Posts Tagged ‘ditra flame’

Valentino’s Lady in Black legend grows

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

Valentino’s Lady in Black legend grows

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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One of the legends that have 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 eighty-seven years. Just a few that have either 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.

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Another woman who also 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 a man who was 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:

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“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).”

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There was a Florence Marie Rittenhouse who was born in Pennsylvania in 1900 to Charles and Lillian 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.

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

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The Tony Guglielmi (Guglielmi was Valentino’s real name) that signed the book was most likely Florence’s son, David Harrison, but why would he sign it that way? He implies that his mother was married to the actor by calling her “Marie Valentino,” so 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 biography on Rudolph Valentino, so unfortunately we may never know. Florence Harrison is just one more name added to the already crowded legend.

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The 86th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial is coming up on Friday, August 23, 2013 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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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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83rd Annual Valentino Memorial

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The 83rd Annual Valentino Memorial

 

  

As always, the service will start promptly at 12:10pm in the afternoon. Plan to arrive early for better seating.

 

83rd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

6000 Santa Monica Boulevard

Monday, August 23, 2010

12:10 pm

 

By Tracy Ryan Terhune

 

The lineup for this year VMS will include:

 

Noted author Allan Ellenberger who will speak about the 80 Year history of the Valentino tribute statue “Aspiration” This year marks the 80th anniversary of it’s dedication. Allan’s remarks will be followed by a video presentation of Aspiration from its dedication to today.

 

Allison Francis will be reading selections from “Daydreams”, Valentino’s book of poetry he released in 1923. This will be Allison’s first time to speak at the service, although she’s been a long time attendee.

 

Karie Bible will give us an overview of the Ditra Flame “Lady In Black” story. Karie’s presentation will be followed by a very rare (recently discovered) archival film clip filmed just days after Ditra’s announcement on August 23, 1954 that she would be giving up the Lady In Black role. When she made that announcement, she was wearing a white gown, with a blue cape. She’s wearing the same outfit in this interview.

 

Frankie Labrador will be joining us for the first time; Frankie has taking the time to learn two pieces of vintage Valentino tribute related sheet music that were never professionally recorded. Everyone will be hearing them at this years Memorial for the very first time!

 

Donna Hill, who’s recent release of her pictorial book called “Rudolph Valentino – The Silent Idol” will be speaking for the first time. Everyone from Kevin Brownlow to Leonard Maltin have given high praise to this beautiful book Donna has made this years Valentino Tribute video based on images she has selected from her book.

 

Rudolph Valentino had many friends who knew him well, but few knew him as good as Paul Ivano. They roomed together and shared many memories. Recently discovered but never published is Paul Ivano’s “I Remember Valentino” We have secured permission to read some of these never heard before, inside stories of Rudy in his personal life.

 

Ian Whitcomb will be joining us for another year to lead us in song.

 

All of these things and more, will make up the 83rd Annual Valentino Memorial.

 

“We Never Forget” is our motto. We honor his life, his legacy. Please join us on Monday, August 23rd in remembering the remarkable Rudolph Valentino.

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Valentino’s Lady in Black…

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Ladies in Black haunt Rudolph Valentino’s tomb

 

Above is the earliest photograph of a Lady in Black mourning Rudolph Valentino
taken from the Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1947.

 

After the actor’s death in 1926, a veiled woman (or several of them) appeared each year to lay flowers near his tomb. The original mourner may never be identified, but others have taken up her mantle.

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By Larry Harnisch
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 31, 2008

 

In the decades since Rudolph Valentino’s death in 1926, one of Hollywood’s odder, more macabre rituals has unfolded every Aug. 23 at his crypt — the mysterious appearance of a Lady in Black.

 

Her face obscured by a black veil, her identity more or less unknown, a Lady in Black (or sometimes several of them) would silently place roses at the tomb of the silver screen’s “Great Lover” on the anniversary of his death from natural causes at age 31.

 

“So many mysterious women in black moved in and out of the mausoleum in Hollywood Cemetery yesterday that it took on the appearance of the salesgirls’ entrance to a large department store,” The Times reported in 1938.

 

The Italian actor, one of the silent era’s most popular movie stars, was among Hollywood’s earliest sex symbols and is best known for his roles in the 1921 films The Sheik and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

 

It is believed that the first Lady in Black (or Woman in Black, as The Times sometimes called her) appeared at the Cathedral Mausoleum at what is now Hollywood Forever Cemetery on the first anniversary of his death in 1927, and anonymous mourners in black continued to show up through the years. By the 1950s, the bizarre tradition had turned into what Valentino’s family thought was an offensive publicity stunt.

 

One of the more enduring Ladies in Black was Ditra Flame (pronounced Flah-may), who said Valentino visited her as a young girl when she was ill. Flame quit visiting after 1954 because there were so many competing Ladies in Black, but she resurfaced occasionally — notably in 1977, inspired by the death of Elvis Presley.

 

Another legendary Lady in Black was Estrellita de Rejil, who claimed that her mother was the original Lady in Black. De Rejil died in 2001, leaving the role of the Lady in Black to mourners born decades after the screen legend’s death.

  

larry.harnisch@latimes.com

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