Actor. He received world-wide recognition as an Italian-American silent film actor. Born Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla in the small town of Castellaneta, Puglia, Italy, he originally had no intention of becoming an actor. After attending military school, he tried to enlist in Italy's Royal Naval Academy but was rejected because his chest size was an inch too small. When he was fifteen, he attended the Royal Academy of Agriculture and graduated with a certificate in scientific agriculture. Becoming restless with life in his small town, he left to find a better life first in Paris, France without any success and then to America. He sailed to New York aboard the “SS Cleveland” and arrived on December 23, 1913. Speaking no English and having little money, he worked as a busboy, then as a waiter. Soon after, he became a professional escort to wealthy women, and was known to dance the Tango with them at Maxim's Restaurant. He moved to Hollywood, California to seek a dancing career, but instead found bit parts in movies. With his dark looks, he was usually cast as a villain. He met screenwriter June Mathis who suggested he be cast in the lead role of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which featured him prominently in the legendary tango scenes. The movie became a success, allowing him to later get the title role in the 1921 film “The Sheik,” starring opposite Agnes Ayres. The movie was an even bigger success and gained him legendary star status as a sex symbol. He was married twice: first to actress Jean Acker in 1919 for only months, then to set designer Natacha Rombovan in 1922. Both of his marriages ended in divorce. During his second marriage, he published a collection of poetry entitled “Day Dreams,” which reflected his and Rombovan's interest in Spiritualism. While in New York City in August of 1926 attending the premiere of his new film and sequel to “The Sheik” entitled “Son of the Sheik,” he collapsed in his hotel room on August 15th. He underwent emergency surgery for a perforated gastric ulcer and ruptured appendix. The operation was performed, but he later became ill with the complication of peritonitis with no modern-day antibiotics. His health deteriorated over the next week and he died a little after noon on August 23rd at the age of 31. It was estimated that over 100,000 people filed past for his viewing at Campbell's Funeral Parlor. Riots broke out as mourners waited in line to pay their respects and have one last look at their film idol. Sources state that June Mathis donated her pre-need crypt for Valentino's last resting place and later, she was entombed to the right of him.
Marie Berthe Gabrielle Barbin Guglielmi