The Day Valentino Died

Rudolph Valentino 3Following this day in 1926, several woman actually took their lives when news was released that the most dandy of Hollywood heartthrobs had died at the young age of 31. Across the nation, women adored him, and men did not know quite how they felt about this dashing figure who seduced the screen with effeminate grace, his name, Rudolph Valentino

Valentino’s well-known silent films include The Four Horsemen of the ApocalypseThe SheikBlood and SandThe Eagle, and The Son of the Sheik. Known as the “Latin Lover” or simply as “Valentino,” his smoldering looks and intensity of character made him one the biggest sex symbols of the 1920’s and propelled him to that of a legend. Hollywood success, however, came after many hardships.

In his first couple of years living in New York there were frequent times that Valentino found himself homeless and living on the streets, but eventually he found work as taxi dancer, a paid dance partner, at Maxims where his exotic nature made him a popular partner with rich patrons of New York. One high society New Yorker whom Valentino befriended was Blanca de Saulles, an heiress from Chile who was married to powerful business man John de Saulles. There are unproven rumors that Blanca and Rudolph were lovers, but when the de Saulles finally divorced, he took the stand to give testimony about John de Saulles infidelity. Making an enemy in John de Saulles, the businessman used his connections to have Valentino arrested on several occasions on various vice charges. The whole affair was a media scandal that reached its zenith when Blanca shot her ex-husband over a parent custody dispute. At this point Valentino knew that it was time to leave New York City and headed the West Coast and ultimately Hollywood.


Ironically, Valentino’s screen career started with him being typecast as “heavies” which he did not care for, but 1921 he found his big break in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Metro Pictures, however, did not yet see Valentino as a star, and as a result did not pay him what he was actually worth; this led to many conflicts between him and the studio. That same year, Valentino quit Metro Pictures and joined Famous Players-Lasky to make his most iconic movie of them all, The Sheik. Later, after actually going on strike from the movie industry for still not getting paid a star salary, Valentino quit Famous Players-Lasky and ended up with United Artists who paid him much better.

Valentino_Four_Horsemen_1921The legend of Valentino lives on today, but his time of fame was only five years. On August 15th, 1926, Valentino collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador in New York City, New York. He was hospitalized at the New York Polyclinic Hospital and an examination showed him to be suffering from appendicitis and gastric ulcers, which required an immediate operation. Despite surgery, Valentino developed peritonitis. On August 18th his doctors gave an optimistic prognosis and told the media that unless his condition changed for the worse there was no need for updates. However, on August 21st he was stricken with a severe pleuritis relapse that developed rapidly in his left lung due to his weakened condition. The doctors realized that he was going to die, but, as was common at the time with terminal patients, decided to withhold the prognosis from the actor, who believed that his condition would pass. During the early hours of August 23rd, Valentino was briefly conscious and chatted with his doctors about his future. He fell back into a coma and died a few hours later, at the age of 31.

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