In 1922, Rudolph Valentino and the production house, Famous Players-Lasky, entered a lengthy lawsuit. It would take almost two years for the two parties to reach some sort of agreement. Though Valentino was one of the biggest figures in entertainment, for two years he couldn’t star in any movies. Famous Players-Lasky’s contract with the silent-film star meant that he was tied to the production house. Producers from other corporations approached Valentino with some roles.
June Mathis, whom Valentino had previously collaborated with on three occasions, moved to Goldwyn Pictures and hoped to cast Valentino in “Ben-Hur.” But the silent actor’s contract with Famous Players-Lasky was binding preventing him from joining any other production houses. It seemed like Famous Players-Lasky had really silenced the star after all.
Keep It Real
As Rudolph Valentino’s career developed, the actor became more interested in the artistic direction of his films. The triumph of “The Sheik” at the box office was proof enough of Valentino’s creative vision. However, even the great actor’s artistic direction had its limitations, namely, budget. For the film, “Blood and Sand” the filming was supposed to be on location in Spain. Producers didn’t quite get the show on the road – not Valentino’s vision of a road exactly.
Filming instead took in a studio, leaving the silent actor fuming. Not only did it he believe that filming on location made the movie more real, but he was hoping to go to Europe to see his family who he hadn’t seen in almost a decade.
As soon as Rudolph Valentino got his foot into the showbiz door, there was no stopping him. From 1919 to 1922, the actor took on numerous roles. In 1919 alone, the actor had starred in seven movies. But, in 1922, Valentino and Famous Players-Lasky fell out. Valentino demanded better wages. At first, Valentino stopped accepting payments from the production house – even though he was still in debt to them – and refused to return to work.
Famous Players-Lasky filed a lawsuit against Valentino. Despite their lawsuit against Valentino, it soon became clear to the production house that they were losing a lot of money over the ongoing lawsuit against Valentino. They agreed to raise Valentino’s salary to $7000 per week. But the actor wouldn’t budge.
A Letter to Photoplay
During his ongoing lawsuit with Famous Players-Lasky, Valentino tried to appeal to the one group of people who’d have his back – his fans. He wrote an open letter in Photoplay magazine hoping the American public would see his side. In the letter, Valentino explained that his refusal to work with Famous Players-Lasky wasn’t only a matter of money but also artistic direction.
What Valentino meant by artistic direction was having to film movies in a studio or on a set as opposed to filming on location. Valentino may have hoped his open letter would rally his fans to his side. But most Americans weren’t famous movie stars, so they struggled to empathize with the angry actor, especially since he was complaining about earning a salary they could only dream about.
Back to the Dance Floor
From 1922 to 1924, Rudolph Valentino went on a one-man strike against and for those two years his legal obligations to Famous Players-Lasky meant he couldn’t work as an actor. But Valentino had to get by somehow. Once again, the silver-screen icon fell back on something to make ends meet, namely dancing. Of course, this time Valentino was a global celebrity.
In 1922, he met George Ullman who convinced Valentino to become a brand ambassador and spokesperson for Mineralava Beauty Clay Company. The silver-screen icon donned his dancing shoes again and went on a tour of 88 American and Canadian cities. Not only did Valentino endorse the cosmetics company, but he even judged their beauty contests.