Chic Sheik

By Nick Willard

Dark Lover: The Life & Death of Rudolph Valentino
Emily W. Leider
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

This is an eminently readable, very sympathetic account of the life and work of Rudolph Valentino. The subject comes across quite likeable as he careens from one personal, financial or career crisis to another. Valentino’s status as the ultimate Lain Lover shows the power of Hollywood mythmaking.

His first marriage, to lesbian bit-player Jean Acker, ended on their wedding night when she wouldn’t let Valentino into the bedroom. Leider stoutly defends Rudy’s heterosexuality, depicting him as sexually passive, more interested in cooking and eating spaghetti than chasing women. But the author comes across a tad naïve about Rudy’s relationship with his protégé, French actor and Rudy-look-alike André Daven.

Before his unexpected death, no internment plans had been made for Rudy. His grave, to which our webmaster has made a pilgrimage, was supposed to be a temporary loan of a plot in the family vault of a friend.

We wouldn’t be writing about Valentino if he wasn’t a dandy, and a most singular dandy he was. As a struggling actor in Hollywood trying to be noticed, Rudy would rent a couple of Borzois and parade them around on a leash. Dorothy Gish said, “[H]e was so fastidious that it took him too long to dress and he held up [the] shooting schedule.” Valentino’s vast wardrobe included a paisley bathrobe lined with white fur and a sable evening overcoat. Writes Leider, “Rudy loved to wear his full dress clothes at gala events either on or off the screen and he took great pains with the details of his attire for the opening-scene festivities.” Rudy was a also fan of Gabriele D’Annunzio, especially his novel “The Triumph of Death.”

On Valentino’s appeal, Leider writes, “Part of Valentino’s new celebrity resided in his European brand of elegance. This attention-grabbing masculine sartorial splendor was something new and fascinating to American movie audiences, especially women. Before the cameras or in the privacy of his hotel, he embodied the opposite type from the All-American boy or the gun-toting rider of the purple sage: the elegant, slightly outlandish European dandy, a boulevardier.”

After his untimely death, Valentino’s wardrobe was sold at auction. It consisted of:

  • 30 business suits
  • 7 riding coats
  • 7 Palm Beach suits
  • 60 pairs of gloves
  • 7 dressing robes
  • 10 dress suits
  • 4 lounging suits
  • 6 colored Japanese pajamas
  • 111 ties 6 high silk dress hats
  • 9 gray and 8 white felt hats
  • 26 white full-dress ties
  • 146 pairs of sock
  • 28 pairs of spats
  • 22 white vests
  • 13 walking sticks
  • 17 white silk drawers
  • 59 pairs of shoes
  • 110 silk initialed handkerchiefs
  • 10 overcoats
  • 1 black velvet English riding habit
  • 1 gray corduroy hunting suit
  • 10 pairs of suspenders
  • 6 pairs of tasseled garters
  • 15 gold or platinum rings set with precious or semi-precious stones
  • Assorted scarf pins, cuff links and shirt studs set with precious stones
  • Platinum and gold bracelet wristwatch
  • Onyx pocket watch inlaid with diamonds
  • White gold with diamond inlay cigarette case with matching cigarette holder and match case
  • The “notorious ‘original Valentino slave bracelet,’” with 2.5 oz. of pure platinum

 

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3 Responses to “Chic Sheik”

  1. Cindy Ziperman Says:

    Does anyone have any idea where Valentino’s platinum slave bracelet is now????

  2. Jennifer Lloyd Says:

    He was interred in his crypt wearing the slave bracelet.

  3. Natacha Says:

    Valentino owned several “slave” bracelets made in various precious metals. Only one of these was designed by Rambova, for her Christmas gift to him in 1923. She designed it and Tiffany’s made it per her design. He continued wearing it until his death, even after their divorce, and was buried with this one on his wrist. Others were sold with the rest of his estate.

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