Biography of Filmmakers and Actors: Rudolph Valentino

About the famous actor Rudolph Valentino, history and biography of the filmmaker.

Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926). To say silent-screen star Rudolph Valentino was a sex symbol is putting it mildly. Italian-born Rodolpho d'Antonguolla came to the U.S. in 1913 and after working as a gardener, a cabaret dancer/gigolo, and then a bit player in Hollywood, he zoomed to stardom under his stage name in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), which was followed by hits like The Sheik, Blood and Sand, Monsieur Beaucaire, and The Son of the Sheik. Valentino became the embodiment of romance and sex to women all over the world, his name still a synonym for a handsome lover.

Women had always been attracted to Valentino--it is said that he left Italy to escape an enraged husband--and when he came to New York he was arrested when police found him in the apartment of a woman suspected of extorting money from fun-seeking businessmen. But after his movie successes, Valentino became an object of worship to thousands of females. Women ripped his clothes off him in the streets for souvenirs, exposed their bodies to him, climbed uninvited into his bed. The crowds were unbelievable wherever he went--once when he took a stroll aboard the Leviathan so many women rushed to his side that the captain feared the danger of a disastrous list. The antics of individuals were even more unbelievable--one woman broke her leg climbing into his dressing room, others gladly paid his valet $20 for a vial of his used bath water. yet despite his dark good looks, this star of stars was a timorous lover, a superstitious man who tried to bolster his sexual powers with aphrodisiacs and magic amulets, who always preferred food to women, and found his neurotic, clamorous admirers completely undesirable.

Valentino died of peritonitis caused by a bleeding ulcer when only 31 years old. Over 50,000 people, overwhelmingly women, attended his funeral in New York in 1926, and even today admirers come to mourn at his crypt in the Los Angeles cemetery where he is buried. Some 250 women have claimed publicly that the "Sheik" fathered their love children, many of whom were born years after Valentino's death.

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