Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The "Italian Passer-by"

I found it interesting Robert Florey commented how director Emmett Flynn told him Valentino wore a bracelet in 1918. Was this a mistake on Flynn and Florey's part or was the bracelet something Valentino wore years before Natacha gave him the infamous slave bracelet? An excerpt from pp. 107-108 in our The Rudolph Valentino Case Files and Renato's translation of Robert Florey's, Unforgettable, Unforgotten, Rudolph Valentino Survives His Legend published in Cin√©monde # 1161 – 11/18/1956:


"Fox's #1 director Emmett Flynn invited me to watch the boxing matches taking place one night in Vernon, outside the Los Angeles area. Flynn honored me with his friendship and his loyal appreciation. This after I pointed out to him when he was filming a scene representing the Emperor at Elba, how it was wrong to show him reading the Comoedia newspaper and smoking a cigar.

At first he was suspicious, because he had unlimited confidence in his props people, and then after hearing my information, he realized I was right. He took the opportunity to call me "professor". Emmett Flynn, a former driver, turned to the cinema like so many others in those heroic times and his film A Connecticut Yankee placed him in the first rank of directors. A little earlier he entrusted Valentino with his first important role in The Married Virgin.

At that time, even if I understood English well, I spoke it with difficulty. I had only been in California for a few weeks, but I was able to ask Emmett what were the reasons which led him to choose Valentino.

"I saw this handsome boy outside the studio door almost every morning," Flynn told me, "and sometimes even on set, playing small roles or in the cafeteria. He had a good demeanor, good looks, and greeted me with a warm smile whenever he saw me. He was just the right type for the character of an Italian aristocrat. I couldn't think of using the Vitagraph star Antonio Moreno, because the role wasn't big enough for him.

I summoned Valentino, who was still called Guglielmi, for the next day. He arrived in my office with a carnation in his buttonhole, his pearl gray felt hat on his head and cane in hand, a bracelet circled his wrist. His elegance surprised me and so much so I immediately hired him, without even asking him if he felt capable of playing the part. He looked so sure of himself I had no doubts about his talent.

He didn't act any worse than anyone else. He confused me a little by asking me to let him speak French or Italian in order to improve the character, During filming, I had no idea what he was talking about, but his expressions matched exactly what he was supposed to say. He was sure the studio would hire him on a year-round contract, but it didn't. When the film was finished, he was let go."

And so spoke Emmett Flynn. For him, Valentino was an Italian passer-by, very noble and very handsome, who had enough conscience to interpret only characters whose lines he wanted to understand."