Rodolpho Alphonso Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla
Italian-born US film actor, a great screen idol of the 1920s
Rudolph Valentino was born in Castellaneta in southern Italy. He was the son of an army vet, and studied agriculture for a time, but emigrated to the USA in 1913 and first appeared on the stage as a dancer. He moved to Hollywood and after a number of parts as an extra, made his first significant appearances as villains in Out of Luck (1919) and Once To Every Woman (1920). His first starring role was as Julio in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), in which his dark flashing eyes and erotic movements caused a sensation.
Subsequent performances in The Sheikh (1921), Blood and Sand (1922), The Young Rajah (1922), Monsieur Beaucaire (1924), The Eagle (1925) and The Son of the Sheikh (1926) established him as the leading "screen lover" of the 1920s.
His private life became dominated by a stormy second marriage to the actress Natacha Rambova. He died suddenly in New York of peritonitis at the height of his fame, and his funeral was the occasion of wide public mourning. Besides good looks and athletic bearing, he had considerable dramatic gifts. He also wrote a book of poems, called Daydreams (1923).
Virile yet effeminate, menacing yet charming, an homme fatal —Valentino remains a potent image, often used in...