“Basket” versus “Casket”– How (and When) Was Rudolph Valentino’s Body Removed to the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Church? (UPDATED 10/3/21)

This post has been updated as of 10/3/2021.  I am including a new photo from a copy of the New York Daily News that I have obtained. The paper is dated August 24, 1926 and is one of several editions published that day. The new photo shows another view of the removal of Valentino's body from the hospital 
 

Once again, my interest has been piqued by differences in the “lore” about Rudolph Valentino.

Following his passing at the New York Polyclinic Hospital, the body of Rudolph Valentino made the journey to the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Church, which at the time, was located at Broadway and 66th Street. (The Polyclinic was located at 341-351 West 50th Street, New York, New York. The current address of the clinic building, now converted into condominiums, is 345-349 W. 50th Street as indicated in a picture taken by Allan Ellenberger on a visit to the site and also confirmed using Google Earth.)

The question is how and when did Valentino’s body leave the Polyclinic Hospital?

Source: Columbia University Libraries

Source: International News Photos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Polyclinic Hospital building in the foreground showing a courtyard and the alley out to 51st Street (visible at the right).

Google Earth, 5/24/2019

The clinic at a different angle and time of day showing increased shadows around the building and one wall of the interior courtyard (faintly visible on the right side of the courtyard.) The courtyard will be discussed further, below.

Google Earth, 6/22/2021

See NOTE 1 below for a detailed description of the hospital plant at the time it was designated as “Embarkation Hospital No. 4, New York City” by the Government in 1918 during World War I. Although officially designated as an “Embarkation Hospital” it actually functioned as a “Debarkation Hospital” for the most part, used by patients returning from overseas. The description gives a great deal of information about the original, basic design of the hospital.

*****

There are multiple descriptions of how the body of Valentino exited the hospital…and when. According to Emily Leider (Dark Lover, Page 387), the exit was by “a side door.” Jeanne De Recqueville (Rudolph Valentino, Page 126) describes how the body, in a “wicker basket,” was “brought an interior courtyard…loaded onto a truck [which would] slip away through a back alley,” which is clearly visible in the above photo.

Allan R. Ellenberger (The Valentino Mystique: The Death and Afterlife of the Silent Film Idol) describes how crowds outside the clinic had become so large that it was impossible for the hearse to approach from the rear of the building on West 51st Street. So the police spread the rumor that the removal would be from the front entrance: “Remarkably, the ruse worked, and the majority of the crowd moved slowly back to 50th Street just long enough for the hearse to circle the block and pull up in a spot cleared by the police ” (Page 56).

Ellenberger then goes on to quote–indirectly–a reporter from The New York World. Ellenberger must have had trouble finding the original source and my efforts have failed as well. (The paper had several incarnations and there are gaps in what editions are available, even at the Library of Congress.) Ellenberger’s source is derived from an article entitled “Legend of Valentino, Part 1” in Movie Classics, June 1973, Page 13. I’ve managed to track down this issue as well as the issue including Part 2, so it will be interesting to see the actual article. So, with a bit of caution about sourcing, here is what this unidentified reporter claims to have witnessed:

As two-forty (2:40) that afternoon the stillness was interrupted by the sound of the elevator descending from the floors above... As the elevator doors opened, the reporter witnessed the undertaker's basket being wheeled out and rolled down the corridor toward the back door..."There waited Campbell's 'wagon.'...Rudolph Valentino beloved idol of millions going out the back door of Polyclinic Hospital in a wicker basket! That was dramatic enough. But to add to the drama, someone had thrown a piece of gold cloth over the top of the basket!'"  
 

UPDATE: I received a copy of the Movie Classics magazine cited above the day after I posted this blog article. The reporter says he worked for the New York American (very few, scattered holdings in libraries, what might be a full collection is on microfilm at the New York Public Library). He apparently sent a letter years later to the Hollywood Citizen, signing it as” E.B., Landsdale Street, North Hollywood, California.” He actually first refers to the basket as a “casket” then later calls it a “wicker basket.” So, he may have seen the type of wicker “corpse” basket picture below. More notable is the fact that there is NO mention of any specific time of the body being moved.

The Brooklyn Eagle, Tuesday, August 14, 1926, Page 1
Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Tuesday Evening, August 24, 1926, Page 13
Modesto Bee, Modesto, California. Thursday, August 26, 1921, Page 1
(Apparently picked up wire image that had gone to another publication called The News-Herald)
The New York Daily News, Tuesday, August 24, 1926 (NEWS photo)
The sign by the door says “Private Entrance
The caption reads “Note girls who lean perilously around the corner of the building…”

Looking at the lower picture, apparently taken after the transfer of the body to the hearse, there does appear to be a light-colored surface visible…most likely the “gold cloth.” But it’s hard to discern a basket if one looks at the two picture showing the actual transfer. Wouldn’t a “wicker basket” have been a light color?

Updated: 10/3/2021

Another view of the removal of the body from the hospital from a different edition of the New York Daily News, August 24, 1926.

From my collection

Baskets were used by undertakers to receive bodies. Here is an example from 1882…

Jesse James’ wicker “corpse” basket used to take his body to a funeral parlor in 1882. Located at Heaton-Bowman-Smith and Sidenfaden Chapel Funeral Museum, St. Joseph, Missouri.

Source: RoadsideAmerica.com

(Interestingly, one hundred years after Valentino’s passing, wicker baskets are becoming available for those wanting a more natural or eco-friendly burial . Manufacturers seem to most prevalent in Britain and Australia. The selection is quite extensive at a site called Thinkwillow.com. Most are light colored or a light brown; if they are painted, the integrity of the coffin* can be compromised. [See NOTE 2 below]. )

But looking at the the top photographs, although they are grainy, nothing looking like a wicker basket is visible. In fact, a close look seems to show something solid and dark colored.

Frank Mallen’s Story as Related in His Book “Sauce for the Gander”

From my collection

None of the authors mentioned have referenced a source written well before they wrote their books about Valentino. In 1954 Frank Mallen published Sauce for the Gander: The Amazing Story of a Fabulous Newspaper. This book is the story of The New York Evening Graphic, known for its notorious “composographs”–a name created by the founding editor Emile Gauvreau–but which the public and Graphic staffers continued to call “composites.” Not a new technique, the overlaying of pictures into patterns or designs was already used in magazines and newspaper layouts. The Graphic pushed the method of to the limit to increase circulation and keep their readers once they had them. The composites were montages, cut and pasted together to create pictures of events when actual pictures were not available, for example, the front-page picture of Valentino, “lying on the operating tables with arms folded, surrounded by doctors and nurses standing around, apparently waiting for the signal to plunge into his interior organs” (Pages 72-73).

Composite from the “Composite Gallery” in Sauce for the Gander. Description by Frank Mallen:

“This composite was dreamed up to show Rudy Valentino just before the fatal operation in Polyclinic Hospital. To carry out the romantic theme a nurse is depicted caressing his head, while another used the occasion to smile at her prettiest.” (10 photographs)

In her earlier book, Affairs Valentino: A Special Edition (2015, first and second editions, 2011 and 2013, respectively), Zumaya included a description of the body’s removal from a manuscript by George Ullman, Valentino’s business manager. According to this manuscript, “two workmen heft their load into the back of a waiting truck strategically parked in a back alley” (Page 11). But in her most recent work published in June 2021, entitled The Rudolph Valentino Case Files: The Research Discoveries of Evelyn Zumaya & Renato Floris, Zumaya does include the account by Frank Mallen, summarizing his story in a chapter named “Frank Mallen’s Composographs” Pages 194-198) of how Rudolph Valentino arrived at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Church. (See Note 3.)

In his book, Mallen tells the story in several sections: “Death of a Movie Star” (the section of interest for this discussion); Pageant of Tribute”; “Behind the Valentino Curtain”; “The Last Picture”; “The Journalistic Miracle of the Ages”; “Izzy Kaplan”; “Funeral Train”; and “The Lady in Black” (Pages 72-100).

Mallen actually had planned to resign from the paper after he had been assigned to the “picture desk” as Picture Editor. With no interest or experience in the post, he was ready to quit…but before he could do so, Valentino had slipped into a coma and he suddenly was in the middle of shepherding photographers and artists through this news bonanza.

I grabbed my phone and called Frank Campbell, the undertaker..."Valentino just died. Are you getting the body?" I yelled into the transmitter. For a moment there was deep throbbing silence, and then I heard sobs. He was crying. I kept shouting at him...With impatience I kept asking if he would get the body. For exasperating moments he made no reply. Then his voice returned, strong and vibrant. As though I had offended him by my implication that Valentino could possibly go to any other undertaking establishment he said: "Why of course we are getting the body." He bit off every word.

Mallen then relates that a short time later, he learned that Campbell had made a deal with United Artists, when death hadn’t even been deemed imminent. The deal was “if they would let him handle the funeral, in the event of death, he (Campbell) would make Valentino’s pictures more popular and profitable than ever…an amazing and startling proposition” because before this moment pictures died with their stars (Page 74). Campbell employed a publicity man, Harry Klemfuss, who would mastermind the funeral events right up to the final services in Los Angeles on September 7th, 1926.

Mallen describes how, soon after talking to Campbell, The Graphic “scooped” the reporters from other news outlets by producing a composite of Valentino lying in state with Campbell agreeing to keep the secret (Page 74):

Soon two Graphic reporters were speeding in a taxi to the Campbell Funeral Church at Broadway and 66th Street. One photographed the other lying on a catafalque and then both took pictures of the Gold Room from various angles. They rushed the them back to the office, I had [Harry] Grogin, the composite genius, superimpose Valentino's face over that of the prone lensman and transfer the result onto the Gold Room. He did a masterful job in record time. Within an hour we had Valentino lying in state on our front page. We forgot to say it was a composite. Then I called Campbell and asked him to keep our secret.

It is at this point in the story that Mallen has an entirely different account about the timing and removal of the body from the Polyclinic Hospital:

Although Valentino's body actually was still at Polyclinic Hospital and was not removed until that evening, even the sharpest of newsmen believed it had been photographed by us at Campbell's. They were sure Campbell had performed some sleight-of-hand magic in transferring the body, probably to thwart competing undertakers, despite the fact they had watched all the hospital exits and had not seen it come out. When the casket finally emerged they were certain it contained somebody else's body to cover up a fast one Campbell had put over them in favor of the Graphic.

Mallen then recounts how “angry newspapermen descended on the funeral parlor along with some of the throngs who had seen The Graphic. Harry Klemfuss defused the situation by inviting the reporters and photographers in to look around; they even inspected every corpse that was there.” After satisfying them that they had not been double-crossed he took them to a nearby speakeasy where their anger was quickly submerged in liquids and they shook their heads over the gall of The Graphic” (Page 75).

SO…we find that we have Mallen’s mention of a “casket” versus a wicker basket/undertaker’s basket; the removal from the Polyclinic Hospital in a hearse versus a truck, although the vehicle does look like a hearse rather than a truck, in my opinion; and a very specific time of transfer of two-forty (2:40) in the afternoon versus “that evening.” The Update above which discusses the quotation from Movie Classics magazine raises a question about this specific 2:40 time, but an earlier afternoon removal time still can’t be ruled out.

Looking at the pictures of the removal at the hospital, the transfer appears to be occurring in daylight. But what is meant by “evening”? It’s a subjective term with many definitions! Broadly speaking, it can mean the time between afternoon and nightfall, beginning a few hours before sunset; or sometimes defined as being between 4 and 9 o’clock. In August 1926, New York was on Daylight Savings Time, as it is now; “civil twilight,” also known as “dusk,” the period when the Sun sets and dips just below the horizon, would end about 8 PM. Regardless, as clearly shown in the pictures of the clinic at the top of this page, the courtyard of the hospital would be in shadows at least part of the day which makes it even hard to discern on which side of the courtyard the exit was located. Since it’s hard to find pictures of how the sun hits the building in real time, could the photographs of the transfer, particularly the large photograph from The New York Daily News, been taken with a flash, either in the early afternoon, possibly at 2:40 P.M. or later that day?

As I continue researching the life of Rudolph Valentino, I will be on the lookout for any information about that fateful day of August 23rd, 1926 that can provide a more definitive answer to my original question:

How (and When) Was Rudolph Valentino’s Body Removed to the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Church?


NOTE 1 EMBARKATION HOSPITAL NO. 4, NEW YORK CITY.a

The hospital of the New York Polyclinic Medical School and Hospital was leased by the Government on October 20, 1918. The hospital was located at 345 West Fiftieth Street, New York City, 3 miles from the center of activities of the port of embarkation, three blocks from Pier 90 at Fiftieth Street and Hudson River, and one-half block from the electric car lines on Eighth and Ninth Avenues. The building was an 11-story, fireproof structure of steel and concrete, and contained a basement, a cellar, and a subcellar. It had been designed for use as a hospital, and had been completed in 1912. Its ground area was 100 feet square and its gross floor space was 110,000 square feet. Within it there were 94 private rooms and wards, 4 operating rooms, and a number of rooms which had been used for clinical and didactic purposes, and which were readily convertible into wards. These rooms and wards gave a bed capacity of approximately 450. The building contained a kitchen of sufficient capacity to feed 800 persons at one meal; a bakery adequate to prepare all the bread needed for the hospital; a laundry equipped to meet all needs; and a heating plant that not only heated the building in which it was located but five dwellings adjoining the hospital. All stairways were of steel and concrete construction, and they were equipped with fire doors. There were three large elevators ample in size to accommodate stretcher cases. The institution was lighted by both gas and electricity; and, to guard against a temporary failure of the city water supply, had reserve tanks for water on its roof.

From October 20, 1918, the day it was taken over for Medical Department use, until December 18, the building was cleaned, and preparations were made for the reception of patients. During much of this period of time the main hospital building was used as quarters for nurses who were being mobilized for duty overseas. There were a few patients in hospitals representing members of the command, nurses from overseas, etc.; but on December 19, 1918, the hospital was formally opened by the admission of 176 patients from overseas.

aThe statements of fact appearing herein are based on the “History, Embarkation Hospital No. 4, New York City,” by Lieut. Col. J. L. Robinson, M. C., U. S. A., while on duty as a member of the staff of that hospital. The material used by him in the compilation of the history comprised official reports from the various divisions of the hospital. The history is on file in the Historical Division, Surgeon General’s Office, Washington, D. C.-Ed.

791

Thereafter, the hospital, though designated an embarkation hospital, functioned principally as a debarkation hospital. On August 15, 1919, the hospital was abandoned.


NOTE 2 There IS a difference between a “coffin” and a “casket.” A coffin is shaped more closely to that of a human body, wider at the shoulders, tapered toward the feet, while a casket is rectangular (oblong) with right angles and without tapering toward the base.

NOTE 3 Zumaya includes the “surgery” composite in her discussion and also includes a picture that is described as a “Composograph of Rudolph Valentino in the Gold Room at Frank E. Campbell’s Funeral Home.” However, this picture actually shows the front page of the Daily Mirror under the headline “Many Hurt at Bier of Valentino” and is actually a cropped version of a picture that is a part of series showing “ardent fan Eva Miller” praying at the bier. A full picture also appeared on the front page of The New York Daily News; the Bettmann Archive states the originals were taken on August 25, 1926. Other versions of this picture are also sourced from the Hulton Archive. Various angles of this Eva Miller picture can be seen at Bing.com Images.


SOURCES

Bing.com Images

De Recqueville, Jeanne. Rudolph Valentino. Translated by Renato Floris, Edited and Annotated by Evelyn Zumaya. French Edition, 1978. Torino, Italy: Viale Industria Pubblilicazioni, Translation Edition, 2020.

Leider, Emily W. Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003.

Mallen, Frank. Sauce for the Gander: The Amazing Story of a Fabulous Newspaper. White Plains, New York: Baldwin Books, 1954.

Pictures of the Polyclinic Hospital. Archived at Columbia University Libraries, Seymour B. Durst Old York Library/Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library.

Stepno, Bob. “The Evening Graphic’s Tabloid Reality.” Written as a PhD Candidate, UNC-Chapel Hill
School of Journalism and Mass Communication, July 1997. http://www.stepno.com/unc/graphic/

Time of day Information: New York, New York–Sunrise, Sundown and Day Length, August 2021; definition of civil twilight; definitions of “evening“.

Thinkwillow.com

U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History Chapter XXXIII, Section VII: Other Embarkation and Debarkation Hospitals. 790-791, Embarkation Hospital No. 4, New York City Statistical data, United States Army Embarkation Hospital No. 4, New York City, N. Y.,  from November 4, 1918, to August 15, 1919, inclusive.

Zumaya, Evelyn. Affairs Valentino; A Special Edition. Torino, Italy: Viale Industria Pubblicazioni, 2015.

Zumaya, Evelyn and Renato Floris. The Rudolph Valentnio Case Files: The Research Discoveries of Evelyn Zumaya & Renato Floris. Torino, Italy: Viale Industria Pubblicazioni, 2021.

April 25, 1921–“Uncharted Seas,” A Lost Valentino Film, Released 100 Years Ago Today…Go Back in Time to Read the Original Short Story and Meet the Author

(…His Name is John Fleming Wilson)

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.”

Foreword to The Land Claimers
Dedication of The Man Who Came Back
The Man Who Came Back, 1912, Fox Movietone Photo Play Edition

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.

The Master Key starring
Robert Leonard

Souvenir Key marked “Fifteen Weeks – Thirty Reels – Talking Pictures – Universal.” Top and the bottom reads “Master Key by John Fleming Wilson – A Thrilling Story of Mystery and Romance”
The Master Key, 1915, Starring Robert Leonard, Jack Holt, Ella Hall. Universal Film Photo Play book edition

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.

The story was printed in Munsey’s Magazine, Volume 70, June to September, 1920 and is available at Google Books. The entire text of The Uncharted Sea is free to read or download. Just scroll down to page 607 if reading online. If you prefer to read a synopsis of the story, visit Strictly Vintage Hollywood for a fun read!

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…


Sources:

Emily Leider, Dark Lover.

IMDB–John Wilson Fleming’s entry includes a full list of his works translated to the screen

Strictly Vintage Hollywood

IMDB–Entry for the film Uncharted Seas

Munsey’s Magazine, Volume 70, June-September 1920 on Google Books. Free readable/downloadable version of the original short story, The Uncharted Sea.

Internet Archive (Archive.org) John Wilson Fleming books and publications which included short stories

The Adventure, War, and Espionage Fiction Magazine Index Scroll down for a list of some of John Wilson Fleming’s short stories.

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.

Rudolph Valentino’s Father Would Have Rejoiced About News of a Truly Effective Vaccine Against Malaria (April 23, 2021)

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.

(Editor’s note: *Alberto, Rudolph’s older brother; **Garbrielle, Rudolph’s mother)

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”.

The Guardian quotes Adrian Hill further:

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…


Facts about malaria from the CDC:

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. 

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.


2. Valentino and My Family: Southern Italian Roots

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

VALENTINO

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

MY FAMILY

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