Monday, March 28, 2022

Home, Sweet, Hollywood Gravina

I really do not think Rudolph Valentino's story is such a Hollywood story. When I think of where he lived, where he based his daily life, I think of New York City for some reason. This said, I think there is plenty of evidence that he enjoyed life in Southern California.

When Renato and I visited Castellaneta, the first thing I thought of when I saw how the city was perched on the Great Gravina (great canyon), was the similarity with the location of Falcon Lair perched on the edge of its cliff. Was this "Hollywood canyon", Valentino's gravina? I think it was and whether consciously or unconsciously, he recreated his childhood imprinting of "home" with Falcon Lair. Of course it was a last gasp event in his ephemeral life but there it was.

For me one of the most powerful images in Aurelio Miccoli's The Infancy of the Myth, is that of the boy Rudolph and his relationship with the gravina of Castellaneta. A place to escape with friends, scampering up and down the rocks, a hideout and a landscape of great action.

When his life closed in on him the first part of January 1926, did he gaze down into the canyon from Falcon Lair and find some psychological escape? I like to think so.

There are beautiful photographs of the Great Gravina in Castellaneta in The Infancy of the Myth. And it makes me wonder how any of the children who played there survived. There are also rare photos of the folks who populated the boy Rudolfo's early childhood. The photograph of the stairs inside his childhood homes, the alleys where he ran with his first friends living his first adventures... it is such valuable imagery.

I asked Renato why I had this visualization of New York City being Valentino's home in America, more than Hollywood and he replied, “ Because New York City was his Taranto and Hollywood was his Castellaneta”.

The Great Gravina of Castellaneta! (From The Infancy of the Myth by Aurelio Miccoli)


  1. I too see Valentino and New York City as inextricably linked. He was born as an American in New York, and he died there. I find that remarkable. It is almost as though the city itself willed its central importance in his story by bracketing it. He and Natacha lived there and created art during the high point of their marriage. There is much evidence that they found it more hospitable to their lifestyle and ambitions than Hollywood. New York was then and will forever be, a world class city. Hollywood, not so much.

  2. I believe, had he lived and moved on from the acting profession, Valentino would have divided his time between New York and London. These seemed to be his favorite cities. He never really lived long enough at Falcon Lair to establish any roots. He also never expressed a real desire to return to Italy to live out his days. I think he would have kept a home in Southern California and maintained some kind of villa in Italy, but it was New York and London where he always thrived.

  3. Fascinating insight as to why Valentino chose the location for his Falcon Lair. Did he ever mention the reasons why he wanted to make that specific residence his home? I can see from the photograph that the Hollywood Hills and Benedict Canyon could have easily reminded him of the early days in Castellaneta!

  4. What a beautiful place!

  5. Seeing this scene every morning, that would put a smile on my face.