Valentino (1977)

R | 127 mins | Biography | 5 October 1977

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HISTORY

       While a 27 Aug 1975 DV news item announced that director Ken Russell was considering David Bowie, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty for the role of “Rudolph Valentino,” the 27 Aug 1975 LAHExam announced that Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev was cast in the part, marking his debut in a theatrically-released American feature film. Development of the picture prompted Russell’s first trip to Los Angeles, CA, and the event was celebrated with a United Artists-sponsored “Arabian feast” at the Greystone Mansion campus of the American Film Institute and the proclamation of “Ken Russell Day” by Mayor Tom Bradley, according to a 27 Aug 1975 LAHExam news item.
       As stated in a 22 Dec 1976 HR article, principal photography began 16 Aug 1976 in Spain, one week shy of the fiftieth anniversary of Valentino’s death on 23 Aug 1926. HR reported that the production had moved to Elstree Studios in England to film the opening sequence of the picture which portrayed thousands of fans rioting at Valentino’s open-casket funeral in New York City.
       On 30 Sep 1976, Women’s Wear Daily announced that English Royal Ballet dancer Anthony Dowell had been cast as “Vaslav Nijinsky” to replace Paul Clarke, who had recently died of a heart attack.
       Producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff made several unauthorized edits to the picture before its American preview screening, according to a 4 Oct 1977 HR, provoking Russell to claim that his contractual right to “three cuts and three previews” before the film’s release had been violated. The edited scenes, which portrayed Valentino urinating on ... More Less

       While a 27 Aug 1975 DV news item announced that director Ken Russell was considering David Bowie, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty for the role of “Rudolph Valentino,” the 27 Aug 1975 LAHExam announced that Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev was cast in the part, marking his debut in a theatrically-released American feature film. Development of the picture prompted Russell’s first trip to Los Angeles, CA, and the event was celebrated with a United Artists-sponsored “Arabian feast” at the Greystone Mansion campus of the American Film Institute and the proclamation of “Ken Russell Day” by Mayor Tom Bradley, according to a 27 Aug 1975 LAHExam news item.
       As stated in a 22 Dec 1976 HR article, principal photography began 16 Aug 1976 in Spain, one week shy of the fiftieth anniversary of Valentino’s death on 23 Aug 1926. HR reported that the production had moved to Elstree Studios in England to film the opening sequence of the picture which portrayed thousands of fans rioting at Valentino’s open-casket funeral in New York City.
       On 30 Sep 1976, Women’s Wear Daily announced that English Royal Ballet dancer Anthony Dowell had been cast as “Vaslav Nijinsky” to replace Paul Clarke, who had recently died of a heart attack.
       Producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff made several unauthorized edits to the picture before its American preview screening, according to a 4 Oct 1977 HR, provoking Russell to claim that his contractual right to “three cuts and three previews” before the film’s release had been violated. The edited scenes, which portrayed Valentino urinating on a prison cell floor and slipping on vomit, were almost completely restored by a compromise between Russell and the producers. However, various reviews noted that the prison scene was a low-point in the film, with the 21 Sep 1977 Var calling it “overdone” and the 6 Oct 1977 NYT describing it as the picture’s one “viscerally offensive” moment. Despite this criticism, reviews were generally positive.
       On 2 Nov 1977, Var announced that the U.S. Catholic Conference had given Valentino a “condemned” rating for being “morally objectionable.”

      The end credits conclude with the following written statement: “Made at EMI Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, England, and on location, by Aperture Films Limited, 10 Soho Square, London, England.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Aug 1976.
---
Box Office
17 Oct 1977.
---
Daily Variety
27 Aug 1975.
---
Daily Variety
23 Sep 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 1977
p. 3, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 1976.
---
LAHExam
27 Aug 1975.
---
LAHExam
25 Nov 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Oct 1977
p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
16 Oct 1977.
---
New York Times
2 Oct 1977
p. 1, 23.
New York Times
6 Oct 1977
p. 21.
Rolling Stone
3 Nov 1977.
---
Variety
25 Aug 1976.
---
Variety
21 Sep 1977
p. 16.
Variety
29 Sep 1977.
---
Variety
2 Nov 1977.
---
Women's Wear Daily
30 Sep 1976.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Robert Chartoff-Irwin Winkler Production
A Ken Russell Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
Cam op
Focus puller
Focus puller
Lighting contractors
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Prop master
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward mistress
Mr. Nureyev's suits by
Asst to Shirley Russell
MUSIC
Orig mus comp by
Orig mus comp by
Cond by
SOUND
Sd rec
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing ed
DANCE
Choreog
Asst choreog
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc mgr
Dial coach
Casting
Casting
Continuity
Asst to Mr. Russell
Process projection
Researcher
Prod processing
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Valentino, An Intimate Exposé of the Sheik by Brad Steiger and Chaw Mank (publication date undetermined).
SONGS
"There's a New Star in Heaven Tonight," sung by Richard Day-Lewis
"The Sheik of Araby," sung by Chris Ellis, words of parody by Ken Russell.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 October 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 5 October 1977
Production Date:
began 16 August 1976 in Spain
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 October 1977
Copyright Number:
LP50042
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby System
Color
Color by Deluxe
Lenses/Prints
Filmed with Panavision
Duration(in mins):
127
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As the corpse of silent film star Rudolph Valentino is displayed in a funeral home, thousands of fans riot outside in the streets of New York City. Hollywood executives stand over the casket and plan to capitalize on Valentino’s resurgence in popularity as rioters break through the window and storm the chapel. While coffin lids are nailed over the window, a reporter interrogates Valentino’s former companion, Bianca de Saulles. The heiress remembers an early encounter with Valentino, who dances the tango with a male partner, Vaslav Nijinsky, at restaurateur Billie Streeter’s ballroom. Noticing the chemistry between Valentino and Bianca, Billie reports back to Bianca’s jealous husband, Jack de Saulles. That evening, Billie advises her waiter, Valentino, to partner with wealthy older women instead of young men, but Valentino dances with Bianca; he advises her to divorce Jack and offers to testify at her trial. Just then, Jack storms onto the dance floor, grabs Bianca, and questions Valentino’s heterosexuality. When Billie fires Valentino, the dancer retaliates by taking a crew of cameramen to shoot pictures of Billie and Jack making love. At his apartment, Valentino offers to marry Bianca, but Jack breaks in and beats Valentino. Sometime later, Bianca shoots her husband dead. Back at Valentino’s wake, the reporter chases Bianca, suggesting that Valentino was killed by Jack’s associates rather than a perforated ulcer, and they pass screenwriter June Mathis, who launched Valentino’s career. As another reporter pries June for a story, she remembers meeting Valentino at a cabaret in Los Angeles, California. Backstage, Valentino’s intoxicated dance partner, Marjorie Tain, accuses him of being a gigolo and suggests ... +


As the corpse of silent film star Rudolph Valentino is displayed in a funeral home, thousands of fans riot outside in the streets of New York City. Hollywood executives stand over the casket and plan to capitalize on Valentino’s resurgence in popularity as rioters break through the window and storm the chapel. While coffin lids are nailed over the window, a reporter interrogates Valentino’s former companion, Bianca de Saulles. The heiress remembers an early encounter with Valentino, who dances the tango with a male partner, Vaslav Nijinsky, at restaurateur Billie Streeter’s ballroom. Noticing the chemistry between Valentino and Bianca, Billie reports back to Bianca’s jealous husband, Jack de Saulles. That evening, Billie advises her waiter, Valentino, to partner with wealthy older women instead of young men, but Valentino dances with Bianca; he advises her to divorce Jack and offers to testify at her trial. Just then, Jack storms onto the dance floor, grabs Bianca, and questions Valentino’s heterosexuality. When Billie fires Valentino, the dancer retaliates by taking a crew of cameramen to shoot pictures of Billie and Jack making love. At his apartment, Valentino offers to marry Bianca, but Jack breaks in and beats Valentino. Sometime later, Bianca shoots her husband dead. Back at Valentino’s wake, the reporter chases Bianca, suggesting that Valentino was killed by Jack’s associates rather than a perforated ulcer, and they pass screenwriter June Mathis, who launched Valentino’s career. As another reporter pries June for a story, she remembers meeting Valentino at a cabaret in Los Angeles, California. Backstage, Valentino’s intoxicated dance partner, Marjorie Tain, accuses him of being a gigolo and suggests that he is responsible for Jack’s death. When Fatty Arbuckle arrives at the club, Marjorie and Valentino take the stage, but Marjorie’s lack of coordination provokes jeers. Taking revenge, Valentino entices Fatty’s girl onto the dance floor and kisses her passionately. Fatty is enraged and Valentino is fired, but the dancer wins over his audience, including June. Sometime later, at the decadent home of Fatty’s girl, the young actress encourages Valentino to pursue a career in film. Meanwhile, June convinces Metro Studio executive Richard Rowland to give Valentino a screen test. Star actress Alla Nazimova watches the resulting film and becomes intent on working with Valentino. Back at Valentino’s wake, Nazimova makes a dramatic entrance and memorializes her friend by recalling the set of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Nazimova and her companion, Natasha Rambova, meet Valentino as he gets news of his mother’s death and vow to make him a star in the film Camille. At the funeral chapel, Natasha arrives, dismisses Nazimova and reporters, and remembers her courtship with Valentino on the set of Blood and Sand. On location in the desert, Natasha encourages Valentino to demand better roles from Paramount Pictures’ producer Jesse Lasky and urges him to form an independent company. After the couple makes love in an opulent tent, Natasha reminds Valentino that he is married, but he vows to get a divorce and she agrees to be his wife. Sometime later, Nazimova leaks intimate photographs of Valentino and Natasha to the press, stirring controversy over Valentino’s infidelity. Outraged, Natasha and Valentino head to Mexico, but they are arrested for bigamy. June and director George Melford appeal to Lasky for help, but the producer refuses, claiming that Valentino’s arrest is good for business. After a harrowing night in jail, Valentino is bailed out by covert funds from June, but Lasky takes credit. When Natasha demands that Lasky double their salaries and Valentino insists on script approval, the producer threatens to end their careers. Unemployed, Natasha and Valentino vacation at the beach, but beauty product salesman George Ullman tracks them down and proposes that the couple make a vaudeville tour sponsored by his company. The show is a success and Ullman negotiates a lucrative deal for Valentino to return to Paramount. At the studio, Valentino is upstaged on the set of Monsieur Beaucaire when crewmembers drop a pink powder puff from the rafters. Natasha storms away, arguing that she and Valentino should leave Lasky for United Artists, where she can maintain control over Valentino films. Natasha demands that Valentino initiate a conspicuous affair with his co-star, Lorna Sinclair, because it will vindicate his heterosexuality. Valentino follows orders but returns home to find Natasha in tears; however, Natasha’s distress is a result of the United Artists contract, which bans her from the studio and denies her request to direct. Natasha accuses Ullman of destroying her marriage and Valentino rips up the contract, but Ullman reminds the couple that they are in debt. Later, Valentino suggests that he quit acting and pursue his dream of owning an orange grove. Natasha consults a magic ball, but Valentino is distracted by a crowd of female fans chanting outside the house, and Natasha becomes hysterical. Back at Valentino’s wake, Natasha and Nazimova reconcile with a kiss as Ullman comforts June, suggesting that Valentino kept his illness a secret because he wanted to end his life. Ullman remembers an evening in New York City, just before he and Valentino were scheduled to return to Hollywood for the premiere of Son of the Sheik. The men attend a film by Natasha that features the crucifixion of a Valentino impersonator. While Ullman is eager for Valentino’s comeback, Valentino is still determined to buy an orange grove. A prostitute lures the men to a cabaret where Valentino is mocked by dancers dressed in pink powder puffs. Incensed, Valentino storms away and Ullman agrees to cancel their trip to Hollywood. Valentino stages a publicity event where he punches a boxing bag covered with a “powder puff” newspaper headline and challenges the writer to a fight. When Ullman dismisses the audience, reporter Rory O’Neil announces that he will accept the contest on behalf of the writer, who is too old to fight. Valentino is not deterred when he discovers that O’Neil is the former heavyweight champion of the U.S. Navy and warms up in a boxing ring despite threats from Lasky, who vows to end his contract. During the match, O’Neil knocks Valentino out and dances with his limp body, but Valentino refuses to give up and overcomes his contender as Ullman, June, and the crowd cheer his victory. When O’Neil recovers, he challenges Valentino to a drinking contest, but Valentino is triumphant yet again. With his masculinity vindicated, Valentino stumbles home. As he sways and sings, Valentino reaches for an orange but collapses dead on the floor. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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