In July 2020 I was once again digging through bins of photos and personal items related to my family. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to delve into the life of Rudolph Valentino…On my other blog named Open Range Ramblings I have recounted how I came to be inspired by the legendary racehorse, Secretariat. The connection came out of the blue late one night …and the same thing happened that July 2020 evening. Suddenly, it was as if Rudolph Valentino had become part of my life.
A series of rapidly unfolding coincidences, synchronicities, and “signs” cemented my feeling that a connection was there….
Just to begin…
Rudy Valentino Loved His Pasta…And So Do I!
…and he made great spaghetti sauce…or, as we call it…gravy.
I hope you will enjoy the posts that follow…The Table of Contents tab shows the posts/links in order of when published.
NOTE:Posts which pertain to Valentino and specifically to my family members are numbered, starting with “1.” (this post).
The filming of Camille had been completed in February 1921 and Rudolph Valentino’s next film, The Conquering Power began production one week later, with filming completed a few weeks later by the end of March 1921, with some work in April for retakes. In the meantime, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse premiered on March 6, 1921.
The Conquering Power was released a few days after Valentino began work on The Sheik on July 5, 1921. Valentino hadn’t worked from the end of March after filming The Conquering Power ended until the start of production on the film that would make his career explode later that year.
Tumult surrounded the production of “The Conquering Power.” The team that had produced The Four Horsemen included June Mathis, who wrote the script, and Rex Ingram, who would direct. Tensions with Metro arose over money almost immediately and conflict between Valentino and Ingram hung over the production.
The script was based on Honore’ de Balzac’s novel “Eugenie Grandet” which was part of Balzac’s series of novels about post-Revolutionary France under the title “The Human Comedy” (La Comedie Humaine) published between 1829-1950. It was written in 1833. The story opens in 1819 after the country has settled down after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. While Balzac was writing the story he developed his idea for “The Human Comedy” and quickly released a second edition, “revising the names of some of the characters so that Eugénie Grandet then fitted into the section: Scenes from provincial life (Scènes de la vie de province) in the Comédie.” (Wikiwand.com)
The novel was drastically truncated and story elements altered. The opening scene of Charles Grandet’s wild birthday party does not exist in the novel, for example. June Mathis’ script tried to shift the focus to Valentino and elevate the character of Charles into a romantic hero (Leider, page 144). And while he goes Martinique secretly engaged to Eugenie and returns years later and reunites with her in the film, the book is dramatically different. He does go to the West Indies among other places while making a fortune as a slave trader, which is not mentioned in the film; he asks Eugenie for his freedom to marry a woman from a noble family to enhance his status when he is back in Paris (saying he does not love her); and after Eugenie releases him she marries an old family friend without love, with the understanding that the marriage will never be consummated. After her husband dies, Eugenie lives frugally as she always has and gives her wealth to charity. The romantic reunion with Charles in the film after years apart never happens in the novel.
Against the advice of June Mathis, during the announcement of the film to the press, Valentino approached Ingram to ask him to talk to Metro’s Maxwell Karger about an increase in salary over the $350 a week that he was making. Ingram refused and Natacha Rambova thought Valentino should talk to Karger directly, which he did. Karger at that point was unwilling to raise his salary which didn’t satisfy Valentino.
Meanwhile, Natacha coached Valentino on how to enhance his importance for his future in pictures. She emphasized the importance of the people who lit the set, called juicers, and what he should tell the makeup people. He picked over the width of the lapels on coats. Valentino also groused about his lack of camera time but the reality was that his character was absent from long stretches of the book. When he displayed his new attitude on the set, the real friction between himself and Ingram began even as Ingram was already wary as Valentino’s performance in The Four Horsemen had gained so much attention at the expense of Ingram’s masterful direction.
Gag shot which belies the stress on the set….
Publicity portrait of, from left, director Rex Ingram, Rudolph Valentino, and Alice Terry from THE CONQUERING POWER, 1921. 7×9 b&w photographic print.
Source: Publicity portrait from the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Ingram focused on the visual effects of the film. He would film his fiancee Alice Terry, who played Eugenie, with gauze in front of the camera to emphasize her fragility and ethereal nature (Shulman, page 153). Valentino became increasingly temperamental to the point where Ingram one day left the set to go to Karger to demand a replacement and start the picture all over again with a young actor named Ramon Samaniegas, the future Ramon Navarro. Valentino, knowing that the studio considered Ingram to be the more important asset at this point, went to Karger and tried to explain that he simply wanted to do his best and hoped for a better situation with Ingram…Karger said the studio had decided to give him a $50 a week raise for the last few weeks of filming which didn’t make Valentino completely happy (Shulman, page 152). June Mathis would act as a buffer between him and the director, assuring him that Ingram would not deliberately sabotage Valentino with poor lighting or shooting angles and the film was finally completed. Although the situation had been patched up, when asked if he would make another picture with Alice Terry and Valentino, Ingram replied with a firm “No.” And he would not deny that he had wanted to scrap the picture and start over again with another actor.
By the time the picture opened on July 8, 1921, Valentino had left Metro to sign a contract with Jesse Lasky at Famous Players-Lasky. Ingram was praised for his direction and photographic effects and innovative lighting (Leider, page 144), while Valentino was praised in The New York Times for “his finished performance as Charles Grandet. He is a pantomimist of marked ability.” (The New York Times, July 10, 1921). However, the film didn’t achieve the box office success that had greeted The Four Horsemen. Some critics did not like the shift to modern dress from what would have been worn in the early 1800’s. But polling had been done which showed that at the time, the public wasn’t interested in costume drama and June Mathis in the opening title acknowledges that “commercialism tells us that you, Great Public, do not like the costume play.”
But tastes would shift, at least among the women in the audience. The Sheik opened in two theaters in New York, the Rialto on October 30, 1921, then moving to the Rivoli the next week, smashing attendance records. According to Emily Leider, after Valentino became identified as the Sheik, when his pre-Sheik films were circulated, including The Conquering Power, “female patrons left the theater disappointed if the revived picture scanted” on love scenes.
A theater manager in Wisconsin complained that after seeing The Conquering Power his lady patrons gave him "a terrible razz...as they expected to see Valentino float through five or six reels of lovemaking."
On May 11, 1921 Rudolph Valentino wrote check No. 10008 in green ink payable to Walter M. Murphy Motors Co. for the sum of $200.00, drawn on his account at the Hollywood Branch of the Citizens Trust and Savings Bank, Los Angeles. It was signed “R. Valentino.” I have touched it only one time. It is extremely thin and the paper almost feels like fabric…so different from the stiff paper we see in our modern day checks. Perhaps time has taken its toll…100 years is such a long time ago, yet this check is part of my life now.
Interior of the Citizens Trust and Savings Bank, Hollywood Boulevard & North McCadden Place, Los Angeles, Ca, 1928
Quickly begins work on Uncharted Seas, filming during December 1920 (see this prior post for details). Meets Natacha Rambova. First formal date Christmas week, 1920 at a costume ball, Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles.
Filming of Camille underway January-February 1921. First wife Jean Acker files for divorce, January 17, 1921. Valentino fully smitten with Rambova during this time and relationship develops. They soon begin to co-habit at Rambova’s Sunset Boulevard bungalow.
The Conquering Power begins production one week after filming of Camille is completed.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse premieres March 6, 1921.
Filming of The Conquering Power completed in a few weeks by the end of March 1921. After this film, Valentino will have no work until July 1921. Money is very tight during this time.(Valentino is in debt, paying off his New York tailors for all the suits he had made to use in The Four Horsemen. During especially lean times, he hunts and eats mussels found at the beach.)
Also in March, the American edition of The Sheik, by E.M. Hull, appears and becomes an immediate success.
Jesse Lasky of Famous Players-Lasky Corporation has been negotiating the rights for Hull’s The Sheik, finally purchasing the rights for $12,500.
Valentino leaves Metro Pictures after the completion of filming The Conquering Power, following friction during filming and money issues. Valentino offered the lead role in The Sheik. Signs a 2 picture deal with an option for an extension with Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. In a letter to Adolph Zukor dated July 2, 1921, Lasky writes that he is “fortunate in getting Valentino, the remarkable boy who played the lead in The Four Horsemen” and that casting the film has just finished.
July 5, 1921…The Sheik begins production and filming ends by late August.
The Conquering Power released July 8, 1921.
Camille released September 26, 1921.
The Sheik released October 30, 1921.
What would make Rudolph spend $200.00 (about $2960.00 in 2021) at Murphy Motors while not working, paying off debts and hunting for dinner during months without income? It seems to have been the NEED FOR SPEED.
As a youth in Taranto, Italy following his stint in agricultural school, cars were a way to pass the time. He was already attracted to speed. From Emily Leider’s Dark Lover, page 36:
In her book, Rudy: An Intimate Portrait of Rudolph Valentino By His Wife Natacha Rambova, Rambova spends quite a bit of time recounting Valentino’s preoccupation with cars, commenting how “Automobiles from the first were Rudy’s downfall.” He purchased a Mercer, which was considered to be the first sports car, on installment. The Mercer Series 5 was produced between 1919 and 1922 with prices over these years ranging from $3,675 – $5,650 making it on the high end of automobile prices. (Rounding off to $5,000, for example, a Mercer bought for that price in 1921 would cost $73,988 in 2021!) There were 6 body types including sedans, with the “sports car” version often called a “Speedster” in ads. It could reach speeds of 70-80 mph. (Rambova commented that “Rudy always had expensive tastes”….)
This ad for a 1920 Sport Model shows the appeal this car would have had for Valentino.
Chicago Tribune, Sun., September 4, 1921, Pg. 82.
When his acting jobs stopped at the end of March 1921, Valentino eventually lost the car and about half of what he had put into it. So, without a car of his own, he borrowed Rambova’s Buick “runabout” which she acquired when she started working at Metro Studios sometime in 1919. The term “runabout” was going out of use by 1915 when it was replaced by the term “roadster”. The original runabouts were very light cars usually without doors, windows or roofs usually seating 2 passengers and they eventually became virtually indistinguishable from roadsters. Roadsters were more refined with concave “hoods” over the dashboard which would deflect moving air away from the front passengers. (Hooded dashboards were also found on speed cars.) We don’t know if she bought a used “runabout” or newer model “roadster” but they were quite similar in appearance although seats in the runabout were further to the rear of the vehicle than they were in the roadster. Rambova fitted her car out with extras–“mirrors, spotlights, canteens, etc.”
Whichever car Rambova owned, it lacked enough “pick-up” to suit Valentino. He scoured ads and had his connections at the studio on the lookout for a second-hand car that would meet his standards. He finally found a 1914 Cadillac, according to Rambova, which still had remnants of blue paint on the body and then campaigned to convince Rambova to allow him to trade in her runabout for the Cadillac. He even pocketed $400 on the trade. For Valentino, it was all about the motor; it had good speed even though it was not a racer–it could hit 70 mph–and it had “marvelous pick-up.” As for the body…no problem, it could be brought up to like new condition “in a week.”
And so the deal was done!
Valentino already had some experience with Cadillacs because while filming The Four Horsemen, he was ferried to the set in a Cadillac studio limousine.
The model year of the Cadillac he bought varies, with most sources, including Leider, saying the car was a 1914 model, while Donna Hill in Rudolph Valentino-The Silent Idol says it was the 1915 version. While Cadillac made models that looked very similar from year to year, there is one critical difference between these two production years. Part of the discrepancy may be due to the fact that Cadillac introduced a new engine in late 1914 for the 1915 production year.
Introduced in 1914 as the standard engine for all 1915 models, Cadillac’s first V8, the Type 51, used a 90-degree layout with three main bearings, L-head combustion chambers and water cooling...Cadillac’s initial design was a true high speed engine...the first use of a thermostatically controlled cooling system that was eventually adopted by all car manufacturers...soon earned world-wide praise for unprecedented smoothness and performance. The L-Head was on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines of the 20th century list.
1914: The last of the 4-cylinder Cadillac models. The motor was rated 40HP.
1915: New Cadillac V8 model dubbed "The sweetest running car in the world". "The ultimate in motor car engines" was the verdict of the industry's representative engineers. ...Top speed was a conservative 55-65 mph...
Trivia: On August 29, 1915, a stock Cadillac V8 drove a distance of 72 miles in 77 minutes and beat by 12 minutes the express Vandalia passenger train between Indianapolis and Terre-Haute, Indiana. On some stretches the car reached a speed of 75 mph. Remember this is 1915 and the car is a stock Cadillac!
Dropping down a body during the assembly of a 1914 Cadillac touring model which was nearly identical to the 1915 version.
A restored 1914 Cadillac…looking very similar to Valentino’s car.
But, note some of the differences in the photo below which are found on Valentino’s car: the custom trim, the glass windscreen in front of the passengers, and the location of the small “spots” located over the front fenders.
According to Evelyn Zamaya in her book Affairs Valentino (page 78), Valentino would work on the car during lunch hours during the final days of filming The Sheik. Rambova relates in her memoir that “he worked untiringly on the transformation of this ugly duckling, fitting it out with two strong “spots” on either side of the windshields, a cigarette lighter on the driving board, and many other improvements all installed by himself.” These other improvements included mirrors, a custom trim and, as Rambova comments, “After a good coat of black paint–egg-shell finish–and much polishing of the nickel trimmings, it really didn’t look so bad.” However, she reported that the car would break down at “the most inopportune moments,” which Valentino brushed off as being something that happened with powerful motors. And and it also guzzled oil and gas. But…for Valentino, it was a REAL car…
And here is something truly amazing: We can actually hear what Valentino heard when he started the engine! Watch these videos on Youtube:
It’s quite something to hear this engine running and imagining Valentino working on it, 100 years ago.
This brings us back to the check written to Walter M. Murphy Motors. Murphy Motors was founded in 1920 in Pasadena, California as a dealer for Simplex automobiles. It added Leland Lincolns to its roster and then Duesenbergs. The “coach building” aspect of Murphy’s Motors began as an unplanned aside. Basically, the company started to change the top and paint on the Leland Lincolns because Murphy’s clientele thought the original designs were not modern or flashy enough and because he thought the engineering of the Lincolns was poor. Murphy bought equipment and brought in staff from the New Jersey-based Healey and Company and by 1922 began making a name among wealthy clients, which included industrialists, movie stars and car aficionados, by building custom bodies on top of the basic chassis of many brands.
Murphy is known to have built on Bentley, Bugatti, Buick, Cadillac, Cord, Crane-Simplex, Doble, Dorris, Essex, Ford, Hispano-Suiza, Hudson, Isotta- Fraschini, Lincoln, Locomobile, Marmon, Mercedes-Benz, Mercer, Minerva, Packard, Peerless, Pierce-Arrow, Rolls-Royce and Simplex chassis, but they are most famous for their work on the Duesenberg Model J. Source: Coachbuild.com, The Coachbuilders Encyclopedia
It seems logical to assume that Valentino wrote this check on May 11, 1921 for $200.00 to buy parts from the Walter M. Murphy Motors Company that he needed for his restoration work. It is quite likely that he would have asked for advice and perhaps would have some work like the new paint job and custom trim done by the company itself.
So, today marks the 100 year anniversary of the day Rudolph Valentino went over to Pasadena to an auto business, bought parts, chatted about his treasured second-hand Cadillac, and then went home to work on it…
And the proof of how he spent that day is in the check…
NOTE: An image of the check is now posted in the My Memorablilia/Book Collection section of this blog.
1. Valentino’s used Cadillac was apparently gone by the time of his death in August 1926. In the list of estate items in auctioned off only the following vehicles are listed: the 1925 Isotta Fraschini; the 1925 Avion Voisin; a 1926 Franklin Coupe; a 1925 Chevrolet Roadster, and a 1922 Ford Truck. Source: Allan R. Ellenberg, The Valentino Mystique. page 182.
2. A photo of the showroom of Walter M. Murphy Motors which was relocated in to West Colorado Avenue, Pasadena in 1920. Photo ca. 1927.
Walter M. Murphy Motors, 285 West Colorado, Pasadena, ca. 1927.
Listing for Early Auto-Related Properties in Pasadena, California
American companies (which came to be concentrated in southern Michigan) along with their European counterparts would often ship their high performance chassis to New York and Los Angeles were there was a strong market for luxury cars.6 Local custom coach builders would then complete the automobile according to the individual taste of the patron. One such company was the Walter M. Murphy Motor Company of Pasadena.Walter M. Murphy came from a Detroit family that had made its fortune in lumbering. An uncle, William H. Murphy was a stockholder in Henry M. Leland’s Cadillac as well as a backer of Henry Ford’s early automotive ventures. Before entering the custom body5 Peter Ling, America and the Automobile: Technology. Reform and Social Change. p. 127.6 Duesenberg, Lincoln, and Cadillac were the first American made luxury cars able to compete with the European imports such as Mercedes and Rolls Royce. business, Murphy sold Simplex and Locomobile cars. In 1920, he moved into new facilities at 275-85 West Colorado Boulevard and became the California distributor for the new Lincoln luxury car. He expanded into the body business as a result of the Lincoln’s poor engineering and conservative styling. After Lincoln was acquired by Ford in 1922, Murphy turned to building custom bodies for a variety of luxury car chassis at his Pasadena plant at 37-55 North Vernon Avenue (now St. John Street); however, Murphy built more bodies on Duesenberg chassis than any other coach builder in the United States. Murphy’s forte was in designing convertibles and roadsters.
Section F: Associated Property Types Page 18-19 Automobile showrooms are significant under criterion B if they are associated with individuals who pioneered and/or innovated the automobile sales business in Pasadena. Walter Murphy, for example, was one of the most significant figures in the history of automobiles in the United States. He was a nationally recognized leader in the sale and manufacturing of luxury automobiles, including Lincolns and Duesenbergs.
Rambova, Natacha. “Rudy: An Intimate Portrait of Rudolph Valentino by His Wife Natacha Rambova.” News Clippings of the Life of Natacha Rambova & Rudy Valentino with Complete Transcript of her Book. Middletown, Delaware: Self-published, 2021. (book available at Ebay, ISBN 9798565516371)
He capers, he dances, he has eyes of youth, he writes verses, he speaks holiday, he smells April and May.
Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor
–III, ii, 71.
On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep til morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.
Byron, Child Harold’s Pilgrimage,
–canto III, st. 22
Fame is the thirst of youth.
Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,
–canto III, st. 45.
To me it seems that youth is like spring, an over-praised season–delightful if it happen to be a favored one, but in practice very rarely favored and more remarkable, as a general rule, for biting east winds than genial breezes.
–Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, (1903), ch.5
Source of Quotations:
Bartlett, John. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. 14th ed. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1968.
The Guglielmi, Socci and Bosco families all had something in common–the sad death of siblings. In the case of my family there was also the loss of mothers. Valentino had three siblings: older sister, Bice, older brother Alberto, and his younger sister Maria. My grandmother’s family included five surviving siblings (3 others died), while my grandfather’s family was much larger…a total of twelve children, with only 7 surviving.
“The infant mortality rate in Italy, for children under the age of one year old, was 231 deaths per thousand births in 1865. This means that for all babies born in 1865, over 23 percent did not survive past their first birthday.” (Statista.com) “In 1871 there were 26.8 million Italians. Both birth and death rates were high, and almost half the children born alive died before age five.” Conditions would improve with more public health measures notably malaria, the disease that plagued Valentino’s father. “Malaria, a major scourge of the rural south, declined sharply as quinine became widely available after 1900.” (Brittanica). But even as recently as 2005-2015, in the area where Valentino’s and my families come from “Inequalities are reported even among Italian regions: in Southern Italy, infant mortality is 1.4 fold higher than in Northern Italy.” (Italian Journal of Pediatrics)
In New York City in the late 19th and early 20th century, where my grandmother and all her siblings were born, the situation was also distressing, as described in this paper from The American Journal of Public Health:
“Children were especially vulnerable to the health problems associated with poor and dangerous housing conditions. Inadequately protected against the harsh cold of winter and the stifling heat of summer, children in these urban ghettos often ate poorly, washed sporadically, dodged falling plaster and other environmental hazards, and were exposed to many deadly contagious diseases. Epidemics of diphtheria, smallpox, and whooping cough, to name but a few, were almost annual events during this period. Death was a common visitor, with a frequency and relentlessness that is difficult for most Americans of just a century later to fully comprehend.”
The Valentino Siblings
Grazia Bice Maria Ceresa Amalia Guglielmi was born June 1, 1890 in Castellaneta, Italy. She passed away on August 14, 1891 from diphtheria, a highly contagious bacterial infection which creates toxins in the body. Today, antitoxins and antibiotics are used to treat the disease, but there was no treatment in 1890 and no vaccine.
The remaining children born into the Guglielmi family did survive.
Alberto Pasquale Guglielmi (left) was born on April 5, 1892 in Castellaneta and passed away on June 4, 1981 in Los Angeles, California, age 89. Brother Rodolfo Pietro Filberto Raffaello Guglielmi (right) was born on May 6, 1895 and died August 23, 1926 at age 31. Picture ca. 1897.
Valentino’s younger sister Maria Grazia Martina Anna Guglielmi (Strada after marriage) was born September 1, 1897 in Castellaneta. Her date of passing is unknown.
There are no baby pictures of Maria available but this a picture of her in her younger days.
The Socci Siblings
The picture of the young Maria Guglielmi reminds me of the picture of my grandfather’s sister, Rosina. Little Rosina was the only girl among 12 children; 4 of the boys died and Rosina would also die too young. My mother wrote in her life story:
Only 7 sons survived. My Dad’s sister, Rosina, died when she was sixteen years old. I know this because my father spoke of her often. He must have loved her very dearly.
The surviving boys were:
Leonardo–1877-1947 He never came to the United States
Alessandro (Alexander)–(dates unknown) Came to the United States but returned to Italy.
Lived in the United States after emigrating
Michele (Michael) A.–1880-1968
Ernesto (Ernest) Donato–1884-1973
Giacomo (James/Jake) Mario–1890-1959
Matteo (Matthew) Anthony–1892-1966
Francesco (Frank) William–1895-1988
Unfortunately, I have not discovered any pictures of these siblings as infants.
Although the boys did spend time in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York at different points in their lives, Michele and Ernesto would live for quite awhile in Waterbury, Connecticut, one of Connecticut’s manufacturing hubs at the time. Michele would open up his barber shop there and it was a base for the other brothers to either work or visit. Eventually, Rutherford, New Jersey would become the “rural” home outside of New York City where my mother and her siblings would be raised, with her uncles spending a great deal of time living and visiting the house on Feronia Way.
The Bosco Siblings
All of the Bosco family children were born in New York City. Five children would survive. My research reveals that there was a baby boy named Ernesto, who was born in Manhattan, only to die at the age of 2 months in November 1892. Tragedy struck again when twins, probably girls, were born in late 1902. It is likely that they were named Domenica and Pasqualina; Grazia, their mother, died in childbirth. As my mother writes in her life story, when her mother was 8 years old “her mother and the twins she had given birth to died.” As mentioned in my previous post, the children were placed in an orphanage. Their father Antonio quickly remarried Rosaria in 1903, an older woman who came over from Italy, who raised the children after they were taken home from orphanage.
The surviving children were:
Rosina (Rose)–1894-1952 (my grandmother)
Charles (Carmine) Bosco–1898- not yet determined
The Lalumia Siblings
All the Lalumia children were born in New York, except Anthony (my father) and the youngest, Matthew. They were born in New Jersey. The family had settled in the town of Lodi. Many Italian families went to Lodi which was near the mills and factories which provided employment. Oldest sibling Lucia was actually a half sister to the rest of the children, as she was born to Guiseppe Lalumia’s first wife. I have no records as to when this first wife died or under what conditions, but he then married his second wife, Rosina (Rosa), and the family grew with the addition of three boys and one girl.
The Lalumia children were:
Calogero (Ciro) (Carl Joseph) 1903-1982
Providenza (Florence) 1907-1990
Antoni (Anthony Joseph) 1909-1991
Matthew Joseph 1914-1985
In future posts I’ll be touching base with various members of as I write about various aspects of Rudolph Valentino’s life. Even though their lives weren’t as public as the life that Rudolph Valentino lead, many of my relatives had lives full of variety and accomplishment.
Simeoni, Silvia, Luisa Frova and Mario De Curtis. “Inequalities in infant mortality in Italy.” Italian Journal of Pediatrics 45, (2109) Article number: 11
Markel, Howard. “For the Welfare of Children: The Origins of the Relationship between US Public Health Workers and Pediatricians.” American Journal of Public Health 90, No. 6 (2000): 893-899.
Although Uncharted Seas (released 1921; filmed at Metro Studios, late 1920) is truly a lost film, with absolutely no footage surviving, there is a great deal of fascinating history surrounding what would be the first film Rudolph Valentino made after completing his breakout role in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (See my previous post on that film here.)
In a postcard written from Palm Springs, California on November 13, 1920 to his sister Maria in Italy, Valentino told her that he had finished work on The Four Horsemen.
By December he was back at work on Uncharted Seas
Emily Leider in her biography Dark Lover remarks that Valentino was “shoved into a supporting part in a standard-issue production.” (page 127) To be realistic about it, Valentino was a contract player at the time and the studio had taken a huge risk with him in the expensive Four Horsemen, which had taken 6 months to complete. While the film and Valentino were getting a lot of buzz in the industry, the fact is the public would not see the film until late March of 1921. The studio was not going to elevate him to superstar status just yet. And Uncharted Seas wasn’t meant to be a bottom of the barrel production just because it was a “standard-issue production.” The director was Wesley Ruggles, who already had wide directing experience and who would later win the Oscar for Best Director in 1931 for Cimarron, and John Seitz, who was the favorite cameraman of The Four Horsemen’s director Rex Ingram, was on board to shoot the film. And, any film, unless there had been another blockbuster suited to Valentino available to start filming, would have been a step down at that point from the The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Furthermore, Uncharted Seas was based on a short story by a writer whose work had already been turned into plays and films.
Meet John Fleming Wilson
John Fleming Wilson was born in 1877 in Erie, Pennsylvania and passed away in Venice, California in 1922. He was a prolific writer of short stories and adventure novels, some which take place in the Pacific Northwest and the California desert. Even with very little biographical information available, one can get a sense of who he was was from the dedications and forewards from a few of his books. (Many of his books and a short story are available for free download at The Internet Archive at archive.org. Just search the author’s name.)
For example, in Across the Latitudes (1911), a seafaring story, he dedicates the book “To My Friends of the S.S. Hanalei.” The Land Claimers, also published in 1911, is dedicated “To United States Senator George E. Chamberlain of Oregon” and includes a loving “Foreward: To My Wife”(below). Then, in his dedication to one of his best known works, The Man Who Came Back (1912), he muses about his sailing adventures and “the Unknown Woman.” The Man Who Came Back was adapted as a Broadway play which, according to IMDB “was considered a smash hit by the standards of pre-WWI Broadway…Filmed by Fox Film Corp. twice, The Man Who Came Back (1924) starring George O’Brien and as The Man Who Came Back (1931), starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell.”
The Master Key, one of Fleming’s best known books, is set in the California desert:
Here’s a tidbit…Robert Leonard, who starred in the film of The Master Key (now lost) would marry Mae Murray, Rudolph Valentino’s long time friend/sometime lover (?) in 1918. She would divorce him in 1925 to marry fortune hunter (Prince?) David Mdivani with Valentino in attendance as best man. Leonard would move on to directing and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
John Wilson Fleming earned some notice in Moving Picture Magazine in October 1920 (“John Fleming Wilson Enters the Moving Picture Field”) and October 1921 (October 1 1921, pg. 560, “John Fleming Wilson Has Signed with Ince”). Thomas H. Ince revolutionized the movie industry and was the first film mogul to build his own studio…read about him here. It is not clear what John Wilson Fleming’s role working for Ince would have been. Perhaps he would have done his own adaptations of his stories or would have started writing original scripts. However, John Wilson Fleming died only a few months later in March 1922…but at least he saw his short story, The Uncharted Sea, produced for the screen by Metro in late 1920.
Here are the illustrations from the story as they appeared in Munsey’s Magazine:
The first thing you will notice if you read the full story is that the name of the hero has been changed from Ralph Underwood to Frank Underwood in the film. Wise move…can you imagine Rudolph Valentino being named “Ralph” let alone “Frank”? From the 3rd and last illustration you can also see that the “Frank” character has a very chiseled, all-American look. Now, there are some stills which depict rugged action and some images in which Rudolph has “natural” hair and looks fairly “chiseled”…but, then there are the stills where he looks almost angelic. That juxtaposition is emblematic of the “mystique of Valentino”!
Follow the slideshow to see the on location action, the All-American Rudolph, and the angelic Rudolph:
Where did all the snow come from? According to Strictly Vintage Hollywood, the film was “filmed on the Metro Pictures Corporation lot located on Cahuenga Blvd. and also on location in the Northern California town of Truckee for some of the exterior snow scenes.” (NOTE: Donna Hill in her book Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol places the location in Flagstaff, Arizona.) Here is the picture of the back lot snow pile:
The star of the movie, of course, was Alice Lake, who played Lucretia Eastman…
…which may have been a good thing for Valentino because at least one film review was not overly enthusiastic. The May 7, 1921 Exhibitors Herald review digest liked Alice Lake and the photography but thought the tale was “drawn out.” … with no mention of Valentino.
The full review in the same issue of the Exhbitors Herald was even more pointed: “Familiar triangle plot. Makes a poor vehicle for Metro star.” The star referred to was NOT Valentino…ironically, the only mention he received was in a mistake in the caption of the accompanying picture! That’s not Rudolph Valentino with Alice Lake–that’s Carl Gerard who played the errant husband Tim Eastman!
Uncharted Seas may not have been a stellar film, but from all the information I have found, it’s still a film of interest that is sadly lost to time. Hopefully, this post will help bring it alive again on the 100th anniversary of its release…
Many of John Wilson Fleming’s books are available as original or reprint editions from Amazon, EBay, and many used book sites. Scouts of the Desert and Across the Latitudes are available in Kindle editions.
Today I woke up and turned on the BBC for the latest news and was stunned by the news that an effective vaccine against malaria appears to have been developed.
As mentioned in an earlier post which discussed Valentino’s family history, Giovanni Antonio Giuseppe Fidele Guglielmi “began studying and doing lab research on malaria which was prevalent in the area, and after researching the deaths of horses and cattle, he found how the disease could be transmitted to the animals by mosquitoes just as it was transmitted to humans.” More details are found int the PhD dissertation by Jeanine Therese Villalobos, the great-grandniece of Valentino, entitled “Rudolph Valentino: The Early Years, 1895-1920.”
From Pages 59-60 of the thesis:
Civic minded, he turned his investigative eye to malaria, for decades an unchecked scourge on the South, a disease that even claimed the life Vittorio Emanuelle II, Italy’s first king. Giovanni made enough progress to see fit to publish his finding on bovine malaria and its relationship to human malaria, a study later cited by Ettiene Nocard of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. But Giovanni’s endeavor would prove to be a fatal one. “He contracted malaria during the research,” Alberto* would recall, “And I too contracted the disease.” Apparently, Gabrielle** fell prey as well, and struggled with it throughout her life. Alberto recovered, but Giovanni was not so lucky. From 1902 onward his health slowly declined.
Source: Villalobos, Jeanine Therese. “Rudolph Valentino: The Early Years, 1895-1920.” Diss. U of California, Irvine, 2009.
The quest for a malaria vaccine has been pursued for the last 100 years. The current vaccine, Mosquirix is effective only in preventing 39% of infections, and only 29% of severe infections in children in Africa. According to The Guardian, the new vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, offers “the real possibility of slashing the death toll of a disease that kills 400,000, mostly small children every year.”
From the BBC report, which reveals that the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine research was built on what had been discovered while researching malaria:
Malaria vaccine hailed as potential breakthrough
By Philippa Roxby Health reporter
Study author Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute and professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said he believed the vaccine was the first to reach the World Health Organization’s goal of at least 75% efficacy.
The most effective malaria vaccine to date had only shown 55% efficacy in trials on African children.
The trials of this malaria vaccine started in 2019, long before coronavirus appeared – and the Oxford team developed its Covid vaccine (with AstraZeneca) on the strength of its research into malaria, Prof Hill said.
A malaria vaccine has taken much longer to come to fruition because there are thousands of genes in malaria compared to around a dozen in coronavirus, and a very high immune response is needed to fight off the disease.
“That’s a real technical challenge,” Prof Hill said. “The vast majority of vaccines haven’t worked because it’s very difficult.”
However, he said the trial results meant the vaccine was “very deployable” and “has the potential to have a major public health impact”.
Hill said the institute might apply for emergency approval for the malaria vaccine just as it did for the Covid jab. “I’m making the argument as forcefully as I can, that because malaria kills a lot more people than Covid in Africa, you should think about emergency-use authorisation for a malaria vaccine for use in Africa. And that’s never been done before.”
The institute would probably ask the regulatory bodies in Europe or the UK for a scientific opinion on the vaccine and then apply to the World Health Organization for approval for use in Africa. “They did Covid in months – why shouldn’t they do malaria in a similar length of time as the health problem is an even greater scale in Africa?” Hill said.
One has to wonder what Giovanni Guglielmi would be thinking if he were alive today…
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die. In 2019 an estimated 229 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 409,000 people died, mostly children in the African Region. About 2,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year.
In the April 15, 1922 issue of Pantomime Magazine, Rudolph Valentino was asked a series of questions aimed at revealing his “psychological profile.” Entitled Read ‘Em and Know ‘Em–A ‘Mental’ Photograph of Rodolfo Valentino, Valentino answered questions ranging from his favorite virtue (honor and modesty) to his ideas of happiness (a loving wife and children), unhappiness (loneliness), and many other questions…including “Who is your favorite poet?” Valentino responded “Dante Alighieri”.
Dante Alighieri (born c. May 21–June 20, 1265, Florence [Italy]—died September 13/14, 1321, Ravenna) is today being celebrated in Italy to mark the start of events to honor the 700th year of his death.
March 25 was picked last year to celebrate the man known to Italians as the “supreme poet” because most scholars believe his fictional journey through hell, purgatory and heaven — as told in the “Divine Comedy” — starts on this day.
According to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Dante is still relevant in the modern world because of the “universality” of that masterpiece.
I studied the Divine Comedy in college and, apparently, so did my parents. I pulled off my bookshelf a copy of the “first annotated edition of the Italian text” which was published in 1909, with subsequent printings in 1911 and 1913. This edition, edited and annotated by C.H. Grandgent, Professor of Romance Languages, Harvard University includes fascinating diagrams to help the reader on the journey. I wish I had this edition in hand when I studied this work!
In another coincidence that occurred just a few days ago, I reconnected with a well-known plein air artist, Frank LaLumia, whose family shares the same hometown in Sicily (Campofelice di fitalia) and the same name as my family with a slight variation of the spelling (although on his website the name appears at times as one word, just like my name because of site formatting.) I’ve know that some of the families coming to America went, not only to New York, but also to New Orleans among other destinations. In fact, when I was a child during the mid-1950’s visitors from New Orleans came to visit family in Lodi, New Jersey, bringing their own Coca Cola because they claimed the “recipe” was different than what was sold in the North! (I don’t know if that is was really true or not!)
However, some of the New Orleans branch moved up to Chicago…and my new contact was born there. Years later, he resided in Santa Fe, New Mexico and then moved to Trinidad, Colorado, just over the border. As a long time resident of New Mexico, we’re about a long day’s drive away.
In his Artist Statement (2017), Frank discusses his Contemporary Watercolors this way (excerpt):
My series of Contemporary Watercolors was born in Hell, and has been rising ever since. In the 1980’s, it was sparked by a profound inspiration with the work of Dante Alighieri. The DIVINE COMEDY, (and particularly the INFERNO), was perfect for this concept. The subject matter in my series is evocative rather than descriptive or literal, lending itself perfectly to the idea of ‘found’ or discovered’ painting. And what better place to exploit the expressive potential of the medium itself?
So, on Dante Day, I am celebrating all the “found” connections between the mind of Rudolph Valentino, the art of Frank LaLumia, and a new branch of the family.
Most fans have seen pictures of Valentino’s mother and father and know that his mother was French and his father was Italian. They were well-educated people and considered to be middle class at the time. Giovanni Guglielmi served in the military, achieving the rank of captain, then graduated from the University of Naples and became a veterinarian, traveling the countryside tending to the livestock of the rural farmers and paid, often not with money, but with what the farmers produced from their land…cheese, wine, olives and their grain harvests. He began studying and doing lab research on malaria which was prevalent in the area, and after researching the deaths of horses and cattle, he found how the disease could be transmitted to the animals by mosquitoes just as it was transmitted to humans.
Rudolph’s mother was the daughter of an engineer (also described as an “engineering technician”) who came to Italy, charged with building a a bridge between Taranto and Bari. Before her marriage, she was the companion of a wealthy noblewoman named Marchesa Giovinazzi. The educated and refined Gabrielle loved to read, recite French poetry, discuss philosophy and also possessed skills in sewing and embroidery. She was also described as being a wonderful storyteller, recounting stories of nobility, their adventures and their glory.
Giovanni and Gabrielle married in June 1889. Giovanni would die in March 1906 at age 53 from the malaria that he studied and Gabrielle would die on January 18, 1918 in France, never having seen her son Rudolph again after he went to America.
Giovanni Antonio Giuseppe Fidele Guglielmi
(February 9, 1853-March 24, 1906)
Marie Berthe(a) Gabrielle(a) Barbin
(1856-January 18, 1918)
By contrast, my family came from far more modest backgrounds. While husbands could read and write, the wives were illiterate. The men learned English, while their wives apparently spoke only Italian and worked in the home.
MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS–MY MOTHER’S GRANDPARENTS, HER FATHER’S SIDE
Vincenzo Socci cultivated the land. He was still working with his vegetable plot and grapevines in old age.
The family house still stands in Casalnuovo Monterotaro. My grandfather (Ernesto) would tell stories about how the family lived in rooms above the stable which housed their animals. (Today, the house is still in the family and the stable has been renovated to provide a kitchen and living space with the former family rooms now transformed into bedrooms.) When he came to the United States he particularly missed his donkey which he called “Gentilezza” although he pronounced the name more like “Gentilique.” From my mother’s life story (see NOTE below):
Life in his little town was very difficult. Families owned small plots of land outside the town which were their main sustenance. They also plied other trades such as shoemaker, seamstress, mechanic and blacksmithing.
Out of 12 children born, 6 sons survived. One stayed in Italy, one came to the United States and returned, and 4 settled permanently, although the oldest returned to Italy very late in life to satisfy his wife’s wishes.
MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS–MY MOTHER’S GRANDPARENTS, HER MOTHER’S SIDE
Antonio Bosco came to the United States from Sorrento or a small town in its environs, just south of Naples. Antonio Bosco is hard to pin down in terms of what he actually did to support his family. UPDATED: The New York City Census dated June 1, 1905 reveals that Antonio operated a rag shop and that his wife Rosario worked there as a “rag sorter.” There is little doubt that times were hard. His first wife, nee’ Grazia Pepe (1873-1902) had five children, 2 girls and 3 boys, all born in New York between 1894 and 1901. And then, Grazia seems to have a boy who passed away at 2 months of age. Finally, the twins she gave birth to in 1902 died. As my mother writes in her life story, when her mother was 8 years old “her mother and the twins she had given birth to died.” All the children then went to an orphanage…all except my grandmother, Rosina (Rose) who is pictured below. Antonio then married Rosaria (est. 1903) to take care of the family and the four siblings left the orphanage. More will be told of this story in a subsequent post.
MY GRANDPARENTS–MY FATHER’S SIDE
Giuseppe Lalumia (possibly La Lumia) emigrated to the United States in 1891 and his first daughter, Lucia, was born in New York. I have not located any information about his first wife as of yet. After he was widowed he married Rosina in 1902. She had emigrated in 1893. They had 4 more children, 2 born in New York, 2 born in New Jersey, before she died in 1920. Giuseppe entered the country as a road laborer; in the 1915 New Jersey Census and the 1920 U.S. Census his occupation was listed as “grocer” in Lodi, New Jersey, where many Italians settled. By the time of the 1930 U.S. Census he was back working as a road laborer, but in the 1940 U.S. Census he was noted as being a merchant again, this time running a candy store.
The final resting place of Giuseppe and Rosina, St. Nicholas’ Cemetery, Lodi, New Jersey
MY GRANDPARENTS–MY MOTHER’S SIDE
The story of my grandparents, Ernesto and Rosina (Rose) will be told in my next post because they belong to Rudolph Valentino’s generation.
NOTE–In the late 1990’s my mother participated in a “Write Your Life Story” workshop and excerpts from the story she wrote then will be included throughout this blog.
Sources of biographical information about Rudolph’s parents:
Emily W, Leider Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) 1-17.
Aurelio Miccoli, The Infancy of the Myth: Rudolph Valentino’s Childhood Years (Translated by Angelo Perrone. Torino, Italy: Viale Industria Publicazioni, 2014) 1-43.
Can it already be 100 years since Rudolph Valentino lit up the screen in the film version of the best-selling novel of the same name? I’m taking a detour from working on my next post about the Valentino “connection” to mark this day.
Coincidentally, I have almost finished reading the powerful novel which was transformed into the film that would jumpstart Valentino’s career. The book was published in July 2018 and by February 1920, the book marked its 76th printing. Long out of print, the book may be downloaded from Archive.org. It is downloadable in many formats, including for the Kindle. If you prefer listening to an audio reading of the book, this is the link to the LibriVox files. Accessing the book itself is best done by searching for the full author’s name, but a direct link is provided below.
It was June Mathis who managed to create a workable script from Ibanez’s epic novel which had been thought to be unadaptable by most movie studios. It was also June Mathis who fought to have Rudolph Valentino cast as Julio after she saw him in Eyes of Youth (1919).
Of course, the “tango scene” was one of the key parts of the film that garnered attention for Valentino. In the novel, the tango is mentioned only briefly. In the film, the dance sequence was expanded because of Valentino’s prowess as a dancer.
Rudolph Valentino was born in Castellaneta in the Region of Puglia (Apulia), Province of Taranto in Southern Italy. My family also comes from Southern Italy–my mother’s side from further north in the Region of Puglia (Apulia), Province of Foggia and my father’s side from about as far south as possible…Campofelice di fitalia, Province of Palermo, Sicily. The maps below and a brief summary of the key locations in the lives of Valentino and and my family illustrate our Italy.
(If images do not appear on mobile phones or tablets or on the WordPress app, visit the GALLERY tab for a duplicate location map…although sometimes it won’t appear there! Quixotic WordPress…)
Brown areas designate Southern Italy
Connections: Southern Italy
Castellaneta (birthplace) Region: Puglia; Province of Taranto
Taranto (moved here age 9) Region: Puglia; Province of Taranto
Perugia (age 11.5, sent to the Boarding School for Orphans of Italian Health Professionals, technical school with liberal arts, arrived October 1906) Region: Umbria; Province of Perugia
*Nervi(age 15.5, Agricultural Institute of Saint Ilario of Liguria, arrived October 1910, graduated end of October 1911) Region: Liguria; Province of Genoa (Northern Italy)
Campobasso (Brother Albert served here as General Secretary of the City of Campobasso, early 1920’s) Region: Molise; Province of Campobasso
*Juan-les-pins (South of France, Hudnut/Rambova estate) Commune of Antibes, in the Alpes-Maritimes, in southeastern France, on the Côte d’Azur
Casalnuovo Monterotaro (origins, mother’s side) Region: Puglia; Province of Foggia
Campofelice di fitalia (origins, father’s side) Region: Sicily; Province of Palermo
Torre del Greco (my great uncle returned here to his wife’s home, mid-1950’s) Region: Campania; Province of Naples. A comune in the Metropolitan City of Naples.
Campobasso (current home of relatives on my mother’s side) Region: Molise; Province of Campobasso
*Locations outside Southern Italy
KEY LOCATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH RUDOLPH VALENTINO AND MY FAMILY