Valentino’s letters to Peggy Scott are really a very interesting window into his personality.
“I wonder if you realize how much I have suffered,” he says. “I set out in the belief that I had achieved union with my ideal mate, and I thought there could be no greater happiness for a man than to be united to his soul-mate. “I soon realized that marriage and the artistic temperament could not harmonize, and I lived in hell for the days in which I could not adjust myself to the extent of regaining my freedom. I pray you may never suffer as I have suffered, and it is because I do not want you to suffer that I refuse to hear any suggestion of marriage between us.”
Perhaps Valentino was merely attempting to let Peggy down easily, but it was partly just factual. Though Valentino was almost universally believed to be one of the most desirable men in the world, he had been very unlucky in love.
He first married Jean Acker, whom he learned on their wedding night was a lesbian. There were similar rumors of his second wife Natacha Rambova, a set and costume designer and former ballerina. Rambova, despite her exotic name, was born Winifred Shaughnessy in Utah. Like Jean, she was a strong-willed woman.
Though Valentino played characters that were attracted to frail women, he liked strong women in real life. Rambova shared Valentino’s interests in spiritualism and poetry, but she also dominated him. Valentino wore a slave bracelet she gave him, and when she left him in 1925, Valentino reflected bitterly on the nickname given him by the press: “I have often thought to myself, ‘The great lover—loved by all, but his loves.’”
In one of his last letters to Peggy Scott he wrote, “You may think it strange that, despite the experience of my first marriage, I should have risked a second one, but I was under the delusion that it would be different, and for some weeks everything suggested that I was right. That is the way that fate mocks us artists, us artists, and it was not long until I realized that the second marriage was going the way of the first.”
“You can understand why I do not think of a third lightly. Those who talk of my marriage with Pola Negri do not know what they are saying. It cannot be and never will be so long as I have the recollection of the past to warn me of the future.”
It is ironic that his death revealed to the world that Valentino was not so much a playboy but a man continually making choices that left him frustrated in love.
Bonus: Though all of Valentino’s films were silent, but he did record two songs during his lifetime.