These images certainly reveal a gaunt Valentino in the weeks before his death. Dr. Meeker's assessment of his condition and thoughts (see below) also provide an interesting vantage point. Meeker's statement (and these photographs) further disprove the poisoning and stabbing theories. I found Dr. Meeker's statement, which he sent to Jeanne De Recqueville, so beautifully written and insightful. I share a portion of it which begins on p. 135 in, Rudolph Valentino - In English by Jeanne De Recqueville which Renato translated and published. #stillsuperman
"On August 31, 1926, Dr. Meeker, who had never seen a film by Rudolph Valentino, entered a cinema where The Son of Sheik was being shown. The next day, he declares, very moved,
"This vision made an impression on me I hardly expected, because I had just seen this beautiful boy die. When I saw him on the screen embracing the blonde and beautiful Vilma Banky, I was seized by the feverish palpitation which then agitated Rudy; the sensual quivering of his lips, the tension of his delicate fingers on the shoulders of the young woman. This nervous tension in that embrace and its vibration went far beyond sex appeal, which passes in the heat of such a kiss. The sensual vibration hits the viewer like an electric current.
This bewitching pleasure which seems to disturb the delicious Miss Banky, who is rendered breathless from his kiss, was incontestable proof of his serious illness. Around me, the spectators...the gentlemen and ladies were in awe of this kiss from the great lover of the screen. Me, I wished I could have shouted:
'Unhappy Rudy, you who madly lampoon yourself...Thinking of reaching this deified embodiment of passion, which is a total gift of oneself in these troubled impulses of the vibrating senses. This is how you ran to your death by the blind exploitation of your own exhaustion.'
Dr. Meeker continues,
“I left the cinema with the conviction that Valentino was already seriously affected when he shot his last film, The Son of Sheik, some months before his death. Perhaps it was already too late at that time to be able to save him. But I also had the conviction this disease amplified his glory; this gave him the wild charm, the irresistible seduction of the gods."