Rudolph Valentino Week, Part I (What Rudy means to me)

11828610_10153583278426667_5243803725469913739_n

Welcome to Rudolph Valentino Week, my retrospective on my favourite actor on the week of his 90th Jahrzeit (death anniversary). I’ll be discussing what Rudy means to me, his tragic death, the mob scene funeral, his filmography, and his reception and legacy. Originally, I’d planned to have several posts about his films which turned 95 this year, but I decided to hold those off for their own respective weeks.

Here are some of my thoughts on what Rudy means to me and why I love him so much, some taken from past posts and some brand-new.

10399070_17869111394_311_n

I fell in love with Rudy the moment I first saw him in motion, 17 November 2004, the night I saw Blood and Sand (1922). My heart literally skipped a beat! I just knew, from that first moment, that he’d become my favourite actor.

I was also struck by what a kind, gentle, sincere face he had. I’d seen him in still photographs before, but not till I saw him in motion did I fully appreciate his beauty and understand his appeal.

11016720_723830421065959_1268319981549720229_n

Rudy was such a beautiful man, both inside and outside. He was a sweet, gentle soul who loved animals, was very good with kids (though sadly never had any of his own), respected women, wrote poetry, was intelligent and well-read, appreciated art and the finer things in life, respected his elders and those who’d opened doors for him, had great respect for other cultures and races, and had a very strong work ethic.

Rudy’s views on women weren’t exactly the most progressive, but I’d honestly much prefer a guy who thinks of women as “the fair/weaker sex” and wants his wife to stay home and raise children than a guy who beats and rapes women, or who thinks women don’t have any brains or rights. He also didn’t think it was unmanly to display emotions or have a soft side.

He once said, “The caveman method I abhor, and I do not believe that it is ever successful with the woman who is worth having. Who could desire a woman taken by force? Who would gain any pleasure from loving or caressing a woman who did not give in return?”

terry-valentino-horsemen

Rudy had exactly the kind of look I love in a man. I’m all about the soft, juvenile facial features, and a kind, sincere face. Square jaws and six-pack abs have never done anything for me.

I also love a man who’s not afraid to look pretty or beautiful, who doesn’t think his manliness is compromised or ruined if he’s gender-defiant or gender-nonconforming. Gender expression is a spectrum, not a collection of mandated stereotypes. Since I’m so tomboyish and not very stereotypically girly in most regards, I’ve always preferred men who are similarly very in touch with their feminine side.

Rudy was also said to be a great cook, and his spaghetti in particular was awesome.

10399070_17869021394_7467_n

Rudy was a fantastic actor, even in mediocre or unrepresentative films. He threw himself into his roles, and became these characters.

He deeply respected the Arab people and refused to villify them because they had darker skin, a different religion, and lived in a different part of the globe.

He was very sensitive, with a beautiful soul, a genuinely nice person. In spite of being unafraid to be gentle and tender, he also acted in some more stereotypically “masculine” roles.

He didn’t want to be pigeonholed, and sought a variety of roles.

He knew how to make a scene erotic through body language and suggestion, in the era of “less is more.” The wedding-night scene in Blood and Sand is unbelievably erotic, all because of his body language.

In spite of his patriarchal views, he married a strong, independent woman. There are stunning parallels between Natacha Rambova and Yoko Ono. Most people either love or hate these women, with scant middle ground!

Cobra

I wish more actors these days were such class acts. Rudy is my gold standard of what I’m looking for in a man, both physically and in terms of personal qualities. Perhaps someday this sheba will find her sheik.

Ben-Hur at 90, Part II (Behind the scenes)

ben-hur-novarro-mcavoy

Though I’ve never read the book, I’ve heard the 1925 Ben-Hur is much closer to the source material than the 1959 remake. Published on 12 November 1880, General Lew Wallace’s religious historical novel became a giant bestseller after slow initial sales and in spite of mixed reviews from critics. No matter how critics panned the writing, the reading public ate it up like candy. It was inevitable it’d eventually be adapted for the stage, and then the silver screen. The first film version was in 1907.

Annex%20-%20Bushman,%20Francis%20X_%20(Ben%20Hur,%20A%20Tale%20of%20the%20Christ)_02

The stage play toured from 1899–1921, and was seen by about 20 million people. The grand spectacle, as in the film, was the chariot race. The first film adaptation was made without the permission of General Wallace’s estate, and was the subject of a copyright lawsuit. The ruling established a precedent which stands to this day, that film companies must secure the rights to adapt copyrighted work instead of just blazing ahead without permission.

May-McAvoy-Esther-and-Ramon-Novarro-Judah-Ben-Hur-Ben-Hur-A-Tale-Of-The-Christ-1925

In 1922, the Goldwyn company (the future MGM) bought the book’s film rights for quite a hefty sum on condition the play’s producer, Abraham Erlanger, have complete approval of every single detail. Filming began in October 1923 in Rome, with Charles Brabin (Theda Bara’s husband) as the original director. Before long, production costs went through the roof. After two years, production returned to Culver City and the newly-created MGM. The total cost was $3.9 million, which is about $52,892,022.86 in today’s currency.

7-ben-fxb-1164x834

It would seem as though the investment paid off, as the film made $9 million worldwide, but it was actually a net financial loss for MGM, not just because of the mammoth expenses but also because of the deal with Erlanger. In addition to getting complete approval over all the details, Erlanger also demanded a 50% profit. The total loss was $698,000. However, in spite of the loss, the film was a great success for MGM’s reputation. Both critics and viewers loved it. Ben-Hur‘s success really put the newborn MGM on the map, and proved boy wonder producer Irving G. Thalberg really knew what he was doing.

tumblr_nul87ruA7W1qi2gavo1_500

The film was re-released in 1931, with just as much success, earning $1,352,000 and making a profit of $779,000. Over the decades, the Technicolor scenes were supplanted by black-and-white versions. Eventually, the Technicolor scenes came to be considered lost. Miraculously, they were discovered in a Czech film archive during the 1980s. The currently-available restoration is absolutely beautiful, with the usual awesome score by Carl Davis.

2015-06-30-1435690633-3280698-benhur1

Ben-Hur made Ramón Novarro into a huge superstar. Rudy Valentino wisely decided not to take that role, since he felt it would’ve been a huge peak against which he’d always be judged, with nowhere to go but down. As much as I love Rudy, I honestly can’t imagine him as Judah Ben-Hur. Ramón is absolutely perfect in the role. After Rudy’s tragic death in 1926, Ramón emerged as the leading Latin lover of the silver screen, though John Gilbert was still the most popular male actor overall. The film also gave Francis X. Bushman’s career a big boost, though thanks to the petty, vindictive Louis B. Mayer, his career was prevented from rising as high as it could’ve.

WeWriWa—Death of Valentino

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4
Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. In honor of my favorite actor’s 89th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I’m sharing something from The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, Chapter 23, “Death of Valentino.” You don’t have to tell me I have extremely dinosaur tastes.

Even though Anastasiya Voroshilova (an Estonian in spite of the Russian name) is the secondary antagonist, she’s not really a cruel person, and she’s always been so fun to write. When she’s on the page, the scene practically writes itself, since she’s so predictable. In this scene, she’s returned to New York in the middle of a heat wave, leaving her not-so-secret bastard son Dmitriy with her friends on Long Island.

terry-valentino-horsemen

On Monday, shortly after noon, an official comes out of the hospital where Anastasiya has been standing vigil with a group of other fans since Saturday.  She wonders if Lyuba would still make fun of her for doing this if she knew her own stepsisters Vera and Natalya are among the women and teenage girls gathered to pray for their favorite actor and watch for any glimpse of him through the open window on the eighth floor.

Anastasiya sees his lips moving and hears words coming out, but can’t process anything after she hears the word “died.”  Like a chain reaction, many of the people in the crowd start screaming and fainting.  She grows numb as she utters a loud scream and falls to the ground in the August heat.  Everything starts spinning around her, and she hears a ringing in her ears and sees a bright light in her eyes.  She’s barely cognizant of the weeping and screaming surrounding her.

“Would you like me to help you get home?” she hears someone asking her after she comes back to herself, by which time some of the crowd has dispersed. “Surely our presence here isn’t needed anymore.  God must’ve wanted Rudy more than we wanted him here on Earth.”

Cobra

Rudolph Valentino, né Rodolfo Pietro Filiberto Raffaele Guglielmi, 6 May 1895–23 August 1926

The sound quality here isn’t as good or accurate as it would’ve been had he stepped back into the studio in 1925 or 1926, but these are the only two known recordings of his voice

P.S.: Happy heavenly 69th birthday to Keith John Moon, the greatest drummer ever!

Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest

Blood Boobs Carnage Blogfest

Ninja Captain Alex and Heather Gardner are hosting the Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest, wherein participants discuss books, films, and TV shows fitting one or more of the abovementioned categories. I naturally thought of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Blood and Sand, written by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Spain’s great national novelist. Both were adapted to the silver screen, in 1921 and 1922, respectively, and later remade.

Juan Gallardo (Rudy Valentino) is a poor boy who dreams of becoming a great bullfighter. Of course, he realises his dream, and rises to become one of Spain’s greatest matadors. Along the way, he marries Carmen (Lila Lee), a sweet, pious girl he knew growing up. Sadly, their marriage doesn’t yield any children. When Juan is at the top of his game, he’s seduced by Doña Sol (Nita Naldi), a notorious man-eater and Vamp. There’s a subplot about an outlaw named Plumitas (Walter Long), whose life path is a sobering parallel to Juan’s life.

There’s plenty of blood and carnage in the arena, though the actual shots of bullfighting are pasted in from real arenas, not done for the film. Nita Naldi was one of the best Vamps of the silent era, after the great Theda Bara. She and Rudy co-starred in several films, and had incredible chemistry. She was also built like a real woman, with voluptuous curves, instead of being a size 6. Nita wasn’t afraid to show off her assets with sexy clothing.

In the silent era, a Vampyre, shortened to Vamp, did not refer to a paranormal creature, but rather to a sexually aggressive, man-eating, rule-breaking, assertive woman.

Rudy_and_Nita_in_Blood_and_Sand

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is one the most powerful anti-war novels ever. It became a U.S. bestseller in 1919, and the 1921 film adaptation was one of the greatest blockbusters in film history (even though most of those constant “best ever” lists ignore or barely mention the silent era). This film was what gave Rudy Valentino his big break and made him a star. This is one of those book-to-screen adaptations which was done marvellously right, instead of taking a great novel and throwing it into the toilet (à la Exodus).

Marcelo Desnoyers moves to Argentina from France in 1870. His family moves back to France before the outbreak of the First World War. During this idyllic, wealthy existence, Marcelo’s son Julio lives the life of Riley, living only for the moment and never developing any serious, mature interests. There’s a notoriously famous, sexy tango scene during Julio’s playboy days, as well as a scene where he sketches a nude model. Meanwhile, Marcelo’s sister-in-law has married a German, Karl Hartrott, and that branch of the family moves back to Germany.

Julio is finally compelled into growing up, and enlists in the French Army. Not only do we see/read the accounts of his wartime service, but we also see/read the horrific account of the carnage and pillage at Marcelo’s mansion. The book is even more graphic, haunting, and bloody than the film. I could picture the scenes in the book even more strongly because I’d already seen the film so many times, and when I next saw the film after reading the book, it was an even more intense experience.

107028

Ignore the 1962 “remake.” It has almost nothing in common with either the novel or 1921 film, and makes a complete mockery of both.

My fantasy husband

Moonless blogfest

Crystal Collier is releasing her e-book Moonless in paperback, and to celebrate, she’s hosting a blogfest. Her book is set in a world where arranged marriages are the norm, so she’s asking participants whom they’d beg their parents to be matched with in such a world. Co-hosts are PK HrezoTammy Theriault, and Michael Di Gesu.

I’d go right for the gold and ask for my dream man, Rudolph Valentino.

Cobra

I’ve been a huge fan of Rudy since I first saw him in motion, 17 November 2004, the night I saw Blood and Sand (1922). The next day, I watched The Sheik (1921) and The Son of the Sheik (1926). I just knew, from that first moment, that he’d become my favourite actor. I really don’t know much about current celebrities, whereas I’m extremely familiar with the Hollywood stars of my great-grandparents’ day.

My heart literally skipped a beat the first time I saw him in motion. I was also struck by what a kind, gentle, sincere face he had.

Naldi21

Rudy was such a beautiful man, both physically and on the inside. He was a sweet, gentle soul who loved animals, was very good with kids (though sadly never had any of his own), respected women (even if he might be considered benevolently sexist by modern standards), wrote poetry, was intelligent and well-read, appreciated art and the finer things in life, respected his elders and those who’d opened doors for him, had great respect for other cultures and races, and had a very strong work ethic.

Son of the Sheik

Yes, Rudy’s views on women weren’t exactly the most progressive, but I’d honestly much prefer a guy who thinks of women as “the fair/weaker sex” and wants his wife to stay home and raise children than a guy who thinks it’s okay to beat and rape women, or who thinks women don’t have any brains or rights. He was sensitive and emotional, and didn’t think it was unmanly to display emotions or have a soft side.

He once said, “The caveman method I abhor, and I do not believe that it is ever successful with the women who is worth having. Who could desire a woman taken by force? Who would gain any pleasure from loving or caressing a woman who did not give in return?”

Moran

I don’t know if I’ve said this often on this blog, but I love younger men. I’ve been into younger guys since my senior year of high school. Obviously, the guys I liked in my late teens and early twenties weren’t that much younger, but now that I’m 34, I’m free to like guys who are a decade or more younger. (A woman in her thirties who digs younger guys is called a puma, in between the bobcat and cougar.) And Rudy had that sweet, fresh, youthful look I love so much in a man.

One of the reasons I love younger men so much is because I like baby-faced men with soft facial features, the bloom of youth still clinging to them. I’ve never been into things like square jaws and huge muscles. I have immature facial features myself, and don’t look my age at all. And I love a man who’s not afraid to look beautiful or pretty. Plus, I love big brown eyes and dark hair.

terry-valentino-horsemen

It’s also said that Rudy was a great kisser. The Valentino crypt in Hollywood Forever is said to be notoriously haunted, with many visitors feeling cold spots and a creepy invisible presence. A lot of pictures taken there have also had strange lights show up. Many female visitors have also reported feeling phantom kisses.

My ex-“fiancé” didn’t know how to kiss very well, and didn’t do it until two years and seven months into our dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship. Even then, he needed to be begged to do it, and didn’t do it often. It would be nice if I could have the experience of being properly kissed at least once in this lifetime, by someone who knows how to do it, doesn’t need pleaded to do it, and understands you do that early in a relationship, not after you’ve done everything else. At least I learnt my lesson.

Rudy228

Finally, Rudy was also said to be a great cook, and that his spaghetti in particular was awesome. And we have Italian ancestry in common; I’m an eighth Italian (with a body type to prove my Southern Italian blood), and he was half Italian.