Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rudolph Valentino’s Ghost and Cursed Ring

“What the average man calls death; I believe to be merely the beginning of life itself. We simply live beyond the shell. We emerge from out of its narrow confines like a chrysalis. Why call it death? Or, if we give it the name death, why surround it with dark fears and sick imaginings? I am not afraid of the unknown.”
                                                             --Rudolph Valentino

Rudolph Valentino was the most popular film star of the 1920s silent era. Millions of women idolized him as America’s first sex symbol. 

He was born in 1895, to a French mother and an Italian father. He grew up in Italy. When he immigrated to New York, his godfather helped him get his first job. He was a taxi dancer, which was a person who danced with a variety of partners in a café for ten cents a dance. 

Valentino being an above average dancer began to perform for New York society. Later it was Valentino who introduced the Argentine Tango to America when he played it in his first film “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in 1921.

Valentino once said, “Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen. I am merely the canvas upon which the women paint their dreams.” 

On-screen Valentino was known for his deep penetrating gaze, in real life, Valentino was never lucky in his marriages or love affairs. 

He left New York and followed his godfather to San Francisco because he had become infatuated with a married New York socialite by the name of Blanca de Saulles. 

During her divorce trial, he testified on her behalf. Her husband, a prominent businessman, was not pleased, so he had Valentino arrested on vice charges. It was never made clear what vice Valentino was guilty of, but his record was wiped clean of these charges in the 1920s. 

Blanca shot her ex-husband, Valentino wishing to avoid further scandal left New York.

When Valentino first began acting, he was in a string of B movies. It was during this time his mother died, and he fell in love with an unknown actress by the name of Jean Acker. 

Acker was a lesbian, but Valentino was not aware of this, so he proposed. Acker accepted thinking it might be an excellent way to avoid scandal in her own life. 

But on their wedding night, Acker locked Valentino out, so their marriage was never consummated. Valentino still not understanding begged for Acker’s forgiveness “for whatever he had done.” 

He moved on when he discovered the truth. It is the shortest marriage in Hollywood history. It lasted only six hours.

Valentino worked with an artistic director by the name of Natacha Rambova while filming “Camille.” The two fell in love and moved into together. 

Valentino obtained a divorce from Acker. It was during this time (1921) that he was cast in his most famous role, “The Sheik." 

To Valentino’s chagrin, this role became the image that most people associated him with. Tragically, just a short five years later while promoting the sequel to this film, “Son of Sheik” he became ill, collapsed and died at the age of 31.

Valentino married Rambova in 1923, but their relationship was doomed--one reason being that each movie they starred in together flopped. 

In fact, their collaboration efforts made Valentino box office poison for a while. The papers at the time always blamed Rambova for these failures. 

Another contentious issue for the couple was Valentino desperately wanted children and Rambova didn’t. The marriage finally was over when Rambova had an affair with her cameraman. 

Valentino despondent contemplated suicide. The two divorced in 1926.

Valentino’s life became reckless after this, he carried on affairs with several women at the same time, and he took unnecessary risks. 

More than once, he almost killed himself in car accidents, and when he became ill, he refused to see a doctor. While promoting “Son of Sheik,” Valentino was sick, so he was transferred to a hospital in New York. 

The doctors discovered he had bleeding ulcers. They performed an operation, which they deemed a success but a few days later Valentino took a turn for the worse and died from an infection caused by the surgery.

Unlucky in love, Valentino also, in a way considered himself unlucky in the roles he played. Some of his most successful films he resented because of the reputation it gave him. 

In fact, during the time he was promoting “Son of Sheik” a writer at the Chicago Tribune wrote an editorial blaming Rudolph Valentino for causing the “feminization of the American male.” This editorial called him a “pink powder puff.” 

Valentino’s response to this was to challenge the writer to a boxing match. The writer of the piece refused, but the paper did send another writer whom they considered “a ringer.” Valentino beat him easily. This was during the time he was in great pain from bleeding ulcers. 

In his final hours, he asked his doctors, "and now do I act like a pink powder puff?" His doctors told him he had more courage than most men.

Valentino’s business manager George Ullman arranged to have a public viewing of Valentino’s body in New York. 80,000 hysterical women showed up almost causing a riot, Ullman had to abandon his idea. 

When Valentino’s body was carried by train to Los Angeles for a second funeral, several distraught women committed suicide. At the time of his death, Valentino was 3 million dollars in debt—so there was no money to handle his estate or his burial. 

A friend, June Mathis owned several crypts in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, so she offered to loan one to Valentino. His body still lies in this crypt because soon after his death, the depression hit, so plans to raise funds to pay for a memorial for his final resting place was set aside.

Valentino’s ghost is often seen in places that he had connections to while alive. Many witnesses have spotted him at his Beverly Hills mansion, Falcon’s Lair. 

Soon after his death, an overnight guest saw doors open and close. 

Rudy and Brownie Valentino’s Great Danes, seemed to know it was their former master and they didn’t react to when his ghost was active. 

Harry Carey in subsequent years owned the mansion. He reported encountering Valentino’s ghost in his old bedroom, and Carey saw Valentino petting an imaginary horse in the mansion’s stables. Valentino, while alive, kept a most beloved horse in this stable. 

The actress Millicent Rodgers also reported seeing Valentino while staying at Falcon’s Lair. Other witnesses reported seeing what appeared to be Valentino standing at a window staring down at the people below.

Valentino has also made appearances at Valentino Place, which was a speakeasy that he often visited. 

His ghost has been spotted at his beach house in Oxnard, where he stayed while filming “The Sheik.” He is seen pacing the veranda. 

Valentino also haunts suite 210 at the Santa Maria Inn. Guests feel a weight on the bed and hear odd sounds. 

At Paramount Studios he is seen walking through the front gate and walking through walls.

One young actress had an unusual encounter with his ghost while filming a scene. She reported that she felt a person climb into bed with her. She felt an amorous body press up against hers, and she felt someone’s breath on her neck. 

When she turned, she recognized Valentino and then supposedly fainted.

A Cursed Ring

A side note to the Valentino story is about a legend of a silver ring that he bought that is cursed. 

The jeweler he bought it from told him that all the former owners of the ring had terrible luck. He wore the ring while making “The Young Rajah” which flopped so badly he did not work for two years. 

Freaked out Valentino didn’t wear the ring again until he went on his promotional tour of the “Son of Sheik.” Within two weeks of wearing it, he died.

The ring was passed on to the actress Pola Negri who was dating Valentino when he died. Immediately, her health failed, which almost ended her film career. She gave the ring to a singer named Russ Columbo, who had an uncanny resemblance to Valentino. 

Columbo died in a mysterious shooting accident that is unsolved to this day. 

Columbo’s cousin then gave the ring to Columbo’s friend, Joe Casino, who knew the backstory of the ring but he threw caution to the wind and wore the ring and was run over by a truck. 

More recently, a young actor wore the ring while performing in a screen test for a film about Valentino’s life, ten days after the screen test he died at the age of 21 from a rare blood disease.


Leona Joan said...

Wow! Amazing info about the truly one of a king wonderful Valentino. I hope his Spirit has found happiness on the Other Side. I love his quote about death and totally agree with his philosophy that at death we shed our earthly shells and our Spirits are set free to continue to love and learn as we grow closer to God. ❤

Virginia Lamkin said...

He was one of a kind--that is for sure.