annually on August 23rd
Rudolph Valentino, whose full name was Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filibert Guglielmi De Valentina D'Antonguolla, passed away on today's date in 1926, and today we celebrate his films and honor his legacy. Born on May 6, 1895, in Castellaneta, Italy, he arrived in New York City in 1913 and eventually became the first male sex symbol of Hollywood. In America, he started off as a vaudeville dancer, first in New York City, and then as part of a touring production. It folded and he moved to San Francisco and continued to dance there.
He came to Hollywood in 1917. He first appeared as an extra or a dancer in films such as Alimony, The Battle of the Sexes, and Seventeen, and then began getting small parts playing villains. His role in the 1921 film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, where he danced the tango in the first scene, brought him to stardom and shifted him from a portrayer of villains to a sex symbol. He began starring in more romantic dramas and became known as the "Great Lover." One of his best-known films, The Sheik, was also released in 1921. Some of his other more noteworthy films include Blood and Sand, The Eagle, and Son of the Sheik, his last film.
After an unsuccessful two-year marriage to actress Jean Acker, which ended in 1921, Valentino married set designer and actress Natasha Rambova in 1922. As he didn't wait a year between his marriages, he was arrested for bigamy and had to pay a fine. Rambova played a large role in managing Valentino's career and steered him towards more effeminate roles, which his fans didn't like. The couple eventually divorced in 1925, and Valentino returned to form artistically. But by the following year, he was dead.
Valentino became sick while on a promotional tour for Son of the Sheik. On August 15, 1926, he was taken to a New York City hospital and had surgery for acute appendicitis and ulcers. A ruptured ulcer caused an infection called peritonitis, and he died on August 23, at the age of 31. After his death, thousands came to view his body at a New York City funeral home. He then had two funerals: The first was held in New York City on August 30, and the second was held in Hollywood on September 14. For decades, an unknown "Lady in Black" came to his grave on the anniversary of his death, and put a red rose on it. After she stopped doing so, imitators started doing it in her place.
How to Observe Valentino Day
You could mark the day by watching one of Rudolph Valentino's films, such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle, or Son of the Sheik. You could also read a biography about Valentino or read Valentino's poetry book, Day Dreams. You could also visit Valentino's grave at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Since 1927, there has been a memorial service on today's date at the Hollywood Cathedral Mausoleum inside of the cemetery. It takes place at 12:10 pm, the time that Valentino passed away. A "Lady in Black" comes each year during the service and lays a rose on Valentino's grave, just like the original "Lady in Black" did.