He was the original Latin Lover, one of the most graceful men ever to hit the silver screen, a true dandy, a poster boy for all things exotic and one of the sexiest humans ever - today, I'm swooning over silent movie siren Rudolph Valentino.
Born in Castellaneta, a small town on Italy's heel, an 18-year-old Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi landed on Ellis island on Christmas Eve Eve, 1913. Come 1921, he was not only the most-lusted after man in America, he was the catalyst for an all-out revolution in the population's taste in men. Nobody wanted a square-jawed everyman after Valentino came along.
Once movie-goers saw him tango across the floor in The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, they were hooked on his dark looks and intense allure. After that picture, a nation hung on his every word, though they never heard him speak.
style creds: he loved to wear jewellery, his massive wardrobe included a fur-trimmed dressing gown, his first job in America was as a taxi dancer, he made it acceptable for men to wear gauchos and I can't find a single picture of him with a hair out of place.
Valentino got some pretty harsh slagging for his effeminate dress sense, but it didn't stop him from wearing increasingly outlandish costumes in his films and being a consummate glamourboy outside the studio lot. When an article in the Chicago Tribune blamed him for the feminisation of American men, Rudy challenged the journalist to a duel. A DUEL.
When Rudolph Valentino died from appendicitis at the age of 31, the response was hysterical. In London, a female dancer commited suicide. In New York, a woman shot herself and fell across a heap of his photographs. 30,000 women attended his funeral.
For me, the Valentino effect is all about mystery. He was an enigma (like a kind of sexy Sphinx) and still is. We know very little about the man behind the smoulder, which makes it all the more exciting when we watch his films today. That said, I'm pretty sure he was a demon in the sack.
If you don't believe me, check out the look in Gloria Swanson's eyes.