Rudolph Valentino had seemingly made the right decision leaving Metro for Famous Players-Lasky. The actor also had plenty of time on his hands as he was living apart from his new wife, Natacha Rambova. During this time, Valentino devoted himself to his productions with Famous Players-Lasky. After the release of “The Sheik,” over the next fifteen months, Famous Players-Lasky cast Valentino in a further four productions: “Moran of the Lady Letty,” “Beyond the Rocks,” “Blood and Sand,” and “The Young Rajah.”
Valentino wasn’t the only one to make the move screenplay writer, June Mathis, also joined Famous Players-Lasky. The two collaborated on the two productions “Blood and Sand” and “The Young Rajah.” While “Blood and Sand” was another Mathis-Valentino box office sensation, “The Young Rajah” was an expensive flop.
Ahead of its Time
In his tragically short life, Rudolph Valentino had much influence on entertainment. When Valentino was cast for the role of Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan in “The Sheik,” he took a new approach to portraying the non-white character. Even though the film was based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Valentino tried to distance himself from typical Arab stereotypes.
When asked whether the character Lady Diana would have really fallen in love with the sheik, Valentino had this to say, “The Arabian civilization is one of the oldest in the world ... the Arabs are dignified and keen-brained.” Apparently, the public agreed with Valentino’s portrayal as “The Sheik.” Not only was it immensely popular, but it spurred the release of several sequels and spin-offs.
A Change in Valentino’s Look
Within his six years as a silent icon, with greased-back hair and romantic charm, Rudolph Valentino became the ideal man of American female fans. American women were obsessed with him. And so did American men as many tried to imitate his appearance. After his marriage to the movie costume designer, Natacha Rambova, that all changed. Not only was Rambova his costume designer on movie sets like Camille, but he was also married to her.
We can’t exactly say Rambova wasn’t wearing the pants, but she had a definite say in what Valentino was wearing. Let’s just say Rambova’s wardrobe choices didn’t sit well with his fans. Though he was a film superstar, he had become Rambova’s personal mannequin on which she experimented with outfits, particularly more effeminate ones.
A Little Too Image-Conscious
Following his bigamy charges, Rudolph Valentino was found guilty, and in accordance with the laws of California, he and his new wife had to live separately for a year. After a year, the newlyweds with reunited. Valentino joined his wife, Natacha Rambova, at her family’s vacation home in Adirondacks in New York state. One night after hearing an intruder, Valentino immediately set about defending his new family and made for a shotgun.
Interestingly, Rambova prevented him from doing so. The costume designer warned her husband that if he came to harm, he might be killed or disfigured and that he would injure his acting career. Though her intentions were certainly misplaced, perhaps, Rambova did protect Valentino’s life.
Not Exactly Wearing the Pants
One thing that would haunt Rudolph Valentino throughout his career was that he wasn’t masculine enough. Though the silent film star went to great lengths to get the public to see him as a more masculine type, his marriage to Natacha Rambova only cast the actor in a more effeminate light. Rambova was clearly a tour de force.
Not only did the costume designer control Valentino’s very appearance, but she made some crazy demands of her husband including having him wear a slave bracelet. Though Valentino was an icon of the silver screen, many during the Roaring Twenties got the impression that he wasn’t wearing the pants in their marriage.