Not long ago a "Good Samaritan" sent me a screenshot of a post by David Bret in which he exalts the book "Dark Lover" by Emily Leider with the following words: “The Valentino Widows hate it, which means it must be good!”
Driven by Bret's song of praise, I make some considerations. I begin with the title of the first chapter: "Mercurio".
In Italy, Mercurio is a surname and also the name of a poisonous and heavy metal which at room temperature reverts to a silvery liquid form. The word is translated as “Quick Silver” or “Argento Vivo”. The young boys in Italy with very active temperaments are called “Argento Vivo” and never “Mercurio”.
Perhaps Leider took this misstep in translation from My Private Diary where the pseudo-Valentino defines his nephew Jean as “Mercurio”. No one in Italy would attach that nickname to a lively child. “Argento Vivo” is what is meant and is the commonly used nickname in this instance.
Some of the mentions concerning both the origin of the Guglielmi family and the events regarding the parents of Rodolfo Valentino are significantly wrong.
In reference to Valentino's mother, Marie Berthe Gabrielle Barbin, whom Leider claims was known in Castellaneta by the nickname of “Donna” Gabrielle;
In Italy, the appellation “Donna” was and still is only given to notable women of the upper class, such as the spouses of the presidents of the Republic. But Gabrielle was the wife of a veterinarian who was not considered a high bourgeois. I think this was a strategy by Leider to elevate the family socially.
Emily Leider, among other things, tells us that Castellaneta was part of the province of Taranto. This is incorrect because at the time of the birth of Valentino the Province of Taranto did not exist. That territory was part of the Province of Terra d'Otranto, with the capital Lecce. The Province of Taranto, came into existence as it is known today only in 1951.
Marie Berthe Gabrielle Barbin was born on May 8, 1856, in France in Lure, in the province of Haute-Saône. She was not born, as Leider claims, in Vosges near the town of Domrémy, where Joan of Arc was born. This is false.
Leider, perhaps in an attempt to "ennoble" Valentino's ancestry, defines all the women of the family with the nickname “Donna”, including Grazia Ancona, Rodolfo's paternal grandmother, a person who died quite young and was of humble origins and illiterate.
Some of the more erroneous aspects of Leider's family history are those about Gabrielle's life before the wedding.
As mentioned Gabrielle was born on May 8, 1856, and her father died in 1868, when Gabrielle was 12 years old.
After the death of her father, Gabrielle, along with her mother and sister Léonie, returned to France for a brief while. They went to the area of origin of the Barbin family in Picardy. From this location it is extremely unlikely that they were in Paris during the Franco-Prussian war at all. It is also equally extremely unlikely that Gabrielle was fed dead rats. She was living during that short time with relatives.
Another absurd aspect in this regard in Leider's narrative is that Gabrielle, when barely a teenager at 12 years old, made the decision herself to stay in Taranto when her father died. Perhaps if Leider consulted a good calendar she would have understood something was wrong with that statement.
Regarding Valentino's father Giovanni, a veterinary surgeon and director of the civic slaughterhouse of Castellaneta, it can be stated that Leider is factually wrong in reporting he was part of the anti-brigandage militias. This was a violent rebellion which was crushed in 1865. Leider could not have done the math here because Giovanni was born in Martina Franca on January 8, 1853. I can't even imagine a 12-year-old boy fighting ferocious brigands.
Giovanni was also never an artillery non-commissioned officer at the Royal Military Academy. On his military conscription, on November 18, 1873, he was enrolled in the 1st category private in the District of Lecce, Taranto district to serve regular compulsory military service. In this regard, I recommend she and all readers, carefully read Aurelio Miccoli's books, especially “The Infancy of the Myth”, a well-documented book which dispels these ridiculous and inaccurate myths.
As you can see, a full analysis of her narrative would be complex. I will just say this is but a small appetizer of Leider's assumptions and incorrect data.
If I were to compare “My Private Diary” to “Dark Lover”:
Michael A. Romano wrote in the introduction to his publication of My Private Diary, that the book was intended for the “shop-girl and debutante”. While Dark Lover shares the exact same information, she feigns sophistication. Leider attempts to sell the same content which was intended for flappers of the 1920's, to an audience she imagines as being gathered in some elegant parlor, sipping a cup of tea while conjuring their image of Valentino.