Monday, May 23, 2022

Custom Built!

In my interview last Saturday, I spoke about Valentino's cars and a favorite car dealership in New York which he frequented, Ugo D'Annunzio's Foreign Models. Ugo D'Annunzio is an interesting story himself, as he was the son of the great Italian poet and statesman, Gabriele D'Annunzio; a poet Valentino greatly admired.

Ugo D'Annunzio:

Info about his very famous father here:

Two months before he died, Valentino ordered a new Isotta Fraschini from Ugo's Foreign Models. The story of what happened immediately on delivery of the vehicle a year later can be read here.

Another Valentino car fascination I mentioned was the Cunningham roadster. Curiously, Jay Leno owns one of these cars and it is fun to watch him driving it here:

I can imagine Rudolph Valentino spending hours in the Foreign Models' showroom going over the details of the new car with Ugo D'Annunzio. I guess money, celebrity and all of the above gave Valentino the advantage of having a personal rapport with Ugo and with Gabriel Voisin in France. His cars were custom ordered, custom built and I think he and Jay Leno would have something in common!

The Cunningham Roadster (1919 model) :


  1. I think those two Italians, Leno and Valentino, would have gotten along very well.

  2. D’Annunzio was a formidable, complicated personality with many gifts. Although physical beauty was not one of them, he nevertheless had preternatural power to entrance women, including the legendary actress, Eleanora Duse. He lived an extraordinary life. I heartily recommend the excellent biography “Gabriele d'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War” by Lucy Hughes-Hallett. Also worth checking out are the recollections of screenwriter Frances Marion (Son of the Sheik) who writes about the difficulty she had in adapting a D’Annunzio novel for the screen, which had been Valentino’s fervent wish.

  3. The Bane of ConradMay 24, 2022 at 2:03 AM

    Arthur Harmon - was there any particular work of D'Annunzio that Valentino was interested in bringing to the screen?

    1. Yes, The Triumph of Death. The story of a tortured man who, in the novel’s last pages, forces his lover to join him as he plunges to his death, although she does not want to. It is an unforgettable, beautifully written book, as all of D’Annunzio’s novels are. Not for everyone though. Very, very interesting that Valentino was especially taken with this work.

  4. It seems to me that if, "My Private Diary" was really written by Rodolfo Valentino, then I wonder if he ever read "The Triumph of Death" by Gabriele D'Annunzio. I say this based on what was written on September 9, 1923 in the diary. In addition to other errors relating to the city of Rome, Valentino tells us in My Private Diary that the protagonist of the "Triumph of Death", Giorgio Aurispa, allegedly dragged his lover, Ippolita Sanzio, to their death in a deep chasm under or near the Colosseum in Rome. There are no chasms under or near the Colosseum to explain how Giorgio Aurispa committed suicide/murder by throwing himself off a cliff, dragging his previously drunk lover with him. In “The Triumph of Death”, this does not take place in Rome but takes place near an Abruzzo village on the shores of the Adriatic sea, in Abruzzo, on the Theatine coast of San Vito Chietino. So I wonder if he read the original version or if he was already preparing a new version as a screenplay. That Valentino wanted to bring "The Triumph of Death" to the screen is something new and intriguing to me. I knew he wanted to make a film from the novel by Benito Mussolini "The Cardinal's Lover - Claudia Particella"; a production which could not be completed because Mussolini denied his consent.