Posts Tagged ‘Rudolph Valentino’

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 90th Rudolph Valentino Memorial Service

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

“We Never Forget”

By Tracy Terhune

The Valentino Memorial Service will be held on Wednesday, August 23, 2017. This year marks the 90th anniversary of this time-honored event. The Valentino Memorial Service is the oldest continuing annual event in Hollywood history!

To commemorate this historic anniversary, I am excited to announce that the Valentino Memorial Service will be broadcast LIVE over the internet via Facebook Live. This affords anyone, anywhere in the world to watch the Valentino Memorial Service live, in real time as it occurs. At the conclusion, the service will be viewable in a stored post on the “We Never Forget” Facebook group.

In addition to being broadcast live, we will be using a completely new sound system that we anticipate to vastly improve the sound problem that is inherited due to the marble hall where the service is held. We also will have our videos projected on a 10 foot by 12 foot screen.

Our guest speakers will include:

Terry Moore with James Dean in 1954.

 

Terry Moore – noted screen star will address the Memorial for the first time about Hollywood’s Golden Era and how Valentino paved the way for screen romance.

 

 

 

 

Joan Craig – Author of the book Theda Bara My Mentor will speak on her recollections of attending the Valentino Memorial as a young girl. The person who brought her to the Valentino Memorial was none other than Theda Bara!

 

 

 

 

Sylvia Valentino Huber (Pinterest)

 

 

Sylvia Valentino Huber – We are honored that Sylvia Valentino Huber, who’s grandfather was Valentino’s brother, will address the audience with thoughts from the family on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Memorial for her great uncle.

 

 

In addition to the listed speakers we will have some short video presentations, including a tribute to past participants in the Valentino Memorial Service through the years. There will also be poetry read from Daydreams and songs of reflection.

Please join us on August 23, 2017

The service starts promptly at 12:10pm

Located at:

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

6000 Santa Monica Blvd.

It is free, open to the public.

The Facebook Live streaming will start approximately at 12 noon.

 

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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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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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Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Tribute

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

TRIBUTES

Samuel Goldwyn Jr.: In Memory

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Samuel Goldwyn Jr., Robert Mitchum and Goldwyn Sr.

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Samuel Goldwyn Jr., who passed away yesterday at age 88 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, was the son of producer Samuel Goldwyn and his wife Frances Howard.

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BIRTH AND DEATH

On Tuesday, September 7, 1926, at 4:15 am, Frances  gave birth to her son at Good Samaritan Hospital (weighing seven and one-half pounds), only hours before most members of the film capitol was at Hollywood Cemetery saying their final good-byes at the funeral of silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino. Goldwyn Sr. took time away from the hospital that day to be a pallbearer for Valentino, a last minute replacement for Norman Kerry who injured his leg on a film set.

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Frances Howard Goldwyn and her sister, Constance Howard

look upon new-born Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

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June Mathis: The Woman Who Discovered Valentino

Friday, December 5th, 2014

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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.

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.

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).

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Ten

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

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

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

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

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Eight

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valentino9

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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

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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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