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.