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Rudolph Valentino, The Sexiest Actor Of All Time

Updated on May 10, 2015

Rudolph Valentino

Valentino - Image vs. Reality

The sexiest actor of all time is without a doubt, Rudolph Valentino. Brad Pitt and George Clooney can not even come close. There have been so many interesting actors who arouse excitement for women, such as Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, and Jeff Chandler, however, the first image that comes to mind when ever this writer hears the "Sexiest man ever", and that is Rudolph Valentino.

I am a history buff. This is something that has developed over time. I have been interested in all types of history every since childhood, so, naturally I included the history of movies amongst my hobbies. I adored Gable, George Brent, and all the classy gentlemen who were decorative, had charm and wit; these actor's always had my attention when I stayed up all night watching, "Movies Til Dawn."But, when I was about nineteen years old, I a saw a dark, shiny figure flickering on the small television set I had in my room. The image blew me away; a slick 1920s image that was Rudolph Valentino. I had heard the name Valentino, but had never seen his movies, as they were all made prior to 1926, and silent movies were just not shown. It was not until Turner Classic Movies began its Silent Sunday Nights, that modern audiences could even see a silent movie. What I discovered about Rudolph Valentino was that this man had charisma, talent and style, but, more than all that, he had sex appeal.

Rudy Valentino played a variety of roles before becoming a sex symbol. After he hit fame his character was often funny, or dramatic, but always possessed animal magnetism. Women who take the time to get to know Valentino will say that they have never seen anything quite like this man before.

Valentino came from Sicily, arriving in New York and spending some time there, before heading to Hollywood. Rudy arrived in Hollywood in 1917 and began acting in silent movies. It is unclear exactly why Valentino came to the United States. Some early biographers have said that he came to earn great money and have a better life, but, his brother, Alberto, said in a 1979 interview, that Valentino came to the U.S. because he was curious and wanted to travel.

It seems that Valentino probably did come to the United States to break into movies. He worked as a dancer in New York, and then headed to Hollywood, which at the time, was as sleepy town, except for the fact that movies were being made there. Also, when viewing Valentino's early films, one can easily see that he was an exceptional actor who was getting some very good roles early in his career, often playing villains. That doesn't just happen to a guy who doesn't care one way or the other.

Rudolph Valentino at his Home- Falcon Lair

The Great Lover

It did not take Valentino long to become a huge sensation. He came to the U.S. in 1914, and became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood in 1919 when he danced the tango in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He was soon billed as The Great Lover, and just the presence that he had on the silver screen says it all. His every gesture and facial expression exudes confidence, manliness, and mystery. Just about every woman of the 1920s soon recognized his special qualities and Valentino became the first of the Latin Lovers, and the most famous heart throb ever.

In a time long before internet, television, and just shortly before sound was added to all movies, Rudy was the talk of women of all ages. Valentino was known internationally, as silent movies were more international than talkies because all they had to do was change the subtitles, thus, silent movies are more an art form than a movie. The acting, gestures, and scenery was universal. Publicity stunts were launched to measure women's heart rates while watching Valentino on the screen. Certainly, many handsome, charismatic, and talented leading men came out of the 1930s and 40s, but, none were as popular as Rudolph Valentino.His mystique is still powerful, as we will never put a voice to his animal magnetism, and classically royal gestures. He passed away before he could be geared up for sound, and become merely human.

Unfortunately, the image on the screen and the reality had very little in common. For Valentino was human and did not often make the best choices for himself. He had achieved success beyond his wildest dreams, but, a conservative man with a desire for love and family, Valentino was empty inside.

As with both love gods and goddesses, such as Rudolph Valentino and Rita Hayworth, there are always a slew of creatures from the opposite sex who see a vehicle for themselves, and those gods and goddesses who are particularly gentle in nature fall prey to the opportunists who are bent on a free ride for themselves and the systematic destruction of their gentle victim. Valentino craved a woman who truly loved him and who he could genuinely love, but, this is one avenue of his life in which he would fail repeatedly.

Jean Acker, Wife Number 1

Valentino's first wife
Valentino's first wife

Natasha Rambova

Valentino at Home

Valentino Marriages

Women were crazy about Rudy, but he was attracted to the few who were out to cause him a world of trouble. The age old psychological game in which the many women who were too readily available to him were uninteresting, while the shrewish ones were a challenge. While playing opposite glamorous stars such as Gloria Swanson, The Great Lover was actually suffering rejection and humiliation in his personal life. He had married Jean Acker in 1919, just before his career really took off, and she had regrets immediately, locking him out of their hotel room on their wedding night. It has been speculated that she preferred women. The couple divorced on the grounds of an unconsummated marriage. Valentino did not wait for the divorce to become final before marrying his second wife Natacha Rambova in Mexico. Rudy was quickly charged with bigamy as soon as he returned to the States.

During this time (early 20s) Rudolph Valentino's stardom was skyrocketing, and Jean Acker, the first Mrs. Valentino sued for the right to be billed as 'Mrs. Valentino." Rudy was angry over this whole drama, but he had other problems to contend with; his new wife.

Natacha Rambova has been described as an opportunist by those who witnessed the couples interaction on Rudy's movie sets, but, she was not after money, as she was heir to the Hudnut cosmetic empire. Natasha was what could be compared to as a modern day liberal spoiled kid, who despised her own wealth, and wished to gain artistic recognition. She had a strong personality and presence on Valentino's sets, making many suggestions, and arranging last minute changes. The directors, set designers, and writers all agreed that she was creating problems and slowing the pace of production. It was not long before she was banned from the Valentino's movie sets. She was a curiosity of the 1920s as she was a hardened woman who desired a career and not a family. Natacha had been a child of wealth and she showed all the signs of too much spoils. Rudolph Valentino had ideas of his own, he wanted a family,and dreamed of owning a nice home where he could raise children and own animals, so, he set out to build his dream house, he called it Falcon Lair. Although his life was turbulent, he did enjoy entertaining his brother, Alberto, and his wife, and son, Jean Gugliemi Valentino, Rudy's young nephew, at this time,(approximately 1922-23) Rudy's marriage was not exactly what he was hoping for and the presence of his nephew, Jean, was like a breath of fresh air. He made a point of playing the boy every chance he got. Seeing his nephew enjoy his luxurious mansion, Falcon Lair, was Valentino's way of enjoying his own wealth without being discouraged by all of his life's difficulties.

The banning of his wife's presence on the set led Valentino to go on strike because of what he considered to be disrespect of Natacha. The couple were now out of work, with huge bills due to the massive new home, but Natacha only entertained the idea of being an actress herself to keep them currant on bill payments. The new Mrs. Valentino declared herself her husband's business manager, charging fans for autographs, and granting interviews to fan magazines.

After putting up with this for some time, Rudy hired a seasoned business manager, George Ullman, who clashed seriously with Natacha on everything. Fortunately, she agreed to promote beauty products and go on a personal appearance tour with her husband. This turned out to be a huge success, and kept the Valentino name before the public.

Valentino was back in business, Signed to a new contract, and prepared to act in a string of excellent new vehicles. Natacha repeatedly butted heads with Rudy's friends and business associates, again leading the studio to require that Mrs. Valentino stay out of the promotion, design, and everything regarding her husbands career. This time Rudy knew he had no choice and agreed. The press and personal friends were now blaming her for all of her husband's failures, and she filed for divorce.

Valentino & Pola Negri

Pola Negri, (middle) At Valentino's Funeral

Fans Surround Campbell's Funeral Parlor

Valentino Imortality

Valentino was under tremendous stress as he worked on his final film, Son Of The Sheik and began dating Pola Negri, another European import with a healthy movie career. Rudy and Pola were seen together at celebrity weddings, parties and photographed together romping at Falcon Lair. There was so much publicity surrounding the couples ventures than it leads one to wonder if the relationship was a publicity vehicle for both of them or if it truly was a rebound relationship for Rudy.

Valentino was under emotional stress due to his divorce and financial difficulties, and in 1926 had begun experiencing intense stomach cramps, and was self medicated to keep going for his film project.

On August 15, 1926 Valentino collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. He had been suffering from appendicitis, and gastric ulcers.

After an operation on August 18th, it was announced that Rudy was well on his way to recovery, and unless something out of the ordinary were to happen there would be not further updates.

On August 21 peritonitis developed and Valentino weakened, falling into a coma on August 23, and passing away. He was 31 years old.

There were riots in the streets of New York, and to this day, Rudolph Valentino's was the biggest funeral in New York history. It Started in New York Campbell's Funeral parlor and ended in Hollywood California, where he was laid to rest. But, Rudy was still being used like Los Angeles tap water by the women he chose to be close to. Pola Negri attended the funeral and feinted repeatedly with photographers documenting every cry, sigh, and and emotional outburst. She then attempted to place a large floral arrangement on the coffin that spelled out P-O-L-A in a gorgeous assortment of orchids. Valentino's pallbearers removed the flowers, they tried to stop Pola for turning Rudy's funeral into a premiere for herself, but, they could not stop the dramatic spectacle that Pola made during her last visit to Valentino. The newspapers were loaded with photos of Pola dressed in black, and long stories about how she repeatedly fainted at the sight of the coffin.

For decades, Rudolph Valentino's grave site was in the newspapers as photographers printed photos and stories about a mysterious "woman in black" who visited the grave site every year on the anniversary of his death. Fans debated on who the lady could be, Pola Negri, Natasha, Jean Acker, or one of Rudy's leading ladies, perhaps. It was more than likely a publicity stunt that lasted well into the 1960s, and has become one of the things that the Valentino name is associated with.

Valentino continues to keep fans guessing, most recently, in a book titled, Affairs of Valentino by Evelyn Zumaya, the author delivers compelling proof that Valentino's nephew, Jean, was actually his own son, and points to something that Alberto Valentino himself stated. He recalled that his brother, Rudolph Valentino, tried to adopt his son in the early 20s, but that the courts denied him due to Alberto being a perfectly capable father. Indeed the court documents are verifiable, and the new belief that Valentino fathered a child exists on the belief that, why would Valentino try to adopt his nephew?

The answer is not as simple as that. Valentino was not very close to his brother, Alberto, and it could have simply been that he figured he could give the boy a better life, he may have strongly disapproved of the way his brother was raising Jean; there could be any number of reasons for the attempted adoption, however, the idea that Valentino did leave a son behind is intriguing.

Falcon Lair, Rudy's Home

Alberto's wife, Son,(Jean Valentino) Alberto and Rudy

Jean Valentino As An Adult

Valentino's Voice


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      I have seen him in the last movie, Son of the Sheik, and he is dashing in the film. His name was so popular back in the 50's and women swooned over the mention of his name. Great topic and well covered. Enjoyed the read and voted up.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      8 years ago from Central Texas

      Skarlet -- love your Hubs on the old movie stars -- one of my favorite subjects. I've always imagined Valentino as one of the last "big-hype" stars as back then the studios built stories around their stars and never let them appear as human. I truly enjoyed this Hub. Best/Sis

    • fpherj48 profile image


      8 years ago from Carson City

      hahahaha, Skarlet....They said they knew his family and my Gram wasn't one to tell stories or make things up....being right from scicily, it's not difficult to believe...but honestly? Remembering them talking about this and not knowing or caring who Rudy was, I probably just listened to be respectful.

      Now.....if I could just find someone who has connections to Brad or George......I know what you said in your hub...but Rudy's not around anymore....those guys are!!lol!!!

    • Skarlet profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Haha. Thank you American Romance.

      He sure had some issues there.

      I am glad you have a wonderful wife and don't really have the Valentino disease. :)

    • American Romance profile image

      American Romance 

      8 years ago from America

      That boy picked wifes the way I do? LOL, just joking, I am married to a wonderful woman! ......I had to say that because she reads my comments! haha, Interesting story.

    • Skarlet profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you Paula,

      Wow! your grandparents knew his family! I would have pestered them no end for details to write books on. Hehe.

      Yes, he had the strangest personal life that one could imagine. Jean takes the cake..

    • fpherj48 profile image


      8 years ago from Carson City

      Skarlet....My parents talked about maternal grandparents were from Scicily and claimed to know his family, personally. There was no reason not to believe them.

      I'm sorry I can't say I've ever seen any of his silent films, but have read a lot about him. His name and Hollywood reputation has certainly gone down in History.

      Can't say much for his poor taste in wives! Neither Jean nor Natasha were anything to write home about!! Jean must have been a real mental case....locked him out of the room on their wedding night? A little cuckoo maybe? And seems like he should have put a sock in Natasha's mouth! lol.

      Very nice story about Rudy!!


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