The 1920 Interview (Part One)

In the New York office of William A. DeFord, on May 6th, 1920 (incidentally, his 25th Birthday), a pre-fame Rodolfo Guglielmi was asked to read through and sign, a transcription of an interrogation of him conducted the previous month, on April 14th. This forgotten examination, set-up to determine the exact sequence of events four years earlier, when he was seized by a Vice Squad, was located by me in 2016 and received in its entirety a year later. The pages that I produce here, in full, for the first time, give us incredible insight, not just into that September 1916 raid, but also into what happened afterwards. Due to the length of the discussion, as you can see, I’m dividing it into two, with the first post titled: The 1920 Interview (Part One).


As can be seen, the purpose of pages One and Two, were to fix in time and space the examination; establish the identities of those present and the procedure; and to note the objective. This being: to prepare both sides for an anticipated trial, where the Plaintiff, Rodolfo Guglielmi, could seek to secure damages from the Defendants, which were the varied publications he felt had defamed him in the wake of his seizure. In this instance: the Star Co. (As only one Q and A session was in the series of files it would seem this was intended to be shared by the defendants.)

Valentino had with him two gentlemen acting as his attorneys. And these were: Lyman E. Spalding, Esq. and C. L. Gonnet, Esq. His Questioner was William A. DeFord who was acting on behalf of those Rodolfo accused. There was also present a Public Notary, named John T. Sturvedant, who asked him to swear, presumably on a bible, to tell the whole truth. Also in the room, was Cleo. C. Hardy, a Stenographer. Her job being to faithfully record what was said, and then type it, so that the Plaintiff could read and sign it.


On Page Three the questioning of Valentino/Guglielmi by DeFord commences with obvious formalities. Full name. Age. Profession. Etc.

What we learn, at this early stage, is that Valentino had begun to dance professionally in the Autumn of 1914. Had started appearing in films late in 1916 and not before. (So nothing before The Quest of Life (1916).) That he’s currently accommodated at 61 West Fifty-fifth Street. And that he was living at and not visiting 909 Seventh Avenue in September 1916.


Page Four is full of questions – not particularly detailed – about Rudy’s status at the address and about his Landlady. William A. DeFord also begins to ask him about the men who seized him at the address four years before.


On this page, the then 24-year-old Rodolfo Guglielmi, is asked about what happened on the day of his seizure by the Vice Squad. (Which was September the 5th, 1916.) He explains that they broke into the address, armed with weapons, through both the front and attic doors. That he was in his pajamas. And that there were at least five men in total.

The account is a straightforward clearly honest one. And we can be forgiven, I think, for comparing it with a scene in a contemporary Silent Picture. This was a dramatic and unforgettable moment!


Page Six sees DeFord press Rudy about the name he was using at the time. The man in charge of the raid, District Attorney [James E.] Smith, addressed Rodolfo Guglielmi as Rudolph, his professional name, not his actual one. The initial conversation between the two is also of interest to DeFord. Rudolph Valentino states he was told that due to not being a Citizen he couldn’t ask any questions. And he also maintains he wasn’t served with any papers.


William A. DeFord asks more questions about papers or paperwork or any subpoena. And Rodolfo Guglielmi continues to answer in the negative. (The repeated questions suggest that DeFord thought it odd that no papers were given or read out to him at the time of his seizure.)


Pages Eight to Fourteen are mostly taken up with a strange exchange about a jock strap. Repeatedly RV’s Questioner asks if he was wearing a male corset or girdle that day. This was to see if the reporting in the newspapers was or wasn’t accurate — which it clearly wasn’t.


By Page Fourteen the questions are switched to queries about his fragrance that day and a wristwatch. Again to establish if the articles about him were truthful or untruthful.


By Page Fifteen, we see that William A. DeFord is trying to understand if, despite the non-exisence of an arrest warrant, Rodolfo Guglielmi felt compelled to go with the men, who’d woken him and his Landlady. Repeatedly he tries to explain that they had weapons and that this was an obvious incentive.

When asked the question: “Did you believe you were being arrested at the time?” He answers simply: “No.”


On this page DeFord continues to try to clarify the matter.


More questions from DeFord. This time about what was in the mind of Valentino.


We now reach one of the most interesting pages. The Interviewer asks the Interviewee to recall and describe exactly what happened, later, on the day that he was seized by the Vice Squad, headed by James E. Smith. Rodolfo Guglielmi then does so.

He remembers clearly being taken by DA Smith to see Justice Rosalsky. Rosalsky asking what the charges were. Rosalsky hearing that Rodolfo was a Pimp who’d been securing young women for Georgianna. Her reaction and his to this accusation. And that the Justice set their bail at $10,000 and sent them both to different houses of detention.


On Page Nineteen we see that DeFord wishes to be certain about what Guglielmi recalls. And he particularly wants to establish if there was any paperwork — which there was. The page ends with a question about Thym being accused of: “… conducting a disorderly house and paying [protection] money to the police of the city of New York…” A query that Valentino answers in the positive. (She was accused of this in the chamber of the Justice.)

Thank you for taking the time to look at the first half of this interesting exchange. A pre-fame Valentino doing his best to answer some rather long and sometimes odd questions. And thank you, in advance, for any likes, or comments. I do welcome relevant opinions. As I also welcome questions. I’ll do my very best to answer any that come my way. And I look forward to posting the rest of this interview sometime next month.

8 thoughts on “The 1920 Interview (Part One)

  1. This document is an amazing discovery. Several gems leap out in his answers; Asking if he used perfume – a one word answer “hardly” says all we need to know. (take that, Jean Acker) Also, a laughable moment 101 years after the questioning, when the council asks him if the district attorney and a detective visited him in his room. Rudy wryly replies “well I won’t say “visit” they just busted through the door”. The answers; that he was not presented with a warrant, that he was held in prison (not the tombs) for 3 days and after the fact was labeled as a material witness tell us something was happening behind the scenes after the raid took place. This is an important, fascinating peek into a very murky area of early Valentino history. It’s so nice to see real research being conducted unlike other self-professed ‘scholarly’ clowns who peddle agenda driven fiction and try to pass it off as truth. This is the real deal and you are to be congratulated, Simon for uncovering this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. My duty, obviously, to put it out there. As you know I love how his way of speaking was captured by the Stenographer. Which, as you point out, also demonstrates his wry sense of humour. This was obviously a stressful hour or two and he handled it well I feel. And that New York trip led to bigger and better things, when he encountered, first Karger, and then Mathis. Really value your support and encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Simon! This is the most wonderful find! I well spellbound by it. I suppose my continuing thought, while reading through, was how very close Valentino had come to being deported, to disappearing from this ‘world’, never to have become…well…Valentino.
    I’m stunned and seriously brokenhearted by their treatment of him and more than confused and troubled by their barrage of questions about the athletic strap! (I figure, before it was all said and done, there actually was a purpose for such intense interrogation about it?). I say troubled because it was absolutely pitiful, pressing him about it.
    Well done, SO informative that I can’t express my awe and gratitude adequately.
    Just very, very anxious for the next installment.
    Thank you, thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Carol Percer, a thoughful and thought-provoking comment, as usual, from you. Yes, it was their aim, DeFord and his team, to extract from Valentino info. that would show if there was any foundation to his claims to have been misrepresented in the press (in 1916). As you’ll see in Part Two there was and there wasn’t. However, SO many pages to find out what exactly it was? Really? Ridiculous! And next to nothing about what he was supposed to have done or not done? Well, for the most part. See you here later this month. Do take care in the meantime!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great piece of work Simon. Some strange questions, but relevant I guess. Thank goodness he wasnt deported!!
    Cant wait for part 2

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Karl! Great to hear from you! Yes! In my opinion deportation was no idle threat. If this was all an elaborate stich-up then it’s plain they could EASILY have arranged it. Looking forward to your further comments! Simon.

      Liked by 1 person

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