Rudolph Valentino

Blood and Sand (1922)

Blood and Sand 1922Juan Gallardo (Rudolph Valentino) wants nothing more out of life than to be a famous matador, much to the dismay of his mother who would rather see him go into a less dangerous profession. He loves the sport and given that he doesn’t come from a wealthy family, he sees the glory that would come with being a famous matador as his way to a better life.

He spends his spare time fighting in small bullfights and eventually earns a reputation for being a very talented matador. It isn’t long before he becomes quite a celebrity throughout the country. He’s living out a classic “poor boy makes good” type of story. Not only is he rich and famous now, complete with his own entourage, he also marries his virtuous sweetheart Carmen (Lila Lee) and their wedding is a grand event. It isn’t long before they start a family and have a very happy home together.

Juan’s life becomes more complicated when he meets Doña Sol (Nita Naldi), a very glamorous widow. He loves Carmen very much, but the connection he has with Doña Sol is very different. She’s much vampier than Carmen and he can’t help but resist being drawn to her. They start having an affair and before long, rumors of their relationship start turning up in the gossip papers, hurting Carmen. Juan decides to end things with Doña Sol, but she isn’t about to let go so easily and tries to destroy his marriage to Carmen. In despair over what his personal life has become, Juan starts getting more careless during his fights, which eventually leads to him being fatally injured during a fight.

Whether or not you’ll enjoy Blood and Sand ultimately all comes down to how accustomed you are to silent films. If you aren’t really familiar with silent films or the styles of acting that you’ll see in them, it might seem really creaky and overly-dramatic. But if you’re used to the style of silent films, you’ll likely enjoy it more. Blood and Sand was one of Rudolph Valentino’s most famous roles and although it’s not my personal favorite movie of his, I still enjoyed it. Sure, there are plenty of other movies that deal with the trials and tribulations of fame and do so much better, but it’s easy to understand why it was a big hit when it was released and still isn’t bad today. It’s definitely one of Valentino’s best roles, which makes it essential viewing for any Valentino fan; I recommend it over The Sheik.

The Ghosts of Old Hollywood

Betty Grable Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Halloween just wouldn’t be complete without a few ghost stories, right?  So for the sake of getting into the Halloween spirit, here are a few ghost stories featuring some familiar characters.  If these stories are to be believed, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you might still have the chance to encounter some of Hollywood’s most legendary stars.
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What’s on TCM: May 2013

Humphrey Bogart in High SierraHappy May, everyone!

Rather than have just one Star of the Month for may, there will actually be several.  Every Tuesday night this month, TCM will be spotlighting some of cinema’s greatest tough guys, so that includes people like Bogart, Cagney, McQueen, and Robinson, just to name a few.

Friday Night Spotlight will be back with Illeana Douglas as the guest co-host.  Illeana has chosen the theme of “Second Looks.”  All of the movies she’s chosen weren’t particularly well-received when they were first released, but she thinks they’re deserving of a second chance.  I agree with several of her selections and since I’m all about those hidden gems, I’m really looking forward to seeing some of her other choices.

If you’re a Harold Lloyd fan, mark May 23rd on your calendar because TCM will be playing his feature movies and short films all night long, the vast majority of which have never been shown on TCM before.

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The Death and Afterlife of Rudolph Valentino

In 1926, it looked like Rudolph Valentino was back on track to reclaiming his title as one of the top stars of the silent screen.  The last few years of his career had been riddled with studio contract disputes and box office disappointments.

But then he started a new contract with United Artists and things started to look up again.  His first film for United Artists, The Eagle, brought in good reviews and did modestly at the box office.  Then in 1926, Valentino had the opportunity to do The Son of the Sheik, a sequel to his 1921 sensation, The Sheik.  Even though he loathed being known for The Sheik, he was in no position to turn down something that he knew would be a smash hit.  He was right and when The Son of the Sheik was released in July of 1926, it was extremely well received.  Some even hailed it his best film.  Just over a month later, Valentino was dead at the age of 31.  However, he would prove to be even more notorious dead as he was alive.

The day of Valentino’s funeral has been dubbed “The Day Hollywood Wept.”  It wasn’t the first time a big-name star had died, but it was the first celebrity death that turned into a total spectacle.  There were reports of fans committing suicide.  Speculation swirled about how he died.  Surely a young man with Valentino’s reputation must have gone out in some fantastically scandalous way, right?  Perhaps a heartbroken lover was out for revenge.  (Of course, the truth is far less exciting.  He died from complications following surgery for a perforated ulcer.)  When his body was laid out for viewing in New York, over a hundred thousand fans lined the streets for the chance to have one last look at their idol.  Rumors circulated that the staff of the funeral home was so worried about his body being damaged by fans throwing themselves on the coffin that they secretly replaced his body with a wax mannequin for the viewing.  Fans began to riot outside the funeral home and extra police had to be brought in to keep the crowd under control.  Pola Negri, who claimed to be engaged to Valentino at the time, repeatedly fainted during the funeral service.  The list of pallbearers read like a short list of who’s who in Hollywood and included names such as Douglas Fairbanks, Adolph Zukor, and Marcus Lowe.  And that’s was just at the New York funeral.

After his east coast memorial services, he was put on a train for a five day trip back to Hollywood.  At every stop the train made, people came out to pay their respects.  Once he made it back to Hollywood, there was another star-studded funeral and once again, thousands upon thousands of fans were there.  Of course, there had to be a little behind the scenes drama as well.  Given that Valentino died so young and so unexpectedly, he hadn’t come up with a burial plan for himself.  Not only that, he was in quite a bit of debt at time of his death so not only did his estate not know where to put him, they didn’t have any money to do anything with him, either.  June Mathis, who had written some of his most memorable films, offered the use of a mausoleum crypt she owned to hold him temporarily until a proper memorial could be built elsewhere.  However, those memorial plans never materialized and the temporary solution became a permanent one. Valentino remains in that crypt to this day.

Now, you might think that all the hullabaloo surrounding his death would die down after a while, right?  Oh, no.  Legends surrounding his death just kept on being born.  On the first anniversary of his death, a mysterious woman dressed completely in black was spotted bringing flowers to his crypt and continued to do so every year after that.  People wanted to know who she was and what compelled her to do this.  Was she a devoted fan?  A former lover?  Or possibly just the creation of a press agent.  The most accepted story is that The Lady in Black had met Valentino once when she was very ill and he assured her that she would go on to outlive him.  All he asked is that she remember him when he was gone, so bringing him flowers was her way of honoring that request.  Over the years, there have been several Ladies in Black and to this day, Ladies in Black still bring flowers to his crypt.

This August will mark the 86th anniversary of Rudolph Valentino’s death and interest in Valentino’s death still hasn’t waned.  Hollywood Forever Cemetery has hosted a memorial event on the anniversary of his death every year since 1928.  He has also become a pretty popular target for paranormal investigators.  The first person to kick off this trend was actually Valentino’s second wife, Natacha Rambova, who wrote a book about her life with him and how she believed his spirit would contact her.  If you do a YouTube search for “Rudolph Valentino Ghost” you will find videos of ghost hunters trying to get EVPs of Valentino’s ghost.  I once watched a show called Haunted Hollywood that basically suggested half of Hollywood is haunted by Valentino.  Nearly nine decades later and people are still fascinated by the idea of making contact with The Great Lover.

This is my second contribution for the Gone Too Soon Blogathon hosted by Comet Over Hollywood. Please head on over there and check out some of the other wonderful contributions!

Live Post: The Debbie Reynolds Auction

Even though I’m broke and can’t afford to actually bid on anything in today’s auction, there’s so much amazing stuff up for sale today that I can’t resist trying to follow the auction as best I can.  So I figured I’d try my hand at live blogging and cover the auction the best I can as it happens.  I’m not going to cover every single item up for sale, but I’ll try to keep you updated about some of the more noteworthy items.  So stay tuned, sit back, relax, and live vicariously through other people who can afford to spend insane amounts of money on movie memorabilia.  And I’m just putting it out there right now: I would not be even remotely surprised if Hugh Hefner buys Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch.  A million dollar absentee bid has already been placed on it, so it will definitely be sold for at least that much today.

If you want to follow along with the auction live, just go here, click on “Live Bidding”, then click the option to just watch the auction. There is a live video stream, but no audio.

Updates:

Note – The selling prices I list here don’t include the buyer’s premium.  If you see articles about Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz test costume selling for more than a million, that source factored in the buyer’s premium.

3:12 PM – The first lot, a 1915 35mm Bell and Howell camera just sold for $32,500!

3:16 PM – Rudolph Valentino’s matador suit from Blood and Sand just went for $210,000.

3:19 PM – Mary Pickford’s headpiece from Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall went for $3,250.

3: 21 PM- Francis X. Bushman’s charioteer helmet from 1925’s Ben Hur sold for $30,000!

3:26 PM – Harold Lloyd’s suit and hat went for $4,000!

3:34 PM – Mary Pickford’s gown from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $17,000.

3:36 PM – Lots 17 and 18, both Douglas Fairbanks costumes from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $20,000 and lot 18 didn’t sell.

3:38 PM – One of Charlie Chaplin’s infamous hats went for $110,000!

3:40 PM – A Model T used by Laurel and Hardy sold for $32,500 and a pair of their suits went for $16,000.

3:42 PM – Carole Lombard’s gown from No Man of Her Own sold for $11,000.

3:47 PM – Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra gown went for $40,000.

3:52 PM – Greta Garbo’s gown from Anna Karenina also sold for $40,000!

3:53 PM – Harpo Marx’s hat and wig went for $45,000!

4:10 PM – Lots 42, 43, and 44 are the paintings commissioned by Marion Davies and respectively went for $10,000, $11,000, and $17,000.  These really got the bidders going.

4:17  PM – W.C. Fields’ joke box sold for $35,000.

4:39 PM – Norma Shearer’s purple gown from Romeo and Juliet went for $20,000.

5:04 PM – Now we’re into stuff from The Good Earth and people went nuts for some of the furniture!  The pair of chairs went for $20,000, the opium bed for $20,000, two Paul Muni robes for $4,000 each, Luise Rainer’s shirt for $2,000, the lot of stands and other furniture for $3,500, and Luise Rainer’s jacket for $3,000.

5:13  PM – A gown worn by Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette and Lucille Ball in Du Barry was a Lady sold for $11,000.

5:44 PM – Oh, now we’re into a busy bunch of lots!  First up was Marlene Dietrich’s outfit from “The Boys in the Backroom” number in Destry Rides Again, which went for $8,000, one of Judy Garland’s test costumes from The Wizard of Oz went for $910,000, a test pair of the ruby slippers sold for $510,000, an extra’s jacket from the Emerald City scenes of the Wizard of Oz sold for $22,500, Clark Gable’s dressing robe from the production of Gone With the Wind went for $10,000, and Basil Rathbone’s famous Sherlock Holmes caped overcoat sold for $50,000!

5:54 PM – Vivien Leigh’s suit from Waterloo Bridge sold for $16,000.

6:09 PM – Gary Cooper’s military uniform from Sergeant York went for $55,000.

6:16 PM – A couple of costumes worn by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the satin jockey shirt went for $27,500 and the clown outfit sold for $15,000.

6:19 PM – Not so fast, Louis!  A suit worn by Claude Rains in Casablanca sold for $55,000!

6:53 PM – Took a dinner break and missed another busy bunch of lots!  Elizabeth Taylor’s riding outfit from National Velvet went for $60,000, Judy Garland’s “Under the Bamboo Tree” dress from Meet Me in St. Louis sold for $16,000, Judy’s dress from the snowman building scene in Meet Me in St. Louis went for $10,000, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra’s sailor suits from Anchors Aweigh went for $27,500 and $15,000 respectively.

7:00 PM – $22,500 for Joan Crawford’s waitress uniform from Mildred Pierce and $5,000 for Ann Blyth’s Mildred Pierce suit.

7:05 PM – Edmund Gwenn’s Santa suit from Miracle on 34th Street just sold for $22,500.

8:12 PM – The gold lame dress worn by Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway went for $8,000.

8:51 PM – The chiffon robe worn by Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire sold for $18,000.  Then it went into a bunch of items from An American in Paris with Leslie Caron’s peacock dress from the fantasy ballet number for $15,000, Nina Foch’s white halter gown from a party scene for $3,000, and a showgirl costume from the Stairway to Paradise number for $1,100.

9:05 PM – We have reached the Singin’ in the Rain part of the auction.  First were the green and white checked suits worn by Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly, $8,000 and $14,000 respectively.  Jean Hagen’s Marie Antoinette-esque dress sold for $5,500 and Gene Kelly’s period costume went for $9,000.  Debbie’s green and white leaf print dress went for $15,000, Gene Kelly’s jacket from the Broadway Melody Ballet number went for $6,500, Jean Hagen’s black and white fur coat went for $6,000, Donald O’Connor’s “Good Morning” suit didn’t sell, Cyd Charisse’s white Broadway Melody Ballet outfit for $7,000, and Debbie’s “Good Morning” dress went for $27,500.  A pink dress worn by Gwen Carter sold for $3,750, and a bunch of costumes from the “Beautiful Girl” montage brought $5,500.

9:22 PM – Now we’re getting into some of the Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn-related items.  First up is Marilyn’s red “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which brought $1.2 million!  Then came the feathered hat worn by Jane Russell when she impersonates Loreli Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that sold for $4,250.  Lauren Bacall’s wedding dress from How to Marry a Millionaire went for $8,000 and the car used by Marilyn and Cary Grant in Monkey Business sold for $210,000.

9:48 PM – A lot of two safari outfits worn by Grace Kelly in Mogambo sold for $47,500.  A Winchester rifle used by Clark Gable in Mogambo brought in $15,000.

10:00 PM – A couple more from Marilyn Monroe.  The gold dress from River of No Return went for $510,000 and her costume from the “Heat Wave” number in There’s No Business Like Show Business brought in $500,000!

10:52 PM – After a little break, we’re back with the dress everyone’s been waiting for — the infamous Marilyn Monroe white subway dress from The Seven Year Itch.  I fully expected bidding to be out of control for this one and I wasn’t disappointed.  It brought in an astonishing $4.6 million!

11:03 PM – Now we’ve got a couple from To Catch a Thief.  A coat worn by Cary Grant brought in $15,000 and an outfit worn by Grace Kelly earned a jaw dropping $450,000!

11:41 PM – A couple of dresses worn by Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember brought in $6,000 and $11,000.

12:17 AM – One of Lana Turner’s dresses from Peyton Place sold for $4,250.

12:22 AM – Lot number 407 is rather unique because it includes things worn by both Kim Novak and Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey.  It went for $6,500.

12:29 AM – Leslie Caron’s iconic plaid schoolgirl outfit from Gigi went for $65,000.

12:40 AM – Charlton Heston’s tunic and cape from Ben Hur could have been yours for the low, low price of $320,000!

1:32 AM – Marlon Brando’s naval outfit from Mutiny on the Bounty just brought in $90,000!

2:12 AM – Elizabeth Taylor’s famous headdress from Cleopatra went for $100,000 and Richard Burton’s tunic, cape, and sword brought in $85,000.

Oh, who cares what time it is anymore?  Yes, I’m still going!  Aren’t these people tired and broke yet?!  Janet Leigh’s yellow fringed dress from Bye Bye Birdie fetched $3,750 and Bette Davis’ blood stained dress from Hush, Hush…Sweet Charlotte sold for $11,000.

Another big item to watch tonight was Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady.  I fully expected it to exceed the $200,000-$300,000 and it sure did.  It went up to $3.7 million!

I would say that the hills are alive with the sound of music, but at this time of night, I’m pretty sure that’s a noise ordinance violation.  Julie Andrews’ guitar went for $140,000, her jumper from the “Do Re Mi” number for $550,000, her turquoise and green dress for $45,000, the peasant dress went for $42,500, and a pair of the Trapp children’s outfits sold for $35,000.

And at long last we have reached the Barbara Streisand part of the auction.  First from Funny Girl is her costume from “I’d Rather Be Blue” for $65,000, a lot of the other roller skating costumes for $2,500, the black velvet dress from “My Man” for $16,000, a bunch of stuff worn by the Ziegfeld girls in the “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” number for $7,500, Anne Francis’ silk dress for $1,800, and Kay Medford’s beaded shawl for $1,400.

A jacket worn by Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid brought $8,500 and a dress worn by Katharine Ross went for $16,000.

And back to Streisand.  The purple Hello, Dolly dress went for $55,000 and the gold dress for $100,000.  Surprised the gold dress went for that little, that’s how much it cost to make that dress back in the day.

You’ll be fascinated to know that a shirt worn in the cinematic masterpiece known as Grease 2 sold for $475.

We have finally made it to the final segment of posters/portraits!  The title cards for Blind Husbands fetched $2,000, the lot of three Gloria Swanson title/lobby cards sold for $1,200, the portrait of Gloria Swanson went for $8,500, the lot of two Mabel Normand lobby cards for $800, the pair of silent title/lobby cards for $1,600, the lobby card for Lon Chaney’s The Penalty for $1,700, and the lobby card for Chaplin’s The Idle Class for $1,600.  The portrait of Jean Harlow went for $11,000!

Now it’s high time I called it a night!  Good night everybody!

What’s on TCM: May 2011

It looks like May is going to be a pretty busy month on TCM!  Esther Williams is the Star of the Month and since her movies tend to make me want to spend some time in the pool, I’d say she’s a good choice to help get you in the mood for summer.  This month you will also get a chance to catch the series Moguls and Movie Stars again.  If you missed it when it premiered back in November, it’s very much worth checking out.  Near the end of the month will be TCM’s annual Memorial Day weekend marathon of classic war films.  There are also a lot of great birthday tributes coming up including Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, and Rudolph Valentino.

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Films Rediscovered

I don’t think there is any news that thrills classic film fans more than news that a movie that was thought to be lost has been found.  With the news that an astounding 75 lost silent films have been found in New Zealand, I’m sure many fans of silents are feeling like they just won the lottery.  It’s exciting enough when just one lost film is rediscovered, but to find 75 of them is truly incredible.  Among the most noteworthy finds are: Upstream, directed by John Ford; The Woman Hater, starring Pearl White; Won in a Cupboard, directed by legendary Mack Sennett star Mabel Normand; Mary of the Movies, which is now the oldest known surviving movie produced by Columbia; and Maytime, starring the ‘it’ girl herself, Clara Bow.

It is believed that about 80% of films from the 1890s-early 1930s are now lost for good.  In some cases, virtually nothing exists anymore from some of the biggest stars of the time.  Theda Bara starred in 40 films during her career, but only three and a half currently exist.  But luckily, the films of other major stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks fared much better and very little of their careers have been lost to the ages.

There are many reasons for how films wind up being lost.  In many cases, the films just weren’t well cared for.  In the early days of film, nobody was thinking that anybody would be interested in this stuff a century later so they thought nothing of throwing away unused footage or entire movies that no longer had any commercial value.  Sometimes films would be destroyed in order to recycle the silver in the film stock.  Nitrate film stock is extremely volatile and can easily catch on fire if it is improperly stored.  Fox lost all of their pre-1935 negatives due to a vault fire.  If they didn’t burst into flames, they’d often just decay and disintegrate into a pile of dust.  A lot of times, scenes would be cut after initial screenings to make it more marketable or due to censorship.  Most famously, much of the original cut of Metropolis was lost for decades before a complete print was discovered in Argentina in 2008.  And then there’s the Judy Garland version of A Star is Born.  That one had to be drastically cut down after its premiere and is currently available in a nearly complete restored version, but a complete print is believed to exist.  And then there’s the case of 1933’s Convention City.  The entire film was intentionally destroyed because it was way too pre-code to even be censored and re-released while the Production Code Administration was in charge.

Since I love the stories about how lost films (or lost scenes) surface, here are some of my favorite rediscovery stories:

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