In entertainment, nearly everything comes down to appearance. Natacha Rambova was born Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy but adopted the Russian persona, Natacha Rambova, after she decided to become a ballerina. Her ballet career didn’t really take off, but her ex-lover, a ballet teacher, Theodore Kosloff, was hired by Cecil B. DeMille as a costume designer. Rambova became the main creative source behind Kosloff’s costume design for DeMille.
Their relationship naturally broke down after Kosloff passed her work off as his own but in a matter of time, Rambova was noticed as a creative force of costume design who spent meticulous research in creating costumes. She and Rudolph Valentino met on the set of “Uncharted Seas” and later “Camille.” While “Camille” proved a flop, romance blossomed between the two.
Fame At a Price
Even though, “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” became the highest-grossing motion picture of 1921 and the sixth-highest-grossing silent picture of all time, Valentino was not paid his due. The film made an astounding $1,000,000 at the box office. Valentino’s role as the “Latin Lover” contributed significantly to its earnings. Even after the film’s incredible success, Metro producers were reluctant to give Valentino the credit he was due. During the motion picture’s filming, Valentino earned $350.
The young star didn’t even get a raise after the movie raked in fortunes. Metro was so reluctant to see Valentino as a star that for his next film they cast him in the B-grade film, “Unchartered Seas.” Ironically, the Metro producers had a hand in bringing together Valentino and his second wife.
It must have come as quite a shock to Metro studio producers when the exotic Rudolph Valentino was a major success. They had been reluctant to cast him in their major motion picture, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” believing his exotic, Latin appearance would put audiences off. As there was plenty of money to be made, the production house soon recovered from their shock.
In 1924, after the merging of three players (Metro, Goldwyn, and Mayer) to become the powerhouse MGM, the production house decided to capitalize on the exotic look. They hadn’t missed the waves Valentino made with Latin appeal and started using the Mexican actor, Ramon Novarro, as their latest “Latin Lover” and sex symbol. Valentino had clearly started a trend that major players later capitalized on.
A Bit of Bigamy on the Side
While the term ‘bigamy’ might have many of us scratching our heads, there’s one person who certainly knew the meaning of bigamy as well as the laws around it. Bigamy is the illicit action of marrying someone when you’re already married. Valentino may have made a hasty decision to marry Jean Acker, but he made a second rushed decision when he married his second wife, Natacha Rambova.
The two married in Mexico, but when the newlyweds returned to the USA, Valentino was charged with bigamy. Back then, California laws stated that individuals wait a year after getting divorced before they could remarry. As impulsive as ever, Valentino waited only two months and found himself back in jail. In March 1923, he and Rambova remarried.
A Sensational Trial
In 1922, once again Rudolph Valentino had found himself on trial. In his jail cells, the silent actor declared quite boldly his undying love for Natacha Rambova and that she was his wife no matter what California laws on bigamy stated. During Valentino’s court hearing, the degree of Valentino’s celebrity status became clear. So hysterical were Valentino’s female fans that he was assigned guards to stop him from being crushed by crowding flappers.
The flapper crowds took to the courtroom too. And like a true romantic hero, Valentino played his part well and treated his female fans to a romantic melodrama where he professed his love for his wife, explaining how it was his deep love for her that had been his undoing.