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Rudolph Valentino’s Final Resting Place…

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008


Valentino’s Crypt



How Valentino came to be in his final resting place 


By Allan R. Ellenberger


Once Rudolph Valentino had been interred and the obsequies completed, the thought of how the actor would be remembered was foremost in everyone’s mind. The city of Chicago, home of the infamous “Pink Powder Puffs” editorial, formed the Rudolph Valentino Memorial Association in the hopes of erecting a remembrance of some kind. The Arts Association of Hollywood proposed a monument that would be the forerunner of a series of memorial to pioneers of the film industry. A committee of local Italians, which included director Robert Vignola, Silvano Balboni, and his wife June Mathis, suggested the construction of an Italian park on Hollywood Boulevard with a memorial theater and a large statue of Valentino as its central feature. Despite those grandiose projects, no memorials actually materialized — and it slowly became apparent that the same would happen with Valentino’s final resting place.


After Valentino’s death, a decision could not be made as to where the actor’s body would finally rest. George Ullman, Valentino’s manager, was confident that Alberto, the actor’s brother and the person who would have the final say, would consent to interring the body in Hollywood. The Mayor of Castellaneta, Valentino’s birthplace, cabled Alberto imploring him to have the actor’s body returned there for burial with ceremony. Valentino’s sister Maria, who at first wanted her brother brought back to Italy, later concurred with the Hollywood delegation, thanks in part to the suggestion of William Randolph Hearst. To solve the problem — at least temporarily — June Mathis offered her own crypt at Hollywood Cemetery mausoleum until an appropriate memorial could be decided upon or built.





Valentino and his friend June Mathis

Valentino’s casket originally rested in Mathis’ crypt until her death


When Mathis died in New York less than a year later and now was in need of her crypt, a decision had to be made about what to do with Valentino. As a good-will gesture, Silvano Balboni offered to have Valentino’s casket moved to his crypt next to Mathis’ until the Valentino estate ironed out its problems. On August 8, 1927, cemetery workers entered the Cathedral Mausoleum and, what proved to be one last time, moved Valentino’s remains to the adjoining crypt, number 1205.


While public memorials were being considered, Valentino’s body continued to lay in a borrowed tomb. At the time of his death, architects were asked to submit designs for a mausoleum, with an estimated cost placed at $10,000. Photoplay magazine published plans for a proposed tomb by architect Matlock Price in the November 1926 issue.


 The Memorial that might have been…






The design incorporated an exedra, a half-circle of columns standing serene and dignified against a dark background and curving towards the observer. Within that half-circle, a “heroic” bronze figure of Valentino as the Sheik, seated on an Arabian horse, towered above the onlooker. Following the curve of the exedra, a broad bench sat under two pergolas running across the ends of the terrace, which was paved with red Spanish tile.


These plans also went nowhere, and a permanent mausoleum for Valentino has never materialized. In May 1930 a memorial to Valentino was finally erected in De Longpre Park in central Hollywood, the only one of its kind dedicated to an actor in the film capitol.





The Valentino statue, “Aspiration,” in De Longpre Park 


In April 1934, after Valentino’s body lay in a borrowed tomb for almost eight years, Silvano Balboni sold the crypt to Alberto. Balboni returned to Italy and never returned to the United States; Valentino now had his own resting place.


Rudolph Valentino’s crypt in the 1930s (LAPL)


Every year on August 23rd at 12:10 p.m. (the time that Valentino died in New York), scores of fans gather near his crypt at Hollywood Forever Cemetery to remember the man. Regardless of the circus atmosphere that once prevailed at these events during the past eighty-two years, whether it be reports of the actor’s ghost or the appearance of mysterious, dark-veiled women, it is hoped that somehow the spirit of Rudolph Valentino, the “Great Lover,” now rests in peace.


If you are in the Los Angeles-Hollywood area this Saturday, August 23, be sure to drop by the Rudolph Valentino Memorial at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The service is held at the Cathedral Mausoleum and begins at 12:10 p.m. – the time of Valentino’s death in New York. Arrive early as seats go quickly. See you there.




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