After returning to the silver screen in 1924, Rudolph Valentino was visited by two of the biggest names in film at that time, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. The two actors approached Valentino with the possibility of uniting with United Artists, where Valentino’s salary would go up to $10,000.
Clearly, Chaplin and Fairbanks were looking out for their fellow actor. Valentino’s first United Artists film was “The Eagle,” where the actor starred in the lead role of Lt. Vladimir Dubrovsky. Valentino’s return to cinema didn’t start off well as many of the productions flopped. But “The Eagle” didn’t disappoint. Valentino made his comeback proving he still had what it takes.
Not Quite the Ladies’ Man
One of life’s greatest ironies was Rudolph Valentino’s love life. Valentino was the silver screen’s “Latin Lover” and Hollywood’s first “Great Lover.” Just seeing him appear on the big screen was enough to send women into a dizzy spin. Forget about turning heads, Valentino’s effect on many female fans was hysteria and fainting. Even the actor ironically bore the same name as the saint of romantic love – St. Valentine.
However, his own love life was a dismal state of affairs. Or rather lack of affairs in the actor’s case. Onscreen, Valentino was the sophisticated charmer; offscreen Valentino was no ladies’ man. During an interview, the silver-screen star bemoaned his failed love life, stating “The women I love don’t love me. The others don’t matter.”
“The Most Disliked Woman in Hollywood in the 20s”
Some of Valentino’s friends and critics weren’t exactly thrilled with his second wife, Natacha Rambova. Their marriage was far from sunshine and roses. To put it mildly, Rambova was the controlling type. Not only was she banned from sets for being too interfering, but she also drove a wedge between Valentino and some of his friends like his long-time collaborator, June Mathis.
It wasn’t only people who knew the couple personally that couldn’t stand the controlling wife, but even Valentino’s fans were outraged at Rambova. The costume designer had full control over the movie actor’s wardrobe, which she took the liberty of experimenting with. Fans were outraged. From negotiating his contracts to controlling his appearance, Rambova became the most disliked woman in Hollywood in the Roaring Twenties.
Not a Happy Flapper
Though “The Eagle” gave Rudolph Valentino the steam his career very much needed in 1925, one person wasn’t pleased with his return to the big screen, namely his wife, Natacha Rambova. Valentino’s manager, George Ullman, managed to negotiate a contract with United Artists. Though the United Artists’ film “The Eagle” was the launching pad – or relaunching pad – Valentino needed, one of the terms of Valentino’s contract was that Rambova stayed out.
United Artists banned Rambova from having anything to do with their productions. Probably to appease the angry costume designer, Ullman gave Rambova $30,000 to fund her own film. While Rambova’s film went ahead, Rambova’s banning led to a major rift in the couple’s marriage.
A Second Divorce
By the end of 1925, Rudolph Valentino’s second marriage to Natacha Rambova was very much on the rocks. It clearly outlived its state of being on the rocks, when Rambova filed for divorce in December 1925. Despite their appearances in 1925 as a happy couple, their relationship was tumultuous at best. Rambova was the controlling type. From Valentino’s appearance to his studio contracts and to the very sets he worked on, Rambova dictated what Valentino did.
Though Valentino had thousands of adoring fans, Rambova had none. Rambova created conflict between Valentino’s friends and the producers he worked with. To make matters worse, Valentino still valued more traditional values and was hoping Rambova would settle into the role of a housewife. Rambova was having none of that and filed for divorce.