Monday, January 18, 2021

"Proof of Great Innocence"

 The following passage is excerpted from, The True Rudolph Valentino by Baltasar Cué. As a successful Spanish journalist working in Hollywood, he knew something about the veracity of press issued material; whether alleged to have been written by a movie star or commentary on them.

I share this passage because I am continually shocked by how some people today continue to believe the studio-generated versions of Valentino's history as truth. With little to no questioning they read much the same as readers of those fan magazines long ago.

It is not that Valentino was lying or being deceitful in allowing these aspects of his story to be fictionalized. He was a savvy celebrity whose every move and nuance was under scrutiny and there is no questioning he was a valuable property to be guarded; especially by himself. In the few years he graced the screen, he faced a heavy opposition poised to pounce on his slightest misstep. The studio press offices knew the situation well and acted accordingly.

This is what Baltasar Cué had to say about this:

“Anyone who is not familiar with the usual procedures in the Hollywood studios, will find it hard to believe that Valentino declared, even in an private chat, that his "autobiography" was not reliable. In reality, as a biographical document, no writing produced by the motion picture studios about the private lives of their artists can be considered reliable.

The mission of the aforementioned marketing offices - which form one of the main pillars of the huge film industry - is to ensure what the public thinks about the companies, the artists and the films, and that their thinking will push them favorably towards them.

It is therefore necessary to share with them, what will make them sympathetic to the popular feelings: virtue, intelligence, amenity, generosity, ingenuity, culture, etc.

The truth does not mix with such important commercial activity. Profit is the only goal. And just as it would be naive to believe that such medicine we see advertised in the newspapers has all the wonderful virtues attributed to it in the corresponding advertisements, so it is also proof of great innocence to believe as much when the press tells us about the cinematographic companies, its artists and its films.

In the United States, at least, the Hollywood marketing agencies send to the movie theatres not only the propaganda to be shown before the first exhibition, but also the reviews that the local press should publish after the premiere. What the readers of the newspaper of this or that town located thousands of kilometers away from Cinelandia imagine, do not know is that the reviews they read after having seen the film the previous night were written many months before by some employee of the film producer, and which have already been published in all the towns where the same film was shown.

In the same way, those wise opinions that are often published as if they had been expressed by movie stars were generated in many cases, by the brains of marketing agents. This is where the one usually finds the wit which the stars do not always possess. If one has little experience in Cinelandia, they must be very careful to praise a star for an opinion read in the press alleging to have been written by the star. In most cases, the opinion did not come from what was actually said.”