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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Valentino and The Mystery Lady

More than eighty years after his death, fans still flock to Hollywood Forever Cemetery to bestow flowers on the crypt of Rudolph Valentino

Born in Italy, Valentino arrived in the United States in 1913 intending to strike it rich. Instead, he lived in shabby apartments in New York City, worked a variety of odd jobs, and was arrested several times on suspicion of petty theft and blackmail. Eventually, Valentino found success as a dancer in nightclubs around Broadway, then joined the cast of The Merry Monarch, a musical review on national tour.

For the next several years, Valentino took small film parts as he made his way to Hollywood, usually as the villain. He got his big break in 1921 when he was offered the leading role in The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse. His smoldering looks, exotic background and graceful dancing combined to make the romanticized tango scene unforgettable. The film was an overnight success and Valentino was an instant star.

Valentino continued to star in Hollywood films and became legendary for his passionate roles. Quite the lady killer, women flocked to see him perform, fainting in the aisles after screaming their hearts out. Just as Valentino-mania reached its peak, Valentino went on a nation-wide tour to promote his latest film The Son of a Sheik.

On August 15, 1926 while promoting the film in New York City, he was rushed to the hospital with stomach pains. Exploratory surgery revealed a bleeding ulcer. While it was repaired, Valentino developed a post-surgery infection and died. Almost immediately rumors began to surface that he was shot by a jealous husband, poisoned or killed by a jilted lover. An estimated crowd of 100,000 attended his funeral in New York City. When his body was brought back to Hollywood, thousands of mourners stood to watch the train pass. When his body was lowered into the mausoleum cathedral in Los Angeles, a small airplane scattered rose petals in memory of the legendary Hollywood star.

One of the most enduring Hollywood legends is the Mystery Lady who visits Valentino’s crypt every year on the anniversary of his death. Dressed in black from head to toe, including a heavy veil shrouding her face, the Mystery Lady visits without uttering a word and bestows a bouquet of red roses and leaves. Who is she? Many women have laid claim to the title, but no one knows for sure the true identity behind the maskd lady. Who do you think it is? A friend? A lover? A mistress?

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Mask of the Betrayer

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Debra St. John said...

Interesting post, Sharon. I love all of those history tid-bits.

I'm going to say the mystery lady is a lover...still pining for her one true's just so romantic to think that way!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Debra, I think all romantic hearts hope for that. Sigh

Mary Ricksen said...

Quite the post Sharon!
Some of those early movie stars were even more amazing then today's. There was a mystique to those legendary stars. Today there are few to even come close. Well there is J.H., sigh.
Everyone ought to have a true love or two. After this many years she must be long in the tooth.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mary, how right you are. I couldn't agree more. The old Hollywood legends reigned supreme as the true kings and queens.