Rudolph Valentino, one of the most famous actors during the silent film
era, was born on May 6, 1895 in Castellaneta, Italy
. As a child Valentino's sole ambition
was to flee the small town he resided in. At 18 years old, after begging
his mother and father, they gave him the money they saved for his education and he left Italy for the United States.
After getting to New York in 1913, he stayed with friends in the Italian Quarter and worked menial jobs as he tried to better his English. After going through a number of jobs, at one point he ended up homeless and contemplated suicide. But once he found a job at an Italian restaurant where he learned from another waiter about dance halls, he grew passionate about dancing. He became a full time dancer and also began working as a gigolo on the side.
Valentino became the star of a high class dance club for a while- until he had an affair with a married woman that haulted everything when she ended up shooting her husband. He left the city for San Francisco and while there discovered acting. He caught the eye of actress Mae Murray very quickly and began to get lead roles in movies such as "The Big Little Person," "A Society Sensation" and "The Delicious Little Devil."
Valentino's popularity rose quickly, and despite a few passionate affairs with women in the industry that ended badly, he continued to rise in stardom with his powerful sexual allure on screen. Movies such as "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and "The Sheik" magnified this. He became known as the Great Italian Lover in film.
He married actress Jean Acker but the two quickly divorced. After Jean he met and married a tempestuous women named Natacha Rambova, who would continue to be an advisor and manipulator through most of his life. After their marriage ended in the mid 1920s, Valentino began to go out partying very often. One night he attended an all-night party and was found on the floor the next morning in terrific pain. He was taken to the hospital and was found to have acute appendicitis. Valentino died from complications with the ailment on August 23, 1926, when he was only 31 years old.
Valentino is buried in Hollywood Memorial Park, and his grave has been visited for years by several mysterious "women in black." One was a Spanish actress, who visited his grave and placed flowers on it for years as a tribute for her late mother, whom she said was Valentino's unrequited love. A different woman frequents the grave nowadays to carry on the tradition.