to wrestle, to ride Arab stallions. He liked the fierce sun of the desert; the last of the storm.

Rudy had a romantic swagger—a flaming color—an appeal that made women fight like tigers for places on the sidewalk when he passed because they felt instinctively that in his heart he was the age-old call of the man to the woman.

Rudolph was the adored lover of all womankind, yet he was not what you would call a ladies man. He had very few sweethearts—a fact of which he sometimes complained in a most plaintive manner. The truth is, Rudolph was not very interesting to most women when they came to actually meet him. Men, on the other hand, bitterly resented him until they got to know him. Then they liked him.

There ws something honest and appealing in Valentino’s struggle that appealed to men. Even in the greatest days he was always a well-meaning guy having a tough time. Sensitive, bruised, misunderstood, Valentino sorrowed over the fact that men resented his hold over women. He resented the resentment of boys who didn’t like when their girl friends sat with a mysterious light in their glowing eyes, and a transfixed expression of surrender to the dashing young man on the screen.

Gable is a dashing fellow. But he will never be the overwhelming lady-charmer that Valentino was. He knows too well what it is all about.

Valentino didn’t. He was always a mystery to himself. Women adored the little-boy hidden in Rudy. Gable is strictly grown-up. He lacks the appealing innocence of Valentino. There is nothing in him that cries out for help to a female heart. And Valentino cried out.

In soul essence, he was the child hero Romulus—waiting to achieve might deeds—to found Rome—to rear nations—to rack out a new world—but temporarily very much in need of a mother.

Please plan to attend the 91st Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial on Thursday, August 23, 2018 beginning at 12:10 p.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica, Blvd., Hollywood.

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