How discreet was Rudolph Valentino? It makes one wonder reading the various first hand eye-witness accounts. Paul Ivano, with his report of Rudolph panicking after Natacha fainted during their love making. George Ullman writing how Rudolph met Mae Murray in the parking lot after a boxing match and they began kissing and then drove off leaving him stranded in the parking lot.
Lou Mahoney saying how after Valentino's death, he took Pola Negri's lingerie which she left in Rudolph's bedroom... home to his wife who sewed them into dresses for their daughter.
Make-up artist Mont Westmore steering Valentino's yacht while overhearing him make love to Nita Naldi below deck.
And Baltasar Cue wrote:
“Rudolph was again fully living the bachelor life and the public often witnessed the accompaniment of a lady actress he might be dating. But the women who would truly gain his attention were, of course, the ones the public did not see. There was one woman one day and another the next, countless women who disputed the honor of being intimate with him.
Whether in Hollywood or in the surrounding area; in his house or in the ladies' homes or his friend's homes, in hotel rooms, in cabarets, in his yacht of such sad history; here these affairs took place to fill him with joy.”
Was this a devil-may-care attitude about sex on Valentino's part or another cultural manifestation? Generalizations are dangerous and I do not want to offend anyone... and I will say today things are changing in Italy thankfully.
But fact remains, in Italy, prostitution is still somewhat legal and public. It is against the law to pimp but not to prostitute and it is open. I once passed a display kiosk in the street which was full of vintage and antique sex toys and this was in a main, heavily-trafficked part of Turin. Sex for Italian men in general is not tinged with a puritanism element of shame and discretion. It is more about pride and status and discretion does not really factor in.
I do not mean to be putting Italians down but the freedom to be open about sex is primarily for men in Italian culture. The only public sexual display overtly tolerated for women in Italian culture would be March 8th, the International Women's Day when women are gifted a cheesy spray of mimosa/yellow weed and then many go out to male strip clubs. I think the dichotomy was especially defined back in Valentino's day, but alas for many women it is still too often the case that the rest of the year they are either Madonna or whore.
Just my thought that the oft lack of discretion exhibited by Valentino was not so unusual in his homeland and boy it really played well in America.