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June Mathis: The Woman Who Discovered Valentino

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Dec 5th, 2014
2014
Dec 5

HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

JUNE MATHIS; the woman who discovered Valentino

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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June Mathis, a short, thickset, rather plain woman with frizzy hair, became one of Hollywood’s most influential women during the silent era. An accomplished screenwriter, casting director and film editor, Mathis was the only female executive at Metro Studios, and at one time the highest paid film executive in Hollywood.

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Born June Beulah Hughes in Leadville, Colorado on June 30, 1889, Mathis was the only child of Phillip and Virginia Hughes. Although available biographical records usually give her year of birth as 1892, census records appear to confirm the 1889 date. Her parents divorced when she was seven and while much of her childhood is vague, at some point her mother met and married William D. Mathis, a recent widower with three children. Ultimately she would take her step-father’s name.

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Mathis’ first public incarnation was as a child actor in vaudeville and on Broadway. Her stage credits include the hit play, The Fascinating Widow with the famed female impersonator, Julian Eltinge. For thirteen years Mathis toured in numerous plays and vaudeville shows. In 1914, she moved to New York and took a writing course and entered a scriptwriting contest. This brought her several offers to write scenarios until Metro Studios hired her in 1918. At Metro, she quickly worked her way up to becoming chief of the studio’s script department. Her scripts incorporated a wide range of films including An Eye for an Eye (1918), Hearts Are Trumps (1920) and Polly with a Past (1920).

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THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE

When Metro president Richard Rowland bought the rights to the popular war novel, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Mathis was placed in charge. It was through her influence that her friend and fledgling film director, Rex Ingram was hired as the film’s director. The film and the casting of Rudolph Valentino in the role of Julio, established both of their careers. Mathis picked Valentino for the role of Julio after seeing him in a small role in The Eyes of Youth (1919).

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Until Mathis cast Valentino in The Four Horsemen, he was relegated to mostly bit parts and walk-ons. Several people have taken credit for Valentino’s success but it was this bit of casting that launched the Latin Lover’s career. At Metro, and later Paramount studios, Mathis was responsible for a string of Rudolph Valentino films including Blood and Sand (1922) and The Young Rajah (1922).

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Mathis and Valentino maintained a very close relationship – some even suggested that they may have been romantically involved, but this is unlikely. In fact, actress Nita Naldi said that Mathis mothered Valentino and that they held each other in high regards. When Mathis’ version of the script for the ill-fated The Hooded Falcon failed to impress either Valentino or his wife, Natacha Rambova, Mathis ended their relationship.

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BEN-HUR

After negotiations with producers of the Ben-Hur stage play, Samuel Goldwyn bought the screen rights to General Lew Wallace’s religious novel. Mathis, who had previously been with Metro and Lasky, was now Goldwyn’s head scenarist and was given sovereign control. Not only would Mathis adapt the screenplay, she was in charge of production and her first executive decision was to make the film in Italy. After a nationwide search it was decided to go with Mathis choice for Ben-Hur, George Walsh and her pick for director, Charles Brabin. Neither choice, however, was popular with the public nor with many in the film industry, but this proved how powerful Mathis was at the time.

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Once the film company arrived in Rome, the production quickly began to deteriorate. Labor disputes delayed the building of many of the sets; Italian labor was inexpensive, but slow. Not only were the sets and costumes not ready, but the actors sat around or took advantage and made small tours of Europe. To make matters worse, Mathis was told to not interfere with Brabin on the set. Originally she believed that she was to supervise the production, but quickly learned that things were changing; Brabin would only allow her to approve or reject changes to the script.

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In the meantime, nothing on the set seemed to go right. The sets cost a fortune but still looked cheap. The script wasn’t completed, and a lot of time and money was being wasted. The moral of the entire company was at an all-time low, and it appeared that Ben-Hur would be the biggest fiasco that Hollywood had ever seen.

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During all of this, Metro, Goldwyn, and producer Louis B. Mayer were making plans to merge their studios. The first point of order for the new studio, now known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was to try and save the fast-sinking Ben-Hur. Mayer, who was appointed as the head of the studio, told MGM’s president, Marcus Loew, that he would only take the job if June Mathis, Charles Brabin and George Walsh were removed. They also insisted that the script be rewritten. These demands meant that they would have to start from the beginning.

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Mayer’s replacement for Brabin was director Fred Niblo, who felt the assembled cast was the most uninteresting and colorless he had seen and directly blamed Mathis. Walsh was replaced with Ramon Novarro and Mathis was unceremoniously fired and replaced by scenarists Bess Meredyth and Carey Wilson.

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In statements to the press, Mathis held Charles Brabin responsible for the problems on Ben-Hur. She insisted that control of the picture was taken away from her by Brabin and she could no longer associate herself with the film.

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During the few months that she was in Rome, Mathis met and fell in love with Sylvano Balboni, an Italian cameraman hired to work on the film. Mathis returned to Hollywood in August 1924 with Balboni in-tow, and married him the following December. Regardless of what transpired on Ben-Hur, Mathis continued to work. Shortly after returning from Rome she signed with First National where she scripted several Colleen Moore films including Sally (1925), The Desert Flower (1925) and Irene (1926).

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REUNION WITH VALENTINO

When Rudolph Valentino’s last film, The Son of the Sheik (1926) premiered in Los Angeles, Mathis was there and the two had a heartfelt reunion. It was only a few months later that Valentino died suddenly and Mathis offered her own crypt at Hollywood Cemetery as a temporary resting place for the dead film idol.

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Over the following year, Mathis developed health problems, including high blood pressure and was placed on a restricted diet by her doctors. That summer, she was in New York with her grandmother, Emily Hawks. On the evening of July 26, 1927, disregarding her doctor’s orders, she had a heavy meal before taking her grandmother to the 48th Street Theatre to watch Blanche Yurka perform in The Squall. In the play’s final act, Mathis suddenly cried out, “Oh, mother, I’m dying,” and threw her arms around her grandmother while sobbing convulsively.

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Attendants ran to Mathis seat and carried her outside to the theater alley alongside the playhouse and laid her on the concrete road. A physician that was in the audience examined her and announced that she was dead. Her grandmother was inconsolable, pleading with her to speak while Mathis’ body lay in the alley waiting for the medical examiner to arrive.

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The following week back in Hollywood, Valentino’s body was moved to the neighboring crypt to make room for Mathis. They lay next to each other in eternity to this day.

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THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN FILM

While it’s true that only hard-core film enthusiasts recognize June Mathis’ name today, she hasn’t been totally ignored. For instance, you cannot mention Rudolph Valentino, director Rex Ingram or such film classics as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse without discussing Mathis’ and her contributions to film history?

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Without a doubt there have been a number of women among Mathis’ contemporaries who yielded various levels of power. These would include writers Frances Marion, Bess Meredyth and Anita Loos and of course directors Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner, among others.

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For some reason, shortly after the advent of sound, women seemed to lose much of their influence that they achieved during the silent era. The only women that seemed to wield any power were gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, who, while not directly running a studio, could definitely influence the powers-that-be.

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Today it’s not unusual to see a woman in a position of authority or even running a studio. Examples over the years have included Amy Pascal, Chairman of Sony Pictures; Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television; Gail Berman, president of Paramount Pictures; Stacey Snider, co-chairman and CEO of DreamWorks SKG; Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment; Dana Walden, President of 20th Century Fox Television, and of course, there’s media mogul, Oprah Winfrey. June Mathis would be proud.

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Can Gable be another Valentino?

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 22nd, 2011
2011
Aug 22

 

 

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 84th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial tomorrow, Tuesday, August 23, 2011 beginning at 12:10 p.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica, Blvd., Hollywood.

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Valentino’s psychic message

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 26th, 2010
2010
May 26

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

Did Valentino speak from the grave?

 

 

 

  

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Rudolph Valentino. One of the most popular film actors while he lived evidently had aspirations to act on the legitimate stage once he was dead. Yes that is correct, at least according to his ex-wife, Natacha Rambova who made that revelation – and others – three months after Valentino’s death.

 

Rambova, whose real name was Winifred Hudnut, arrived in the states from Europe on November 25, 1926 with George B. Wehner, who claimed he was a medium associated with the American Society for Psychical Research.

 

The essence of Valentino’s revelations concerning his activities since his death according to Rambova and Wehner were:

 

  1. Valentino was a citizen of the astral plane.
  2. He hopes to become a legitimate actor there.
  3. He met Enrico Caruso and heard the late tenor sing.
  4. He visited theaters (on the worldly plane) where his films were being shown and was pleased at the “flattery” he sensed in the minds of the audience.
  5. Everything in the theater, however, seemed strange to him as he could “see through all things.”
  6. His wish was that his will (which left nothing to Rambova) to be carried out as executed and believes it would be done.
  7. He made no mentions in his “communications” of Pola Negri, who had announced at his death that they had been engaged to be married.

 

Rambova explained this last point, apparently to her own satisfaction, by saying that Valentino only “spoke to her of significant things and subjects that mean something.”

 

 

 

 

Wehner explained that while he was at Rambova’s chateau outside Paris he received a psychic message that Valentino was going to die. Later, he said, he received a “spiritual message” from Valentino calling for Rambova. He said she replied by cable and received a reply by radio. All this was, of course, prior to the actor’s death.

 

While Valentino’s body was lying in state in the funeral church here, besieged by thousands of admirers, Wehner said he received a “communication” from the screen star deploring the fact that he had “recognized and spoken” to many of those who filed past his bier, but that they had not known he was “addressing” them.

 

Of course, Pola Negri could not let this pass without responding. She and Valentino’s brother, Alberto, both said that they were not impressed with the “message from the astral plane” which Rambova claimed she received from her late husband.

 

When Alberto was told of her statements, he shrugged his shoulders and said:

 

“I think Rudolph would have communicated with his own brother if he had any message to send from the other side. I never have heard of Wehner nor the American Society of Psychical Research, with which the medium claims to be associated. It always was our belief that someone friendly to all concerned must be the medium through which thoughts after death must be presented.”

 

 

 

 

Pola, who announced after Valentino’s death that they had been engaged to be married, stopped working at the studio long enough to say:

 

“There has been so much trickery in the name of spiritualism that I think only direct contact with the departed one would be convincing. In this particular instance, regarding my own recent loss, I feel that the subject is altogether too sacred to be commercialized, and I cannot help thinking that this publicity that we have been reading is unworthy of the grand dignity of the great beyond.”

 

Jean Acker, Valentino’s first wife also commented by saying that the actor did not believe in spirit messages and expressed the opinion that none had been received.

 

“Rudolph Valentino did not believe in spirit messages,” Acker said. “He was intelligent, and if he had lived the world would have heard of him in other ways. Even if such messages were received, they should have been too sacred to broadcast. “

 

Bess Houdini, whose magician-husband had died only a few weeks earlier, and who also fought against so-called psychic charlatans, spoke about Rambova’s claim:

 

“There is no doubt that Miss Rambova believes the messages to be from Valentino,” said Mrs. Houdini. “I also have received messages through mediums supposedly from Houdini, but those messages were an insult to my intelligence.”

 

“Would a man with the brilliant mind Houdini possessed send such an insane message as ‘I am very happy here,’ and talk about wills? No, Houdini’s message will be worthwhile, and until some medium who claims he or she is favored by our Almighty Father to communicate with our beloved dead speaks those sacred words of our compact, I will be skeptical and promptly consign all other messages to the waste basket.

 

“Miss Rambova also claims that only real love counts over there. What was our love, our Holy love; thirty-two years of love and devotion? Surely, if love counts, I should be blessed with the gift of speaking to my dead. Surely, if any beloved dead speaks to these mediums, who claim communications, he would say that I am waiting to hear and not the nonsense they say he speaks.

 

“I have in my possession a priceless heritage – from my dead – letters; letters that he wrote; fifteen, one each year, not to be opened until his death, letters that breathed love and devotion. They were read by me after we had laid him beside his beloved parents and each priceless gem read:

 

“Sweetheart mine, when you read this I will be at rest, at rest beside my sainted parents. Do not grieve, dear heart, I have just gone ahead and will be waiting for you – yours in life, death and ever after.”

 

 

 

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Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 23rd, 2009
2009
Aug 23

VALENTINO

The 82nd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service

 

Valentino's grave marker

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Today the fans of Rudolph Valentino arrived in the heat and humidity to Hollywood Forever Cemetery for the actors 82nd annual memorial service. The Memorial Committee once again surpassed their previous efforts in providing a dignified and entertaining celebration of the life of silent film actor, Rudolph Valentino.

 

Cathedral Mausoleum

 

Fans enter the Cathedral Mausoleum (above) to attend the the 82nd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service.

 

 

Cathedral Mausoleum foyer

 

The foyer of the Cathedral Mausoleum where fans gathered to begin today’s service.

 

 

Channell O Farrill

 

Chanell O Farrill welcomes everyone on behalf of Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

 

 

Tracy Ryan Terhune

 

Valentino author and emcee, Tracy Ryan Terhune gave the opening remarks and introduced each of today’s speakers. The first speaker for the day, Jeanine Villalobos, the great-granddaughter of Rudy’s brother, Alberto, was delayed by that-infamous Los Angeles traffic, but the show must go on so a Valentino video based on the upcoming photo book by Valentino authority, Donna Hill, was premiered.

 

 

Garrett Bryant

 

 Actor Garrett Brant gave a reading of three selected poems from Valentino’s book of poetry, Daydreams.

 

 

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The late Bob Mitchell in a photo from last years service.

 

There was a moving tribute to organist Bob Mitchell as a recording of Mitchell’s organ music played. Mitchell, who played the organ at many former Valentino services, passed away on July 4th and is also interred at Hollywood Forever.

 

 

Tracy Terhune and Vince Morton

 

Tracy Terhune presents an award for the late Bob Mitchell to his partner and friend, Vince Morton (above), who also perfomed the music for today’s service.

 

 

Jeanine Villalobos

 

Jeanine Villalobos (above), the great-granddaughter of Alberto Guglielmi Valentino, spoke about her uncle’s funeral and read from archival letters of Alberto to his wife Ada. Ms Villalobos also commended the memorial committee for conducting the services, both past and present, with respect and decorum.

 

 

Craig MacPherson

 

Craig MacPherson (above) shared his thoughts on the influence of Natacha Rambova in the life of Valentino. The 2009 Valentino Memorial Video showing the relationship of Valentino and Rambova was premiered to the song, “If I Love Again.”

 

 

 Christopher Riordan

 

Christopher Riordan (above), manager of Falcon Lair, shared his memories and the current and future of Valentino’s former home. Singer Ian Whitcomb entertained the audience with the songs, “My Buddy” and the perennial, “The Sheik Of Araby.” Valentino Memorial Committee member, Stella Grace, then led the audience in repeating the 23rd Psalm.

 

 

Marvin Page, Stella Grace, Chanell O Farrill and Tracy Terhune

 

The Valentino Memorial Committee: Marvin Page, Stella Grace, Chanell O Farrill and Tracy Ryan Terhune (missing is Jay Boileau).

 

 

Mike Francis, Kari Bible, Allison Francis

 

Celebrating the life of Rudolph Valentino are Michael Francis, Kari Bible, the Lady in Black and Allison Francis.

 

 

Flowers at the crypt of Rudolph Valentino

 

 Flowers surround the crypt of Rudolph Valentino.

 

 

Valentino memorabilia

 

The mysterious Sue Guldin reads a newspaper account of Valentino’s death.

 

 

Valentino memorabilia

 

Valentino memorabilia on display provided by Marvin Page.

 

 

Stella Grace and Tracy Terhune

 

Valentino authorities and memorial committee members, Stella Grace and Tracy Ryan Terhune (above). Stella, Tracy and the rest of the committee worked hard to produce a service that was respectful and entertaining. They should be congratulated. We look forward to next year.

 

Photos by Allan R. Ellenberger

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Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 17th, 2009
2009
Aug 17

VALENTINO

 82nd Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service

 

 Cathedral Mausoleum

 

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

6000 Santa Monica Bld. @ Gower
Cathedral Mausoleum
Sunday, August 23, 2009
12:10 p.m.

  

The life & legacy of Rudolph Valentino will be remembered at the annual Valentino Memorial Service which will be held on August 23rd, just as it has every year, steadfastly without fail for the past 82 years.

  

The program for the Valentino Memorial Service will include:

 

  • For the 1st time in over 75 years a member of the Valentino family will speak at the Valentino Memorial. Alberto Valentino’s great granddaughter, Jeanine Villalobos will be our featured speaker, drawing from family archived letters from Alberto Guglielmi Valentino (to his wife Ada who remained back home in Italy for the first year) of his thoughts and observations about the public’s outpouring of emotion, traveling across country on the Valentino funeral train and the West Coast funeral and burial of his brother, Rudolph Valentino. The letters have never been made accessible to researchers and are being translated from Italian to English for this presentation.

 

  • A tribute to honor Bob Mitchell, who for almost 30 years was involved with the Memorial first with his Bob Mitchell’s Boys Choir, and later on as a speaker/singer and musical accompaniment.

 

  • Donna Hill will also be making her first speaking appearance at the Valentino Memorial.

 

  • A new Memorial tribute video short spotlighting the relationship of Rudy & Natacha Rambova.

 

Stolen Moments

 

Also – the Valentino outdoor screening the evening of the 23rd returns after a two year absence. “A Society Sensation” and “Stolen Moments” will be shown. Bob Mitchell recorded his only in-studio recording for a silent movie when he did the score for “A Society Sensation” and that will be presented with his score, and Vince Morton will play live for “Stolen Moments.”

 — Tracy Terhune

More to be announced.

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Valentino’s Alternate Ending

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Aug 15th, 2009
2009
Aug 15

VALENTINO

Rudolph Valentino: an alternate ending

 

Natacha Rambova and Rudolph Valentino

 

What if Natacha Rambova had still been married to Valentino at the time of his death? Where might his body be lying today?

                             

By Allan R. Ellenberger

  

When silent film star, Rudolph Valentino died prematurely at the age of 31 in 1926, chaos ensued. From the time his death was announced at Polyclinic Hospital in New York until his body was finally laid to rest in Hollywood, riots, rumors and unrest followed the actors body.

 

And not unlike the recent circumstances regarding the death and as-of-yet burial of pop super-star, Michael Jackson, there were questions and disagreements over where the body of Rudolph Valentino would rest.

 

As Valentino lay dying in a New York hospital, his brother Alberto was anxiously making his way to Paris and only found out about his Rudy’s death when he arrived at the train station. Later that day Alberto released a statement affirming that Valentino would be buried in America.

 

“This is what he would have desired,” Alberto said. “He so loved America that I am sure he wanted to be buried there – rather, even, than beside our father and mother in Italy. He loved Italy, but he loved the country of his adoption and his success more.”

 

However, two day later, Alberto slightly altered that decision stating he needed to discuss the matter with his sister Maria and Rudy’s American friends. Until then no decision would be made.

 

Surprised by this turn of events, many wondered where Valentino would be interred. Rudy’s sister, Maria, told reporters by telephone from her home in Turin that she wished for her brother to be buried in Castellaneta (Valentino’s birthplace). “It is my desire that Rudolph be buried in Italy,” she said, “and I hope that my brother Alberto, now en route to New York, will agree to this.” Citizens of Valentino’s home town were in agreement and already making plans to welcome the body of the fellow townsman. A committee was organized to collect funds to erect a stately tomb in the town’s cemetery.

 

Valentino’s manager, George Ullman, still had hopes of taking his friend’s body back to Hollywood. “I think he belongs there and hope to so persuade his brother,” he said. Pola Negri (Valentino’s alleged fiancé) agreed, telling reporters that she too hoped Alberto would bring Rudy’s body back to the city where the actor had his greatest success. “Because he spent so many happy hours – his happiest hours – here, and because I am here,” she said. “I want him buried in Hollywood. But if his brother should wish him buried in Italy, to lie beside his father and mother – that is different. I can understand that.”

 

Valentino’s first wife, Jean Acker, sided with the Italian delegation. “I think he would prefer to lie by the side of his mother and father in Italy,” she said. “But I have no say in it. Who am I to say anything?”

 

Meanwhile, a contingent of Hollywood producers, directors, and actors cabled Alberto, urging that Valentino be buried in Los Angeles. “We, of the Hollywood motion picture colony, who knew, worked with and loved Rudolph Valentino, urge you to order that his mortal remains be allowed to rest forever here, where his friendships were formed and where he made his home,” they wrote. It was signed by thirty-eight Hollywood personalities, including Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, Antonio Moreno, Ramon Novarro, Norman Kerry and Louis B. Mayer.

 

Alberto was very appreciative of the honor and interest that Rudy’s friends bestowed upon his brother, but hoped they would not insist on an immediate decision. “I have communicated with my sister in Turin,” he responded by cable. “There are many factors that must be taken into consideration. I cannot reach a decision until I reach New York.”

 

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Rudolph Valentino, Winifred Hudnut, Natacha Rambova and Richard Hudnut 

 

Being Valentino’s next of kin, the decision of where he was buried was left to Alberto and as everyone knows, that decision was for Hollywood Cemetery where Valentino still rests. However, what if Valentino had still been married to Natacha Rambova at the time of his death? The decision would probably have been hers. If so, where would his remains be now?

 

At the time of his death, Natacha was in France with her family. The only hint of what her plans would have been if history had been different was a brief cable she sent to Ullman in the midst of the fight over where Rudy’s body would lie.

 

“Unless otherwise directed by Rudolph, we prefer cremation; ashes to be placed in temporary security,” she wrote. “Later could go to my plot in Woodlawn.”

 

Hudnut plot at Woodlawn

The huge family plot of Richard Hudnut at Woodlawn Cemetery where only he and his two wives are intered.
Who else could he have been expecting? Natacha had her ashes scattered.

 

Woodlawn Cemetery is located in the Bronx section of New York where many of the city’s historical figures are buried. Silent film actress Olive Thomas was interred there by her husband Jack Pickford just six years earlier.

 

Richard Hudnut grave

Richard Alexander Hudnut, perfume magnate

 

Winifred Hudnut grave

 Winifred Kimball Hudnut, Natacha Rambova’s mother

 

Natacha’s step-father, Richard Hudnut, the famed perfume manufacturer, had a huge family plot at Woodlawn, where his first wife Evelyn was buried in 1919 and where he and his second wife Winifred (Natacha’s mother) were later buried.

 

Ullman, of course, did not take Natacha’s offer seriously. First, he insisted that cremation was impossible since the Catholic Church did not allow it, and Rudy, who had drifted away from his childhood faith, had returned to it on his deathbed. Ullman recalled that several years earlier they had discussed cremation, and Rudy had said, “Well, when I die I’d like to be cremated and have my ashes scattered to the winds.” Ullman insisted that Rudy was joking.

 

Hudnut monument

 The Hudnut family memorial at Woodlawn. Could the Valentino memorial services have been held here?

 

However, to continue with our speculation, had the two still been married, the chances are that Valentino would have been buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Hudnut family plot. Now the only other question would be if the yearly memorial services that have taken place since the actor’s death would still be a ritual at Woodlawn, or would his memory have faded as so many silent film stars of the day have?

 

valentino-crypt-08

 

In any event, the Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 12:10 pm, the 83rd anniversary of his death, in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where the actors body still resides. The public is welcome.

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