Rudolph Valentino (May 6, 1895 – August 23, 1926) was an Italian actor. Nicknamed “The Great Latin Lover”, he was one of the first male movie sex symbols and gained attention for his rendition of the Argentine tango.
He was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi in Castellaneta, Italy, to a middle-class family – the same year (1895) as the invention of the cinema. His mother, Marie Berthe Gabrielle Barbin (1856–1919), was French, and his father, Giovanni Antonio Giuseppe Fidele Guglielmi (1853–1906), a veterinarian, was Italian. He had an older brother, Alberto (1892–1981), a younger sister Maria and an older sister Beatrice who died in infancy.
Valentino received his first real shot at stardom as Julio in Rex Ingram’s epic THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921). First appearing in a barroom scene, a passionate Valentino mesmerized audiences and tangoed his way to instant celebrity (providing some great PR for the dance itself), following through with a fine and complex performance that revealed his character’s war time transformation. As a professional dancer in New York, Valentino learned to move with a sort of grace and finesse arguably unfamiliar to moviegoers of the day – primarily used to actors functioning as caricatures of singular personality traits.
Rudolph Valentino arrived in America penniless and without a word of English. But he had the dark good looks that would make him a star. Rudolph Valentino was the most popular male sex symbol of all time. At press appearances for his breakthrough film, The Sheik, women screamed, cried and tore at his clothing and hair. Explore the compelling saga of the man who paved the way for the matinee idols that followed. He started on the road to stardom as a dancer for pay a kind of gigolo to lonely society women. He had a sad story of marriages; his first wife was a lesbian and his second a dominating personality who nearly ruined his career. He died at the age of 31, from blood poisoning.