Rudolph Valentino was one of Hollywood’s earliest sex symbols in the 1920s, whose reputation, like James Dean, has only grown more and more after his death at the age of 31 in 1926. Born this day 120 years ago, it is said that over 100,000 people lined the streets of New York for his funeral!
Here we look at some of the iconic roles that Valentino played in his brief career.
The Sheik (1921)
The film that immediately comes to mind when Valentino’s name is taken is The Sheik (1921), with him playing a stereotypical savage Arab Sheik. It is said Valentino detested his character from the film and was known to have said that, “People are not savages because they have dark skins. The Arabian civilization is one of the oldest in the world…the Arabs are dignified and keen-brained.” However, his women fans thought otherwise and were more than willing to be tamed by him!
Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse (1921)
While The Sheik remains Valentino’s most famous film, it was thanks to Four Horseman Of The Apocalypse, that then little-known Valentino became a star and the great ‘Latin Lover’! Not only was the film the top grossing film of 1921, beating out even the Charlie Chaplin’s classic, The Kid, it also led to a craze for the tango (included in the film just to showcase Valentino’s dancing talents) and gaucho pants!
Blood and Sand (1922)
Another of Valentino’s most famous films, Blood and Sand sees him play a poverty stricken boy who grows up and becomes one of the great matadors in Spain before marking on an affair that not only breaks up his marriage but leads to the film’s tragic ending as well. The film was a major success at the box office and consolidated Valentino’s position as a successful star in Hollywood.
Beyond the Rocks (1922)
Beyond the Rocks saw Valentino teamed with Gloria Swanson. Valentino played the rich, charming, young man who finds his philosophy of not marrying being seriously challenged when he falls for Swanson.
The Son Of The Sheik (1926)
By 1924, Valentino’s popularity was starting to wane and with some disappointing films behind him, he was cast in The Son Of The Sheik in a bid to re-capture his lost glory. The film is Valentino’s final film and released on 5th September, 1926, just 13 days after his death. The film proved to be the ideal swan song for Valentino, becoming a smash hit and what’s more, even the critics thought it to be Valentino’s best ever performance.
And as a bonus just to show the kind of hysteria that Valentino generated in Hollywood, here’s a picture from his funeral.