This timeline will give you an idea of the chronology
of events in Valentino's life. There are a few entries which are
debatable, most notably the purported meeting of Valentino and Rambova
in France prior to their divorce. But, I felt it important to
include them as possibilities if they can be verified at a later date.
1895 - Rudy is born
Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di
Valentina D'Antonguolla is born to Giovanni and Beatrice Guglielmi in
Castellaneta, Italy May 6, 1895. He is the second of
three children. Alberto is his older brother, Maria his younger sister.
Coincidentally, the birth of film also occurred in 1895.
1904 - Rudy at 9
1906 - Rudy at 11
1908 - Rudy at 13
Attends military school and completes his military
course at age 15.
At his Mother's urging, he applies to the Naval
Academy (in hopes of gaining some discipline). He fails the physical
examination and is utterly devastated. This is the catalyst for his
lifelong regimen of health and physical fitness. Though a chain smoker in
later life (arguably his only vice), he maintains an active physical
fitness program to keep in shape.
1913 - Rudy at 18
December 9, 1913 Rudy leaves Italy on the U.S.S.
Cleveland for America. He arrives in New York on December 23, 1913.
Rudy is practically penniless with an imperfect
command of English which causes him some problems. He ends up renting a
small room in an Italian neighborhood in New York.
He spends a lonely Christmas and New Year in a new
and strange land, he wonders if it was wise to come to America.
He obtains work where he can and ekes out a meager
1914-1915 - Rudy at 19-20
Rudy gets work as a dancer. He moves to an American
boarding house where he can improve his command of English.
A stroke of luck! He meets, and soon begins work as a
gardener for Cornelius Bliss. He is soon fired for his misdeed or
borrowing a motorcycle and wrecking the vehicle on the property. The
temptation for speed would follow Rudy throughout his life. Several car
accidents, near misses and speeding tickets await! Rudy reaches his
lowest point and resides some nights in Central Park.
Rudy steals stationery from expensive New York hotels
and addresses letters to his mother in which he lies about his success in
Fortune smiles again! Rudy obtains a position working
as a dancer at Maxim's. He meets Bonnie Glass, who is in need of a new dancing partner
to replace Clifton Webb (the soon to be actor), and tour New York clubs
and the Vaudeville circuit as a dance team. Rudy is billed as Signor
After Bonnie Glass retires, he dances with Joan
Sawyer and continues to tour in vaudeville on the East Coast.
1916 - Rudy at 21
Rudy testifies as a favorable witness in the divorce
trial of Blanca de Saulles.
Rudy is charged with "misdemeanor, white slave
investigation" by the New York D.A.
(It is speculated that this was at the behest of Jack
de Saulles as revenge).
The scandal following on the heel of the divorce
testimony led Valentino to believe that New York may not be the best place
1917 - Rudy at 22
To get to California he gets work as a chorister in
The Merry Monarch and The Masked Model.
The Masked Model closes in Ogden, Utah and
Rudy is paid off with a train ticket to San Francisco.
Rudy finds work in San Francisco as a dance
instructor, also reportedly as a bond salesman and ultimately a chorus boy
in a play Nobody Home.
In San Francisco Rudy meets Norman Kerry, Mary
Pickford's leading man, who advises that he try his luck in Hollywood.
Rudy joins the cast of The Passing Show
starring Al Jolson to get to Los Angeles.
Rudy makes first screen appearance as a dancer in the
Rudy also obtains work dancing in exhibitions
partnering several ladies including, Marjorie Tain, Kathleen Phelps and
Carol Dempster (best remembered today as a rather unsuccessful D.W.
1918 - Rudy at 23
Rudy's beloved mother Beatrice Gabriela Barbin
Guglielmi dies on January 18, 1918 (Valentino does not find out
the news until a letter reaches him a month later from his sister, Maria)
Rudy travels to San Francisco to avoid the Spanish
Influenza epidemic. He contracts it on his return but miraculously, due
to his superb physical shape, he recovers without the aid of a physician.
He meets an independent producer Joe Maxwell who
casts him as the lead in The Married Virgin, a film that would not
be released until well after Rudy becomes a star.
Rudy gets more extra work in films. He has several
appearances as the "heavy" in films.
Though work can be slow to come in and the breaks are
tough, steadily his luck increases as his roles seem to get better and
1919 - Rudy at 24
Rudy crosses paths with his old New York
acquaintance, Mae Murray and her husband Robert Z. Leonard and they cast
him in two of her films Big Little Person and A Delicious Little
From his good work with Mae Murray, Universal employs
him in two Carmel Myers pictures, A Society Sensation and All
Rudy gets a meaty and villainous role in Dorothy
Phillip's latest film Once to Every Woman.
Rudy meets Jean Acker and, after a brief courtship
they marry, on November 5, 1919. A fiasco, the marriage lasts barely a
few hours. Jean Acker locks Rudy out of her apartment and refuses to see
or speak with him initially.
In December, Rudy still struggles with his reluctant
wife and seemingly still unaware of her being a lesbian, writes her an
impassioned letter and sends her three photos inscribed with endearments
of a loving husband.
His efforts fail and in late December, an
announcement is made of their official separation. (She never remarried,
used his name for the rest of her career. After the bitter divorce and
bigamy trial, they came to an understanding and remained friends.)
1920 - Rudy at 25
Rudy travels to the East Coast to begin filming
Stolen Moments (filmed on location in Florida and Georgia).
Rudy returns to New York to begin filming The Fog.
Fortune strikes! Earlier in the year Rudy made
The Eyes of Youth with Clara Kimbell Young and his performance makes
an important impression on June Mathis, head scenarist and driving force
behind the future Metro production, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Rudy is called to Metro's offices to meet June
Mathis. He is offered the plum role of Julio in The Four Horsemen of
Rudy returns to California to film Four Horsemen
and where fame awaits him as an "overnight sensation."
Uncharted Seas co-starring Alice Lake is
filmed on the backlot and on location in Truckee, California (a lost
Rudy meets the great Russian actress Alla Nazimova
who is preparing to film an adaptation of Camille.
Rudy also meets Natacha Rambova, designer of
Camille, his future wife and the driving force that some say nearly
ruined his career. He does not make a good first impression.
1921 - Rudy at 26
Camille begins filming in January and during
the course of the shoot, Valentino falls in love with Natacha Rambova.
His persistent attention and perhaps his rising star breaks her down and
they begin an affair.
Shortly after production closes they begin living
together at her bungalow on Sunset Boulevard.
Jean Acker files suit for divorce on January 17,
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is
released in March and Valentino garners the first big notices of his
career. Metro makes changes to some of the marketing for the film to
highlight its newest star.
The Conquering Power begins filming. The set
is a less happy one and Rex Ingram grows jealous of Valentino's
popularity, often needling him during filming and vows not to work with
him again. He doesn’t.
Rudy becomes disenchanted with Metro after they deny
him a salary increase from $350 to $400 a week and Metro fails to renew
his contract. Rudy is out of work for eight months.
Rudy gets a one film contract with Famous-Players
Lasky/Paramount to begin filming and star in the adaptation of E.M. Hull’s
scandalous novel, The Sheik.
In September, Rudy travels to San Francisco and films
location work for Moran of the Lady Letty.
The infamous arty “faun” photos are also taken at
Helen MacGregor’s studio in San Francisco. Valentino loved the photos,
however, the photos will come back to haunt him later.
The Sheik is released in October and Rudy
becomes a national phenomenon. An instant romantic icon is created and a
new word enters the lexicon of popular slang, a "sheik." This is the
symbol of being romantic and cool by 1921 standards.
In November, Valentino signs a new contract with
Famous-Players Lasky, one detail of which is he will star in a vehicle
with Gloria Swanson.
The divorce trial between Rudy and Jean Acker begins
on November 23, 1921. There is intense public scrutiny of the events as
reported in the papers.
Rudy and Natacha jointly purchase a home in the
fashionable Whitley Heights section of Hollywood at 6770 Wedgewood Place,
in December. Natacha moves in and Rudy lives in a bungalow nearby until
the divorce proceedings are concluded. They anticipate a spring wedding.
Beyond the Rocks begins shooting the exteriors
off Catalina, Gloria Swanson reported the shoot was a happy one and the
atmosphere was festive.
1922 - Rudy at 27
Rudy begins filming Blood and Sand under the
direction of Fred Niblo. Valentino is angry that Famous Players Lasky
reneged on their promise to film the epic in Spain under the direction of
George Fitzmaurice. Instead, the film is shot cheaply on the backlot
and at the Lasky Ranch.
An interlocutory divorce from Jean Acker is granted
on March 4, 1922. She is awarded a one time only alimony payment of
$12,000. Under California law, the divorce is set to become final one
Shooting begins in April on the next Valentino
production, The Young Rajah (also scripted by June Mathis). Once
again, Rudy and Natacha are unhappy with the state of production.
While vacationing in Palm Springs, Rudy and Natacha
(and a host of friends and witnesses) cross the border and marry in
Mexicali, Mexico on May 13, 1922.
On May 21, 1922 Rudy is summoned on charges of bigamy
and is jailed. He is fined $10,000. His bond was posted by June Mathis,
George Melford (director of The Sheik) and Thomas Meighan.
Natacha entrains eastward to avoid the press,
Valentino languishes in Hollywood, miserable about his career and
miserable without Natacha.
Rudy goes on strike declaring Famous Players Lasky is
unfair in their practice of making "cheater" pictures and not giving him
artistic freedom in choosing stories and directors.
Rudy and Natacha spend the month of August at Foxlair
the Hudnut summer estate in the Adirondacks with his future in-laws, Mr.
and Mrs. Richard Hudnut.
On September 14, 1922 Paramount slaps Rudy with an
injunction so he can't work in the film industry.
During the winter months Rudy collaborates with
Herbert Howe to produce his biography for Photoplay Magazine. It is later
published in Photoplay in 3 parts in 1923.
On December 22, 1922 Rudy participates in an early
radio broadcast entitled "The Truth About Myself."
Famous-Players Lasky offers to settle and offers
Valentino the princely sum of $7,000 a week to come back to work, “all is
forgiven.” Valentino, bad businessman that he was, and perhaps at the
urging of Natacha stood his ground for more control on the production end,
and stubbornly refused the offer. The gloves were off from this point
1923 - Rudy at 28
Unable to earn a living, the bills begin mounting.
Joseph Schenck floats a loan of $11,000 to Rudy for living expenses to get
him through hard times.
Valentino, struggling with no income petitioned to
have the Lasky injunction amended to allow him to be gainfully employed in
some fashion. Legal bills and other debts were mounting. The court
agreed and the wording was changed so as to allow Valentino to find work.
Rudy and Natacha are approached by a representative
of the Mineralava Beauty Clay Company to promote their products in what
was, ultimately, a wildly successful dancing exhibition tour. They toured
across country in a private rail car for 17 weeks and 88 cities. The tour
culminated in a grand finale beauty contest at Madison Square Garden.
On March 14, Rudy and Natacha travel to Crown Point,
Indiana and exchange vows for a second time in a civil ceremony at the
Rudy enters the Brunswick Studios in New York on May
14 and records The Kashmiri Song in English and El Relicario in Spanish.
He is not very impressed with the results and has a few of the records
given to friends as gifts. The master recording lies dormant and
unreleased until after his death. It was issued in 1930 by Celebrity
His book of poetry, Day Dreams, is published on May
29, 1923. Sales of the book are tremendous and Rudy is justly proud at
the reception of his efforts.
His attorney files a lawsuit for payment of fees.
Rudy, never a particularly good businessman when it comes to finances,
hires S. George Ullman as his personal business manager.
Rudy accepts a new contract offered by Paramount on
July 18, 1923. His new salary starts at $7,500 per week with his next two
films to be shot at Paramount's Astoria Studios on Long Island.
Rudy and his new bride sail for Europe on a well
earned and extended honeymoon. This marks his first visit to Europe since
leaving in 1913.
Rudy and Natacha visit London, Paris, Nice and Monte
Carlo. They also visit the Hudnuts at their chateau on the Riviera, Juan
les Pins, before motoring South to Italy. Natacha leaves Rudy in Rome and
returns to Nice.
Rudy continues on to Castellaneta to see his older
brother Alberto and his family.
The Valentinos return to New York where Valentino
signs a new two-picture deal with Famous Players-Lasky. First up,
Delays in scripting Monsieur Beaucaire provide
the Valentinos with an excuse to return to Europe. Valentino departs
alone and spends some time in Paris with his friend Jacques Herbetot.
Natacha arrives and they spend the Christmas holidays at Juan les Pins.
1924 - Rudy at 29
In the spring and through the summer Rudy begins work
on Monsieur Beaucaire in earnest. Production is supervised by
Natacha and is directed by Sidney Olcott. Production costs soar, but the
ultimate result is a film of outstanding beauty. The box office receipts
do not provide any profit for Paramount.
In order to keep the Valentinos happy, Paramount
authorizes a generous budget for the next endeavor, A Sainted Devil.
Rudy is unhappy with the story treatment, and the simplification of the
Rex Beach original. He is reteamed in this film with Nita Naldi.
With his contract concluded with Famous Players Lasky,
the Valentinos sign a contract with J.D. Williams to form Ritz-Carlton
In the fall, Rudy and Natacha return to Europe to
purchase antiques for his next planned film under the Ritz-Carlton banner,
The Scarlet Power (later renamed The Hooded Falcon).
Armed with $40,000 as a "research budget" Rudy and
Natacha travel to Nice, Seville,
Madrid, Granada and Cordoba. Without George Ullman
at hand holding the purse strings, they quickly spend $100,000 on Spanish
artifacts for use in the film and ultimately to give as gifts to friends
While in Spain Rudy also spends some enjoyable time
with his favorite hobby and makes many photographic studies of the Alcazar
and the Alhambra.
Rudy and Natacha return to Paris where Nita Naldi,
the proposed co-star, joins them for costume fittings for The Hooded
In November the Valentinos and Miss Naldi return to
A clamor arises when Rudy is seen sporting a beard he
cultivated for his upcoming role in The Hooded Falcon and the
Barbers of America vow to boycott his films unless he shaves his beard.
With a great deal of publicity and an unbeatable photo opportunity, Rudy
bows to pressure and shaves in Los Angeles.
Originally set to begin filming under the
Ritz-Carlton banner in Astoria, production is moved to California.
The Valentinos have arguments with June Mathis on the
scenario for The Hooded Falcon which results in a break between
Rudy and his good friend June.
Ritz-Carlton decides to reduce the budget of the film
to a mere $500,000.
After returning to California, Rudy and Natacha begin
house hunting in Beverly Hills and he buys an 8 acre estate which is named
Pre-production on The Hooded Falcon bogs down
and J.D. Williams suggests that the Valentinos begin filming Cobra
while the problems with The Hooded Falcon are ironed out and
production is ready to start.
Despite the modern theme of the script, the
Valentinos reluctantly agree to begin work on Cobra.
Natacha is in charge of production on Cobra
but is rarely seen on the lot.
On Christmas, Natacha presents Rudy with a platinum
slave bracelet and matching watch. For the remainder of his life, he is
not seen without it.
1925 - Rudy at 30
Ritz-Carlton sees no profit in Cobra and
ultimately refuses to continue production on The Hooded Falcon. In
fact, Ritz-Carlton can hardly wait to dump the troublesome pair. They
soon sever ties, bitterly. All that remains extant of The Hooded Falcon
are some costume shots of Rudy.
In February, the Valentinos travel to the desert of
Palm Springs for a much needed vacation.
It is during this vacation that Rudy tells Natacha of
the contract negotiations between S. George Ullman and Joseph Schenck of
On March 9, 1925 Rudy reluctantly signs the new
contract with Joseph Schenck and becomes his own producer by joining Mary
Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks at United Artists. Rudy will earn $10,000
a week and is contracted to produce 3 films per year of which he earns 42%
of the profits. The snag is that Natacha is barred from participating or
contributing to any part of the production of his films. Natacha is
To appease Natacha, Rudy sinks money into a
production for her alone, What Price Beauty which stars Nita Naldi
(and has Myrna Loy in a bit part as a model).
Rudy having met the painter F. Beltran-Masses in
Europe, he invites him to Los Angeles. Rudy commissions two paintings and
begins taking lessons with the famous artist. He also hosts a party at
the Biltmore Hotel to introduce Beltran-Masses to Hollywood and hopefully
arrange for further commissioned portraits.
Natacha stalls and provokes a fight with Rudy before
leaving to attend the affair which they are hosting. Both look miserable
in photographs commemorating the evening.
Rudy begins filming The Eagle on June 6,
1925. He is partnered by a beautiful Hungarian actress, Vilma Banky and
by the majestic Louise Dresser (playing Catherine the Great). He is
directed by the veteran Clarence Brown.
Falcon Lair is ready for occupancy in early August
and Natacha refuses to set foot on the place.
Still hurt and angry at Rudy's betrayal for signing
the United Artist contract, she leaves for New York with George Ullman
ostensibly to find a distributor for What Price Beauty.
Publicly, they declare their "marital vacation" from
one another. Rudy is heartbroken and distraught.
Rudy decorates Falcon Lair in his own style.
Rudy pals around with Beltran-Masses and tangos with
Marion Davies at the poolside of her “Ocean House” in Santa Monica.
Rudy forms a close bond of friendship with his
co-star in The Eagle Vilma Banky, while she, inexplicably, has eyes
for Rod la Rocque!
In November Rudy attends the premiere of The Eagle
with United Artist publicist Beulah Livingstone. Rudy is mobbed at the
Mark Strand Theater.
On November 10, 1925 Rudy applies for U.S.
Natacha travels to France just ahead of Rudy and
files for divorce in Paris.
Rudy travels to London for the premiere of The
Eagle at the Marble Arch Theatre on November 22, 1925.
He also travels through France in the hope of meeting
with Natacha who seems to be forever one step ahead of him. While in
France, Rudy establishes a residency in Paris for the divorce proceedings.
Rudy and Natacha meet for a final time in Nice to
discuss property settlement.
In December Rudy spends Christmas with his brother
Alberto and his sister Maria in London.
Over the New Year holiday, Rudy wagers that he will
not remarry before 1930.
1926 - Rudy at 31 in his final months of life
January 18, 1926, Natacha is granted a divorce in the
Rudy brings his brother Alberto and his family to
Rudy retreats to Falcon Lair in his own style, filled
with antiques purchased on his trips to Europe and he begins a new life as
one of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors.
Son of the Sheik begins filming in February on
the United Artist lot. Rudy finally gets to work with George Fitzmaurice
and is again co-starred with Vilma Banky. Desert exteriors are filmed in
Rudy is seen socializing with both Vilma Banky and
Pola Negri. Soon, it appears that Rudy and Pola are "an item." Both
share a common love of horses and are seen riding in the hills above
Rudy spends his 31st birthday working on one of his
cars and having a wonderful day.
In July Rudy begins to tour the country opening the
new film. He visits San Francisco and then heads East to Chicago, where
he is defamed by a Chicago newspaper article. He writes an open letter to
the author challenging him to defend himself. He receives no response and
declares himself vindicated by the author's cowardice.
In New York and still fuming at the libelous article,
Rudy engages in a well publicized one-round boxing match on the roof of
the Hotel Ambassador with sportswriter Frank "Buck" O'Neil of the New York
Evening Journal, O'Neil is impressed with Rudy's facility in the ring.
Rudy travels on to Atlantic City and Brooklyn to open
The Son of the Sheik during one of the worst heat waves in recent
Rudy sees Alberto and his family off for their return
trip to Italy on the S.S. France.
While in New York, Rudy is seen squiring Jean Acker
to nightspots. Though their marriage was a fiasco, they later came to
terms with their unhappy past and remained friends.
August 14, Rudy attends a party for Barclay
Warburton, Jr. in which he escorts Follies chorine Marion Benda.
August 15, at approximately 4:00 p.m. he is stricken
at the Hotel Ambassador and is removed by George Ullman and his valet to
the Polyclinic Hospital. Exploratory surgery is performed and an acute
perforated gastric ulcer and infection is discovered. Surgery is
performed by Dr. Harold Meeker to close the perforation between 6 and 7
p.m. Rudy recovers from the anesthesia at about 10:30 that evening.
The hospital is flooded with wishes of good will from
fans and friends as well as from Jean Acker and Pola Negri. The
newspapers issue special bulletins reporting on Valentino's condition. He
appears to be on the mend, however his health begins to fail as a post
surgical infection spreads.
August 21, with no antibiotics or sulfa drugs, Rudy
soon sinks into a coma from the massive infection. George Ullman, Joseph
Schenck and Frank Menillo are at his bedside along with two priests. No
other visitors are permitted.
August 23, 1926, as dawn is breaking he utters his
last words "Don't pull down the blinds. I feel fine. I want the sunlight
to greet me". Lapsing into a coma, Rudy dies at 12:10 p.m.
Official cause of death is endocarditis and
septicemia, although almost instantly rumors begin that Rudy was either
poisoned or shot by a jealous lover as reported in the tabloids.
Pola Negri's publicist works overtime and she is seen
in widow's weeds, claiming that she and Rudy were to be married. She
plays the role of a grieving widow to the hilt.
Crowds increase after the announcement of Rudy's
His body is removed to Campbell's Funeral Parlor and
soon riots erupt in the streets by the crowd attempting to obtain access
to view his body as it lies in state.
Crowd control is regained and an estimated 100,000
people crush to see his bier.
August 30, Funeral Services are held at St. Malachi's
in New York. Honorary pallbearers include Adolph Zukor and Douglas
His body is transported across the U.S. by train for
entombment in Hollywood.
September 7, 1926 - Funeral at the Church of the Good
Shepherd in Hollywood, California.
Honorary pallbearers included Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
and Charlie Chaplin.
Rose petals shower from an airplane over the funeral
cortege, Rudy is taken to Hollywood Memorial Park and buried in a crypt
borrowed from his friend June Mathis.
In October, George Ullman publishes his book,
"Valentino as I Knew Him" and begins making arrangements for the auction
of Rudy's estate to pay off his debts.
December 10, 1926, a four day public auction of Rudy
effects begins. Rudy's will is made public and among the beneficiaries,
besides Alberto Valentino and Mrs. Teresa Werner, his former wife, Natacha
Rambova is bequeathed the sum of one dollar.
Rudy's friend June Mathis passes away. After nearly
one year in a borrowed crypt, a new need arises for a final resting place
for Rudy. Since all plans for a Valentino memorial have fallen through,
Sylvano Balboni, June's husband, saves the day by loaning his adjoining
crypt to the Valentino family until the crypt is quietly purchased from
Balboni in 1929. Rudy, in a borrowed crypt no longer, is linked forever
to his friend June Mathis. Ironic that in life as well as death it was
June Mathis who was Rudy's great benefactor.