Rudolph Valentino: The Great Lover

In December 1913, an Italian immigrant arrived in New York City with a degree in Agriculture and dreams for a better life. Few who knew him then could have imagined that only six years later, Rodolfo Guglielmi would become Rudolph Valentino, Hollywood’s first male sex symbol. A successful career as a dancer led to bit roles in the movies. But Hollywood wasn’t ready for a dark lover, so Valentino was typecast as the villain in most of his early films. His powerful portrayal of an unscrupulous Italian count in “Eyes of Youth” earned him the coveted lead role of Julio in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” His sultry tango and tormented love scenes led to “The Sheik.” Almost overnight, he changed the face of leading men in America with his smoldering gaze and passionate embrace. Women flocked to the theaters and men tried to bring him down. But Valentino was much more than a sex symbol. He had a talent for comedy, spoke at least four languages, and was an avid collector of European antiques, books, fine cars and dogs. He was a skilled horseman, expert mechanic and serious amateur boxer. To his friends he was Rudy, a man of simple yet refined tastes who adored children and worshipped the women he loved. His tragic death at the age of 31 caused riots and motivated suicides. His funerals in New York and Hollywood drew hundreds of thousands of mourners. And his fans only increased, as The Great Lover became a legend. Eighty years after his death, people still pack the chapel at Hollywood Forever for his annual memorial service, making it the longest running event in Hollywood. From his birth in Castellaneta, Italy, to his untimely death in New York City, Rudolph Valentino led a fascinating life marked by scandal, controversy and heartbreak. Join us for an intimate look at the man behind the icon.


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