Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Myths Dispelled in Affairs Valentino

The following is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2006 explaining aspects of Affairs Valentino. I could now expand on this obviously, but for the record I share this partial listing from many years ago. 

"Most Valentino biographers previous to Affairs Valentino have relied primarily upon studio-generated, highly-fictionalized articles published in fan magazines of the day. Affairs Valentino differs from other Valentino biographies in that its primary source materials are first hand accounts by participants of the events and court documentation. Affairs Valentino also differs as it presents the first accounts of George Ullman and Frank Mennillo’s influential roles in Valentino’s life and career. In light of the newly-discovered source material referenced in Affairs Valentino, many of the events in Valentino’s life as reported in previous biographies receive a different interpretation. The following is a partial listing of the new and exclusive Affairs Valentino sources:

Extracts and schedules from the court-ordered Baskerville Audit reviewing Ullman’s estate ledgers and the business accounts of the Rudolph Valentino Production Company.

The second page of Valentino’s Last Will and Testament designated as “Paragraph Fourth”.

Valentino’s household ledgers dating from January 1926- August 1926.

Rudolph Valentino Production Company records.

Valentino’s contract with United Artists signed on March 20, 1925.

Business records of Valentino’s corporate alter ego, Cosmic Arts, Inc., including the contract transferring ownership of Valentino’s United Artists’ contract to Cosmic Arts, Inc.

Copy of Valentino’s distribution contract with United Artists.

Records of royalties earned from Valentino’s last two films as well as income collected from rental properties and other real estate.

Valentino’s personal banking and club membership information.

Itemization of assets and debts at the time of Valentino’s death as well as accounts paid by his estate after his death.

Valentino’s Probate Court documents and Ullman's Appellate Court case file.

Listings of all disbursements made by the estate.

Itemization of Valentino estate worth as submitted to the court by appraisers.

Listings of his real estate and business holdings.

Documents revealing Natacha Rambova’s ownership of Valentino’s contracts as majority stockholder of Cosmic Arts, Inc.

Income reports on earnings from Valentino’s last two films.

Court testimony regarding two life insurance policies held on Valentino by Joe Schenck and the Cinema Finance Corporation.

Court transcripts from the settlement of his estate including testimony by the principle participants, i.e. Valentino’s brother, his attorney, his sister and others.

Documents submitted to the court as exhibits.

• Exclusive access and licensing to George Ullman’s 1975 personal memoir.

Personal letter sent to George Ullman from Valentino’s attending physician at the time of his death, Dr. Howard Meeker explaining the medical details of Valentino’s final days.

The original managerial contract Ullman signed with Valentino.

Ullman’s personal correspondence and archive of articles and photographs.

Frank Mennillo’s personal photographs and archive.

Campbell’s Funeral Home invoice and records relating to Valentino’s funeral.

The private collection of and interviews with collector William Self.

The archives and photograph collection of Natacha Rambova’s sole biographer, Michael Morris.

The archives of Valentino biographer, Irving Schulman housed at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. According to university archivist Claude Zachery, the Schulman archive had never been accessed for research purposes.

Partial Listing of Valentino Myths Dispelled in Affairs Valentino

Differentiating specific new aspects of Valentino’s life as contained within Affairs Valentino from those commonly-held to be the truth today.

1) It is asserted Rudolph Valentino came to the U.S. as a poor Italian immigrant. This was originally purported in his ghost-written, rags to riches autobiography first published in Photoplay’s January/February 1923 issue.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*Valentino had a wealthy benefactor from the moment he arrived in New York City to his dying breath. This Italian importer, Frank Mennillo, sponsored his arrival in New York and supported him throughout his life. (He was also a guest of Ernesto Filomarino, his sister-in-law's uncle.)

2) It has been asserted that although both Frank Mennillo and George Ullman were characters in Valentino’s life, neither of them wielded a tremendous influence over him or played a noteworthy role in his life.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* Both men played significant roles in Valentino’s professional and personal life and this has never been addressed in any book or article about Valentino to date.

3) It has been asserted Rudolph Valentino and his brother Alberto were very close and that during Valentino’s final months of life he brought his brother to Los Angeles as solace after his divorce from Natacha Rambova.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* Valentino fought with his brother and evicted him from his home, Falcon Lair. At the time his brother Alberto left New York to return to Italy, Valentino told George Ullman that he “hoped he would never see the bastard (Alberto) again.”

4) It has been asserted Valentino left his estate divided equally between his two siblings and his ex-wife’s aunt.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* According to the second page of his will, which has never been made public, he left his estate to his sole heir, his “nephew” Jean.

5) It has been asserted Valentino was an overly-groomed, bookish intellectual.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* Whenever Valentino was at home he was most often in his garage working on his cars or caring for his horses and dogs. According to George Ullman, he seldom read and Valentino's brother Alberto told Valentino memorabilia collector William Self the only book Rudolph ever read cover to cover was E. M. Hull's The Sheik.

6) It has been asserted Valentino was a weak-willed lounge lizard who was subjected to the whims of his controlling wife.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* Valentino was an aggressive and involved businessman who ran his own production company and owned and operated several businesses. He was not submissive with his women especially with his wife Natacha. He hired detectives to pursue her and eliminated her from his business the day they separated.

7) It has been asserted Valentino was a cheerful, happy person with a carefree attitude about life.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* Valentino was prone to prolonged bouts of melancholy and on one occasion he attempted suicide.

8) It has been asserted Rudolph Valentino only drank wine with meals and never consumed hard liquor.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* At the end of his life he spent thousands of dollars a month on bootleg whiskey. His drinking not only contributed to his early death, but may in fact have caused it.

9) It has been asserted Valentino was outgoing and trusting to a fault.

- According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* Valentino was paranoid, insisted his personal correspondence be encrypted in ever-changing codes and both he and George Ulllman carried loaded revolvers for their personal protection.

10) It is asserted Valentino lived his life as that of a closeted homosexual and never slept with his wife Natacha.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*There is no basis in fact, and no source exists regarding this assertion and first-hand accounts of his daily life reveal the contrary was true. Valentino did sleep with his wife Natacha as was witnessed by George Ullman and his many affairs with women were also witnessed and are well-documented.

11) It has been asserted Valentino left his homeland of Italy because he wished to begin a new life in America.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* He left Italy in disgrace and was exiled by angry relatives in the dead of winter.

12) It has been asserted Valentino and his co-star Mae Murray were just friends.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*They were lovers.

12) It has been asserted Valentino only took up the sport of boxing during his final weeks of life in order to prove his manliness.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

* Both he and George Ullman were avid fans of the sport as well as active participants. He owned a box of eight seats at the American Legion Arena in Los Angeles and attended the boxing matches every Friday night.

13) It has been asserted Valentino was devoted to his career as an actor at the time of his death.

-According to Affairs Valentino this was not completely true.

* While Valentino was filming his last movie, Son of the Sheik, he confided in George Ullman saying he was tired of acting and playing the Sheik and Great Lover roles. He said he planned to quit acting altogether, try his hand at working behind the camera as a director and move to Spain to study the art of bull-fighting.

Some of the George Ullman Myths Dispelled in Affairs Valentino

Differentiating specific new aspects of George Ullman’s life as contained within Affairs Valentino from those commonly-held to be the truth today.

1) It has been asserted as executor of Valentino’s estate George Ullman embezzled money and mismanaged funds. This falsehood originated in 1930 in the wake of a lawsuit filed against Ullman by Valentino’s brother charging him with fraud and mismanagement of the estate.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*It has never been reported that a court-ordered audit found Ullman’s executor’s accounts to be in perfect order nor that he was completely exonerated on all these charges by the California Court of Appeals.

2) It has been asserted George Ullman negotiated a contract for Valentino with United Artists which specifically banned Valentino’s wife Natacha from any role in his future films.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*A copy of this contract reveals Natacha Rambova’s name is not mentioned. She was barred specifically from any executive role in Valentino’s films by United Artists’ President Joe Schenck in a memo which he wrote to George.

3) It has been asserted George Ullman was ordered to repay the Valentino estate some $20,000.00 after his tenure as executor.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*It has previously not been reported he was ordered to repay the estate over $100,000.00 plus interest nor reported most of these funds were advances he made in good faith to Valentino’s brother and sister believing they held a future share in Valentino’s estate. When it was discovered they did not hold a legal share, Ullman was ordered to repay this crippling amount of money to the very same people who had already spent the money years before.

4) It has been asserted George Ullman was a wealthy man who chose not to repay the Valentino estate.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*He struggled financially his entire life and declared personal bankruptcy.

5) It has been asserted Ullman retained possession of valuable items which he removed from Valentino’s home after his death which he later sold for a profit.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*Ullman retained some items in his possession which at the time of Valentino’s death held little to no financial value. He kept most of these items for thirty years before giving them as annual birthday gifts to a prominent Valentino collector. At the time he declared personal bankruptcy, an extensive accounting of his personal belongings did not mention these items as having worth. Also most all of his personal archive of documents accumulated during his tenure as Valentino's manager were stolen from his garage.

6) It has been asserted George Ullman controlled Valentino and exercised his will over him.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*Valentino trusted George Ullman implicitly and deferred to him on almost every decision he made. When George first became Valentino’s business manager, he negotiated a profitable contract and sweeping victory for Valentino over Famous-Player’s Paramount, brought order to Valentino’s dire financial situation and launched his return to the movies after a lengthy strike/absence. In this effort Ullman made a fortune for Valentino. Although many people resented his power over Valentino, this was nothing Valentino ever resented.

7) It has been asserted George Ullman took advantage of Valentino’s devotion to him and became a wealthy man in the process.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*Court documents reveal George Ullman received a regular weekly paycheck of $400.00 and after Valentino’s death he received this same amount as compensation for his work as executor.

8) It has been asserted George Ullman caused the Valentino estate’s lengthy legal battle.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*George was financially ruined by the contentious settlement of Valentino’s estate and the lawsuit brought against him by Valentino’s brother. He petitioned the court on some forty occasions requesting that his executor’s records be accepted by the court in order to settle the estate.

9) It has been asserted George Ullman was the cause of Rudolph Valentino’s divorce from Natacha Rambova.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*Valentino divorced his wife after his detectives discovered her having an affair with a cameraman. On many critical occasions during the final days of the Valentino marriage, Ullman acted as peace broker in the Valentino household.

10) It has been asserted George Ullman and Natacha Rambova hated each other.

-According to Affairs Valentino this is not true.

*They collaborated as art director and producer on several of Valentino’s films and after Valentino’s death they wrote kindly of each other in their respective books."

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