Rudolph Valentino

Rudolph Valentino: A Dream Of Desire (UK/US)

In this unique biography of the world's greatest lover, there is much unpublished material to reveal the real Valentino, a man who was sexually attracted to other men and whose relationships with women brought heartbreak and disaster. Valentino was far less ashamed of his sexuality than he was afraid of being trapped by the image of his public persona. Yet it was his persistent need to prove his "manhood" that contributed to his early death.


Rudolph Valentino's Men: An Intimate Portrait Of The Screen God's Lovers

Rudolph Valentino was less ashamed of his sexuality than he was afraid of being trapped by the image of his public persona. In 1920s America, gay and bisexual men were stereotyped as feeble, effeminate degenerates. None of these terms applied to Valentino—a powerfully-built man who excelled at most sports, and boxing in particular. Yet it was his persistent and unnecessary need to prove his “manhood” which may have contributed to his early death. So, who were these men? Claude Rambeau was the chansonnier he met during his first visit to Paris, aged 18. Count Alexander Salm was an Austrian tennis ace, an exponent of the Argentine tango and a hero of World War One. Jules Raucourt was a Belgian stage -actor. Norman Kerry was the matinee idol who appeared in such silent classics as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Emmett J Flynn was the director who, though thrice-married, had a penchant for sporting types and whose career was blighted by alcoholism brought about by trying to hide his sexuality. Dublin-born Douglas Gerrard was a big name in Hollywood when he took Valentino under his wing, but is sadly forgotten today. Paul Ivano was a 19-year-old French cameraman, sent to America by his family to recuperate after being gassed while fighting at the Front, and who went on to much greater things. Frank Mennillo was an Italian businessman and aficionado of “button boys” who met Valentino when he first arrived in New York, and who would be the last of his lovers to see him alive. Thomas Meighan was an actor friend who was always there for Valentino to lean upon in times of trouble and stress. Robert Florey was a French publicist who came to America to work on one film, fell for Valentino, and stayed another 50 years to become one of the country’s most eminent producers. Valentino’s letters to him and Florey’s responses, which form a large and significant part of his story, are in turn touching and humorous. Jacques Hébertot was the French showman and Valentino’s guide during his second visit to Paris, in the summer of 1923. André Daven was the French actor-manager who went on to launch and manage some of the biggest names in French show business, and was unquestionably the great love of Valentino’s life. Luther Mahoney was a former New York cop turned factotum, and who provided Valentino with a shoulder to cry on and became his closest friend. Mario Carillo was a former Italian cavalry officer who achieved some success in Hollywood. Valentino’s partner at the time of his death, he was the only one of his lovers who lived with him. Barclay Warburton was the Philadelphia-born millionaire at whose home Rudy fell ill in August 1926. And the women? Coco was the Parisian music-hall demimondaine who mocked Valentino's performance in the bedroom, making him wary of women for the rest of his life. There were two lesbian wives, Jean Acker and Natacha Rambova, “baritone babe” members of Hollywood’s most notorious sewing circle. The former slammed the door of the bridal-suite in his face, but returned to support him at end of his life. The latter, rapacious and domineering, very quickly became Valentino’s and the studios’ very worst nightmare. Alla Nazimova was the Crimean born actress who ridiculed Valentino when they first met, but subsequently became one of his most cherished allies. Sheila Chisholm, aka Lady Loughborough, was the nymphomaniac Australian socialite who foisted herself on him during the last year of his life. Pola Negri was the quintessential vamp and teller of tall-tales, but who nevertheless cared very much for him towards the end. And finally there was June Mathis, the most important woman in Valentino’s life who became his surrogate mother and the keeper of his soul. With a wealth of documented evidence, rare photographs and previously unpublished recollections and correspondence from his friends and lovers, David Bret presents a unique, unflinching portrait of the real Rudolph Valentino.

US Re-issue


Valentino: A Dream of Desire 

by David Bret 

Carroll & Graf.  

This new book on Rudolph Valentino has the appeal of a silent film, with all the histrionics, scenery changes, and implausible plotlines that this implies. Here's a gay, lesbian, and bisexual Hollywood of the early 1920's as we have never seen it before. Not since Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet has there been such an inviting glimpse of closeted Hollywood in its early days. Here also are New York's shadowy turn-of-the-century dance halls crowded with thugs and hustlers, places where tango dances with wealthy matrons led to hurried tips and late-night rendezvous. And here is Valentino, who, through a succession of male lovers and female "beards," slept his way from New York to Hollywood. Bret coos and gushes over his subject, reminding us often of Valentino's aristocratic looks and famous endowment. We learn of his first marriage to the lesbian actress Jean Acker. We're treated to a smorgasbord of his male conquests, including a steady series of fuck-buddies such as Paul Ivano, Andre Daven, Robert Florey, and Frank Menillo. We relive his second, tempestuous marriage to Winifred Shaughnessy--a.k.a. Natacha Rambova--the stepdaughter of a Salt Lake City cosmetics tycoon, Richard Hudnut. While Bret provides plenty of salacious gossip, he sometimes withholds his sources. We're left at times with what might be called star fatigue--a sense of being served up an old rehash of celebrity magazines filled with tales of sexual prowess, wild marriages, and reckless deaths (Valentino died at 31). But if you can keep your motoring cap on and your goggles tight, this is a wild ride with plenty of kiss-and-tell. Where else can you run into Gary Cooper with his boyfriend and spend an evening at the Torch Club in the infamous Room 23, where a two-way mirror over the bed afforded a hot ticket to the nightly bacchanal?
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