Link to Youtube video version is here.
As 1922 began it was clear that Rudolph Valentino’s popularity was quickly on the rise. After the smashing success of The Sheik following the the full release of the film in November 1921, the floodgates had opened, largely due to the intense reaction of female moviegoers. Moran of the Lady Letty was completed by November 1921 and was an attempt to broaden his appeal to attract more men; it would be his first release in 1922 with a February premiere (See my four-part series on this film; links below.). Then the studio paired their top female star, Gloria Swanson, with Valentino in Beyond the Rocks which filmed during December 1921 into January 1922 for a May release. Although they wouldn’t be release until later in the year, Blood and Sand was filming from March through mid-May and The Young Rajah was in production in June. In preparation for 1923 Valentino then moved into pre-production for The Spanish Cavalier, which ultimately was never made, although there would be a re-working of the film…a very interesting story in itself…
By June, Valentino was near the top of the hierarchy of Paramount stars and his new status was clearly shown in this advertising spread from The Saturday Evening Post, June 17, 1922.
R to L, top row: Cecille B. DeMille, George Fitzmaurice*, Penrhyn Stanlaws, Sam Wood*, John S. Robertson, Fred Niblo*
Continued on 2nd Page, top row: Joseph Henabery*
R to L, bottom row: William deMille, George Melford*, Irvin V. Willat, Alfred E. Green, James Cruze
Continued to 2nd Page, bottom row: Philip E. Rosen*, Ernest Lubitsch, Paul Powell*
*Indicates directors who had already directed or who would direct Valentino in the future.
Top: Gloria Swanson*
R to L, 2nd and 3rd: Thomas Meighan, Rudolph Valentino
R to L, 4th row: Elise Ferguson, Bebe Daniels*, Betty Compton, Wallace Reid
R to L, 5th row: May McAvoy, Jack Holt, Dorothy Dalton*Agnes Ayres*
R to L, 6th row: Wanda Hawley*, Mary Miles Minter, Lila Lee*, Pola Negri
Bottom: Alice Brady
*Indicates actresses who appeared with Valentino.
NOTE: May McAvoy had been announced to play Carmen in Blood and Sand in the industry press then in a publicity notice entitled “New Paramount Productions” published in The Houston Post, Houston, Texas dated Sunday, February 12, 1922 (Page 35). However, she was dropped from the cast and was replaced by Lila Lee in the film. This notice is pictured in Part 3 of my series on Moran of the Lady Letty. Bebe Daniels had been announced for the role of Dona Sol but was replaced by Nita Naldi.
Below is a closer look at the “top three…”
The Saturday Evening Post, which traced its roots back to Benjamin Franklin, was a dying publication in 1897 (circulation 2,231) when it was bought for $1,000.00 (downpayment, $100.00) by Cyrus Curtis who published Ladies Home Journal. He poured his profits from this successful publication into The Saturday Evening Post and “public demand for it became so great that the presses could scarcely turn out copies fast enough.” By 1922, it had an average circulation of 2,187,024 and ads like the one pictured here help give it advertising revenue of over $28 million dollars a year. (Peterson, Theodore. Magazines in the Twentieth Century, Page 12.) The magazine was a prime advertising vehicle for the movie industry, along with newspapers and fan magazines such as Photoplay.
At this time of year the studios would present a preview of upcoming releases for the next “season” which in 1922 ran from August to January 1923. So, about a month after the ad was published in The Saturday Evening Post, Paramount released its list in newspapers like The Wichita Eagle, Wichita, Kansas (Sunday, July 30, 1922, Page 32).
To top this off, Paramount actually made a promotional film that highlighted its company of directors and actors. This ad appeared along with the list in The Wichita Eagle.
The list was in alphabetical order, so the name “Rodolf Valentino” appeared last on the list of “Stars.”
By contrast, note the second column which listed “Players.”
The Wichita Eagle, Wichita, Kansas. Sunday, July 30, 1922. Page 32.
You can actually see this humorous 10-minute film on Youtube, thanks to the Historic Hollywood channel. The film starts with a sequence featuring Dorothy Dalton in snippets of her various roles, beginning with Moran of the Lady Letty. It shows how charming she was and why she was such a popular player. The segment featuring Valentino on the set of Blood and Sand as he “trains” to fight a bull starts at approximately Minute 4:40 and also includes the other stars in the film–Nita Naldi, Walter Long, and Lila Lee.
Unfortunately, as Rudolph Valentino was finally coming into his own as a true “star” versus being a “player,” the path to a reversal of the early momentum of the first part of 1922 was already in place. Tumult was on the way and he would end the year without film plans for 1923. Paramount released its schedule of releases from February 1, 1923 to August 1,1923–the “Super 39”– at the beginning of 1923 (for example, as published in The Orlando Sentinel, Orlando, Florida. January 21, 1923. Page 17).
The name “Rudolph Valentino” was nowhere to be seen.
1. Links to all the blog posts and video links for the 4-part series on Moran of the Lady Letty can be found in Part 4. Click here.
2. The Saturday Evening Post 2-page advertising spread is from my personal collection.
3. Theodore Kosloff, listed as one of Paramount’s “Players,” had been involved with Natacha Rambova before she and Rudolph Valentino met.
4. The image of The Orlando Sentinel story about Paramount’s “Super 39” was very poor, so it was not included in this post. I’m providing the headline for reference.
Newspaper sources as noted in the text.
A Trip to Paramountown video as posted on the Historic Hollywood channel on Youtube.
Peterson, Theodore. Magazines in the Twentieth Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1956. Link to the PDF download at https://modjourn.org/.
“Beyond the Rocks.” American Film Institute, AFI Catalog. Link to entry.
“Blood and Sand.” American Film Institute, AFI Catalog. Link to entry.
“Moran of the Lady Letty.” American Film Institute, AFI Catalog. Link to entry.
“The Young Rajah.” American Film Institute, AFI Catalog. Link to entry.