Monday, June 13, 2022

A Persistent Myth

When I asked Frank Mennillo's grandson how and when Frank knew Rudolph Valentino, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Met him at the docks”. And the story began.

Frank took Rudolph straight to the tailor and got him set up. Frank made one lasting impression on Rudolph that day by telling the teenager he was never to be seen in public without spotless white spats.

Despite this and the entire testimony of Frank's family, despite the testimony of Uncle Ernesto Filomarino's family, despite Uncle Ernesto's address being entered as Rudolph's destination in New York on his immigration record, despite the $4000.00 waiting for Rudolph in a New York bank as funded by his mother, despite this by today's exchange being $118,099.39, and despite the testimony of William Bianchino who witnessed Valentino in the Filomarino office on arrival. (see article below)...despite all of this a myth persists. 

The myth Valentino arrived in New York City broke, penniless, floundering about knowing no one, etc. is still so entrenched in his legacy. Someone asked me recently if I thought there was one false thing about Valentino which could never be changed and I said this: the myth that he arrived destitute and not speaking English. It still seems to be everywhere.

I understand why it was generated and I get why Valentino would have gone along with it. It made him a hero to his Italian-American countrymen and women who came to America as immigrants believing they could do exactly as Valentino did.

But now there should be some accountability to reference the facts as they line up. I am not sure what the attraction is to maintain that rags to riches story in light of these families histories and the evidence. Why does Valentino still have to be portrayed as some wandering lost soul on his arrival when he was not that at all?