Friday, November 12, 2021

Thoughts on the Guglielmis by Renato Floris

It appears that a well-known Valentino fiction writer is claiming he has uncovered a new relative of Rudolph Valentino. He presents no other proof than the surname, Guglielmi. I would say this about that.

The "Guglielmi" he refers to is a gentleman whose father was a bass player in the orchestra of the very famous Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini.

I'm talking about Louis Guglielmi better known by his stage name of Louiguy, a nice combination of Louis and Guglielmi, even if, in some cases, he used the pseudonym Roger Luiguy.

He was born in Barcelona but since he was seven years old, he lived in Paris were he became a talented musician. He became the accompanying pianist of Édith Piaf and composed the music of songs which soon became popular hits, including Le Vagabond (words by Édith Piaf, 1941), Ça Sent si Bon la France (1942), Marjolaine (1944), La Danseuse est Créole (1946), Mademoiselle Hortensia (1946), La Vie en Rose (on a musical theme by Marguerite Monnot and words by Édith Piaf, 1947), Le destin s'amuse (1947), Cerisier Rose et Pommier Blanc (1950), before turning to film music, in particular with Sacha Guitry.

But again there is no proof presented Louiguy has any remote relationship to Valentino.

In Italy there are about 2,836 family units with the family name of Guglielmi, distributed as follows: the Guglielmis are widespread in northern Italy (49%), then in the south and islands (27.4%) and in central Italy (23.6%).

Of the Guglielmis of northern Italy, I know Chicca Guglielmi who is certainly a relative of Valentino, albeit distant. This is proven by Valentino's sister Maria Guglielmi Strada who declared, on the occasion of her trip from Genoa to New York, between 12 and 22 January 1927, that her contact in Italy was none other than Chicca's grandfather, Guglielmo Guglielmi, at the time residing in Turin in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.

Maria names Guglielmo Guglielmi as her uncle. Yet Guglielmo Guglielmi was not a brother of Giovanni, Maria's father. But at the time it was customary, especially in southern Italy, to give the appellation “uncle” to older second or even third degree cousins. Therefore, Maria calling Chicca's grandfather, “uncle” is not out of place.

Another detail relating to the Turin Guglielmis, can be found in a letter Valentino sent to his friend Bruno Pozzan in February 1911. He tells of having spent the Christmas holidays of 1910 in Turin, he does not say who he spent them with, although it is almost certain that he was a guest of the Turin Guglielmis.

Christmas is a sacred feast for young Italians and, above all, a feast to be spent with the family. In Italy it is customary to say: Christmas with your parents and Easter with whoever you want.

Rodolfo, at the time, was attending agriculture school in Sant'Ilario Ligure, a suburb of Genoa and it was certainly much easier for him to get on a train from Genoa to Turin for a journey of about two hours than to spend a dozen hours in uncomfortable train cars to reach Taranto.

I have other friends with the surname Guglielmi, such as Augusto Guglielmi, a.k.a. Marco Guglielmi, a good actor who was my mentor during the years I lived in Rome to attend the Academy of Dramatic Art; no relation to Valentino. 

Having the name Guglielmi does not automatically make someone a relative of Rudolph Guglielmi Valentino. And the name seemed to be one the family, Alberto, could not not get rid of soon enough. I suggest to the fiction writer that he present some proof before making his claims.