While Rudolph Valentino was on his way to Palm Springs, California, to film “Stolen Moments,” he started reading Vincente Blasco Ibanez’s novel “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Valentino soon learned that the production house, Metro Pictures, had acquired the rights to turn Ibanez’s best-selling novel into a motion picture. Valentino’s interest was immediately piqued.
Not only had he been reading the novel, but he had previously been in contact with Metro Pictures. Valentino made a detour and stopped by the Metro Pictures office in New York. When he pitched up at the New York office he learned that Metro screenwriter, June Mathis, had been trying to get hold of him to star in Metro Pictures’ upcoming production. You guessed it – “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Scandal Between the Bed Sheets
Valentino might have been Hollywood’s original Latin lover but, ironically, there was one person the actor never became the lover of – his wife, Jean Acker. On the night of their wedding, Acker supposedly locked Valentino out of their Hollywood hotel suite. No matter how much Valentino pounded on the hotel door, Acker never let him in. This state of affairs continued for their entire marriage.
This didn’t surprise many as before her marriage to Valentino, Acker had had a romantic relationship with a woman. Valentino might have been the darling of Hollywood, making female fans swoon, but there was one woman who didn’t lose her head around this silver-screen star. This is probably something the silent film star wanted to keep hushed up.
For those of you who’re familiar with the world of acting, the term “heavies” might mean something to you but for all of us, we’re in the dark. In short, “heavies” are the bad guys. They add all the conflict and spice to a story. And by 1917, Rudolph Valentino was sick of playing heavies. In fact, Valentino was so fed up with playing heavies that he was on the verge of leaving the West Coast and making another start in New York.
That was how he landed up in Greenwich Village in Queens. There he met Paul Ivano, a cinematographer of Serbian descent, who helped Valentino’s career get the direction it needed. One major focus became joining the cast of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Problems on the Set
Actors aren’t easy to work with. Not all of them anyway. June Mathis had named legendary director, Rex Ingram, as the director of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” She also cast Rudolph Valentino in the role of Julio Desnoyers. However, Ingram and Valentino weren’t exactly bosom buddies. They were far from it. Ingram and Valentino argued about the interpretation of Valentino’s role. Despite the movie becoming a box office hit, the set was a tense place to be.
Mathis often had to play the role of peacekeeper. There wasn’t just tension between Valentino and the directors but also between the upcoming actor and the studio producers. They paid him a quite substandard salary of $350 a week and even made the actor pay for his own wardrobe.
“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
After the release of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” Rudolph Valentino became an overnight sensation. After all, the 1921 war film became the highest-grossing movie of that year. It even booted Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” from the top position. “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” proved to be the break Valentino’s career needed. Interestingly, it was Metro Pictures screenwriter, June Mathis, who working behind the scenes played a big role in helping Valentino’s career take off.
As an executive, Mathis pushed for Vicente Blasco Ibáñez's novel “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” to be made into a movie. The executive made other key decisions. Mathis named Rex Ingram as the film’s director. After spotting Valentino in a B-grade film, she cast him in the role of Julio Desnoyers.