Rudolph Valentino: The First "Latin Lover"

Film Studies Center, Cobb Hall, Room 307

Nothing about the early life of Rodolfo Guglielmi in the small southern town of Castellaneta, Italy would indicate that in his future Rodolfo would become the world's most famous “Latin Lover,” known as Rudolph Valentino. Nor that we would still be talking about him more than eighty years after his tragically premature demise in 1926. Valentino was a creation, and one of the earliest examples of a pop icon, prefiguring the era of paparazzi, the cult of stardom, and the ever increasingly intrusive, controlling role of the media in the shaping of public identities not only in the world of entertainment but also in politics. This talk will present some aspects of Valentino's “vicissitudes of identity” as he was constructed as a sensual screen lover, an aesthete, an athlete, and an aristocrat. His identity was a study in contradictions, and this discussion will seek to trace some of the many threads that made up the weave of his public persona. In addition to his films, we will also discuss his little known writings: a book of his poetry and a travel diary. To end, we will view a short film, “Good Night Valentino,” by the actor and director Edoardo Ballerini, in which he recreates a touching meeting between Valentino and the journalist H.L. Mencken.