Between 1914–26, Rudy starred in 38 films, 14 of them in the leading role. He began with uncredited bit parts, gradually moved up to secondary roles (often as a villain), and finally got his big breakthrough with the incredible 1921 blockbuster The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Screenwriter June Mathis was very impressed with his 1919 cameo in Eyes of Youth (one of star Clara Kimball Young’s few surviving films), and put her career on the line when she chose this relative unknown for such a huge role.
Rudy never forgot what June had done for him, believing in him when no one else did, mentoring him every step of the way, helping him to get the best roles, serving as a surrogate mother figure, being so loyal and kind. She was also one of the Hollywood élite who helped to bail Rudy out of jail when he was arrested for bigamy in 1922, having married Natacha Rambova before being divorced from paper wife Jean Acker for an entire year.
In a 1923 interview with Louella Parsons, Rudy said: “She discovered me, anything I have accomplished I owe to her, to her judgment, to her advice and to her unfailing patience and confidence in me.”
When Rudy passed on, he had some serious debts, so June lent her burial vault at Hollywood Forever. Sadly, June herself died the next year, and her husband gave up his own crypt for Rudy. They’ve been side by side for almost 90 years now.
Amazingly, almost all of Rudy’s stardom-era films have survived, giving him a very good survival record for a silent star. Most of the silent stars whose entire or near-entire body of work survived were the big-name stars with total or a great level of creative control, and who took care to preserve their own archives.
Some of Rudy’s earlier films were edited to showcase him and rereleased after his breakthrough, and so survive only in fragmented form.
The lost films are starred.
My Official Wife (1914)*
The Battle of the Sexes (1914) (surviving fragment only)
La Corsara (Italian film) (1916)*
The Quest of Life (1916)*
The Foolish Virgin (1916)*
Patria (1917) (partially lost)
A Society Sensation (1918) (only 24-minute reissue survives; original cut was 50 minutes)
All Night (1918)
The Married Virgin (1918)
The Delicious Little Devil (1919)
The Big Little Person (1919)*
A Rogue’s Romance (1919)*
The Homebreaker (1919)*
Virtuous Sinners (1919) (print exists in Library of Congress archives)
Nobody Home (1919)*
Eyes of Youth (1919)
Stolen Moments (1920) (only 35-minute reissue survives; original cut was six reels)
The Isle of Love, a.k.a. An Adventuress (1920) (only 39-minute reissue survives)
The Cheater (1920)*
Passion’s Playground (1920)*
Once to Every Woman (1920)*
The Wonderful Chance (1920)
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
Uncharted Seas (1921)*
The Sheik (1921) (which I kind of almost wish were a lost film!)
The Conquering Power (1921) (hugely underrated!)
Moran of the Lady Letty (1922) (now available in a gorgeous print that’s like night and day compared to the horrible VHS copy I first saw!)
Beyond the Rocks (1922) (miraculously found in 2003)
Blood and Sand (1922) (my very first!)
The Young Rajah (1922) (A near-complete print surfaced in Italy in I believe the 1970s, but due to lack of funds, much of it deteriorated. The DVD pieces together stills and surviving footage.)
Monsieur Beaucaire (1924) (has noble intentions and a great theme about being true to yourself, but it got lost in all that damn wig powder and bloated length)
A Sainted Devil (1924)*
Cobra (1925) (with a gorgeous print courtesy of the original camera negative)
The Eagle (1925) (set in Catherine the Great’s Russian Empire)
The Son of the Sheik (1926)
The most ideal starting vehicles for a new fan are The Four Horsemen, Blood and Sand, The Eagle, Cobra, and The Son of the Sheik. I’m also very partial to The Conquering Power, though Rudy is only in about a third of the film and it’s more a starring vehicle for Alice Terry. If you want to see Rudy in more of a man’s man role, go for Moran.
Of the pre-stardom films, I’d most recommend All Night, as well as Eyes of Youth. Though Rudy only has one scene near the end of the latter film, he’s absolutely marvellous. It’s easy to see what June Mathis saw in him.
I highly recommend NOT seeing The Sheik first! It’s very unrepresentative of both silent cinema and Rudy’s talents.