Norma Shearer in Lady of the Night, 1925
Ramon Novarro and Joan Crawford in Across to Singapore, 1928
Gloria Swanson and Raoul Walsh for Sadie Thompson (1928)
Charlie Chaplin inadvertently sprinkles another inmate’s hidden cocaine on his food in Modern Times, 1936
Happy birthday Rudolph Valentino!
Born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla
May 6, 1895 - August 23, 1926
"[He reminded me of] an overgrown little boy. One of those kiddies with huge brown eyes and a guileless expression [caught] in the act of robbing the family jam closet. You would wipe away the incriminating evidence from his countenance and kiss away the hurt look in his eyes."
"Rudolph Valentino was the screen’s first dark-skinned romantic hero… He helped to redefine and broaden American masculine ideals. Only after Valentino could a blonde leading lady accept and return the ardent kisses of a screen lover with dark coloring. Valentino had much to do with waking American women up to just how exciting, sensual, and romantic love and sex could be. He was alluring precisely because he didn’t look or behave like a midwestern American woman’s brother, boyfriend, or husband. ‘He is not like the nice boy who takes you to all the high-school dances,’ Agnes Smith would tellingly write in 1922.
…As a symbol, Valentino succeeded beyond anybody’s reckoning. He lived the American immigrant’s rag-to-riches dream. He rose to the top of silent films, the most popular form of entertainment in the 1920s and a medium for which his gift for movement, gesture, and nonverbal emotional communication seemed to make order… He shared the decade’s worship of youth, indulgence, beauty, and speed, and because he died so young he became something close to the personification of those qualities. But he went beyond representing his era, exhibiting a depth of feeling, a capacity for suffering, and artistry, and a princely bearing that belonged to him alone.
To his contemporaries he sent mixed cues. While unlocking women’s fantasies of savage, forbidden passion, he was pilloried by men- and sometimes by women - for being too ornamental, too artificial, too dependent, too much like the stereotypic female. Both earthly and artificial, he managed to pose a threat for suggesting two opposite qualities: on the one hand, sex menace, the violent but irresistible magnetism of the ardent brute; on the other, the pretty boy, the deferential gentleman, the ‘powder-puff’ lounge lizard reviled so cruelly on the editorial page of the Chicago Tribune…
Rudolph Valentino helped deflower postwar America, teaching it by his screen example the limits of emotional restraint and erotic innocence. He reconfigured its ideal of the desirable man. Along with his flamboyant male fashions, Valentino offered his adopted country a new masculine ideal: sensual, continental, and far more attuned to women than earlier models, darker in both complexion and mood, more willing than any before (or since?) to respond to beauty, show passion, and give his all- even die- for love.
…To acolytes, Valentino remains the ultimate romantic leading man, the dream lover whose kisses are conjured in fantasies. In a short story by Frank O’Connor, a wife who isn’t attracted to her husband is told by a friend that she might try following the example of another such wife: ‘One night, she pretended to herself that her husband was Rudolph Valentino, and everything was all right.’”
-Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino, Emily W. Leider