Posts Tagged ‘Polyclinic Hospital’

Rudolph Valentino: an alternate ending

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

UPDATE: If you can’t attend tomorrow’s Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service at 12:10 pm (PST) at Hollywood Forever’s Cathedral Mausoleum, the committee has authorized for the first time, a live streaming broadcast via Facebook on the Group, We Never Forget Rudolph Valentino. Join in and enjoy!

 

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

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

And not unlike the circumstances regarding the death and 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 at Polyclinic hospital, his brother Alberto was anxiously making his way from Italy and found out about his brother’s death when he arrived at the Paris 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 days later, Alberto altered his decision, stating that 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 agreed and started making plans to welcome the body of their 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 hoped to take 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.”

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

Rudy, Winifred Hudnut, Natacha, Richard Hudnut

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 during 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.”

Woodlawn Cemetery is 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.

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

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.

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

 

 

 

In any event, the 90th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, August 23, 2017, at 12:10 pm, in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where the actors body still resides. The public is welcome.

 

 

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Visiting the final sites of Rudolph Valentino’s life and death

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

Visiting the final sites of Rudolph Valentino’s life and death

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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During a recent visit to New York I stopped at some sites related to Rudolph Valentino at the end of his life. Specifically, the former Polyclinic Hospital where the screen-idol died and St. Malachy’s Catholic Church where his funeral was held.

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The picture on the left is the Polyclinic Hospital as it appeared circa 1926.

On the right is how the building appears today.

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New York’s Polyclinic Hospital and Medical College (345 West 50th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), where Rudolph Valentino died, played host to the ills of many prominent people over the years. Actress Mary Pickford, gangster Arnold Rothstein, singer Peggy Lee, and Marilyn Monroe are only a few of the famous folks who passed through these doors. After Valentino’s death, the 334-bed hospital remained politically and financially strong, and continued to function for decades as a totally independent hospital. A merger with the French Hospital in 1972, however, paved the way for bankruptcy and its eventual closing in 1976, fifty years after Valentino’s death. The former hospital building, while still standing, is now residential. The eight-floor suite where Valentino died is most likely reconfigured. Still, the windows on the east side (showing above), though some are bricked up, remain visible.

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The photo on the left is the Valentino funeral procession leaving St. Malachy’s Church.

On the right is how the church appears today.

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Founded in 1903, St. Malachys Catholic Church (239 East 49th Street, between Eighth Avenue and Broadway), today known as “the Actor’s Chapel,” still ministers to Broadway’s Catholic actor. Valentino’s New York funeral was held here, as was the 1929 marriage of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., to Joan Crawford.

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The interior of St. Malachy’s Church

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While visiting St. Malachy’s, I lit a candle in Rudolph Valentino’s memory. I am not of the Catholic persuasion s0 I hope I broke no laws.

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Two

Friday, August 15th, 2014

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Two

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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 15, 2014

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Sunday, August 15, 1926

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The first reports from that morning claimed Rudy arose from bed about eleven-thirty. Still feeling poorly, he refused breakfast, and instead read the Sunday papers. Suddenly, he turned pale, clutched his abdomen and collapsed on the floor. Frank Chaplin, Rudy’s valet, called for assistance and notified Barclay Warburton. Ullman and his wife Beatrice, who were in adjoining suites, were with Valentino by the time Warburton arrived. Later in the day, Ullman gave a slightly different version of what happened:

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Mr. Valentino had gotten out of bed, but had not ordered his breakfast. This fact, it may turn out, may save his life. We were sitting around reading the Sunday papers when suddenly he groaned and pressed his hand to his side, complaining of a severe pain in the region of his abdomen. The pain passed off, but a little later he turned pale again and another pain seized him. Then I called a doctor whom I know personally. He came into the hotel and as Mr. Valentino continued to get worse we had him removed to the hospital.

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Dr. Paul Durham of the Polyclinic Hospital was a friend of both Ullman and Warburton. Within minutes of his arrival, Durham examined Rudy but waited four hours before calling an ambulance, even though his symptoms appeared to be serious. Several reasons have been given for this delay, one being that it was a hot Sunday afternoon and many physicians were out of town. Valentino’s brother, Alberto, believed that no one wanted to take responsibility for operating on Rudolph Valentino, so they waited for a “well-known surgeon, [an] experienced surgeon, to come along.”

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Still others claim that Valentino had a fear of hospitals. Dr. Arthur Bogart, who worked at Polyclinic Hospital in the late 1940s, was well acquainted with one of Valentino’s former physicians (who was still on staff at the hospital). “The doctor told me,” Bogart said, “his patient refused surgical intervention which might have saved his life, because he was terrified of surgery.”

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Whatever the reason, sometime around four-thirty, Rudy was taken by ambulance to the Polyclinic Hospital on West 50th Street. According to Ullman, in his time of need, Rudy sought assistance from his spirit guides. “I remember, too,” Ullman recalled, “as he lay in that ambulance, doubled up with pain, unconscious and en route to the hospital where he was to die, he kept repeating the word, ‘Jenny, Jenny, Jenny.’”

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Shortly after five o’clock that afternoon, Dr. Harold D. Meeker, a consulting surgeon at Polyclinic, examined Valentino. The fifty-year-old Meeker, a graduate of Columbia University, was also professor of Surgery at Polyclinic’s Medical School. When Meeker first examined Valentino, the actor was in great pain with a moderate fever, a rapid pulse and a board-like rigidity of the abdomen. Meeker’s first diagnosis was a perforated gastric ulcer, but he couldn’t rule out other possibilities at that advance stage of the illness. In his expert opinion, the only way to save Valentino’s life was to operate.

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At six-thirty the patient was rolled into the operating room. Meeker was assisted by Durham; Dr. Golden R. Battey, senior house physician of Polyclinic; and Dr. G. Randolph Manning, a specialist in diseases of the stomach. During surgery, fluid was found leaking through a round hole one centimeter in diameter in the anterior wall of Valentino’s stomach. Meeker’s report stated that the “tissue of the stomach for one and one-half centimeters immediately surrounding the perforation was necrotic. The appendix was acutely inflamed from a secondary infection…” Meeker repaired the opening in Valentino’s stomach and removed his appendix.

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Valentino was taken from the operating room at nine-thirty and transferred to a suite on the eighth floor. Suite Q, the most expensive suite in the hospital, had two luxurious rooms and a bath, a large mahogany bed and dresser, two large easy chairs, handsome rugs and several smaller chairs. It was aptly dubbed the “lucky suite” when Mary Pickford successfully convalesced there in 1912. When Rudy came out of the anesthetic at about ten o’clock, he asked, “Doctor, am I a pink puff?”

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“No indeed,” Durham replied. “You have been very brave.”

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Later, when Ullman arrived, Rudy smiled and asked, “How did I take it?”

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“You took it fine,” he replied.

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“Oh well,” Rudy whispered. “Once a sheik, always a sheik.” He then fell asleep.

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Shortly after midnight, Ullman announced that Valentino reacted very well from the operation, but warned that his condition was critical. “Indeed, we fear that it is doubtful if he can survive because the disease had progressed so far without him knowing or suspecting it,” Ullman said. “It will be several days at the very least before we can know the outcome.”

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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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