Posts Tagged ‘de longpre park’

The story of Rudolph Valentino’s borrowed grave

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

 

 

Once the late silent film star Rudolph Valentino had been interred and the obsequies completed, the thought of how the actor would be remembered was foremost in everyone’s mind. The city of Chicago, home of the infamous “Pink Powder Puffs” editorial, formed the Rudolph Valentino Memorial Association in the hopes of erecting a remembrance of some kind. The Arts Association of Hollywood proposed a monument that would be the forerunner of a series of memorials to pioneers of the film industry. A committee of local Italians, which included director Robert Vignola, Silvano Balboni, and his wife, screenwriter June Mathis, suggested the construction of an Italian park on Hollywood Boulevard with a memorial theater and a large statue of Valentino as its central feature. Despite those grandiose projects, no memorials materialized—and it slowly became apparent that the same would happen with Valentino’s final resting place.

Valentino and his manager, George Ullman

After Valentino’s death, a decision could not be made as to where the actor’s body would finally rest. George Ullman, Valentino’s manager, was confident that Alberto, the actor’s brother and the person who would have the final say, would consent to interring the body in Hollywood. The Mayor of Castellaneta, Valentino’s birthplace, cabled Alberto imploring him to have the actor’s body returned there for burial with ceremony. Valentino’s sister Maria, who at first wanted her brother brought back to Italy, later concurred with the Hollywood delegation, thanks in part to the suggestion of William Randolph Hearst. To solve the problem—at least temporarily—June Mathis offered her own crypt at Hollywood Cemetery’s Cathedral Mausoleum until an appropriate memorial could be decided upon or built.

A movement was started for the erection of a worthy memorial that women admirers wanted to be “everlasting.” Ullman and Joseph Schenck, head of United Artists and Valentino’s boss, formed a committee called the Valentino Memorial Fund with other producers, Carl Laemmle, M.C. Levee and John W. Considine Jr. Appeals were made to the public to donate one dollar each; memorial societies were organized in New York and Chicago, and were expected to extend to other cities around the world. Ullman sent out one-thousand letters to members of the film colony in which he expressed his feelings that the “success of the memorial will be a tribute not only to Rudolph Valentino, but to the motion picture industry, as a whole.”

The outlook appeared to be a success. Letters deploring the death of Valentino poured in by the thousands. Certain that sufficient contributions would be forthcoming, the committee authorized architects to submit designs for a mausoleum, with an estimated cost placed at $10,000.

However, the public response was not what they anticipated. A check for $500 came from an English noble woman. Other checks for $100 came from actors Ernest Torrence and William S. Hart. From the one-thousand letters that Ullman sent, fewer than a half-dozen replies were received. The committee collected approximately $2,500, half of which came from America; the major donations came from England, Germany, Italy, India, and South America.

Valentino and June Mathis

In the meantime, June Mathis died in New York (less than a year later). When Valentino’s body was placed in her crypt, Mathis had said, “You many sleep here Rudy, until I die.” Now that time had come; a decision had to be made about what to do with Valentino’s remains. As a good-will gesture, Silvano Balboni offered to have Valentino’s casket moved to his crypt next to Mathis’ until the Valentino estate ironed out its problems. On August 8, 1927, cemetery workers entered the Cathedral Mausoleum and, what proved to be one last time, moved Valentino’s remains to the adjoining crypt, number 1205.

Artist’s conception of the planned tomb for Rudolph Valentino at Hollywood Cemetery.

 

Artist’s conception of the front and overview of Valentino’s planned memorial.

While public memorials were still being considered, Valentino’s body lay in a borrowed tomb. Photoplay magazine published plans for a proposed tomb by architect Matlock Price in the November 1926 issue. The design incorporated an exedra, a half-circle of columns standing serene and dignified against a dark background and curving towards the observer. Within that half-circle, a “heroic” bronze figure of Valentino as the Sheik, seated on an Arabian horse, towered above the onlooker. Following the curve of the exedra, a broad bench sat under two pergolas running across the ends of the terrace, which was paved with red Spanish tile.

These plans also went nowhere, and a permanent mausoleum for Valentino never materialized. Ullman hoped that the City of Los Angeles would provide the plot for a grave at Hollywood Cemetery and the $2,500 that was collected could be used for a bust of the actor to rest on a granite stand.

The statue “Aspiration,” dedicated to Valentino’s memory, shortly after it was dedicated. It still stands today in De Longpre Park.

Instead, in May 1930, a memorial to Valentino was finally erected, not at Hollywood Cemetery, but in De Longpre Park in central Hollywood; the only one of its kind dedicated to an actor in the film capitol.

Ironically, fans still flocked to his crypt (reportedly, Valentino is still one of the most visited grace sites today). But not always reverently. Once, a marble pedestal that stood before his crypt was overturned and broken to bits. Some of the pieces were carried away by souvenir hunters. Tourists would come, gaze at Valentino’s marker, then break flowers from the baskets and hide them in their clothing, as keepsakes.

Some attempts to remember Valentino have been positive. In London, a roof garden at the Italian Hospital was opened and dedicated to Valentino. Paid for by British money, it was the first attempt to perpetrate Valentino’s memory.

Finally, in April 1934, after Valentino’s body lay in a borrowed tomb for almost eight years, Silvano Balboni sold the crypt to Alberto. Balboni returned to Italy and never returned to the United States; Valentino now had his own resting place.

An early memorial to Valentino at his gravesite.

One wonder’s why the funds for the hoped-for resting place did not happen after Valentino’s death. The actor’s estate at the time could not cover the cost; it would not be fluid for several years. But certainly, his fellow actors who called him “friend,” could have pooled their money, or, any one of them could have paid the cost on their own. It was a mystery then and remains so today.

Nevertheless, every year on August 23rd at 12:10 p.m. (the time that Valentino died in New York), scores of fans gather near his crypt at Hollywood Forever Cemetery to remember the man. Regardless of the circus atmosphere that once prevailed at these events during the past ninety years, whether it be reports of the actor’s ghost or the appearance of mysterious, dark-veiled women, it is hoped that somehow the spirit of Rudolph Valentino, the “Great Lover,” now rests in peace.

If you are in the Los Angeles-Hollywood area on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, drop by the Rudolph Valentino Memorial at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The service is held at the Cathedral Mausoleum and begins at 12:10 p.m.; the time of Valentino’s death in New York. Arrive early as seats go quickly. See you there.

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The dream of sculptor Roger Noble Burnham

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

Sculptor Roger Noble Burnham stands by his bust of horticulturalist Luther Burbank . (Los Angeles Public Library)

By Allan R. Ellenberger

The noted sculptor, Roger Noble Burnham, may not be a familiar name, but if you attended the University of Southern California, or are a fan of silent film star Rudolph Valentino, you are aware of his more famous works. Burnham created the well-known “Tommy Trojan,” the most popular unofficial mascot at USC. The following year, he was commissioned to create “Aspiration,” a memorial to the late Rudolph Valentino at Hollywood’s De Longpre Park.

Students gather around the base of the Tommy Trojan statue at USC in front of the Bovard Auditorium. The bronze plaque depicting Helen of Troy on the east side of the base is visible. (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

Burnham’s “Aspiration” — a tribute to silent film star Rudolph Valentino at De Longpre Park.

Other of Burnham’s works include the 12-foot bronze statue of Gen. MacArthur in McArthur Park; “The Spirit of ‘98” at the Los Angeles National Cemetery; the Scholarship Medal for the University of California, and he was a collaborator on the Astronomer’s Monument which  stands in front of the Griffith Observatory.

Memorial to General MacArthur. (By Jontintinjordan)

Burnham was born in Hingham, Massachusetts on August 8, 1876. With a Harvard degree in art history and architecture, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and toured with a theatrical company. Afterward, he studied sculpture with Caroline Hunt Rimmer, taught modeling at Harvard’s School of Architecture, and spent time in Rome and Hawaii before arriving moving to Los Angeles in 1925. There, he taught at Otis Art Institute until 1932. In addition, Burnham, a religious man, designed Christmas displays for the windows of a downtown department store.

But for all his works, two of his most beloved projects never were realized. One was to create a 160-foot “Neustra Senora, La Reina de Los Angeles,” that would overlook the city from the Hollywood hills. The other was to sculpture a colossal figure of Christ, to be sited above the Hollywood sign; it was entitled, “The Answer.”

The statue would depict a benevolent Christ with out swept arms and a gentle smile, standing 150 feet tall on a quarter-sphere 60 feet high—equivalent to a 19-story building. It would be finished in fused gold and cost about $250,000. To pay for his dream, Burnham spoke at local churches and planned to sell replicas of several sizes of his statue across the country. To envision his dream, in May 1951, the Los Angeles Times created a composite photo of the planned messianic statue.

Burnham’s vision for the total 210 foot “The Answer,” which he hoped would be placed on Mount Lee, overlooking Hollywood. The tower on the right is 300 feet tall and the letters of the Hollywood sign are 30 feet tall. (Los Angeles Times)

Sadly, for Burnham, his dream was never realized.

Roger Noble Burnham lived another decade and died in Los Angeles on March 14, 1962 at age 85.

 

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83rd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

Today’s 83rd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial

 

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Once again, this year’s highly attended, 83rd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service was a complete success. Held at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, in the foyer of the Cathedral Mausoleum, today’s service had something for everyone. The life and career of Rudolph Valentino was lovingly remembered in word and song.

 

It was a warm August day, not at all like most of this summer which has been unseasonably cool. Summer is back! Hollywood Forever Cemetery owner, Tyler Cassity welcomed the audience this year before turning the service over to Tracy Ryan Terhune, the emcee for the day.

 

Yours truly provided a history of the “Aspiration” statue that stands in De Longpre Park that this year is celebrating its  80th anniversary. Following that, a short video that documented the early history of “Aspiration” was shown. Next the audience was treated to a recitation of three poems from Valentino’s book, Daydreams by Allison Francis, the mother of the 2030 Lady in Black.

 

The crowd was serenaded to two songs by Frank Labrador: “Candlelight” and “The Angels Above Needed Someone To Love” – the lyrics were reportedly written by Valentino for future Lady in Black, Ditra Flame, who wrote the music. Frank was accompanied on the piano by Garrett Bryant.

 

The current Lady in Black, Kari Bible, treated everyone to a history of Ditra Flame, the original Lady in Black. Following was a short clip from Art Linkletter’s House Party from the 1950s of Ditra being interviewed about her devotion to Valentino. It was the first public showing of this clip in more than 50 years.

 

Tracy then read excerpts from an unpublished manuscript by Paul Ivano who was a close friend of Valentino. Special guest, Donna Hill, the author of the just published Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol spoke about her book and showed a video of rare Valentino photos from her book.

 

Perennial favorites, Ian and Regina Whitcomb once again entertained the crowd with the songs, “There’s a New Star in Heaven Tonight” and “Sheik of Araby.” Valentino Memorial Committee icon, Stella Grace led the audience in a reading of the 23rd Psalm to end the service.

 

Once again, many thanks to this year’s committee members: Channell O’Farrill, Tracy Ryan Terhune, Stella Grace and Marvin Paige. And thank you to everyone behind the scenes — you all did a great job as usual.

 

Following are some photos from todays events:

 

Rudolph Valentino’s crypt

 

 

 

Donna Hill (left), Kari Bible and Garrett Bryant

 

 

Frank Labrador sings “The Angels Above Needed Someone to Love”

 

 

 Donna Hill, Tracy Ryan Terhune and Ian Whitcomb

 

 

 Allison Francis reads poems from Valentino’s Daydreams

 

 

Visitors explore the Cathedral Mausoleum 

 

 

Visitors peruse Valentino memorabilia 

 

 

 Allan Ellenberger holds the  future Lady in Black-2030, Olivia Francis

 

 

 Tracy Ryan Terhune and Stella Grace

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Valentino in the Park…

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

VALENTINO WEEK

DeLongpre Park

 

 

  

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Developed in 1924 for $66,000, De Longpre Park is named after painter Paul De Longpre, whose celebrated home at Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga Avenue was the first tourist attraction in Hollywood.

 

On May 5, 1930 (Valentino’s 35th birthday), at twelve o’clock in De Longpre Park, actress Dolores del Rio drew back a velvet curtain to reveal the bronze figure of a man with face uplifted.

 

 

The statue, entitled “Aspiration,” was designed by sculptor Roger Noble Burnham and was paid for with contributions from fans and admirers. The inscription reads: “Erected in the Memory of Rudolph Valentino 1895-1926. Presented by his friends and admirers from every walk of life — in all parts of the world, in appreciation of the happiness brought to them by his cinema portrayals.”

 

 

 

A week later, neighbors, who insisted that they were not consulted on the matter (and that the only statue in the park should be of De Longpre himself), made an official protest. Regardless, nothing came of the matter and the statue remained. No more was heard of the statue until a few years later when a woman named Zunilda Mancini came forward, claiming to have donated $6,900 towards the statue, which actually cost only $1,500. She sued Valentino’s former manager, George Ullman in court and was awarded the difference of $5,400.

 

“Aspiration” as it appeared in the 1930s

 

The year after the unveiling, a fourteen-year-old girl was found on a bench near the statue. Police said she had been chloroformed and most likely sexually assaulted. She died at Hollywood Hospital without regaining consciousness. Three years later, on November 1, 1934, the caretaker of the park found the lifeless body of thirty-year-old Ann Johnston in a rest room just a few feet away from “Aspiration.” Next to her was an empty poison bottle. Since she left no note, it remained unclear whether her suicide was related to Valentino or, as the police surmised, was due to a nervous breakdown she recently suffered.

 

The statue has been the object of vandalism several times over the years. On February 2, 1952, it was found broken from its base and lying on the park lawn. Taken to the city service yard for repairs, it was not returned for nearly twenty years.

 

Close-up of repairs made in the 1970s

 

In July 1979 a bronze bust of Valentino sculpted by Richard Elllis and paid for from the estate of one of his fans, was mounted on a tall, white pedestal several feet from “Aspiration.”

 

 

 

 

 Bust of Valentino that has stood in DeLongpre Park for almost thirty years

 

Shortly afterward a group of concerned neighbors initiated a campaign to revamp the neglected park. To this day, “Aspiration” is the only monument ever erected to honor an actor in Hollywood.

 

Warning: De Longpre Park is surrounded by a metal fence and locked up at night. Please take reasonable precautions when visiting.

 

 

 

If you are in the Los Angeles-Hollywood area this Saturday, August 23, be sure to drop by the Rudolph Valentino Memorial at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The service is held at the Cathedral Mausoleum and begins at 12:10 p.m. – the time of Valentino’s death in New York. Arrive early as seats go quickly. See you there.

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 EMAIL: Hollywoodland23@aol.com

 

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Rudolph Valentino’s 113th Birthday…

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Rudolph Valentino

 

 Rudolph Valentino and his wife, Natacha Rambova

 

BORN: May 6, 1895, Castellaneta, Italy
DIED: August 23, 1926, New York, New York

 

TUESDAY, May 6, is Rudolph Valentino’s 113th birthday. To celebrate you may want to pay homage to your idol this week at the following five Valentino places of interest.

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1. Walk of Fame Star, 6164 Hollywood Boulevard, south side between Argyle and El Centro Avenue.

 

 

Rudolph Valentino’s star on the “Walk of Fame” was one of the original 1,500 installed in 1959. The spot where his Star is located was at one time the front entrance to the Hastings Hotel (formerly the Regent), built in 1925 by producer Al Christie on land where, many years earlier, he had filmed one of the first movies made in Hollywood. The hotel was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and was demolished. The site is now a parking lot used for the Pantages Theatre and nearby subway.

 

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 2. Hollywood High School Mural, southeast corner of Orange Street and Hawthorn Avenue.

 

 

 

Located on the west side of Hollywood High School (1521 North Highland Avenue) is a large mural of Valentino in profile as The Sheik in full headdress blowing in the wind. Until the 1930s, the Hollywood High School athletic teams were known as The Crimson (in emulation of Harvard). It was around this time that a newspaper journalist wrote an article about one of the school’s teams and nicknamed them The Sheiks after “the brave warrior-lover hero in the Rodolf [sic] Valentino film classic of the 1920s.” After the article was printed, the school adopted the name, and they have remained “the Sheiks of Hollywood High” ever since. To view the mural travel south on Orange Street from Hollywood Boulevard. The mural is just past Hawthorn Avenue and overlooks the school’s football field.

 

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 3. De Longpre Park, south side of De Longpre Avenue between Cherokee Avenue and June Street.

 

Statue of Aspiration at De Longpre Park

  

Developed in 1924 for $66,000, De Longpre Park is named after painter Paul De Longpre, whose celebrated home at Hollywood Boulevard and Cahuenga Avenue was the first tourist attraction in Hollywood. On May 5, 1930 (Valentino’s 35th birthday), at twelve o’clock in De Longpre Park, actress Dolores del Rio drew back a velvet curtain to reveal the bronze figure of a man with face uplifted. The statue, entitled “Aspiration,” was designed by sculptor Roger Noble Burham and was paid for with contributions from fans and admirers. The inscription reads: “Erected in the Memory of Rudolph Valentino 1895 – 1926. Presented by his friends and admirers from every walk of life — in all parts of the world, in appreciation of the happiness brought to them by his cinema portrayals.”

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 4. Lasky-De Mille Barn, 2100 Highland Avenue (across from the Hollywood Bowl).

 

 

The Lasky-De Mille Barn is presently home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum. At one time this simple wood-frame structure was part of Famous Players-Lasky’s studio, and stood on the southeast corner of Vine Street and Selma Avenue. Built in 1895, the barn was where The Squaw Man (1914), the first full-length motion picture filmed in Hollywood by Cecil B. De Mille, was shot. Valentino would certainly have used this building at different times during his tenure at the studio. There are also Valentino artifacts on display in the museum courtesy of Valentino collectors, Tracy Ryan Terhune and Stella Grace. For information on visiting the barn and museum, call (323) 874-2276 or (323) 874-4005.

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5. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, south side between Gower Street and Van Ness Avenue.

 

Rudolph Valentino\'s crypt

 

Founded in 1899, the former Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery is the final resting place of Rudolph Valentino. It is also the site of the annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service held each year on August 23 at 12:10 P.M., the time of his death in New York. Valentino’s crypt, borrowed from his friend June Mathis who is lying in the crypt next to his, is located in the Cathedral Mausoleum, Crypt 1205. As you enter the mausoleum, walk to the back and take the last corridor to the left. Follow that to the end and make a right and walk toward the stained glass window. Valentino’s crypt is the last one on the left at eye level.

 

 

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