Hello everyone! I’ve been lousy lately about posting, so today I’m making up for it with a four-part post with some very interesting (but not too well-known stories) about the death of the great silent film star, Rudolph Valentino.
He was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filiberto Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla (“Imagine that name in neon lights!” he once said) in 1895 in Castellaneta, Italy. He came to the United States at the grand old age of 18, and first got work as a gardener, then a dishwasher, a waiter, a vaudeville dancer, and a gigolo. He won a leading role in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in 1921, and skyrocketed to fame, filming The Sheik later the same year.
In August 1926, his decline was rapid and shocking. He had just released a movie, the Son of the Sheik, and had climbed to the highest point yet in his career. He was seen at a party in New York City on August 15, after which he collapsed and was rushed to Polytechnic Hospital.
Initially he suffered pains that were misdiagnosed as appendicitis, but the problem was really a ruptured ulcer. Soon, Valentino underwent surgery for both appendicitis and perforated ulcers. By the time doctors discovered it, it had become infected and it was apparent to them that Valentino could not live. At the time, doctors often concealed from patients that they were dying and Valentino appeared to believe he would recover, even as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
Dr. Meeker, one of the physicians attending him, said that Valentino passed away peacefully. “His last words that any of us could understand were spoken shortly before dawn. This morning, when turning to me he remarked cheerily: “Doctor, do you know the greatest thing I am looking forward to?”
“What is it?” I asked.
Valentino smiled, and replied: “It is the fishing review next month. I hope you have plenty of rods.” After which he relapsed into unconsciousness.” Valentino slid into a coma and on August 23, a little after noon, he passed away, just three months after turning 31.
As it would soon become apparent, the world was devastated by the screen idol’s death. It was not, however, a tragedy to the man himself.
Valentino evidently believed he would have an early death. John W. Considine, a producer of Valentino’s films said, “Valentino several times remarked to me, ‘I shall die young. I know It, and I shall not be sorry. I would hate to live to be an old man.’”