Have you ever met one of THOSE fans? You know the kind I mean, the people who are so obsessed with a particular star that they consider attention for anyone else to be an insult. They’re the fans who hate a star’s girlfriend for dating their favorite. Alas, Rudolph Valentino has them in spades.
Let me start by specifying that there are plenty of Rudolph Valentino fans who are perfectly lovely and who express their love for their favorite in positive ways. This article is not about you. Carry on and spread the word about the wonders of Rudy! (If you would like to read a lovely, positive tribute to Valentino, do check out this beautiful post on a mysterious movie star album.)
No, this article is about a whole other kind of animal. THOSE fans.
Hoo boy. Here goes:
It has become an annual tradition for me to use the anniversary of Rudolph Valentino’s death to plead for a kinder, gentler silent movie fandom. You see, some Rudy fans have used this anniversary as an excuse to launch attacks on Pola Negri, slut-shaming her and declaring her unworthy of Valentino, etc. etc. etc. Since Negri is my favorite silent movie actress, I take exception.
(The basic rumor is that Negri didn’t really love Valentino and used his funeral for publicity. This is mostly based on some spiteful news columns and some Valentino pals who didn’t like her. Not that it matters.)
As I wrote last year:
August 23 is the 89th anniversary of his (Valentino’s) death and I am in full combat mode. I refuse to debate his real or imagined lovers but as a Pola Negri fan, I tend to get a little annoyed.
“She didn’t really love him! She used his funeral for publicity! How dare she? Who did she think she was?”
Who was she? The best darn actress in Hollywood, that’s who! What really boils my eyebrows is how her films are never discussed, just her brief romance with a fellow star. (And maaaaaybe a few of her other love affairs. Still don’t care.) And then all the judgmental talk about funeral etiquette… To put it another way, how would you like to be trapped in a discussion about Lillian Gish with some clown who has never seen her films but is fixated with that time Charles Duell sued her. It would be weird, wouldn’t it? See what we Negri fans go through?
Well, the same goes for this year! A lot of the Negri bashing has died down since her fans went militant (mwahahahaha!) but it’s still hiding in the background. One particularly memorable complaint about her was that she romanced Valentino “on the very bed” where she romanced Charlie Chaplin. What, a girl has to get all new furniture when she gets a new boyfriend? Sheesh! Dating is expensive!
THOSE fans don’t care about this, of course. They just want to continue their barrage of venom against anyone who crosses them. Including an actress who died before some of them were even born. Sigh. On one memorable occasion, one of these “I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE POLA-RUDY ROMANCE!!!” posts moved a reader to send me a long email detailing the Pola-Rudy romance and explaining why it was all Pola’s fault, really. Sigh.
The main problem with THOSE fans? Their hateful attitude turns people off to their object of affection. Why would anyone want to discuss Rudolph Valentino if it means being flooded with angry, venomous messages? The worst of it is that Mr. Valentino was, by all accounts, a genuinely nice man and pleasant company. I can’t say for certain but I suspect he would be horrified at what is being done in his name.
Rudolph Valentino isn’t the only one with THOSE fans. Buster Keaton has them, alas, and it led to me temporarily halting all coverage of his films. In a more modern example, some Babylon 5 fans I knew in real life were so snotty and obnoxious about Star Trek that it put me off their favorite show permanently.
I’m not saying we have to be sunshine and roses and can never say anything mean but the person or thing you love should be able to stand on its own, not just as a receptacle for venom. For example, I think the 1925 Ben-Hur is scads better than the 1959 version and I say it often but I can discuss the pros of the ’25 picture without needing to mention the ’59. Basic rule of thumb: If you can’t ever praise your favorite without bashing someone or something else, maybe you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.
By all means, love Valentino, watch his films, commemorate his death any way you please but as for being one of THOSE fans… Well, I simply do not have time to deal with such nonsense.