Rudolph Valentino

Icons of the Century

Today, fame is cheap. But when Rudolph Valentino died in 1926, fame was something earned, not given. Crowds of up to 100,000 caused a riot at his Gotham funeral; millions mourned worldwide. Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin were pallbearers.

Valentino was the first matinee idol, the first movie star, the first pre-Hays Code sex (when sex was allowed to be sexy) symbol. During “The Sheik’s” run, women reportedly fainted in the aisles. Males might have scoffed but he was the real thing.

Projected at the naturalistic level — not the frenzied, Keystone Kops speed we’re accustomed to — “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” shows what all the fuss was about: Valentino was feline, sensual, smoldering, exotic, reeking sex from every pore.

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