Saturday, July 16, 2022

Regarding Subjugating Perfume...

I found the following letter (see below) ground-breaking in regards to the history of Rudolph Valentino's Daydreams poetry. It is so often reported they were ghost-written or written by Natacha, but here we see her in receipt of some of the poems from him and she shares a story for his reference in writing more. She also reveals Adela St. John was helping with the Daydreams project.  

I think this one letter which Rudolph gave to journalist Baltasar Cue,  puts the subject to rest as to the authorship of the poems. It is also interesting in that it reveals when they were working on the book. This was written while Natacha was in New York at Foxlair in the summer of 1922. 

I will admit I used to think Natacha wrote the poems but have changed my mind in light of this letter. How romantic to think of Natacha, alone in the woods of upstate New York, writing the following to her love Rudolph. 

From Baltasar Cue's The True Rudolph Valentino, pp. 82-84

"( A letter addressed to “Rudie” regarding his Daydreams poetry)


I received your poems last night. According to what I telegraphed you today, I think they are good. Actually, very good and to be commended even if they lack in that something in which you shine.

With them, we should go far; so it seems better to wait, another eight or ten days, for a few others with better themes in order to present them as advantageously as possible. "The Fickle Boat" is really splendid, but the others, although good, are not extraordinary enough to serve as samples. 

We need some with more fantastical imagination, some passionate, some whose value lies more in the plot and others which are more oriental. Do not forget the idea which the public has formed of you and which should guide us; this being the unusual and something useful for a few out of the ordinary illustrations.

This volume must be very rare and exceptional as well as appealing to the general public. Do you remember the story which I once told you; the one about women-orchids? I think it would serve to make a fascinating poem with a wonderful opportunity for an unconventional illustration.

The story, in a few words, refers to a gardener whose hobby and passion consisted of collecting orchids. He learns that a mysterious orchid is found in the undergrowth of an African region. He moves to Africa and, at last, runs into a tribe telling him of a gigantic flower which grows in the bush, not far from there. They tell him it is a cursed plant and that in the night it emits a strong odor and whoever smells it loses his mind. The gardener laughs at this, considering it only as a superstition of an uncivilized tribe.

Then he tries to induce them to guide him to that place; but they are afraid and refuse, limiting themselves to orienting him so he can go there alone. After wandering through the undergrowth for a day or two, one night he is attracted by a wonderful and subjugating perfume as well as by an iridescent light shining through the dense vegetation.

Guided by the light, the gardener comes to find the magnificent orchid which appears as a flickering flame. It is about three feet in diameter and consists of all the colors of fire; scarlet, orange, yellow, etc. In addition to this, from the center of the flower radiate tentacles, like fingers of various lengths which are endowed with life and extend outward. 

It also has luminous virtues, which emits the faint light which at first attracted the gardener's attention. He is full of joy at his wonderful and beautiful find and takes the plant with him. He then places his trophy in a special corner of his garden. As the days pass, the flower fascinates him more and more and he believes he sees in it the soul of a woman. 

At last, he only lives to wait for the sunset and go to spend the night uner the spell of the fragrance, light and beauty of his flower. It seems to him that a woman breathes and lives in the flower. In the heart of that flower you could see the soul and the face of the woman-orchid. The long, flame-colored tentacles, always in motion, seem to caress him and hold him in a passionate embrace. One morning he is found dead in his garden with the tentacles of the flower tightly wound around him. I think the story is fascinating.

And I could suggest or bring to mind the vision of a beautiful woman carrying an orchid or the view of the Florida undergrowth. You can do something wonderful with this and I'm sure Adela St. Johns will agree with me. This could become the top poem and I have an idea for a truly amazing illustration. It depends on how it interests you.

You must put extraordinary things in the poems and the topics must be fascinating as well. Last night I received your letter written after receiving that terrible telegram from me. My beloved child, I know you are having a lot of patience and that you do what you can to understand me when my exasperation overwhelms me. I also do everything I can to control myself and not to worry you, little boy.

You do not know how the strain exhausts me; it's so hard! And it seems that I'm going from bad to worse. Instead of correcting myself, despite what I do. Nor does it ever leave me, the fear that this will separate us in the end. If you could hurry up and come before it's too late!

Try to have a little patience and I will also try to master myself as best I can. My imagination seems to be always active and exaggerating and I can not stop it. I anxiously await your letter telling me of your plans. I hope that this time we can make them. Things are getting so discouraging! That's all for now, my life. I must close, because A ... is waiting to take the correspondence.

All my love is for you, little boy. If I did not love you, I would not be so excited, nor would it excite you either; but I can not manage life without you.

A million kisses of love and tenderness.

Your naughty – LITTLE DOLL.'

(The volume of verses referred to in this letter is the one with the title DayDreams, published by Rudolph Valentino in 1923. In this, however, the poems, "The Fickle Boat" and "The Orchid Women" to which the letter particularly refers are not included. In any case, the strange mention of the writer Adela St. Johns in relation to Valentino's poems is not without interest.)"

A postscript: I am sure those who fancy themselves "studying" Valentino will waste no time firing off their tired, tired, tired old comments how Baltasar Cue was a "hack, hack, hack" and blah, blah, blah, fan magazine insults. Do not waste your time, I will not publish them. 

And fyi to the question I received today asking if I had died. No. I have not. Unfortunately, a family crisis took place and Renato has gone to expedite. The podcast we were about to finish will be delayed for a bit more pending his return.