Tuesday, October 5, 2021

"He seemed ill at ease..."

In thinking about the comments made here regarding Valentino's insecurity, I remembered this item. It is not the highest of quality but Jesse Lasky adds some insight into the “ill at ease” star. (A full transcript can be found below) The story goes that a piece of paper was found in the rubbish which turned out to be Valentino's contract for Moran of the Lady Letty. (see below)

It is interesting to think how many valuable documents from Valentino's life ended up in the trash; or sold to the highest bidder and shipped off into oblivion.

The bits and pieces which survive being destroyed, being offed for a price or secreted away forever in a collector's vault become all the more precious I think.

An insecure Valentino proposing marriage on a daily basis? An insecure Valentino tentatively asking Jesse Lasky for a job? How and why did he become so “ill at ease”?


Jesse Lasky Recalls How Ill at Ease Screen Hero Appeared

Clearing bits of rubbish from a lawn near 1811 N. Las Palmas Ave., the other day, J. Linder, freelance writer, newspaper vendor and World War veteran, picked up a crumpled wad of paper and smoothed it out.

The date on the aged and slightly torn stationary was Aug. 30, 1921 and the two signatures at the bottom were “R. Valentino” and “Jesse Lasky”.

It was a six-paragraph contract between Rudolph Valentino, the handsome Italian actor, who overnight had skyrocketed to screen immortality by his dashing performance in the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and Famous Players Lasky Corp., 1330 Vine Street.

“You are to play the leading male role in the production, 'Moran of the Lady Letty' to be directed by George Melford which production it is contemplated will start on or about September 26, 1921, the brief document read.

“For your services... we agree to pay you the sum of Seven Hundred Dollars ($700) per week.”

Today Lasky viewed the Valentino memento and verified its authenticity, although puzzled as to where it had come from and in whose hands it had been since that Aug. 30, 18 years ago when the future 'Sheik' walked into his office.

“He seemed ill at ease,” recalled Lasky. “I congratulated him on his performance in the 'Four Horsemen' and then he said, “I'm looking for a job”.

It was as if today Clark Gable or Robert Taylor were to walk in and calmly announce they wanted a job. I didn't let him leave the office. The contract was dictated and signed right there.”

Later Lasky recalled a more formal five-year contract with yearly options which raised Valentino's weekly salary to an eventual $2000, was drawn. Lasky and Valentino separated over contract differences before the expiration of the agreement.

In just five years less one week, the most famous of filmdom's matinee idols was dead.

He died Aug. 23, 1926.  



12 comments:

  1. I dont see The connection here with his insecurity issue... I mean I'm sure any person Who have hâd money issues for several years would be "ill at ease". It seems to me în this case that Valentino în this instance was worried about The money..

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    1. Somewhat semantics because a person who is "ill at ease" is feeling "insecure" whether at that moment or in general.

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  2. Also, I personally dont think he hâd insecurity issues, except maybe în some rather specific situations, like whe he was broke, no job, etc. , but otherwise, it seems to me like he was rather courageous and confident man: he left for Paris when he was 17 by himself, hâd a good time, made friends, etc. The same în America... I believe he proposed to these women only as a way of stringing them along, most likely knowing they Will say no. He was too intelligent and wordly and with a sense of adventure, to be insecure I would say

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  3. I think this shows what a naive businessman he was. He didn't know how to negotiate. He didn't know his own power and the power that fame had released for him. He was also treated badly due to being Italian at that time in America.He was very young with no elders to advise him. He didn't even know enough to go with a lawyer into Lasky's office. I think he was only twenty six at the time.

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    1. Whatever the negotiation, I think walking out with a contract for $700.00 a week with Jesse Lasky was fairly shrewd. It is not as though he was negotiating a job as an extra.

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  4. The fact that Valentino didn’t waltz into Lasky’s office bursting with confidence after electrifying the world with his role in Four Horsemen does, in my opinion, speak to his fundamental self doubt and unease. I agree completely that he was out of his depth where business negotiations were concerned. But I also think that years of being a displaced person in a largely hostile environment did a number on him. I think we will never know the depths of the indignities he suffered as a young Italian man in a fast paced, unforgiving culture.

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    1. Exactly. I think he was a person who was often "ill at ease" based on an insecurity about many things; his social status, his education. This is also, imo why he put so much attention on his outward appearance, i.e. expensive clothing.

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  5. Being "ill at ease" is different than insecurity. Even the most secure person can feel ill at ease in certain situations.

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    1. Granted but at that moment one is insecure. For me it is nearly the same thing.

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  6. The fact is, Valentino could be surprisingly uncomfortable in his own skin on occasion. The ultimate embodiment of this is the footage posted over and over again on the forums as evidence that Valentino enjoyed mugging for the cameras with “pals” Al Jolson and Douglas Fairbanks. The reality is that Valentino looks virtually anguished in the footage, palpably ill at ease, unamused by the exhausting playacting of attention whores Jolson and Fairbanks, but having to pretend he is loving every second of it. Undoubtedly Jolson and Fairbanks and others like them mocked Valentino behind his back. If Valentino hadn’t encountered this kind of shunning from American men everywhere he went, his circle of male friends wouldn’t have been exclusively populated with Europeans.

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    1. I think Valentino may have been abused by Rex Ingram while he was being directed. I read that Rex did not want Valentino to get a raise of fifty dollars because he didn't think too much of him. Maybe that caused self esteem issues for Rudy.

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  7. I must say, I've been "ill at ease" during many periods of my life such as when I was broke, worried, and not sure about various career trajectories that I've been on. Haven't we all been "ill at ease"? Negotiating a professional contract at any age can be an intimidating experience, especially if it's not something you do all the time.

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