Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dark Lover The Life And Death Of Rudolph Valentino by Emily W. Leider











"Dark Lover" is a wonderful biography of legendary silent screen star Rudolph Valentino, still best remembered today for his role as "The Sheik," his untimely death in 1926 at age 31, and the mysterious "Lady in Black" who still visits his tomb. He was the first and most famous of the movies' "Latin Lovers;" previously all the romantic leading men had been clean-cut American types like Wallace Reid and Italians and other ethnic or Latin types cast as villains, that is until Valentino danced the tango in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."  Then, as the old saying goes, a star was born. Valentino made the women in the audience swoon and their male escorts' blood boil.

Valentino had a fascinating life even before he sought fame and fortune in 1920s Hollywood--he was rumored to be a gigolo and was a popular "Taxi Dancer," a man rich society women paid to dance with them, and was famous for his graceful and sensual tango. His whole life was fraught with controversy, including persistent rumors of homosexuality. To this day the truth about his sexuality and marriages and relationships with strong and eccentric women of questionable sexuality (Jean Acker, Natacha Rambova, Pola Negri--all reputed or known lesbians) remain the subject of much heated debate. Rumors even surround his sudden and unexpected death, including the suspicion of murder. And the public displays of grief that followed his demise, including riots outside the funeral parlor where crowds actually broke the plate glass windows in a rush to get in to view his corpse as their idol lay in state, and suicides by grieving female fans, are still the stuff of legends.

This is how a biography should be written. I love this author's style, this biography is not written to be sensational like many celebrity biographies, or to make shocking, scandalous, or unverifiable statements and revelations, which is sadly often the case with books about deceased celebrities no longer able to defend themselves. If something is unknown about the subject, Ms. Leider comes right out and says so, if there is speculation or differing viewpoints about an issue, she makes that clear and gives the evidence both for and against. As a classic movie fan, I hope she will write more biographies like this one.





See Valentino in his most famous film "The Sheik" and its sequel "Son of The Sheik"


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