The trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies of a biographer and his wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful world!
Sunday, 1 December 2013
Rudolph Valentino: The Screen God Who Loved Men
Published today, International AIDS Day
In remembrance of those we loved and lost
"Rudolph Valentino: The Screen God Who Loved Men"
We have elected to publish this new biography of Rudolph Valentino on International AIDS Day as a celebration of the life of one of the most eclectic, talented and fascinating gay men who ever lived~and hopefully as an exercise in a worldwide plea to end homophobia, one of the most puerile crimes known to mankind.
Valentino was not ashamed of being gay, but like many of us afraid of what would happen, should his sexuality become public knowledge. Back then, as now, bigotry and prejudice ruled every section of the entertainments industry. So-called peers did not always practice what they preached.
Valentino died of a condition for which a cure might have been easily effected, had it not been for this prejudice. When he lay dying, discussions took place between his manager George Ullman and various studio chiefs. What was the best remedy, they asked? His career was on a high, but he was recently divorced and almost certainly about to be outed by his rapacious wife. An exposed-to-be-gay Valentino would have been a financial dead duck. There was talk of re-releasing all his films and making a fast buck out of him in the short time between his death, and his funeral.
The decision therefore was simple for these dreadful man. Should they let Valentino live, or simply let him die and find another heart-throb to thrill the public.
While they were deliberating, the operation to save his life was put on hold~the paltry excuse that it was Sunday and there were no surgeons in town.
So they delayed, and he died. The prejudice of these men was no different from the prejudice against the gay community which peaked in the 1980s with the death of Rock Hudson, and which they still experience to this day.
This book is for them.
In a career spanning just seven years and fourteen major films, Rudolph Valentino’s name became synonymous with unbridled Latin passion. When his image flickered on to the screen, fans of both sexes swooned and detractors snorted their disapproval. Almost a century later, that image is still potent. When he died suddenly, aged just thirty-one, there were riots at his funeral, and several more ardent admirers committed suicide.
In Rudolph Valentino: The Screen God Who Loved Men, David Bret tells the story of the real Valentino. Here was a man who was sexually attracted only towards other men, and whose relationships with women, particularly his two wives—both rapacious lesbians—brought him only heartbreak and pain. However, not only Valentino’s wives treated him with disdain. Moralists attacked him, while studio moguls frequently treated him like dirt despite the millions he was making for them. His manager, George Ullman, was only interested in taking advantage of his sometimes extreme naivety to gain control of his money and, eventually, his estate. When Valentino lay dying in a New York hospital, these people deliberated between saving his life and letting him die, while trying to work out what might or might not be in it for them—in other words, which was the most financially viable chattel: Valentino alive or dead, and what would happen if the truth ever emerged about his private life.
And yet, Valentino was far less ashamed of his sexuality than he was of being trapped within the image of his public persona. In 1920s America, and most especially in Hollywood, homosexual men were stereotyped as feeble, effeminate degenerates. None of these terms applied to Valentino, a powerfully-built man who excelled at most sports, and boxing in particular. It was his persistent and wholly unnecessary need to ‘prove’ his manhood which ultimately contributed to his early death.