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Miriam Hopkins on TCM

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Sep 11th, 2014
2014
Sep 11

MIRIAM HOPKINS

Miriam Hopkins on Turner Classics Movies tomorrow evening

 

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Every Friday evening in September, TCM is showing classic pre-code films. Tomorrow evening, in addition to Jean Harlow, Kay Francis and Myrna Loy, four films of Miriam Hopkins are playing in a row including Design for Living, Trouble in Paradise, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Story of Temple Drake.

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NOTE: All times are Eastern:

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Joan Rivers Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Sep 4th, 2014
2014
Sep 4

OBITUARY

Joan Rivers dies at 81; driven diva of stand-up comedy, TV talk

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Ten

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 23rd, 2014
2014
Aug 23

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Ten

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We are turning back the clocks 88 years to detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 23, 2014

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Monday, August 23, 1926

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George Ullman, Joseph Schenck, and Frank Menillo, along with the doctors, kept a watch at Rudy’s bedside all that night. Shortly after midnight an x-ray revealed that the peritonitis was spreading quickly through Rudy’s system. By early morning, he was struggling to breathe against the fluid that was seeping into his lungs, causing him agonizing pain. That, and the difficulty in breathing, was the only things he complained about.

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Around three-thirty, Rudy awoke from a restless sleep. Meeker was standing at his bedside as Rudy weakly raised his hand for the physician to draw nearer. “Doctor, do you know what I want to do?” Rudy whispered. “I want to go on that fishing trip we were talking about.”

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Meeker patted his arm and replied, “You certainly will, old man.” Rudy closed his eyes momentarily and then opened them again, frowning. “Look, doctor,” Rudy said. “I’ve left all my rods out in California. Can’t get them here in time. Can I borrow some of yours—have you got enough?”

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“Plenty, old man; plenty,” Meeker replied. Rudy closed his eyes again and tried to sleep. A half-hour later he awakened and gazed up at Meeker, who was seated next to his bed. “Doctor, I am afraid we won’t go fishing,” Rudy admitted. “Who knows? We may meet again.” Then, after a brief silence, he murmured, “Pola—if she does not come in time, tell her I think of her.” Meeker nodded and gave him an injection to induce sleep.

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During the next few hours, Rudy tossed and turned, murmuring incoherently in Italian, unable to get a fitful sleep. Around six o’clock, Rudy awoke and found Schenck and Ullman sitting at his bedside. Seeing the troubled look on Schenck’s face, Rudy said, “Don’t worry Chief. I will be all right.”

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Rudy then turned his gaze to Ullman. “Wasn’t it an awful thing that we were lost in the woods last night?” Rudy asked. Ullman, taken aback by his obvious delirium, remained silent and gently stroked his hair.

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“On the one hand you don’t appreciate the humor of that. Do you?” Valentino asked.

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Ullman smiled. “Sure I do, Rudy. Sure I do,” he said.

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Valentino regarded him quizzically. “On the other hand, you don’t seem to appreciate the seriousness of it either.”

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The sun was slowly rising over the New York skyline and filling the room with light. Ullman was about to pull down the blinds when Rudy waived his hand and smiled slightly. “Don’t pull the blinds!” he said. “I feel fine. I want the sunlight to greet me.” With those words, Rudy again fell asleep. Doctors considered a blood transfusion but decided that his heart would not be able to stand it. Only a miracle could save him now.

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Around eight o’clock, Rudy lapsed into a coma. Ullman regrettably sent word to Rudy’s friends that it was now only a matter of time. Within the hour, Ullman’s wife Beatrice, James Quirk, and Father Leonard joined Schenck and Ullman. At nine o’clock, a troubled Ullman met with reporters. “Rudy’s temperature has gone up half a point,” he told them. “It is now 104 ½. His pulse is 135. We are hoping for the best.”

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In California, columnist Louella Parsons was celebrating her daughter Harriet’s birthday at the Virginia Hotel in Long Beach. Earlier that morning she received a call from her editor requesting that she write Valentino’s obituary. “But Rudy isn’t dead,” she protested.

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“No,” the editor replied, “but he is dying, and New York wants the story in the office to send out as soon as the end comes—which the doctor says will be in a few hours.”

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Reluctantly, Louella sat at her portable typewriter, with tears streaming down her face, and began writing. “This is all very silly,” she kept repeating to herself. “Rudy will live and we will laugh over his untimely death tribute.”

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Over the next few hours, Schenck and Ullman would quietly enter his room for a few moments and then quietly leave. The only sounds that emanated from the actor’s lips were incomprehensible words in Italian. Around ten o’clock, Father Leonard summoned Father Joseph Congedo of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary. Congedo originally hailed from Valentino’s home town, but had never met the actor.

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“I was interested more in Valentino’s soul than in his public career,” Father Congedo said. “When I heard that he was facing death without the consolation of his kith or kin, I volunteered to stand at his bedside, not only as a fellow townsman, but as a spiritual counselor.”

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A container of holy oil, a crucifix, and candles were neatly arranged on a small altar in the actor’s room as Father Congedo administered Extrema Unction, the last rites of the church. Schenck told reporters that it was no longer a question of medical science or the doctors. “That is all past,” he said. “Medical science has done its all. It’s simply a question now of Rudy’s resistance. It’s his own fight.”

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Shortly before noon, Jean Acker arrived at Polyclinic by taxi and worked her way unrecognized through the crowds that blocked the Fiftieth Street entrance. Until that day she had not been allowed to visit with her ex-husband. “Every day I called the hospital,” Acker said. “But every day it was the same story. They did not need me, they said. I could do no good there.” But today was different.

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When she was ushered into his room, she noticed that everything—flowers and all unnecessary furniture—had been removed, with the exception of the small altar and the bed that he lay upon. Jean knelt at his bedside and called his name, but he didn’t answer. “I bent over and kissed his forehead,” she said. “But he did not know I was there. I called him again and again but he made no sign.” After several minutes, she was led from the room.

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“The last thing I remember was his breathing,” she said. “It seemed such a hard thing for him to do. And he looked so, so alone.”

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A few minutes past noon, Father Leonard once again blessed Rudy, holding to his lips a crucifix that reportedly contained a piece of the true cross; he then stepped back. Meeker, who could no longer do anything physically for his patient, gazed down at Rudy and checked his pulse. “It’s only a matter of minutes,” he whispered.

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Ullman, who had very little sleep during the past few days, was at the point of exhaustion. Stepping into the hallway, he cried, “I can’t stand it any longer. I can’t.” At ten minutes past twelve o’clock, a slight shudder arose from Valentino’s body as he drew one last breath; a priest, his physicians and nurses were the only ones at his side. Meeker opened the door and sadly nodded to Ullman. Rudolph Valentino, the great lover and idol to millions, was dead.

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TODAY, Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 p.m., be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  See you there…

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To read more about Rudolph Valentino’s last days, his funerals in New York and Beverly Hills and his burial at Hollywood Cemetery, read The Valentino Mystique: The Death and Afterlife of the Silent Film Idol.

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Nine

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 22nd, 2014
2014
Aug 22

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Nine

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We are turning back the clocks 88 years to detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 22, 2014

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Sunday, August 22, 1926

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To ease the staff’s burden, another specialist, Dr. Eugene Poole, was added, and the nurses doubled.  Meeker remained at Rudy’s bedside throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning, watching for any changes in his condition. At 1:45 a.m. a statement was issued stating that Rudy’s condition remained unchanged, and that he had been sleeping for several hours.

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Rudy received frequent injections of morphine during the night to alleviate his pain. The pleurisy, which began in his left lung, continued to spread, and the septic poisoning in the regions of the incisions increased, causing his temperature to climb to 104 degrees. In order to combat the toxins that were ravaging his body, saline solutions were injected into his chest to moisten the tissues and help fight the infection.

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Word quickly spread throughout the hospital and among the press that Rudy was slipping. Telegrams were sent to Rudy’s closest friends, and Ullman personally telephoned Rudy’s close confidant, John Barrymore, to inform him of his condition. A cable was sent to Alberto requesting his return to New York as soon as possible. The hospital staff once again began intercepting calls from people seeking information. Actors Ben Lyon and Lowell Sherman arrived in hopes of seeing their friend, but were turned away.

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Ullman, who had spent most of the past week at the hospital, said that Valentino had recognized him when he arrived that morning. Ullman appeared fatigued and unsettled when he confronted the press in the afternoon. “Rudy is not suffering much pain,” he said. “I was glad of this, but the doctors take it as an ominous sign. They say he should be in greater pain normally. They say he doesn’t respond to their treatment. He coughs only a little and then with great effort.”

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Ullman, until that day, would not allow a priest into Rudy’s room for fear the actor would think he was dying. While Rudy’s mind was still somewhat lucid, Ullman called Father Edward Leonard of St. Malachy’s, known as the “Actor’s Church.” A meeting with Father Leonard would give Rudy a chance to confess his sins if he so wished, and receive absolution and Holy Communion in accordance with his faith.

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On the advice of his physician’s, Ullman contacted Joseph Schenck, who was staying at the home of Adolph Zukor. It was suggested that Schenck hurry to the hospital to be at Valentino’s side, another indication that he might not survive the night. Schenck and his wife, Norma Talmadge had tried to visit several times that week but was turned away.

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Weeping and twisting her gloves as she arrived at the hospital, Norma was briefly allowed to visit the stricken star. She noticed that Rudy was very cognizant of his surroundings, even though he had been given large doses of morphine. What disturbed her most was the sound of his breathing, which could be heard above everything else in the room. A nurse explained that his lungs were affected, making the respiration so pronounced.

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“I could only stay a minute,” Talmadge said. “I couldn’t bear the sight of him looking at me and smiling when I had been told he might die. He said he would like to see some of his other friends, but I didn’t see anyone else there while I was in the hospital. The poor boy is lonesome, but I guess the doctors know best.”

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Rudy smiled when he saw Schenck enter the room. “Mighty nice of you to come see me,” Rudy murmured. “I didn’t know I was so near death that Sunday. I am beginning to realize only now how serious my condition was.” When Dr. Poole entered, Rudy greeted him with a slight wave of the hand and a whispered, “Hello Boss.” Schenck’s visit was also brief. As he left, he told reporters that Rudy had recognized him, but that was all. “He is very low,” said Schenck, who planned to return to the hospital later and pass the night at Rudy’s bedside.

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A short while later, Frank Menillo, a close friend and former roommate of Rudy’s, arrived and was brought up to date on Rudy’s condition. Menillo, who was also from Italy, visited briefly and spoke with his friend in Italian. Rudy smiled and answered in English. “Thank you Frank,” he said. “I’m going to be well soon.”

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The only official bulletin issued that day acknowledged that the actor’s situation was life-threatening: “Mr. Valentino’s condition is considered critical. There has been a slight extension in the pleural process in the left chest. It is impossible to determine the outcome at the present time. Temperature, 104; pulse, 120; respiration, 30.”

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That evening, Major Edward Bowes, the managing director of the Capitol Theater and a vice-president of Metro-Goldwyn Pictures, broadcast news of Valentino’s relapse on radio station WEAF. Bowes asked the public to hold an encouraging thought for the stricken actor. Before long, and under a light rain, a group of more than one-hundred concerned fans held a vigil outside Polyclinic Hospital in hopes of receiving word on his condition. That number would soon increase.

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At eleven o’clock Ullman issued the final report of the evening: “Valentino went to sleep at 10:30 and is resting comfortably. His general condition remains unchanged. His temperature and respiration are about the same. They hold out high hopes for his recovery and there is no doubt that he has a fighting chance.”

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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Be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial being held each year at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery tomorrow, Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm. See you there…

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Eight

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 21st, 2014
2014
Aug 21

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Eight

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For the next several days, we turn back the clocks 88 years and detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 21, 2014

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Saturday, August 21, 1926

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Ullman arrived at Polyclinic Hospital around five o’clock that morning. Rudy was sleeping as Ullman read his chart, which noted that his pulse and respiration had increased. Concerned, he called Meeker, who arrived shortly with his associates.

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When he awoke, Rudy acknowledged that he felt better. “The pain is all gone and I can feel the place where they made the incision,” he told Ullman. After reviewing his symptoms, Meeker explained that Rudy’s lack of pain was not a good sign. That afternoon, however, Valentino began experiencing some major distress. At 1:15 p.m., after another consultation, Meeker released the following bulletin: “There is a slight spread of the infection in the abdominal wall causing considerable discomfort. There is nothing about the condition to cause undue anxiety at the present time. His temperature is 101, pulse 90, respiration 22 [signed] Harold D. Meeker, Paul E. Durham.”

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Unofficially it was thought that the pain may have been caused by a muscular reaction after the withdrawal of postmortem drains from the wound, and might not mean a dangerous relapse. However, the doctors soon discovered that pleurisy had developed in Rudy’s chest. As a precaution, the hospital staff took blood specimens from Rudy and Ullman in the event a transfusion became necessary. A list of local blood donors was also made available by the hospital.

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Nurse Frank told reporters that the actor was making a desperate fight for his life. “He is in great pain and is frequently given opiates,” she reported. Shortly before four o’clock, Rudy’s condition grew worse, and the chief resident, Dr. William Bryant Rawles, was called in consultation. Even though no one would comment on his status, it was evident by their facial expressions that Valentino’s relapse was more serious than previously thought.

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At seven o’clock the last bulletin of the day was issued: “Mr. Valentino has developed pleurisy in the left chest; has had a very restless day. Temperature, 103.2; pulse, 120; respiration 36.” The bulletin was signed by Dr. Paul E. Durham, Dr. Harold D. Meeker and Dr. G. Randolph Manning.

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An employee of Jean Acker’s dropped off a package at the Polyclinic’s front desk late that evening. Inside was a white bedspread with lace ruffles and the word “Rudy” embroidered in the four corners. A matching pillow cover over a silk, scented cushion was included in the ensemble. It was hoped that the screen star would live to enjoy it.

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Despite Rudy being near death, a report came out of Hollywood that Pola was not as grief-stricken as her press agents led everyone to believe. After Rudy’s relapse was reported, a visitor to the set of Hotel Imperial purportedly found the actress in “fine fettle, entertaining a roomful of friends with all the spirit of an enthusiastic raconteur.”

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Pola Negri has received much criticism for what many called a “performance” during her relationship with Valentino and after his death—particularly at the funerals. Pola later claimed that she was deceived and never knew how serious Valentino’s illness was. “Oh if I had only known what was being done to me!” she said. “They called it common sense when it was really lying, in the name of business. I was deliberately deluded. Weeks later, I discovered the whole cruel deception.”

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According to Pola, the studio craftily arranged for false reports to be given to her during Valentino’s illness, knowing that she would stop all work on Hotel Imperial and rush to New York the instant she learned the truth. Newsboys with extras were kept away from the studio; on her way from her house to the studio, and back again, she was under what she called an “invisible guard of detectives,” who watched to see that nothing disturbing should reach her ears. “My servants were instructed to keep all the newspapers from me,” she said, “to see that no reporters got to me, and to allow no one to speak to me on the telephone.”

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Negri went so far as to accuse George Ullman of “staying the machinery of deception” from the New York end. Pola claimed that Ullman arranged for someone to be at the hospital, night and day, to intercept telephone messages and supply her with favorable bulletins instead of the truth. She did concede, however, that no doubt Ullman thought Rudy was going to recover.

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“But under all the pretense, it was ‘business first,’ love and death were secondary,” she said. “Such is the heartless law of picture-making.”

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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Be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial held each year at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm. See you there…

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Seven

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 20th, 2014
2014
Aug 20

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Seven

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For the next several days, we turn back the clocks 88 years and detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 20, 2014

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Friday, August 20, 1926

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Press coverage of Valentino’s illness was at a minimum because of his reported recovery. The big news centered on Valentino’s friend, Barclay Warburton, Jr., who also took ill with an undisclosed illness and admitted himself into Harbor Hospital, a private sanitarium on Madison Avenue. Paul Durham, the doctor who originally treated Valentino, performed an operation described only as “minor.” By four o’clock that afternoon, Warburton was reportedly smoking a cigar and talking to his mother on the telephone. To this day, no information has been released pertaining to the nature of Warburton’s illness.

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Afterward, Durham returned to the Polyclinic to check on Rudy, whose temperature had returned to normal. The actor had another restful night, but fussed after being given orders to be still. He asked to be returned to his suite at the Ambassador but was told he would not be able to sit up for several days. Though he could take lights soups and other liquid nourishment without discomfort, he complained when Nurse Frank tried to feed him broth. “I don’t want that darned stuff,” he grumbled. Usually all it would take to get Rudy’s cooperation was a smile from the attractive Frank.

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Because of his apparent recovery, some of the press charged that Valentino’s illness was a publicity stunt rather than anything life-threatening. Even Natacha, who received a cable earlier that day from Ullman stating that Rudy was out of danger, laughed and said, “What Rudy won’t do for publicity!”

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Meeker and Joller were quick with their denials. “The man’s life was saved by an immediate operation for two perforated gastric ulcers and the removal of his appendix, which was badly inflamed,” Meeker insisted, adding that the mortality rate for this type of illness was extremely high. Critics quickly pointed out that, according to most medical experts, gastric ulcers did not develop like mushrooms, and some sort of irritant would have been necessary to induce Valentino’s sudden attack. Meeker, however, could offer no explanation. It would soon be a moot point since the worst was yet to come.

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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Be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial held each year at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm. See you there…

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Six

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 19th, 2014
2014
Aug 19

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Six

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For the next several days, we turn back the clocks 88 years and detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 19, 2014

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Thursday, August 19, 1926

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While still not out of danger, Rudy’s condition seemed much improved. The heartburn he suffered the night before appeared to have no ill effect during the day. In fact, oatmeal was now added to his daily regimen, but he grimaced and complained that it didn’t “ride so well.” His doctors were so confident about his condition that they released the following bulletin: “Mr. Valentino is making satisfactory progress and having passed his most critical period, no further bulletins will be issued unless some unexpected development occurs.”

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The actor was never told how serious his operation and illness was. In fact, four priests stopped by the hospital but were not permitted to visit, lest the sight of them convince him he was near death. Still, Rudy gave an indication of knowing the seriousness of his illness when he told Ullman, “I was pretty close that time, wasn’t I? Closer than I hope to be in the next ninety years.”

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Ullman promised to bring him a copy of The Prisoner of Chance, a novel he was reading before he took ill, but balked when the two-pack-a-day smoker asked for a cigarette. “Oof! Not yet!” Ullman replied. Rudy sent a dozen American Beauty roses he received from Pola Negri to a crippled girl in one of the free wards and appeared uninterested when told that Pola had telephoned daily. He seemed more concerned about where he would convalesce after his stay in the hospital. The summer home of Hiram Abrams in Maine was mentioned in the press, but Rudy favored a retreat in Vermont where he had vacationed a few years earlier.

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As Rudy was feeling better, Ullman accepted a list of questions for the actor from the press. Over a period of several hours, so as not to tax his strength, Rudy conveyed his responses:

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Q.—What feelings have been inspired by the hundreds of telegrams, letters and phone calls that have reached you, not only from friends, but from girls and women you have never met?

A.—I feel grateful, so grateful, and feel my inability to repay all the kindness extended to em. They have helped me mentalyl to overcome my sickness.

Q.—What was your mental reaction to a serious illness? Were you afraid of death?

A.—All I wanted was relief—anything to get rid of the terrible pain. Death would have been better than to have stood it longer.

Q.—What was your favorite screen character among the parts you played? Did you visualize any of them in your illness?

A.—The part I like best was my role in Blood and Sand. If I had died, I would have liked to be remembered as an actor by that role—I think it my greatest.

Q.—When you are able to eat full meals again, what do you want most?

A.—Food? Ugh! The thought of food is nauseating, obnoxious to me. Don’t mention it.

Q.—How are you going to pass the time when you go away to Maine to recuperate?

A.—I am going to do like the prize fighter—get into condition as soon as possible.

Q.—For whom was your first thought when you realized you were seriously ill?

A.—For my brother Alberto and my sister Maria—for them were my first thoughts.

Q.—Did the fact that your illness was prophesied by an unknown woman who called at your rooms here increase your interest in psychic phenomena?

A.—Perhaps. My interest in such matters has always been that of the average well-read person. I hope now to learn more about the subject one day.

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At the end of the day, Ullman released the following statement from Rudolph Valentino:

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“I have been deeply touched by the many telegrams, cables and letters that have come to my bedside. It is wonderful to know that I have so many friends and well-wishers both among those it has been my privilege to meet and among the loyal unknown thousands who have seen me on the screen and whom I have never seen at all. Some of the tributes that have affected me the most have come from my ‘Fans’—friends—men, women, and little children. God bless them. Indeed I feel that my recovery has been greatly advanced by the encouragement given me by everyone.”

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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Be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial held each year at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm. See you there…

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Five

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 18th, 2014
2014
Aug 18

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Five

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For the next several days, we turn back the clocks 88 years and detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 18, 2014

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Wednesday, August 18, 1926

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Valentino once again had a reasonably comfortable night. Letters, flowers, and telegrams continued to flow into Polyclinic Hospital, and more operators were added to handle the influx of calls inquiring about Valentino’s status. Meeker’s report stated that the actor’s condition remained favorable. “Unless unforeseen conditions develop,” he said, “recovery is possible. Temperature 100.8. Pulse 85. Respiration 20.”

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That morning, Rudy, who was experiencing less pain, was given chicken broth and Vichy water, the first bit of nourishment since his operation. It appeared that he was feeling significantly better, but somewhat restless. “How much longer is this damn thing going to last?” he asked Ullman, who was the only person allowed to see him besides the hospital staff.

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Rudy tried to concentrate as some of the thousands of telegrams received were read to him. “That’s very nice,” was his response to Joseph Schenck’s message of sympathy. John Gilbert wrote, “Fight, Rudy, fight. Millions need you.” Other greetings arrived from John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Charles Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Letters and packages from unknown fans arrived daily, including more than a dozen Bibles and a copy of “Bedtime Stories for Grown-up Guys” from a young girl in Chicago.

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Natacha Rambova and her Aunt Teresa cabled their good wishes from Paris: “We pray for your recovery. Love.” That evening, Natacha arranged a séance with medium George Wehner, who claimed to have contacted Valentino’s spirit even though the actor was still very much alive. There appeared to be some confusion in the meta-physical world, since Rudy’s spirit believed that Natacha and company were in New York comforting him. Suddenly, Jenny, one of his spirit guides and the one he called for in the ambulance, took control, describing his illness and how his thoughts were directed to Natacha and his beloved Aunt Tessie.

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Pola Negri, Valentino’s self-proclaimed fiancée, called long-distance and spoke briefly to an operator. “This is Pola Negri. How is Mr. Valentino?” she asked. When assured that he was doing well, she thanked the operator and hung up. Though Pola proclaimed she would take an airplane in order to be at Rudy’s side, her employers, Famous Players-Lasky, vetoed that notion, not wanting to risk the safety of their star.

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Earlier that afternoon, reports again circulated that Valentino had died. The New York Evening Graphic issued an extra with two words in a large black headline—“Rudy Dead.” Below, in smaller and lighter type, the headline continued, “Cry Startles Film World as Sheik Rallies.” In its story, the Graphic recounted a rumor that Valentino had died, but gladly reported that it wasn’t true. The headline, however, had done its job. As one newspaper put it, “Theatrical stars, never out of bed before noon, rushed to the hospital, while others telephoned or sent messages.”

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Calls flooded the hospital switchboard at a rate of thirty-two per minute. Two additional operators were added, performing their duties “standing up.” When word reached the Astoria studios of Famous Players-Lasky, they closed for the remainder of the day before the truth was learned. The hospital staff did their best to deny the rumors and denounce its originators, but the damage had been done. In retaliation, Dr. A.A. Joller, superintendent of Polyclinic Hospital, had Jack Miley, the Graphic’s reporter and author of the piece, barred from the hospital’s press room. When ordered out, Miley said, “Who’s going to pay for this press room—Mr. Ullman, Mr. Valentino, or the United Artists?”

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Dr. Joller defended his actions and the hospital, saying “For an institution of the high character and standing that Polyclinic enjoys, to tolerate such a fake as charged by the New York Evening Graphic would be suicide and would not be permitted for one moment, actor or no actor.”

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At seven o’clock that evening the final bulletin of the day was issued. “Mr. Valentino’s condition remains favorable. Unless unforeseen complications develop, recovery is considered probable. His temperature is 100.8; respiration 20, and pulse 86.”

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For dinner, Rudy was given broth, French Vichy water, and peptonized milk. Just before midnight he was awakened by an attack of heartburn. “The doctor gave him some medicine and he went back to sleep again,” Ullman said. “The attack was not severe but it did interrupt the rest we hoped he would get.”

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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Be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial held each year at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm. See you there…

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Four

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 17th, 2014
2014
Aug 17

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Four

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For the next several days, we turn back the clocks 88 years and detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 17, 2014

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Tuesday, August 17, 1926

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According to hospital statements, Rudy passed a moderately comfortable day. Lying, for the most part, with eyes closed, he opened them only when treatment was administered. At one point Rudy smiled weakly at Ullman and declared. “I’ve gotten out of worse fixes that this. I’ll soon be on my feet again and making pictures.” As Ullman left the room, the actor summoned up enough energy to wink “good-by.”

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Rudy insisted that the mass of flowers that continued to pour into Polyclinic for him be distributed to the various wards of the hospital. Hundreds of telegrams remained unopened, waiting until he was well enough to read them himself. As he lay there, Rudy surprised Ullman by asking for a mirror. Ullman was at first hesitant because the illness had clearly left its mark on Rudy’s face. “Oh, let me have it,” Rudy insisted. “I just want to see how I look when I am sick, so that if I ever have to play the part in pictures I will know how to put on my make-up!”

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Early that morning, Joseph Schenck and Norma Talmadge arrived from Maine but were not permitted to see the actor. Schenck told reporters that millions of dollars would be lost “in the event of the star’s death.”

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The “no visitors” order, however, did not deter creative fans from attempting to see their idol. Many would-be visitors succeeded in reaching the eighth floor but were stopped before they could enter his room. Marie Markiewz, a determined young woman, demanded that she be allowed to see her “beloved.” When told that Valentino was too ill for visitors, she became hysterical and recited poetry that she scribbled down on paper. As they were forcibly ejecting her from the hospital, she sobbed loudly, “Oh, my beloved, I hope you get well.” Another admirer was a young man whose only request was to kneel at Valentino’s bedside and silent pray for his recovery.

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Meanwhile, outside the hospital, crowds watched as reporters photographed the arrival of Betty Hughes, a dancer in a Brooklyn cabaret that Valentino reportedly frequented. Accompanied by her pet monkey ‘Pepy,’ Hughes told reporters that the simian had often amused Valentino on his visits to the café. Neither she nor the monkey got any further than the first floor.

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Unfortunately, all this attention generated by Valentino’s illness seriously disrupted the hospital’s daily routine. After a consultation with Polyclinic’s administrator, Ullman hired a private detective to stand guard outside Valentino’s suite, hoping to deter further undesirables. In addition to barring the curious and overzealous flappers that tried to force their way in, all reporters, who had been maintaining a “death watch” on the first floor, were ordered out of the hospital shortly before noon.

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At seven o’clock that evening the last official bulletin of the day was issued. “There is no change in Mr. Valentino’s condition. His temperature is 103.6, respiration 26, pulse 103.” Physicians were certain that whatever transpired the next day would determine Rudy’s fate.

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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Be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial held each year at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm. See you there…

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Three

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 16th, 2014
2014
Aug 16

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Three

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For the next several days, we turn back the clocks 88 years and detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 16, 2014

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Monday, August 16, 1926

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As the morning progressed, the number of fans arriving at the hospital inquiring about Valentino’s condition increased. They finally had to be turned away and the hospital doors closed. Jean Acker, who was planning a trip to Europe at the end of the week, called about Rudy’s status, saying she would visit later in the day.

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As Rudy requested, Ullman sent a cable to Alberto and his sister Maria in Italy, and to Natacha Rambova in France. Ullman at first wanted to have Alberto return to New York, but Rudy declined. “By no means,” he insisted. “Just cable him that I am a little indisposed and will soon be all right.” When Natacha received news of Rudy’s illness, all the anger and hurt that she experienced the past year suddenly faded, and the differences that had separated them now seemed unimportant. For support, she turned to her mother and aunt, Teresa Werner, who was a favorite of Rudy’s. Both women had maintained hope that the couple would be reunited, and felt that this illness might bring them back together.

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Rudy asked that a wire also be sent to Pola Negri. “Tell her that I’m all right,” he told Ullman. “Tell her not to worry. I’ll pull through.” When Pola received her telegram, it provided hope for her though his condition remained serious. “Mr. Valentino has been operated on for appendicitis and gastric ulcers,” the telegram read. “He is making good progress.”

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Negri was on the set of her latest film, The Hotel Imperial, when she spoke to reporters. “I am so unhappy,” she said. “I can’t just walk off the set, for I am in the middle of a big picture. But I will go to Rudy just as soon as I can leave my business and as fast as a train will take me to New York. Poor Rudy—I had no idea he was going to get sick—he was so strong and happy when he left and he didn’t say a thing about illness in his last telegram.”

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Rudy’s boss, Joseph Schenck, who newspapers reported had a $1,000,000 insurance policy on Valentino’s life, was still at Hiram Abrams’ summer camp in Maine when he received word of Valentino’s condition. Schenck cabled that he and Norma would leave for New York immediately.

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After a slight relapse that afternoon, rumors spread that Valentino had died. The actor rallied, however, and briefly regained consciousness. Recognizing his nurse, Pearl Frank, a diminutive and exceedingly attractive brunette, he patted her on the cheek and said, “You’re a fine girl. You’ve been so good to me!”

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While Valentino fought for his life, stories circulated up and down Broadway that the star had attended a “wild party” with liquor and showgirls the evening before he took ill. Barclay Warburton emphatically denied that a party of any kind had taken place. Earlier that afternoon reporters gathered at his Park Avenue apartment as Warburton confirmed that he, Rudy, and Ullman had dined at the Colony before attending George White’s Scandals. Afterwards, he said, Valentino felt “rotten” and complained of pain. Instead of continuing on, Warburton went to this apartment, and Valentino and Ullman, as far as he knew, returned to the Ambassador. He first learned of Rudy’s condition when the actor’s valet telephoned him on Sunday morning.

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The reporters left Warburton’s apartment convinced that he was telling the truth. One newspaper, however, revealed that as they were leaving, an attractive young woman arrived, a “member of one of the popular Broadway revues.” Some have speculated that it was Ziegfeld Follies girl, and frequent Valentino date, Marion Benda.

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Benda claimed they ended up at Club Lido on East 44th Street, where Valentino again complained of feeling unwell. Later, at Texas Guinan’s nightclub, Valentino became upset for reasons unknown to Benda, so she suggested that they leave. “He said he wasn’t in the mood for such a place,” Benda said, “although we had such a good time there only a few nights before.”

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From there, Valentino escorted Benda to her apartment building on West 55th Street. “I saw Rudy last at the door of my apartment house,” she said. “It was about 3 o’clock in the morning. He said he was going home to bed.” However, cab driver Mike Di Calzi told the New York Evening Graphic that he picked up Valentino and Benda at her apartment at four-thirty that morning and took them to Warburton’s apartment. Frank Gross, the elevator operator in Benda’s building, reportedly confirmed that Valentino and Benda did leave her apartment around that time.

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The question arises, how could Valentino be with Marion Benda at two nightclubs and her apartment, and be at a party at Barclay Warburton’s at the same time? Were the cab driver and elevator operator lying, or did the Evening Graphic fabricate the story, which would not be hard to believe considering their reputation. It should also be noted that no one ever came forward from Club Lido or Texas Guinan’s to confirm Valentino’s presence there that evening.

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Regardless, a few days after Valentino’s death, Benda changed her original story. This time she stated to a New York Daily News reporter (to whom she originally told a few days earlier that she “knew nothing about it”) that they had indeed gone to Club Lido and Texas Guinan’s, but they were not alone—Warburton, dancer Frances Williams and “a girl named Hayes” accompanied them. She couldn’t remember who else was in the party.

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Benda said that when Valentino took ill, the festivities moved to Warburton’s apartment, where Dr. Paul Durham was called. At first it was thought that Valentino was suffering from indigestion. “Perhaps he’s eaten something that disagreed with him,” Durham suggested.

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“All he had was a ham-and-egg sandwich,” Benda replied.

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All evidence points to a party at Warburton’s apartment that evening, but whether it was a “wild party” or not is hard to say. In 1920s vernacular, a “wild party” conjures up visions of scantily clad girls dancing on tables drinking champagne. Regardless of Prohibition, it was, in all probability, a simple gathering of a few people having drinks, listening to music and dancing, as Harry Richman stated.

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If this were true, why would Warburton lie? He is not convincing when he insists that a party never occurred. Not only are there those who contradict him, there were none that defended him, including Ullman. And the fact that he later avoided the press on the subject generates skepticism. At this point in time, one can only speculate as to why Warburton would choose not to tell the truth. Being that it was the middle of Prohibition, perhaps he was nervous because hard liquor was served. With a well-earned reputation as a playboy, he was known for hosting riotous parties that lasted until all hours of the morning. A former neighbor, who claimed that his dusk-to-dawn soirees kept him from sleeping and forced him to move, had already sued him.

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And what of Marion Benda? There is no question that she was acquainted with Valentino and attended Warburton’s party, but why give two different accounts to two different newspapers? If Benda were the mysterious chorine at Warburton’s apartment that day, perhaps she and Warburton reached an “agreement” that should back up the playboy’s statement. Though only speculation, perhaps the fact that she suddenly includes Warburton in the second version of her story indicates that perhaps any agreement may have gone sour, and this was her way of setting things right.

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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Be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial held each year at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm. See you there…

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