Posts Tagged ‘Rudolph Valentino’

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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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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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Six

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Six

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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 19, 2014

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Thursday, August 19, 1926

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While still not out of danger, Rudy’s condition seemed much improved. The heartburn he suffered the night before appeared to have no ill effect during the day. In fact, oatmeal was now added to his daily regimen, but he grimaced and complained that it didn’t “ride so well.” His doctors were so confident about his condition that they released the following bulletin: “Mr. Valentino is making satisfactory progress and having passed his most critical period, no further bulletins will be issued unless some unexpected development occurs.”

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The actor was never told how serious his operation and illness was. In fact, four priests stopped by the hospital but were not permitted to visit, lest the sight of them convince him he was near death. Still, Rudy gave an indication of knowing the seriousness of his illness when he told Ullman, “I was pretty close that time, wasn’t I? Closer than I hope to be in the next ninety years.”

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Ullman promised to bring him a copy of The Prisoner of Chance, a novel he was reading before he took ill, but balked when the two-pack-a-day smoker asked for a cigarette. “Oof! Not yet!” Ullman replied. Rudy sent a dozen American Beauty roses he received from Pola Negri to a crippled girl in one of the free wards and appeared uninterested when told that Pola had telephoned daily. He seemed more concerned about where he would convalesce after his stay in the hospital. The summer home of Hiram Abrams in Maine was mentioned in the press, but Rudy favored a retreat in Vermont where he had vacationed a few years earlier.

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As Rudy was feeling better, Ullman accepted a list of questions for the actor from the press. Over a period of several hours, so as not to tax his strength, Rudy conveyed his responses:

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Q.—What feelings have been inspired by the hundreds of telegrams, letters and phone calls that have reached you, not only from friends, but from girls and women you have never met?

A.—I feel grateful, so grateful, and feel my inability to repay all the kindness extended to em. They have helped me mentalyl to overcome my sickness.

Q.—What was your mental reaction to a serious illness? Were you afraid of death?

A.—All I wanted was relief—anything to get rid of the terrible pain. Death would have been better than to have stood it longer.

Q.—What was your favorite screen character among the parts you played? Did you visualize any of them in your illness?

A.—The part I like best was my role in Blood and Sand. If I had died, I would have liked to be remembered as an actor by that role—I think it my greatest.

Q.—When you are able to eat full meals again, what do you want most?

A.—Food? Ugh! The thought of food is nauseating, obnoxious to me. Don’t mention it.

Q.—How are you going to pass the time when you go away to Maine to recuperate?

A.—I am going to do like the prize fighter—get into condition as soon as possible.

Q.—For whom was your first thought when you realized you were seriously ill?

A.—For my brother Alberto and my sister Maria—for them were my first thoughts.

Q.—Did the fact that your illness was prophesied by an unknown woman who called at your rooms here increase your interest in psychic phenomena?

A.—Perhaps. My interest in such matters has always been that of the average well-read person. I hope now to learn more about the subject one day.

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At the end of the day, Ullman released the following statement from Rudolph Valentino:

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“I have been deeply touched by the many telegrams, cables and letters that have come to my bedside. It is wonderful to know that I have so many friends and well-wishers both among those it has been my privilege to meet and among the loyal unknown thousands who have seen me on the screen and whom I have never seen at all. Some of the tributes that have affected me the most have come from my ‘Fans’—friends—men, women, and little children. God bless them. Indeed I feel that my recovery has been greatly advanced by the encouragement given me by everyone.”

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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 Five

Monday, August 18th, 2014

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Five

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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 18, 2014

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Wednesday, August 18, 1926

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Valentino once again had a reasonably comfortable night. Letters, flowers, and telegrams continued to flow into Polyclinic Hospital, and more operators were added to handle the influx of calls inquiring about Valentino’s status. Meeker’s report stated that the actor’s condition remained favorable. “Unless unforeseen conditions develop,” he said, “recovery is possible. Temperature 100.8. Pulse 85. Respiration 20.”

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That morning, Rudy, who was experiencing less pain, was given chicken broth and Vichy water, the first bit of nourishment since his operation. It appeared that he was feeling significantly better, but somewhat restless. “How much longer is this damn thing going to last?” he asked Ullman, who was the only person allowed to see him besides the hospital staff.

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Rudy tried to concentrate as some of the thousands of telegrams received were read to him. “That’s very nice,” was his response to Joseph Schenck’s message of sympathy. John Gilbert wrote, “Fight, Rudy, fight. Millions need you.” Other greetings arrived from John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Charles Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Letters and packages from unknown fans arrived daily, including more than a dozen Bibles and a copy of “Bedtime Stories for Grown-up Guys” from a young girl in Chicago.

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Natacha Rambova and her Aunt Teresa cabled their good wishes from Paris: “We pray for your recovery. Love.” That evening, Natacha arranged a séance with medium George Wehner, who claimed to have contacted Valentino’s spirit even though the actor was still very much alive. There appeared to be some confusion in the meta-physical world, since Rudy’s spirit believed that Natacha and company were in New York comforting him. Suddenly, Jenny, one of his spirit guides and the one he called for in the ambulance, took control, describing his illness and how his thoughts were directed to Natacha and his beloved Aunt Tessie.

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Pola Negri, Valentino’s self-proclaimed fiancée, called long-distance and spoke briefly to an operator. “This is Pola Negri. How is Mr. Valentino?” she asked. When assured that he was doing well, she thanked the operator and hung up. Though Pola proclaimed she would take an airplane in order to be at Rudy’s side, her employers, Famous Players-Lasky, vetoed that notion, not wanting to risk the safety of their star.

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Earlier that afternoon, reports again circulated that Valentino had died. The New York Evening Graphic issued an extra with two words in a large black headline—“Rudy Dead.” Below, in smaller and lighter type, the headline continued, “Cry Startles Film World as Sheik Rallies.” In its story, the Graphic recounted a rumor that Valentino had died, but gladly reported that it wasn’t true. The headline, however, had done its job. As one newspaper put it, “Theatrical stars, never out of bed before noon, rushed to the hospital, while others telephoned or sent messages.”

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Calls flooded the hospital switchboard at a rate of thirty-two per minute. Two additional operators were added, performing their duties “standing up.” When word reached the Astoria studios of Famous Players-Lasky, they closed for the remainder of the day before the truth was learned. The hospital staff did their best to deny the rumors and denounce its originators, but the damage had been done. In retaliation, Dr. A.A. Joller, superintendent of Polyclinic Hospital, had Jack Miley, the Graphic’s reporter and author of the piece, barred from the hospital’s press room. When ordered out, Miley said, “Who’s going to pay for this press room—Mr. Ullman, Mr. Valentino, or the United Artists?”

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Dr. Joller defended his actions and the hospital, saying “For an institution of the high character and standing that Polyclinic enjoys, to tolerate such a fake as charged by the New York Evening Graphic would be suicide and would not be permitted for one moment, actor or no actor.”

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At seven o’clock that evening the final bulletin of the day was issued. “Mr. Valentino’s condition remains favorable. Unless unforeseen complications develop, recovery is considered probable. His temperature is 100.8; respiration 20, and pulse 86.”

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For dinner, Rudy was given broth, French Vichy water, and peptonized milk. Just before midnight he was awakened by an attack of heartburn. “The doctor gave him some medicine and he went back to sleep again,” Ullman said. “The attack was not severe but it did interrupt the rest we hoped he would get.”

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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 Four

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Four

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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 17, 2014

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Tuesday, August 17, 1926

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According to hospital statements, Rudy passed a moderately comfortable day. Lying, for the most part, with eyes closed, he opened them only when treatment was administered. At one point Rudy smiled weakly at Ullman and declared. “I’ve gotten out of worse fixes that this. I’ll soon be on my feet again and making pictures.” As Ullman left the room, the actor summoned up enough energy to wink “good-by.”

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Rudy insisted that the mass of flowers that continued to pour into Polyclinic for him be distributed to the various wards of the hospital. Hundreds of telegrams remained unopened, waiting until he was well enough to read them himself. As he lay there, Rudy surprised Ullman by asking for a mirror. Ullman was at first hesitant because the illness had clearly left its mark on Rudy’s face. “Oh, let me have it,” Rudy insisted. “I just want to see how I look when I am sick, so that if I ever have to play the part in pictures I will know how to put on my make-up!”

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Early that morning, Joseph Schenck and Norma Talmadge arrived from Maine but were not permitted to see the actor. Schenck told reporters that millions of dollars would be lost “in the event of the star’s death.”

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The “no visitors” order, however, did not deter creative fans from attempting to see their idol. Many would-be visitors succeeded in reaching the eighth floor but were stopped before they could enter his room. Marie Markiewz, a determined young woman, demanded that she be allowed to see her “beloved.” When told that Valentino was too ill for visitors, she became hysterical and recited poetry that she scribbled down on paper. As they were forcibly ejecting her from the hospital, she sobbed loudly, “Oh, my beloved, I hope you get well.” Another admirer was a young man whose only request was to kneel at Valentino’s bedside and silent pray for his recovery.

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Meanwhile, outside the hospital, crowds watched as reporters photographed the arrival of Betty Hughes, a dancer in a Brooklyn cabaret that Valentino reportedly frequented. Accompanied by her pet monkey ‘Pepy,’ Hughes told reporters that the simian had often amused Valentino on his visits to the café. Neither she nor the monkey got any further than the first floor.

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Unfortunately, all this attention generated by Valentino’s illness seriously disrupted the hospital’s daily routine. After a consultation with Polyclinic’s administrator, Ullman hired a private detective to stand guard outside Valentino’s suite, hoping to deter further undesirables. In addition to barring the curious and overzealous flappers that tried to force their way in, all reporters, who had been maintaining a “death watch” on the first floor, were ordered out of the hospital shortly before noon.

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At seven o’clock that evening the last official bulletin of the day was issued. “There is no change in Mr. Valentino’s condition. His temperature is 103.6, respiration 26, pulse 103.” Physicians were certain that whatever transpired the next day would determine Rudy’s fate.

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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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