Posts Tagged ‘Rudolph Valentino’

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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Please follow and like us:

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Three

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Three

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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 16, 2014

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Monday, August 16, 1926

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As the morning progressed, the number of fans arriving at the hospital inquiring about Valentino’s condition increased. They finally had to be turned away and the hospital doors closed. Jean Acker, who was planning a trip to Europe at the end of the week, called about Rudy’s status, saying she would visit later in the day.

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As Rudy requested, Ullman sent a cable to Alberto and his sister Maria in Italy, and to Natacha Rambova in France. Ullman at first wanted to have Alberto return to New York, but Rudy declined. “By no means,” he insisted. “Just cable him that I am a little indisposed and will soon be all right.” When Natacha received news of Rudy’s illness, all the anger and hurt that she experienced the past year suddenly faded, and the differences that had separated them now seemed unimportant. For support, she turned to her mother and aunt, Teresa Werner, who was a favorite of Rudy’s. Both women had maintained hope that the couple would be reunited, and felt that this illness might bring them back together.

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Rudy asked that a wire also be sent to Pola Negri. “Tell her that I’m all right,” he told Ullman. “Tell her not to worry. I’ll pull through.” When Pola received her telegram, it provided hope for her though his condition remained serious. “Mr. Valentino has been operated on for appendicitis and gastric ulcers,” the telegram read. “He is making good progress.”

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Negri was on the set of her latest film, The Hotel Imperial, when she spoke to reporters. “I am so unhappy,” she said. “I can’t just walk off the set, for I am in the middle of a big picture. But I will go to Rudy just as soon as I can leave my business and as fast as a train will take me to New York. Poor Rudy—I had no idea he was going to get sick—he was so strong and happy when he left and he didn’t say a thing about illness in his last telegram.”

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Rudy’s boss, Joseph Schenck, who newspapers reported had a $1,000,000 insurance policy on Valentino’s life, was still at Hiram Abrams’ summer camp in Maine when he received word of Valentino’s condition. Schenck cabled that he and Norma would leave for New York immediately.

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After a slight relapse that afternoon, rumors spread that Valentino had died. The actor rallied, however, and briefly regained consciousness. Recognizing his nurse, Pearl Frank, a diminutive and exceedingly attractive brunette, he patted her on the cheek and said, “You’re a fine girl. You’ve been so good to me!”

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While Valentino fought for his life, stories circulated up and down Broadway that the star had attended a “wild party” with liquor and showgirls the evening before he took ill. Barclay Warburton emphatically denied that a party of any kind had taken place. Earlier that afternoon reporters gathered at his Park Avenue apartment as Warburton confirmed that he, Rudy, and Ullman had dined at the Colony before attending George White’s Scandals. Afterwards, he said, Valentino felt “rotten” and complained of pain. Instead of continuing on, Warburton went to this apartment, and Valentino and Ullman, as far as he knew, returned to the Ambassador. He first learned of Rudy’s condition when the actor’s valet telephoned him on Sunday morning.

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The reporters left Warburton’s apartment convinced that he was telling the truth. One newspaper, however, revealed that as they were leaving, an attractive young woman arrived, a “member of one of the popular Broadway revues.” Some have speculated that it was Ziegfeld Follies girl, and frequent Valentino date, Marion Benda.

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Benda claimed they ended up at Club Lido on East 44th Street, where Valentino again complained of feeling unwell. Later, at Texas Guinan’s nightclub, Valentino became upset for reasons unknown to Benda, so she suggested that they leave. “He said he wasn’t in the mood for such a place,” Benda said, “although we had such a good time there only a few nights before.”

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From there, Valentino escorted Benda to her apartment building on West 55th Street. “I saw Rudy last at the door of my apartment house,” she said. “It was about 3 o’clock in the morning. He said he was going home to bed.” However, cab driver Mike Di Calzi told the New York Evening Graphic that he picked up Valentino and Benda at her apartment at four-thirty that morning and took them to Warburton’s apartment. Frank Gross, the elevator operator in Benda’s building, reportedly confirmed that Valentino and Benda did leave her apartment around that time.

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The question arises, how could Valentino be with Marion Benda at two nightclubs and her apartment, and be at a party at Barclay Warburton’s at the same time? Were the cab driver and elevator operator lying, or did the Evening Graphic fabricate the story, which would not be hard to believe considering their reputation. It should also be noted that no one ever came forward from Club Lido or Texas Guinan’s to confirm Valentino’s presence there that evening.

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Regardless, a few days after Valentino’s death, Benda changed her original story. This time she stated to a New York Daily News reporter (to whom she originally told a few days earlier that she “knew nothing about it”) that they had indeed gone to Club Lido and Texas Guinan’s, but they were not alone—Warburton, dancer Frances Williams and “a girl named Hayes” accompanied them. She couldn’t remember who else was in the party.

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Benda said that when Valentino took ill, the festivities moved to Warburton’s apartment, where Dr. Paul Durham was called. At first it was thought that Valentino was suffering from indigestion. “Perhaps he’s eaten something that disagreed with him,” Durham suggested.

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“All he had was a ham-and-egg sandwich,” Benda replied.

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All evidence points to a party at Warburton’s apartment that evening, but whether it was a “wild party” or not is hard to say. In 1920s vernacular, a “wild party” conjures up visions of scantily clad girls dancing on tables drinking champagne. Regardless of Prohibition, it was, in all probability, a simple gathering of a few people having drinks, listening to music and dancing, as Harry Richman stated.

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If this were true, why would Warburton lie? He is not convincing when he insists that a party never occurred. Not only are there those who contradict him, there were none that defended him, including Ullman. And the fact that he later avoided the press on the subject generates skepticism. At this point in time, one can only speculate as to why Warburton would choose not to tell the truth. Being that it was the middle of Prohibition, perhaps he was nervous because hard liquor was served. With a well-earned reputation as a playboy, he was known for hosting riotous parties that lasted until all hours of the morning. A former neighbor, who claimed that his dusk-to-dawn soirees kept him from sleeping and forced him to move, had already sued him.

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And what of Marion Benda? There is no question that she was acquainted with Valentino and attended Warburton’s party, but why give two different accounts to two different newspapers? If Benda were the mysterious chorine at Warburton’s apartment that day, perhaps she and Warburton reached an “agreement” that should back up the playboy’s statement. Though only speculation, perhaps the fact that she suddenly includes Warburton in the second version of her story indicates that perhaps any agreement may have gone sour, and this was her way of setting things right.

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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 Two

Friday, August 15th, 2014

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part Two

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For the next several days, we turn back the clocks 88 years and detail the last days of the silent film idol, Rudolph Valentino, on the corresponding day today…

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

August 15, 2014

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Sunday, August 15, 1926

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“You took it fine,” he replied.

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

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

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TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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Be sure to attend the 87th Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial held each year at the Cathedral Mausoleum of Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm. See you there…

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The last days of Rudolph Valentino…Part One

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

The last days of Rudolph Valentino… Part one

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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 14, 2014

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New York City, Saturday, August 14, 1926

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The facts about Rudolph Valentino’s last night on the town vary, depending on who is telling the story and when they are telling it. In George Ullman’s book, he mentions that Rudy’s coloring was bad and urged him to return to his hotel room for a rest.”Why, I feel wonderful!” Rudy replied. “I don’t need rest.”

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Rudy spent the majority of the day at the apartment of Barclay Warburton., Jr., or “Buzzy” as his friends called him. Warburton, the grandson of department store founder John Wannamaker, was a scion of Philadelphia high society. Young, blonde, and handsome, Warburton, who was recently divorced from his first wife, occupied a bachelor apartment full of “soft lights, low couches and luxury.”

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That evening Rudy was feeling ill but insisted on going to his favorite restaurant, the Colony, for dinner with Warburton and Ullman. Adela Rogers St. Johns was visiting New York and also had rooms at the Ambassador. Rudy stopped on his way to suggest that Adela, James Quirk, and Quirk’s fiancée, actress May Allison, join their party. “But we had theater tickets and it wasn’t until the next day that we knew the serious results of that gay evening,” St. Johns later wrote.

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Dagmar Godowsky, Rudy’s old friend and former costar, was also having dinner at the Colony the evening. I saw him the night before he was taken to the hospital,” Godowsky later said, “we were at the Colony restaurant. He wasn’t a happy man.”

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After dinner, Rudy complained of indigestion, admitting to Warburton that he had been troubled with it for some time. Regardless of his discomfort, the trio attended the George White’s Scandals at the Apollo Theatre on 42nd Street. This was the eighth performance of the hit revue that Rudy had attended in the last two weeks. After the show, they met backstage with Scandals stars Frances White and Harry Richman. At some point, the group was invited to a party at the apartment of actress Lenore Ulric, but Rudy declined, saying he was not feeling well. Instead they went to Warburton’s apartment, where, later reports said, between fourteen to sixteen people gathered including Marion Benda, who was just getting out of a performance of the Ziegfeld revue “No Foolin.’”

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According to Harry Richman, there were “some drinks, music and dancing,” but Valentino declined any refreshments” because he had indigestion. Guests slowly began leaving as the night progressed until only a small group remained. “Suddenly he collapsed.” Richman said that Valentino became violently ill around one-thirty in the morning and was rushed back to the Ambassador.

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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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Alice Terry: The Girl From Old Vincennes–Part Two

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

HOLLYWOOD PROFILES

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

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PART TWO:

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Alice and Rex’s relationship was developing beyond friendship. One evening they were out walking, and Rex asked her if they had enough in common to get along. “I think we get along pretty well,” she said.

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“Well, I mean to get married.”

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Alice didn’t know what to say. She didn’t think that he really wanted to marry her, and she was uncertain how she felt, so one night she invited him over to her house for dinner. She relied on her mother and other friends to advise her what to cook, then made enough for an army. Upon eating the meal, Rex exclaimed, “This is marvelous. Why don’t we do this every day?” That was the end of the cooking.

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Soon, they were back to work together on The Conquering Power, also with Rudolph Valentino. Although he had been easy to work with in Four Horsemen, Valentino’s attitude had changed considerably. Arguments and disagreements broke out on the set on a daily basis. “Things were different,” Alice recalled. “He was dissatisfied with his part, discontented and unhappy. I always had the impression that I was playing with a volcano that might erupt at any minute.”

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After The Conquering Power was finished, Valentino left Metro to work at Famous Players-Lasky, where he made The Sheik. Richard Rowland, Metro’s president, then asked Ingram to direct Turn to the Right as a personal favor to him. The picture had a very nice part for Alice, so Ingram agreed. Rex and Alice were inseparable and very much in love. “I really don’t know when we fell in love,” Rex told her.

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“I’ve always had a crush on you,” she replied, smiling. “But then you know I’m a little nutty anyway.”

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Not long after, Rex  traveled to New York on business. While there he realized that he was lonely for Alice, so he decided to call and propose to her. But instead of giving him an answer, she evaded his question. “When are you coming back?” she asked.

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“Well, I’ll be on my way right now,” he responded.

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However, they did not  marry right away, but wanted to wait until their next picture was finished. That next picture was The Prisoner of Zenda. It was during this film that Alice became friends with Ramon Novarro; a friendship that would last the rest of her life. Novarro, who played Rupert of Hentzau, was picked by Ingram to groom into stardom.

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“Ramon was the best actor of all,” Alice claimed. “I think there was no picture that you could put him in that he couldn’t have reached to every scene. I could have seen him in almost any part outside of an American boy.”

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During production of The Prisoner of Zenda, Rex and Alice decided to marry. Without telling anyone, they were wed on Saturday, November 5, 1921, in South Pasadena at a little place called Adobe Flores. The ceremony that was officiated by Dr. W. E. Edmondson, State Chaplain of the American Legion. The following day they saw three films and were back to work on Monday. When the film was completed, they went to San Francisco for their honeymoon.

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terry-ingram3

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Also appearing in The Prisoner of Zenda was that “Girl Who Was Too Beautiful,” Barbara La Marr. At first Barbara’s beauty made Alice a little uncomfortable and even a little jealous. The late Jimmy Bangley, a writer and film historian, befriended Alice briefly in the early 1980s, and he recalled her telling him about her initial reservations of Barbara La Marr. “She said she was kind of jealous,” Bangley said. “She also told me that she and Rex got married during the filming of The Prisoner of Zenda, and that no one was happier for them than Barbara.”

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Although Alice knew of Barbara’s reputation as a party girl, she drew the line at many of the rumors. Bangley asked her if some of the stories were true. “I don’t believe all these things they printed about her,” Alice insisted.

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According to her nephew, Robert Taafe, this reaction was typical of Alice. “Alice was one that did not like to relate anything to anyone she felt was inappropriate or that bordered on the offensive,” he recalled. “In fact, she would go out of her way to avoid issues like that.”

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Alice sat out Rex’s next film, Trifling Women, but was on hand for the following one which was shot on location in Florida and Cuba. Where the Pavement Ends was based on the novel “The Passion Vine” by John Russell and would again star Ramon Novarro with Alice. Before leaving, Rex talked with Metro president Marcus Loew in New York and was promised directorship of Ben-Hur, the epic the studio was preparing based on the bestselling novel by General Lew Wallace. However, once Rex and Alice were in Cuba filming, they received the unfortunate news that the directing reigns were given to Charles Brabin. Ramon Novarro recalled how Ingram reacted when he heard the news. “His reaction, when he lost it, was a hundred percent Irish—and you know what I mean.”

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.Ramon Novarro and Alice Terry in Where the Pavement Ends

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Alice remained supportive of her husband during the entire time to the point of taking over directorial reigns of Where the Pavement Ends while Rex went on a drinking binge. “There for a short period of time, Rex wasn’t in the mood,” said Robert Taafe. He was promised by Marcus Loew that he would be given Ben-Hur. It was probably Louis B. Mayer who turned it the other way.”

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It was well-known that Ingram and Mayer hated each other. Once when Mayer met Alice outside his office at MGM, he told the blue-eyed beauty, “Thank God I’m not married to him; you’re the one who has to put up with him.”

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Alice was more than happy to “put up” with her husband. She knew the best thing for him was work, so she encouraged him to do another film as soon as Where the Pavement Ends was completed. It would again star Ramon Novarro and was based on another Rafael Sabatini novel called Scaramouche. The film’s budget totaled more than one million dollars once production began on March 17, 1923—St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, Ingram, being a good Irishman, reportedly celebrated by getting drunk and continued celebrating for twelve days, shutting down production before it began.

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Variety said that in Scaramouche Alice Terry “looked wonderful and managed to score heavily.” Photoplay proclaimed that under her husband’s direction, she “has forged her way into the leading ranks of feminine stars.”

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Before work began on her next film, Alice accompanied Rex to London where she met his father, Reverend Frances Hitchcock. After what must have been a moving reunion, they traveled to Tunisia where filming began on The Arab, which again co-starred Ramon Novarro. During production, Rex and Alice fell in love with an Arab boy named Kada-Abd-el-Kader and adopted him. He eventually appeared in several Rex Ingram films but would later cause his adoptive parents untold headaches.

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.Novarro and Terry in The Arab, which was the first time

Alice did not wear her trademark blonde wig.

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Several years later, they brought the young lad to Hollywood where he began associating with fast women, and racing cars through the San Fernando Valley. It seemed that he had misrepresented himself and was really older than he had originally told them. “The entire family was incensed at it all,” remembered Robert Taafe. “Here I was their nephew, and they ignored me entirely.”

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Things go so out of hand with the “boy” that he was finally sent back to Morocco. The Ingrams told friends and the press that Kada was going to finish his schooling in his native land. Of course, this was not true, but they felt they had no other choice than to send him home. “They did not want to say at the time he had misrepresented himself,” Robert Taafe said. “In those days days those kind of things were kept quiet. Of course, today it would have been in all the tabloids.”

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Kada later became a tourist guide in Morocco and Algiers and would always tell the tourists that he was the adopted son of Rex Ingram and Alice Terry.

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NEXT TIME: In Part Three, Alice and Rex move to the French Riviera where they open a studio and make films without Louis B. Mayer’s constant supervision.

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