Thursday, June 2, 2022

With Friends Like These by Renato Floris

Robert Florey, or rather Bob as he preferred to be called, was certainly never discreet about Rudolph Valentino whom he was friends with between 1921 and 1923. After this, for reasons still to be clarified, he was excluded from the circle of friends who usually frequented Villa Valentino in Hollywood in Whitley Heights.

An opportunity to understand what Florey really thought of Valentino is found by reading some of his comments on the star contained in the series of memories dedicated to him and published in 1956 with the title “Inoubliable, Inoublié, Rudolph Valentino-Survit à Sa Légende”.

(Unforgettable, Unforgotten, Rudolph Valentino Survives his Legend) in the French magazine Cinémonde. This is a sort of re-edition of what Florey already published in 1948 in the “Magic Lantern” chapter of the book “Hollywood, Yesterday and Today”.

My full English translation of “Inoubliable, Inoublié, Rudolph Valentino-Survit à Sa Légende” is contained in our book “The Rudolph Valentino Case Files”.

Here are some "comments" on Valentino made by Bob Florey.

The first refers to Florey reporting what Max Linder thought of Valentino when he stated: “il n'a pas inventé la poudre”. That is, “he did not invent gunpowder”. This is a popular French expression defining him as a simpleton, a not very intelligent person, a simple-minded one.

Florey also adds that Max Linder considered Valentino a person with few possible topics of conversation and that he only became animated talking about his films. Florey says this was the reason Linder did not like to invite him to the sumptuous dinners he organized at his house.

In another part of his memoirs, Florey reprints the full the texts of some letters written to him in French by Valentino which contain a large number of grammatical and spelling errors which Florey did not correct. He did this it seems to make it clear Valentino could indeed speak and read French but could not write it correctly.

Regarding Valentino's books sold at auction, Florey tells us, "Included in the books being auctioned, were the ones I left at his house, which he had probably never read." Almost as if to say that books for Valentino were just objects to be displayed in his rich library that, for the most part, he never read. Let's not forget that in the dedication to Bill Self in the previous post, Florey specifies that the book The Sheik, “could be considered rare because it is one he read!”.

Florey also adds that Valentino considered his admirers to be simpletons and that he feared baldness so much he smeared his head with a black dye leaving indelible stains on the pillowcases causing irreparable damage for which he had to compensate hotels. Precisely for this purpose Jeanne de Recqueville, in her book, "Rudolph Valentino", tells us that she interviewed the maids of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, where Valentino stayed overnight in 1923. All denied the existence of Valentino's black soiled pillowcases.

To all this we must add a possible collaboration, with the appearance of the famous article "Rudolph Valentino Francophobe" written by André Tinchant and published on May 16, 1924 on page 285 of number 20 of the magazine Cinémagazine. Consider that in that same issue, on page 290, there is a correspondence by Florey with news and curiosities from the United States. Florey often collaborated with Tinchant, and I suspect that Tinchant's article had some input from Florey.

It should be added that the mention by Valentino about French cabaret dancers was revealed by Florey and something he should have avoided disclosing.

Just to conclude, Florey considered Valentino excessively self-involved and in an episode of "Inoubliable Inoublié" Florey tells us that: "One evening, I was waiting for him at his place with Douglas Gerrard and we read about the news of the day; a story of masked gangsters who attacked a bank on the boulevard. The event caused quite a stir and we were all very heated about it. Rudy stormed into the living room and deflated our enthusiasm by shouting: Did you hear the news? Rod la Rocque is now cutting his sideburns to a point like I do. He also has a famous toupee!"

There are other examples of Florey's lack of consideration for Valentino, but it seems to me that what I have gathered here is more than enough to understand what kind of true relationship there was between Florey and Valentino.

12 comments:

  1. Florey definitely harboured a grudge against Valentino , didn't he?

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  2. Seems to me that Florey has reincarnated into Burp. So as not to flat out upset anyone, I’m using a fake name to describe a certain individual.

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  3. Florey obviously had an ax to grind. He was hired to do a job for Valentino and ended up making his employer look bad, which resulted in his being fired and iced from Valentino's life. The disgruntled Florey got his revenge decades later. Some friend.

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  4. I personally find these less flattering testimonials very interesting and "realistic" and I am glad they exist. Florey might be just a friend / someone Who knew Valentino and Who didnt think highly of him or considered him an intelectual, cultured man ... And that îs fine. Rudy hâd both qualities and shortcomings, so there's no surprinse that not everybody thought highly of him... This doesnt make him any less remarkable as a human being. On the contrary, it make him more real and more human.
    So I personally choose to believe what Florey wrote about Valentino because he knew him quite intimately ( and he was not The only contemporary to make such claims) but it doesnt make me admire Rudy any less

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    1. Casandra, I agree with your comment. Like the rest of us, Valentino certainly wasn't a perfect human being. It's not what Florey wrote that is questionable, but it is the approach he took when writing it. "I was Valentino's best friend, so let me tell you all about his flaws." There's no denying the spite and the resentfulness in his narrative, as Florey dishes about his pal who was, by that time, long gone. Florey couldn't help revealing a bit of his ongoing peevishness in the inscription to Self from the previous blogpost. To me, there is no denying there's a dash of smug satisfaction in his tell-all account, even though some of Valentino's imperfections are a bit endearing.

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    2. I think Florey was not alone at all as he rewrote the history of his friendship with Valentino. Mahoney and Ivano can certainly be included in the genre. I understand their temptation to get grand and I guess in the days before the internet it was easier to spin the yarns. But Florey was special because as Bill Self told in that strange and direct way he had of saying things, "Bob Florey was the only person who had anything bad to say about Rudy. But that was because he was the only person Rudy ever fired personally." So its not just that Florey shared some human points about Rudy, it was that he did it in a snide way. Its like they are just mean jibes. And after 1923, Florey was out of Valentino's life because Rudy kicked him out of it.

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    3. "Florey also adds that Max Linder considered Valentino a person with few possible topics of conversation and that he only became animated talking about his films. Florey says this was the reason Linder did not like to invite him to the sumptuous dinners he organized at his house." If Rudolf Valentino was at a dinner party he would be the topic of conversation. Everyone would be looking at him and hoping to get a chance to dance with him. Max Linder suffered from depression and was known to be jealous concerning his wife. I think Mr. Florey was the one with limited knowledge.Rudy was friends with artists, dancers, spiritualists, agriculturalists, authors, hermits, comedians and much, much more.

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  5. 3:46 AM - "The disgruntled Florey got his revenge decades later."
    Some of the leaders of the VSC today have the spirit of Florey!

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  6. Jackie Oh! - TRUTH! That dreadful "Florey spirit" begins at the top of the VSC... with the one who keeps the keys to the Crypt!

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  7. I agree wholeheartedly with Casandra. Florey’s observations about Valentino are extremely valuable, notwithstanding the fact that Florey takes obvious delight in revealing the less flattering dimensions of Valentino’s personality. I find it ludicrous that Florey’s recollections are the source for the mythology that Valentino loved his mother more than any other woman and searched fruitlessly for her match in purity of soul and beauty. Not so. People should actually read what Florey said, and not rely blindly upon the assertions of the forum hens. One other point, if Florey is to be relied upon for this purpose, then his account of Valentino’s dog whipping and other unattractive features must be given equal credence. I for one, do just that.

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