How I fell in love with Rudy

In honor of Rudy Valentino’s 91st Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I present a piece edited from the final two paragraphs of an old Angelfire post entitled “The Most Perfect Moment of Just Knowing.” I’m always stunned to see how LONG many of my paragraphs were in those days, and how equally long and rambling my sentences were!

That same you-have-to-see-it experience, a translation from stillness to movement, took place on the night of 17 November 2004, when I first watched Blood and Sand, the first time I saw Rudy Valentino in motion. From the first time I remembered seeing a picture of him in 2001, I was mesmerised by how beautiful he was, what a kind, non-threatening face he had. However, I hadn’t had the chance to see him in motion until that night.

I know why my great-grandmother went to Pittsburgh every Saturday to see his movies. I was just riveted, couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. You can’t really put into words why, just that he had natural charisma, effortless sex appeal, intensity, drawing the viewer in, involving you, making the viewing experience personal, speaking to your soul, such natural, emotional body language, an incredibly expressive face, emotional, seductive eyes.

I genuinely don’t understand people who genuinely don’t understand the fuss over him, who truly believe it was just a product of the times. Usually they’ve only seen his most unrepresentative films.

I couldn’t believe how much more beautiful he was in motion. I felt weak, and my heart skipped a beat, when I first saw him on the screen. Such depth of emotional intensity can’t be manufactured or learnt in acting school. It was genuine, throwing himself into his roles, becoming the characters, looking so genuine and sincere in his interactions with the other players, esp. women.

I just knew I could never be more impressed by any other actor, modern or bygone. I roll my eyes when I read or hear the often-repeated complaint that all or most silent films or actors are guilty of “overacting.” I’ve seen so many talking films which are so over-the-top and overacted, and many modern-day actors don’t have as much talent in their entire bodies as some silent actors had in their pinky fingers!

People have forgotten what expressive body language looks like, how a face can express emotions without words. Forget the ridiculous eye-bulging in his most famous movie; his talents are much better-expressed in his other ventures.

I’m not interested in any modern actors. Someone who died 53 years before I was born mesmerised me in a way no modern-day wannabe ever could. Current actors don’t have “It,” that unexpressable magnetism and sex appeal. None of the modern-day male actors who are supposedly so sexy and in demand do anything for me.

You know beyond all knowing. Some people don’t want to believe in epiphanies, feeling they need to test out what they think before coming to a conclusion. But some things you either sense right away or you don’t. Most people don’t “decide” they love their child; they just know they’ll love him or her forever. Some things you just know.

P.S.: Happy heavenly 71st birthday to Keith Moon!

WeWriWa—Father and child reunion

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when infant nurse Svetlana and her tiny patient’s father began realizing she might be one and the same as the missing sixth-born daughter of the widower who lives across the hall.

Mr. Lebedev has come home with his five accounted-for daughters and is rather displeased to discover his door was left open and never closed by any of his friends on their top floor of the tenement. Ivan promises it won’t happen again.

Source; painted by Jim Daly

“Say, do you mind stepping inside for a moment?  You haven’t met Fedya’s wonderfully talented nurse yet.  It turns out you have the same surname, and her dog had the same name as yours.”

“What?”

Svetlana turns around and gasps at the sight of the older man with one blue eye, one brown eye, and brown hair with copper highlights. “Papa?”

“Sveta?”

Svetlana leaps into her father’s arms, while her sisters cross themselves. “Thank God you’re alive.  Nadya told me you six had gone to America, and I couldn’t rest easily until I found you.”

******************************

Svetlana was seventeen when she was taken away with three of her other sisters, and she’s now twenty-two. Though her cousin Nadezhda was able to tell her the happy news about her father and five of her sisters surviving the Red Terror, Nadezhda also had to deliver the sad news about her mother being murdered.

Next week, I’d like to switch to a piece from my third Russian historical, Journey Through a Dark Forest, in honor of the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

WeWriWa—Svetlana and Kroshka

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when visiting infant nurse Svetlana asked Ivan if she could feed Pomeranian Kroshka some meat. The Konevs live across the hall from Mr. Lebedev and his daughters.

Svetlana has been coming over to take care of Fedya, Lyuba and Ivan’s first blood child together. Due to a damaged cervix and some other medical issues, Lyuba gave birth about a month early and fell into a feverish coma. The radical Dr. Scholl, one of my favorite secondary characters in my Russian historicals, recommended keeping her at home, with constant monitoring, unless her condition worsens.

“Of course, go ahead.” Ivan sets Fedya on a pillow and changes Lyuba’s cold compress. “I don’t think Mr. Lebedev or his daughters will mind if you quickly go into their apartment to get Kroshka’s brush and dishes.  She prefers to eat from her dishes instead of being fed by hand, and she loves being brushed.”

“Your neighbor’s name is Lebedev?  I’m a Lebedeva!”

“Come to think of it, one of his missing daughters is also a Svetlana.  He had ten daughters, but only five are safe in America, the oldest and the four youngest.  God knows what happened to the others.”

Kroshka’s dishes, toys, and brushes, and everything else in Mr. Lebedev’s old house, were saved by the ingenuity of his niece Nadezhda. After Mr. Lebedev was taken away by the Cheka, Nadezhda put a phony smallpox quarantine sign on the door. Shortly afterwards, Nadezhda left to find work (ending up as the head prostitute at a brothel), and Kroshka was left alone.

Even I never figured out how she survived on her own before Mr. Lebedev escaped from prison and made his way back to his old house. Kind neighbors may have taken care of her, or she may have joined a gang of feral dogs.

WeWriWa—Svetlana and Kroshka

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet immediately follows last week’s, when Pomeranian Kroshka came running into the Konevs’ tenement and demanded attention from visiting infant nurse Svetlana.

Svetlana is now holding Kroshka, and speaking with Ivan. This has been slightly modified to fit 10 lines. I’m going to be doing some overall revising on this book anyway, to go along with a new cover.

“She looks just like the little Pomeranian I used to have,” Svetlana says wistfully. “My cousin told me my sweet little Kroshka went to America with my father and five of my sisters.  Praise God, I’ll be reunited with my dear little dog soon, if she’s still in this world at her age.”

“What did you just say your dog’s name was?”

“Kroshka, since she was as tiny as a crumb when she was a puppy, and I thought it was such a cute, sweet, appropriate name.”

“Well, isn’t that something.  This dog’s name is also Kroshka.”

Svetlana smiles. “Perhaps I wasn’t as original as I thought.  May I feed her some meat?”

WeWriWa—Svetlana and Kroshka

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I decided to continue the story of young widower Mr. Lebedev reuniting with his missing daughters, from my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan.

It’s now May 1922, in America, and female protagonist Lyuba has fallen unconscious from a very high fever after giving birth to her first child with male protagonist Ivan, about a month premature. A young nursing student and new immigrant, Svetlana, has been coming over to help with the baby, and Kroshka always barks like crazy when she’s there.

Ivan is rocking Fedya at 5:30 when Kroshka comes running into the apartment, right to Svetlana, stirring a pot of beef stew at the coal-burning stove.  This can only mean Mr. Lebedev forget to lock the door when he and his daughters left this morning, and forgot to close the door all the way.

“I’m really sorry for her behavior,” Ivan says as he gets up. “She’s normally so sweet and gentle.  Maybe it’s true that lapdogs have fantasies of being as mighty and powerful as big guard dogs, and this is her way of trying to do just that.  She must sense a stranger’s presence, and wants to protect her friends.”

Kroshka is now jumping at Svetlana’s feet, and won’t stop till Svetlana picks her up.  Once she’s in Svetlana’s arms, she frantically starts licking her face.

The reader has already been introduced to Svetlana, who was sent to Siberia with three of her sisters after the Revolution. In Part II, she was reunited with her cousin Nadezhda, who was captured in Ivan’s place.

Nadezhda told Svetlana her father and five of her sisters escaped to America in the spring of 1921. Nadezhda and her sweetheart Pavel were with them at the port of Tallinn, but weren’t able to get on that ship due to not having tickets. When their enemies found them, Pavel managed to get away on a raft and was picked up by another ship, but it was too late for Nadezhda.

Svetlana’s nursing skills earned her rather decent treatment and an eventual early release. She was unable to obtain Nadezhda’s release along with hers.