Today's guest post comes from the talented Donna, who runs the blog Strictly Vintage Hollywood and is also curator of Falcon Lair, a website dedicated the silent screen legend Rudolph Valentino. The site is full of interesting information and media for Rudy enthusiasts and for the Rudy-curious like myself. It's with excitement that I present Donna's entry into the Guest Blogger series!
The world was dancing.
Paris had succumbed to
the mad rhythm of the
– The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
The Argentine Tango came to American shores as early as 1911 and was considered quite shocking for the day. Vernon and Irene Castle did lend some respectability to the tango in their ballroom dance exhibitions. True Tango madness among the youth of America did not reach a zenith until 1920-1921 with the release of the film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had something that Vernon and Irene Castle did not, the pure, raw sensuality that was Rudolph Valentino. For this we must thank a woman who is relatively unknown today, June Mathis.
Hollywood history and legend has widely credited June Mathis with discovering Rudolph Valentino. Valentino landed the plum role of Julio in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse because Mathis recommended him after she saw him in Clara Kimball Young’s film The Eyes of Youth. Rudolph Valentino’s star began its irrevocable ascent because of her foresight, her vision. It was the guiding hand of June Mathis and the sensitive direction of Rex Ingram that helped Valentino give a performance that stands firm to this day. Not only was it through her vision that Rudolph Valentino gained stardom, they developed a fond and lasting friendship until his untimely death. Their friendship was no romance, she was a matronly and wise figure that Valentino looked to for guidance on more than one occasion.
Vicente Blasco Ibañez's popular war novel, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1918), was considered by studios to be unsuitable for the screen. Mathis took it upon herself to prove otherwise. It was through her perseverance that in 1919, Richard Rowland, then head of Metro, purchased the rights to the novel for the then- huge sum of twenty thousand dollars. June took on the difficult task of writing the adaptation of the novel, a sweeping story of a family, separated and engulfed by the tragedy of World War I. Mathis also exercised her considerable sway in obtaining director Rex Ingram and pushing for--and getting--the relatively unknown Rudolph Valentino for the lead role of Julio.
Contrary to what the naysayers in the industry and within Metro had predicted, the film was a tremendous hit. Stock in Ingram, Valentino and Mathis went up 150%. The enormous success of the film meant that June Mathis became a voice to be reckoned with in Hollywood, a real player in every sense of the word. Both she and Valentino rose to great personal heights in careers that continued to cross paths until their untimely deaths.
Tantalized? Are your classic film taste buds tingling? Get your satisfaction by consuming the full meal at Donna's blog. To learn more about Mathis and Valentino, click here. Bon apetit!