Rudolph Valentino’s Favorite Poet Has His Day…Dante Day, March 25, 2021…and a New Connection Is Revealed

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.

Source: Agence France Presse, Italy Celebrates Its ‘Supreme Poet’ With Dante Day, by By Gaël BRANCHEREAU
March 25, 2021 via Barron’s

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.

I’ve know about the work of Frank LaLumia for years, so it was a thrill to connect with him. Frank has authored a book entitled PLEIN  AIR  PAINTING  IN WATERCOLOR  AND  OIL,  North Light Publications and has also been a Contributing  Artist  for the P.B.S. Series PLEIN AIR: PAINTING THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE. On his website, Frank Lalumia Fine Art, you can enjoy his beautiful art, which also includes work in watercolor and oil and new contemporary pieces.

So, what does all this have to do with Dante Day?

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.

Dante Alighieri

3. Part 1: Rudolph Valentino’s Family–His Parents …(and My Great-Grandparents and Grandparents…) Updated 4/20/2021


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

Ernesto Donato Socci 1884-1973

The story of my grandparents, Ernesto and Rosina (Rose) will be told in my next post because they belong to Rudolph Valentino’s generation.

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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.


March 6, 1921–The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Premieres in New York…

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).

June Mathis ca. 1920

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.

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The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

(direct link to the download)

The film is readily available for viewing on Youtube, of course, but one of the best creators of videos about Rudolph, who is known as “mysilentboyfriend” has posted “Rudolph Valentino: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse 100th Anniversary Tribute” which presents key scenes in a short retelling of the story. It’s beautifully done!

Valentino as Julio ready to tango, 100 years ago