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carole lombard 02

See Valentino for yourself this Friday

Posted by vp19 on 2011.05.03 at 00:07
Current mood: excitedexcited

Even from the start, Carole Lombard's career crossed paths with just about everyone in the film industry...but there probably were a few exceptions. One of them will be honored on the 116th anniversary of his birth Friday.

He's Rudolph Valentino, legendary lover of the silent screen. While it's possible that Jane Alice Peters, just entering her teenage years, may have spotted Valentino at a premiere or related event, by the time she got into pictures in late 1924 and adopted the screen name Carole Lombard, she didn't work at the same studio he did (she was at Fox, he was at Paramount). And in August 1926, when Valentino died unexpectedly during surgery, Lombard -- not yet 18 -- had no time to mourn, as she herself was recovering from plastic surgery to heal the scars from an automobile accident earlier that year, which led to Fox canceling her contract.

I am certain she saw at least a few of Rudy's pictures; he was incredibly popular, particularly with female audiences.

Friday, American viewers who know Valentino only as a 1920s sex symbol rather than as an actor can get an idea of what he was like on screen, as Turner Classic Movies will air six of his films as a birthday commemoration.

"The Sheik" (shown above), arguably Rudy's most famous role, isn't on the schedule. Thanks to its runaway success, "sheik" quickly became a major twenties term for any amorous male; in fact, Hollywood High School's athletic teams are called the Sheiks (the girls' teams are called "Shebas," after "Queen of"). All six of the films TCM are showing are from 1921 and '22, not long after Valentino rose to worldwide fame. Here's the schedule (all times Eastern):

* 8 a.m. -- "Beyond The Rocks" (1922). Many people have heard of Valentino but have never seen him act, and the same can be said for the silent-era output of Gloria Swanson. You can kill two birds with one stone in this film, thought lost for decades before it turned up. There's some decomposition near the end, but you'll get to see what these two legends were like in this mountain adventure.

* 9:30 a.m. -- "Moran Of The Lady Letty" (1922). Rudy goes from the mountains to the sea in this tale of playboy Rudy (whose character is named Ramon Laredo!) rescues a young woman (Dorothy Dalton) who's been kidnapped by smuggles (she's the "Moran" of the film's title). A fun movie with some good maritime sequences.

* 10:45 a.m. -- "The Young Rajah" (1922). Here, Valentino portrays an American boy who learns that he's really an Indian ruler and must desert his sweetheart to reclaim his throne. A bit absurd, but nonetheless fun.

* 11:45 a.m. -- "Camille" (1921). This ran on TCM's "Sunday Silent Nights" not long ago, and here's your chance to see it again. Alla Nazimova plays the title character with Rudy in a supporting part, as the story is transferred to more contemporary times with some stunning set design. One guesses Greta Garbo saw this while a teen in Sweden, not knowing that years later, she would star in a version that talked.

* 1 p.m. -- "The Conquering Power" (1921). Here, Valentino plays a young man who falls for his wicked uncle's stepdaughter (Alice Terry). Not one of his better-known films.

* 2:45 p.m. -- "The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse" (1921). This is the film that put Rudy on the map, as he plays an Argentine of French descent who fights for his father's country during the World War...and dances a mean tango (with Terry) in the process. Brilliantly done, one of the landmarks of the silent era.

Had Valentino lived to witness the arrival of sound, would he have been a star in talkies? Recordings exist of his voice, which sounds consistent with his persona. Would he have adjusted to the differing style talking pictures required, or would it have crippled him as it did John Gilbert? It's a question we'll never have an answer for.

On Friday, however, witness the work of the Valentino we do know. His natural acting may surprise you.

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