Monday, November 9, 2020

Cocktails at Seven with Valentino?

The following is a post Renato made on his Facebook Group which I found interesting. He found the article in French and has translated a portion of it as it relates to the My Private Diary discussion. For more visit his group

I quote:

Cautiously and with the help of Robert Florey, we see an intimate picture of, “Villa Valentino” in Whitley Heights.

This excerpt, which I translated into Italian from the French, is taken from a long interview of Charlie Chaplin, conducted by Robert Florey one afternoon in the spring of 1922 and published in the December 1922 issue of the French magazine Cinéa.

Florey, young and gifted with talent and resourcefulness, had just turned 21 at the time of his arrival in Los Angeles; arriving in Hollywood in September 1921 as a correspondent for the most important French cinema magazines. Thanks to the exotic charm of his French accent, at almost 190 cm tall and his engaging smile.. he was able to be accepted, also thanks to his valuable contacts in the French community, even by the most unattainable stars of American cinema. These stars greatly aspired to capture new audiences overseas, in the Old World which, at that time, was still a land of conquest for the greats of Hollywood.

The interview begins with the meeting between Florey and Charlie Chaplin on the mythical and no longer existing Crystal Pier promenade in Santa Monica; at that time a meeting and entertainment place for the stars.

After some commentary by Chaplin regarding the fairness of the girls crowding around the pier and on the beach, Florey cleverly starts an interview conversation which will then be published in the December 15, 1922 issue of Cinéa magazine.

At a certain point, from the waters of the ocean, the new Triton, Rudolph Valentino emerges and comes to join his friends ... but now we leave the pen to Florey who will tell us about the evening and, perhaps, how the idea of a travel diary was realized in Valentino.

“At this point in our conversation, the brilliant young lead actor Rudolph Valentino came out of the ocean and came to meet us.

'Where are you having dinner tonight?' he asked us, kind and smiling.

While Charlie, out of kindness, replied that he still didn't know.

I said to Valentino, 'But at your house, my dear!'

Rodolfo Valentino's cook has a reputation which reaches even the most remote corners of 'Cinelandia'. She is almost as famous as Georges Jomier, the king of cooks, and it is always with pleasure we accept an invitation to dinner from Valentino.

Valentino's mansion is built on the southern slope of the low-lying Whitley Heights hill in Hollywood.

It is the second wife of Valentino, Natacha Rambova, who made the house a real gem after drawing the house plan last year.

Frederick, Valentino's butler, has a good habit; preparing a dozen cocktails and a few caviar canapés every evening at 7 p.m., which are excellent to whet your appetite.

Depending on the number of friends Rodolfo invites for dinner (never more than 10 at a time) we always find a sufficient number of beautiful cocktails prepared! It is adored and practical.

Now, as we sat in Rodolfo's living room that evening and were toasting our host's glory, I took advantage of a moment's respite to take Charlie aside and out of the blue, ask him:

'Aren't you going to write your memoirs?'

'Yes and no, you know I'm quite lazy in writing.'

'However, was your first book My Trip Abroad a great success?'

'Again, yes and no, you know this business better than I do. It's been nearly four months since my book came out and the total circulation for America was 10,000 copies, is that okay in your opinion?'

'It's not huge considering the considerable number of your admirers.'

'Well, what can you do about America, they don't like to read, they don't have time, the public is too busy to devote a few hours a week to reading, they prefer cinema.'

'I am sure that My Trip Abroad in France will have a much wider circulation than the American one …'

'I know your compatriots love to read and I hope my publisher will entrust the translation of my book to an experienced writer who can render my thoughts exactly, in French.'

Our dialogue was unfortunately interrupted by a baritone voice, 'Dinner is served!' “

* These notes were written almost a year before Rodolfo's decision to write his own personal diary titled "My Trip Abroad". He succeeded in this project perhaps with some help from the editors who were popular at the time, such as Adela Rogers St. Johns, Photoplay Magazine's secret weapon. Her "sober sister" interviews with movie stars seemed to be so emotionally revealing as to create a completely fictitious sense of intimacy between reader and celebrity.

I mention Adela Rogers St. Johns not by chance because, according to the letter Natacha sent to Rodolfo during their marriage quarantine and while they were writing the poetry book Day Dreams, Adela was acting as editor and advisor. Here is what Natacha wrote to Valentino:

You can do something wonderful with this and I'm sure Adela St. Johns will agree with me. This could become your best poem and I have an idea for a truly amazing illustration. "

The letter I cited is included in its entirety by Baltasar Fernández Cué in his book “El Verdadero Rodolfo Valentino”, which I translated into English and published under the title, “The True Rodolph Valentino”.