Let’s talk about death: Rudolph Valentino and THOSE fans

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:

We'll all need a drink before this day is through.
We’ll all need a drink before this day is through.

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!

You've stumbled into enemy territory, Pola haters.
You’ve stumbled into enemy territory, Pola haters.

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.

20 Replies to “Let’s talk about death: Rudolph Valentino and THOSE fans”

  1. Since one of the first “duo” costumes we cobbled together for a Halloween party was Negri and Valentino (Gypsy and Toreador pic), myself scrounging thrift shops to be the best Pola I could be for under $45 😉 ……preaching to the choir here.

    Valentino truly had a special something onscreen: great looks plus a sly humor, but Negri hit the WOW notes for me, personally. Dark beauty with acting skills to burn!

    1. Great costume idea! Yeah, Pola Negri is just astonishing. My favorite aspect of her performances is how well she worked with ensembles. Many powerful performers tended to blow other actors off the screen but Negri maintained a balance and fit in with the rest of the cast while being distinct and intriguing in her own right.

  2. You go Girl! I always like Pola Negri and she loved every inch of being a star but I have read that she really cared for Valentino and there are people who do take it to the next level when they are mourning. I have seen it for real. Just because someone decides to be very open about the way the mourn the loss of a loved one doesn’t mean they are crazy, dumb or anything else. They may think you don’t care if you decide to “suffer in silence’. Anyway, I think it is crazy when people take it to that level. They need a life. Oh…how can anyone love Babylon 4 ever over star Trek?? 🙂

    1. Exactly! People mourn in different ways and it seems a bit obnoxious to judge how someone does it.

      The B5ers will inform you that their aliens LOOK like aliens and not just humans with crests on the forehead. Their aliens have crests on the BACK of the head. Ha! Beat that, trekkies.

  3. Pola should not get treated this way! She’s an amazing actress in her own right…I can believe some people ONLY associate her with Valentino.

    My first introduction to Pola was in a talkie, a 1960s film, actually. She had a cameo appearance in Disney’s “The Moon Spinners”
    And. She. Was. Fabulous. The last 20 minutes of the film (the part she’s in) is the best part of the movie for me, such class and grace, putting loads of charm and attitude into her character.
    Silent or talkie, Pola is awesome with or without the Valentino side of her life.

  4. All the shaming over Negri’s grief at Valentino’s funeral puzzled me when I first read about it. Still does. She was entitled to grieve any way she saw fit. Being an actress, her grief seemed too overt, too outré for some? I’ve never gotten that.

    Glad you both liked the costume duo idea. With the exceptions of two Charlie Chaplins, we were the only ones who dressed as silent film stars- everybody else did talkie or tv people. Fun party, long ago 🙂

    1. Yeah, I would like these people criticizing her mourning to submit photos of themselves at a loved one’s funeral. We can then inspect and judge the sincerity of their mourning. 😉

  5. Gonna watch a Pola movie or two by your recommendation. Just signed up, great site you have here. Thx!

  6. Fritzi,

    As a huge Valentino fan, I will probably surprise you by saying that I find those venomous responses as ridiculous too! Pola WAS a huge star in her own right, as you have said. None of us can possibly walk a mile in their shoes, so why all of the attitude? This sci-fi battle that you alluded to reminds me of the star trek- star wars feud I go through. Star Wars fans refuse to acknowledge that Star Trek episodes, when you read between the lines, discussed actual contemporary issues where: Star Wars only seems to glorify, in my opinion, an outdated medieval great chain of being view of life and society that was completely discredited by the evolvement of the American constitutional form of government! Both stars were huge in their own right, and to argue over these kinds of issues is an example of folks who have no desire to celebrate the overall greatness of a medium that has been a constant help to society by enabling them to relax and cope with the challenges of their lives and situations! Kudos to Pola, Rudolph and all those who contributed to one of the greatest platforms of all time for the betterment of mankind!!!

  7. Hi there,
    I’m a huge fan of Rudy’s as well, but I agree with your article so much! I appreciate Pola Negri for her contributions to film, and I see no reason for folks to get all crazy about it and totally drag her name through the mud, come on! She had talent! And maybe she did do some things for attention, but so did a lot of other stars in that era. I guess it just makes me sad when people pay more attention to lengthy discussions of Pola’s faults then on an even tempered, neutral discussion. It really makes Valentino fans look bad when they get all rude and snappy and talk only about Pola-hating. Like you said, Rudy really sounded like a nice man, and I really don’t think he’d want people constantly hating Pola. She’s not my favorite actress, but certainly nowhere near my least favorite, and I definitely appreciate her contributions and spunky charisma. Very nice article.
    (By the way, I loved your picture book for The Sheik, so funny! Nosferatu would be an amusing picture book)

      1. (by the way, I’m sorry I got a little off topic about the picture book, but I couldn’t comment on that page, and I just had to tell you how much I liked it! I laughed so much!)

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