I don’t know why, but the years Rudolph Valentino spent in and around New York, from 1913 to 1917, fascinate me. Forty two or so months crammed with incident; six months of which are, apparently, an impenetrable void. I’ve already looked at his first weeks in: New York Timeline (1913). His first full year in: New York Timeline (1914). And his second full year in: New York Timeline (1915). So we now arrive at the year 1916; twelve months that started well, but morphed into the most horrible nightmare, halfway through. A year which would be difficult to forget. And would haunt Valentino, and cause him trouble, as late as 1919/1920. Like all the others, this post is titled: New York Timeline (1916).
Despite reports, late in 1915, that Bonnie Glass plans to retire from exhibition dancing (to marry a “very prominent Kentuckian”, or replace Madge Kennedy onstage in Fair and Warmer), at the start of the new year, the yet-to-be Rudolph Valentino is still her dance partner, as Signor Rodolfo.
According to Emily W. Leider, who accessed sealed documentation, while writing her Valentino biography, Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino (2003), it’s during this month that Rodolfo becomes acquainted with John G. L. de Saulles, otherwise-know-as Jack de Saulles. (It will be Rodolfo Guglielmi’s eyewitness testimony, that will help de Saulles’ Wife, Blanca, secure her divorce later in the year.
Bonnie Glass, assisted by Signor Rodolfo, begins a week’s run, headlining at B. F. Keith’s Colonial Theatre, at Broadway and 62nd Street, New York.
Glass and Guglielmi receive high praise from VARIETY Critic Jolo. As well as giving insight into their act, it also reveals the sort of people who knew of him, and, that he may’ve known. (See above.)
the 8th and 9th
Glass, assisted by Rodolfo, is now on the bill at B. F. Keith’s Palace Theatre, at Broadway and 47th Street, New York. Headlining is Marie Tempest (“Assisted by Melville Ellis”). Also above them are James and Bonnie Thornton. And below them Sophie Tucker.
This is possibly when Valentino and Tucker first met.
Jolo, reviewing again for VARIETY, this time finds one half of the act – Bonnie – to be tardy. (Was her mind elsewhere?) Finding that Rodolfo had: “…much more dignity of bearing…” than her. And noting she was: “… continually ‘hopping’ instead of keeping pace to his easy genuflections…” Lastly, and perhaps most seriously, her dress was a copy of one previously worn by rival, Joan Sawyer. (NEW ACTS THIS WEEK, Page 16, Fri., Jan. 14th, 1916.)
Bonnie Glass has now shifted to B. F. Keith’s Orpheum Theatre.
Due to her impending marriage to the Artist, Ben Ali Haggin, at some point this month (it’s not clear exactly when, but probably early), the lengthy and successful dance partnership of Bonnie Glass and Rodolfo Guglielmi concludes. Glass’s plans to permanently exit exhibition dancing have long been public knowledge, however, this still has to’ve been a serious blow to her Partner.
When we examine, closely, the association of Bonnie Glass and Rodolfo Guglielmi, we see that she was a serious influence on him. Her behaviour, her way of living and doing business, and her friendships and associations, all left a lasting impression. It could be argued that Glass was in fact his True Discoverer. After all, had she she not lifted him out of complete obscurity, in the Winter of 1914, would he have gone on to be the person he later was? And would he have been positioned, as an experienced former dancer, to be chosen by the shrewd June Mathis, for the role of Julio Desnoyers, in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)? A film in which he dances his way into film history? The questions are valid. Bonnie Glass played her part. And so important was she to him that they remained friends down through the years.
THE WASHINGTON HERALD reports on the skating mania in New York, the conversion of several dance floors into arenas, and how even Bonnie Glass is learning how to skate.
At her own venue, Joan Sawyer’s, in the Winter Garden building, at Broadway and 50th Street, New York, Rodolfo Guglielmi’s future Exhibition Dancing Partner is wowing patrons with her then Assistant, George Harcourt. (THE SUN, Hotels and Restaurants ad. section, Thurs., Feb. 17th, 1916.)
VARIETY reports that Rodolfo (Guglielmi) is now partnering Louise Alexander. And that the pair are to “assume charge” of Castles in the Air, a venue established by Vernon and Irene Castle, above the 44th Street Theatre, in New York.
Who was Louise Alexander? It’s not immediately clear. And she largely eludes us when we search for her. The fact no more is heard of the pairing, or their taking charge of the venue, proves the venture never reached fruition. Did they lack clout? Did they disagree? We don’t know.
It’s late in this month, no doubt after much rehearsing, that the yet-to-be Rudolph Valentino will begin working with Joan Sawyer. The pairing will initially be a successful one. However, the two exhibition dancers will not part on friendly terms.
VARIETY reports that independent Producer, Benjamin S. Moss, is negotiating with Joan Sawyer to secure her services as the Leading Lady in his next film, The Undertow. (“One Day” Takes Record, MOVING PICTURES segment, Fri., Mar. 3rd, 1916.)
THE SUN newspaper declares that “the founders of the Strand Roof Garden” contend that the dance craze is on the wane. (The founders were: Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt, Miss Anne Morgan, Miss Elsie de Wolfe and Miss Elisabeth Marbury.)
Miss Elsie de Wolfe, being the socially well-connected and influential Interior Designer Step-Aunt, of Rudolph Valentino’s second wife, Natacha Rambova.
It’s reported (in the Friday Morning edition of THE NEW YORK PRESS) that Joan Sawyer fell out so spectacularly with her dancing partner, George Harcourt, on the dance floor of a venue, that she was barred by five men from performing there the following evening.
This was, it would seem, the point at which Sawyer began seeking a new Partner. Did she already have Mr. Guglielmi in mind? If so, she could confidently dispose of Mr. Harcourt, rehearse intensively with the fresh pair of feet, and be back on track within a week or so.
In The Sunday Star, on this day, a column details the following:
“Joan Sawyer, who is said to be the best ballroom dancer in America, will be the principal attraction this week at the B. F. Keith Theatre, in a bill numbering eleven features. Miss Sawyer was first seen here last season. She is the embodiment of the poetry of motion, her dancing being full of grace, spontaneity, charm and distinction. Her methods differ from others in that she never descend into acrobatics or gymnastics. It is ballroom dancing of the most refined and artistic type. She will be assisted by Signor Rudolph and will be accompanied by Miss Sawyer’s own ‘Persian Garden Orchestra.” Among the numbers given will be ‘The New Fox Trot,’ ‘The Aeroplane Waltz,’ ‘The Zurmaza’ and the ‘Sawyer One Step,’ three of these being new.”
In it’s Tuesday issue, Washington’s The Evening Star reviews Joan and Rudolph’s performance; which, according to the anonymous Reviewer, was “undeniably popular”. The future Valentino is revealed as her “new partner”. And their dancing was followed by an encore performance of “The Sawyer Whirl”.
AMUSEMENTS section. Page 11.
THE WASHINGTON TIMES, on their THE TIMES DAILY MAGAZINE PAGE, features a recently conducted interview with Joan Sawyer, focused very much on the subject of superstition. (Apparently, the unlucky faint whistling of the Interviewer, Florence E. Yoder, in Sawyer’s dressing room, almost ended the exchange before it began.)
Joan Sawyer was, in every way, Bonnie Glass’s equal. Both were tough and had risen from nothing. Both had carved themselves a niche. Both had a talent for self-promotion. The only real difference perhaps being, that Sawyer was loathe to quit the scene, while Glass was all too happy to. A Texan girl, who made her way East, she was a member of “Richard Carle’s company” in 1907. And part of Raymond Hitchcock’s successful Merry-Go-Round presentation (apparently as Margaret Sawyer), in 1908. (The year she sensationally attempted to sue heir to millions, Byron G. Chandler, for $100,000 for allegedly breaking his promise to marry her.) The following year the “clever, handsome actress” was endorsing a hair product widely. Yet, had switched from acting to dancing by 1912, and was partnered, in succession over time, by: Lew Quinn, Wallace McCutcheon, Mr. (Carlos) Sebastian, Nigel Barrie, George Harcourt, Jack Jarrott and others. Prior to teaming up with Rodolfo Guglielmi, she’d been filmed for the first ever dance instruction film, by Kalem Co.; advised dancers in newspaper articles; and recorded her original Persian Garden Orchestra dance music with Columbia Co. Looking carefully at her life we see Sawyer was a person who actively courted controversy. She could ride out any stormy scandal. For her there was no such thing as bad publicity.
Adverts show that Joan Sawyer continues to headline, at B. F. Keith’s Theatre, in Washington, with Signor Rudolph assisting her. They perform twice a day (for Matinee and Evening audiences). Afternoon seats at 3 p. m. being 25c. And later ones at 8:15 p. m. 25c to a Dollar.
The B. F. Keith engagement concludes with a final Matinee and Evening performance. And, according to a later statement, by Rudolph Valentino, rather than stay the night, they depart by train and travel back to New York overnight.
(See August the 14th.)
After a break of almost a week, the pair travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they’re to open today at B. F. Keith’s Theatre on Chestnut Street and Twelfth Street, as: Joan Sawyer & Co. Their review, on Page 15 of the Philadelphia Evening Ledger, the following day, is glowing.
This engagement, will last from the 10th until the 15th of April, 1916.
the 17th to the 22nd
In the April 22nd edition of THE NEW YORK CLIPPER, on Page16, we see that Joan Sawyer (& Co.) are heading the bill, at [B. F.] Keith’s [Garden] Pier [Theatre], at Atlantic City, New Jersey.
the 1st to the 6th
Sawyer & Co. appear at Shea’s Theatre, at Buffalo, New York State. This is a venue that Guglielmi/Valentino already knows well, from having danced there with Glass, during the previous year.
the 8th to the 13th
In the middle of the month (according to the May 6th issue, of THE NEW YORK CLIPPER, which can generally be trusted), Joan Sawyer and Rodolfo Guglielmi are dancing as far afield as Cleveland, Ohio. The dates there would seem to be the 8th to the 13th.
the 15th to the 20th
Still on tour, with Mr. Rudolph assisting her, Joan Sawyer travels East to headline at the Moose Temple, 628-634 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
However, their main engagement, according to THE NEW YORK CLIPPER, once again, will be performing at the city’s Davis Theatre.
It’s reported that Joan Sawyer and Mr. Rudolph will dance in the evening at the Theatre de Verdure.
This appears to have been at the Grand Central Palace. Part and parcel of The Allied Bazaar, a daily, W. W. 1 charity event, it featured many of the major Broadway stars of the day.
On the 18th it’s reported that Sawyer danced once again the previous day at The Allied Bazaar. (With, we must presume, Mr. Rudolph.)
In THE NEW YORK TIMES, an advert. details that Miss Joan Sawyer and her assistant, Signor Rudolph, are dancing, nightly, at The Woodmansten Inn, just off Pelham Parkway at West Chester, outside New York City. Exactly how long they danced there is unknown, but, it was probably for some considerable time, and not less than a week. In a later interview (in 1939), with Michel Mok, for the NEW YORK POST, the Proprietor, Joseph L. Pani, will say the following:
“I was the first to give Valentino a chance. Before that nobody would look at Rudy. He danced in my place with Joan Sawyer as his partner, and he made a great hit.”
Pani, ignoring the fact that Valentino had already enjoyed much success with Glass, for the best part of 18 months, also explained that the then Rodolfo Guglielmi was paid just $50 per week. (This seems unlikely.)
By the start of the following month, their stint at Pani’s Woodmansten Inn has ended, and they’re scheduled to appear at Morrison’s Theatre, at Rockaway Beach, Long Island.
The source for this information, VARIETY, indicates strongly, that Joan Sawyer & Co. are no longer headlining. Their position in the listing of acts is third. A serious come down from the giddy heights of April and May 1916. And a drop that suggests the founders of the Strand Roof Garden, were correct in their assessment, that the Teens mania for dancing was on the wane.
How Signor Rudolph is employed in the middle of this month is a bit of a mystery. Research hasn’t uncovered any reports, reviews, or adverts, which place him opposite Miss Sawyer. Was she, perhaps, preparing herself for her short-lived film career? One possible explanation, is that as it was common for venues to close due to the Summer heat, they weren’t at the time performing. However, they did perform in the following month. That the future Rudolph Valentino was at leisure, is underlined by the fact that a year later, VARIETY reveals in these weeks he was regularly seen in the company of Mrs. de Saulles.
As widely reported in the press on the following day, the 28th, Mrs. John G. Longer de Saulles, formerly known as Senorita Blanquita Elena Errazuriz, files for divorce at the Supreme Court. (A divorce later reported as having been actioned with her Husband’s full support.)
Blanca de Saulles has been much written about – Leider, Villalobos, Evans, Tanaka – yet never really called out for what she was: a manipulator of the first order. Anyone doubting this, has only to read the contemporary reporting (in titles such as the Pierre Weekly Free Press), of how she shamelessly flirted with and seduced Jack de Saulles, early in 1911, while he was in Chile on important business. Though the syndicated tale’s headline naturally read, JACK DE SAULLES’ CAPTURE OF CHILI’S RICHEST BEAUTY, when we examine the text, it’s obvious who was actually capturing who. How, when against all the odds he won a swimming contest, at Vina del Mar, near Valparaiso, she applauded loudly, and brazenly insisted he be presented to her, in front of the fashionable crowd. How the Young Lady, recently returned from her expensive finishing school in England, encouraged his advances. How she toyed with his affections and played him off against another, named Juan; “one of the handsomest young men in Valparaiso”. How she pitted Jack against Juan. How, when de Saulles defeated his opponent, and asked for her hand in marriage, she left Chile for France. How, after making him wait, then sending a telegram asking him to join her in the French capital, they finally wed, at the close of that year.
Despite their eventual, romantic nuptials in Paris; the subsequent move to the East Coast of the U. S., and comfortable existence with her in laws, elsewhere, then at 22 East 78th St.; being married to one of the city’s most well-regarded and best connected men; introduction to New York High Society, in a city and a country increasingly confident and prosperous; being welcomed into and achieving prominence in High Society; and mixing with fellow Chileans, other South Americans, and those connected with South America; despite all of this, and more, she wasn’t happy. The birth of a son failed to improve her mood. And the mysterious rejection, by her Husband, of the offer of the position of U. S. Minister to Uruguay, in 1914, didn’t help matters either. (de Saulles wrote to Secretary Bryan and President Wilson that an “unexpected turn” in his “personal affairs” prevented him from: “… fulfilling the ambition of a lifetime…”) On the face of it, ‘Kid Jack’, as he was affectionately known by his friends and the press, did everything he possibly could to make his young Bride feel at home.
That it obviously wasn’t sufficient, and, that it obviously wasn’t the fault of her former Spouse, is revealed in the reporting of her intense and lengthy cross examination, on the witness stand, whilst on trial for his cold-blooded murder, in late 1917. Reporting, in which we see that in a communication before their divorce, when about to depart for Chile, she took full responsibility for the breakdown of their marriage. As follows:
‘Dear Jack: Just before leaving I want to tell you that I am really sorry for having made you so unhappy, and I want you to please forgive me, and realize that if I hurt you it was always unconsciously. I know, though, that no excuse makes it any better–a hurt is a hurt.
‘But I want you to know that I have always admired you and been fond of you as a man among men, and nothing will ever change that. That I was not able to make you a good wife will ever be a regret to me and a source of reproach. Circumstances and people change so much, that who knows, that some day, if you wanted still, we might still be happy.’
From reporting of the trial in the New York Tribune, Wed., Nov. 28th, 1917, Page 16.
If the reporting (in the New York Tribune and other titles), demonstrates her acceptance of blame, that she believed she and she alone was at fault, it also proves her to be a manipulator of men in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome. She herself said, during the questioning of her by District Attorney Charles R. Weeks, that she knew: ‘… that he surest way to hold a man is to flatter him to death.’ (An unfortunate use of words given the predicament in which she found herself.) In another letter to her dead Husband, written on Christmas Eve 1914, and also read out in court by the District Attorney, we get a very clear picture of how she operated. As can be seen:
‘Fowler was very nice and attentive, and helped me off the boat, and before landing he introduced me to Mr. Downey (who was the same as Mr. Sprague), and he was perfectly splendid, and not even a strap or anything on my things touched. Dudley was there with Louise, too. Mr. Downey said: “It isn’t always we have a passenger such as you, and though we all know who Mrs. de Saulles is, we have not all the honour of knowing her.” So I told him that he was perfectly splendid.
‘It was bitterly cold, and we had to wait some time for my case of silver to come out of the hold. So I said it was a shame we had to wait so much, and he said that he would not mind waiting every day of his life if he were to see me. So I said I would not mind arriving every day if I were to see him. The result was everything was expited–no questions asked. I shook hands when I said goodby [sic]. I told him he must come to see us, etc., etc. Of course he was in the seventh heaven of delight. You know better than anyone what saying that means to people of his class. It was all very amusing and very useful.’
From reporting of the trial in the New York Tribune, Wed., Nov. 28th, 1917, Page 16.
Edith Cornwall, a female Journalist present at the murder trial, gave to her readers a compelling sketch of the true Blanca, which had emerged during the dramatic interrogation of the Murderess, by “District Attorney Weeks”. An individual, who, was:
“A beautiful, cold snow-drop of a child brought up in a convent and carrying with her in to the world a good deal of the convent atmosphere of chill aloofness from her surroundings. A girl loved and pitied by the members of her own family and her young friends, spoiled and indulged in her every wish, whether reasonable or not. Carried away for the time being by the ardent wooing of the big ‘American'[,] who was so different from the boys she had known[,] and demanding him of her mother just as she might have asked for a new gown or a jewel. And she got him.”
From: Jealousy, Pride and Anguish caused the De Saulles Tragedy, THE SYRACUSE JOURNAL, day and date unclear, Page 2.
And in her article, WHAT OF THE MAN IN TRAGEDIES OF LOVE, ASKS WRITER, published in THE WASHINGTON TIMES, at the beginning of the sensational trial, another woman, Margery Rex, also enabled those at the time (and us, today) to see the unpleasant person behind the artful and cleverly-constructed defence. An individual who: “… having won her husband, found nothing left in the process of loving.” Further: “She was a part of the fitting of the home; he a bit of furniture. The boyish ardor that yearned for a girlish response did not find it.” And further, under the sub-heading A Masculine Viewpoint, the family members of the dead man were:
“… prepared to claim for justification of their side that the Slender White Lily was a refrigerator flower, lovely behind the glass, but not responsive to the red corpuscle beckonings of a youth who cared less for society than he did for its individual expression.
“Baring their hearts, these people may be expected to say, that when the fire of love did not burn brightly the man made the sacrifice. And then, having gone his way, says the masculine side of the case, the woman stayed near him, kept jealous watch over him, and went one night with a revolver, and, through jealousy and hate, killed him.
“The witnesses for the prosecution will tell how she came to the house and called—not for the child, but for the man. They will tell how she saw the child and did not go to him, but went to the man. They will tell how she centered her attention on him and slew him when he was making no movement to harm her.
“Somehow or other nobody ever thinks of the man in the case. He lived, he was shot, and he is dead. Pity cannot resurrect him, nor can sympathy do him any good, but the chief element of the court’s part in life is not pity or sympathy, and the general idea of society is that the man had a right to live.”
Previous to shooting her former Husband several times at close range, and months before securing a divorce, Mrs. de Saulles met Mr. Rodolfo Guglielmi. Exactly when and where isn’t known — yet, meet they did. Was it at some point in mid.-to-late 1915, as hinted at by Emily W. Leider, on Page 68 of Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino (2003)? Or, at the start of 1916, as stated by Jeanine T. Villalobos (after an introduction by her Husband). That they enjoyed one another’s company during the Teens Dance Craze is undeniable; but, did they meet as a consequence of it? The mid.-decade mania for dancing did allow barriers to be crossed and for rules to be relaxed. (Though not as much as a decade later when the Twenties roared.) However, while both had a proclivity for terpsichorean activity (she recreationally, he professionally), it must be emphasised, at least once, that these weren’t social equals. Research shows Blanca operated at a level that was simply beyond Rodolfo at that time. Performing for the powerful and the wealthy didn’t necessarily secure him an invite to visit, stay, or, dine with them. If that’d been the case, his name would’ve been in the reports of their parties and events, and it wasn’t. For me, mundane as it might be, it’s most likely they met, as people do in big cities, randomly, at some point in January, February or March. However they met Jeanine’s crystal clear: they were introduced by Jack de Saulles.
Mae Murray, in her largely inaccurate account of the affair, in The Self-Enchanted, Mae Murray: Image of an Era by Jane Ardmore (1959), at the centre of which she naturally places herself, does, it’s true, say:
“Rudy was in love. With Blanca deSaulles! The little ivory figurine had taken Mae’s advice and gone dancing. That’s how they met.”
The trouble with Murray’s version, besides her barging onto the stage in another’s story, is that she gets it all wrong. If she had, as she claimed, had an affair herself with Jack de Saulles, then she would’ve been in a position to describe him accurately, which she didn’t. She would also have known that his name wasn’t Jackson but John. (Jack then and later being the nickname for anyone with that first name.) The person who was definitely romantically linked to him, Joan Sawyer, is barely mentioned. And not at all with regard to Blanca de Saulles’ plans to dissolve her marriage. Further, we might wonder how she knew anything about it, when we consider the fact she wasn’t physically there, having already departed for L. A. at the end of 1915, to fulfil her contractual responsibilities with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Co. And there’s evidence that Mae wasn’t even friends with Rodolfo at this time. A 1930s piece I found, features a quote from Mae’s later Husband and Director, Bob Z. Leonard, in which he reveals that Rudy approached him and not her in California. An odd thing for him to do, if, as she maintains in her memoir, they were so close in New York between 1914 and 1916.
Villalobos’s contention that Mr. de Saulles introduced Mrs. de Saulles to Mr. Guglielmi, after he got to know Jack, in January 1916, is drawn from a far more reliable source: the biographical writing of Baltasar Fernandez Cue. Cue’s biography of Valentino, which appeared serialised every month, in Spanish, in Cine Mundial, in the year after the Star’s demise, was based on the recollections of Valentino himself. Despite the obvious creative license we see when we read it, it at least gives us the rough sequence of events according to Rudy, with his natural bias in favour of Blanca. A woman that, BFC tell us: “… Valentino paid respectful tribute to the end.”
Cue begins his lengthy look at Jack, Blanca and Rudy, on Page 573 of the July 1927 edition. Revealing that: “Joan Sawyer’s closest friends included a young sportsman, elegant, cheerful, named Jack, who, both because of his personal qualities and because of his family and social relationships, was well known and esteemed in New York; above all, among artists, whose company he preferred.”
Who was the Mr. de Saulles that Mr. Rodolfo Guglielmi met and got to know early in 1916? A man who beat down his Wife? A Tormentor? A controlling person? In my opinion no. That was Jack as portrayed by Blanca’s Defence Team in the following year. A constructed Aggressor removed from reality. Most certainly he was a tough guy, and could be difficult; after all, he was a competitive Sportsman-turned-Coach-turned Business-Man, and needed that edge, it was required. A man as evil as painted by his Wife could never have been as generally popular as he was — and he was generally very popular indeed. And if we doubt, in any way, his character, we’ve only to read the report of how he rescued Frank H. Jeffries, an African American sports Masseur he knew well, accused of theft by a House Detective, in 1909. Vouching for him and testifying as to his good character at the Night Court. Paying his bail of $500. (Over $13,000 today.) And, offering as security, “a lot at Long Beach valued at $3,000.” (It must be pointed out that during her trial, his Wife called Blacks Niggers, and contemptuously remarked that there weren’t any in Chile.)
Cue goes on to explain that Jack (de Saulles) was: “… married to an aristocratic and beautiful South American named Blanca.” Who’d: “… been educated, like a princess, in the best schools in France and England.” Was “elegant, refined, haughty.” And: “… belonged to one of the most conspicuous families in South America, where her name could not be pronounced without suggesting ancestry, prestige, power, wealth, distinction, respectability.” However, despite loving his Wife, Jack neither appreciated her worth, nor what her love was worth. And regardless of her charms: “… lived as if he were single…” Following this with:
“Through Joan Sawyer, Jack and Rodolfo met and hit it off. Through Jack, Rodolfo and Blanca met.”
(Here we should briefly pause, and recall the fact that Leider states that the then Guglielmi said himself, under oath, that he’d met de Saulles in January 1916. As he was in January still busy dancing with Glass, we might wonder how Sawyer, who he wasn’t to perform with for several months, introduced the two men. Unless, that is, he already knew her and anticipated being her Dance Partner.)
According to Cue, Blanca treated Rudy as if he were on her level, and they would meet, sometimes: “… at the parties that used to be held at the residence of Jack and Blanca…” (Which somewhat contradicts the assertion that Mr. de Saulles lived very separately from Mrs. de Saulles.) And: “Little by little, Blanca and Rodolfo became good friends.” From this entertaining Ladies Man she received the “deserved homage” that she wasn’t finding “in her own home.” In her, we read, he found someone that elevated him: “…above all the social rot in which he had lived since his arrival in New York.” And further: “Both, transplanted to an environment in which they were exotic, found in their mutual treatment a consolation for the common nostalgia.” And as a consequence:
“Rodolfo fell in love with that extraordinary woman. He fell in love with the purest love of his life.”
Who was the Mrs. de Saulles that Mr. Rodolfo Guglielmi met and got to know early in 1916? A woman beaten down? A shell? Without any control? In my opinion no. That was Blanca as portrayed by her Defence Team in the following year. A constructed Victim removed from reality. The truth, was that this was an intelligent, confident, worldly individual, who dressed with panache, and was free to move about to such an extent that she regularly travelled abroad. That actual person, as encountered by Rodolfo, is available to us in the remarkable series of images, produced in 1915, by Arnold Genthe, the celebrated photographer of prominent women. Photographs which present to us an undeniably striking personality. (Quite happy, in at least one shot, to show off her wedding ring.) And, interestingly, given the path she was on, posed and posing almost as if she were a tragic Shakespearean Heroine; or, a significant, even controversial, historical figure. The large, almost void-like eyes, suggestive not only of present issues, but also future calamity.
Did Blanca (or Bianca “as Rodolfo always called her”) love him back? In his writing, Baltasar fails to really award us a yes, a no, or even a maybe. Instead, we’re given what appears to be Valentino talking directly to us through him, when we read that: “… no matter how haughty, refined and select she was, she could not stop being a woman for a moment. Rather, she was always and has been in every moment of her life the very essence of femininity.” All suggesting, very strongly, that the association of these two transplanted exotics, consisted of the woman willingly receiving the man’s attentions and responding to his overtures, if not exactly succumbing. And why? Well, we discover why in the coming sentence, where we see that she was taking “… advantage of her relationship with Rodolfo the dancer …. to inspire jealousy in her husband…”
On Page 574 we read, that as she’d done with her Husband five years before, in 1911, and countless times in between with other males, she conquered “the Italian”. Drawing him slowly but surely into her scheme. Playing on his sympathy. Making him her accomplice. Cue tells us that they were: “… seen together frequently enough to attract the attention of her husband and others.” A scandal was potentially brewing. Both – ‘Bianca’ and Rudy – knew well that a married woman couldn’t be seen openly, in society, with a single, unattached man. And also that no married man could be seen to tolerate such a situation.
In his 2014 book, The Valentino Affair: The Jazz Age Murder Scandal That Shocked New York Society and Gripped the World, Colin Evans says:
“Many have wondered if Blanca and Rodolfo became lovers at this time. No concrete evidence suggests that they did, and the balance of probabilities supports this view. Blanca was a hard-nosed negotiator and sharp as a tack. She knew she was playing a dangerous game. If she gave herself to the sensual Italian, not only was she risking a countersuit of adultery, but she would have to contend with the possibility that, having once bedded her, Guglielmi would disappear without delivering the goods she so desperately needed. So, it is far more likely that Blanca dangled the carrot of postdivorce intimacy before her gullible admirer, promising that, once the divorce was signed and sealed, she would be his and his alone.”
Clearly Blanca had denied Jack sex too, after the birth of their only child, Jack Jr. And consequently denied him further children — which he may very well have desired and expected given his age and position. The extent to which he sought comfort elsewhere, is, in my opinion, grossly exaggerated. However, seek comfort elsewhere he most definitely did; thus neutralising his Wife’s power over him. Learning herself, and from her Husband, according to reporting of the testimony at the trial, that he was, at the very least, consoled by others, she determined to escape the union, and to this he agreed. (Something she failed to mention in the poor man’s absence.)
In the July 1927 segment of his lengthy biography, Baltasar Fernandez Cue explains that the divorce was impossible without proof of infidelity. And so the aggrieved woman “begged Rodolfo to be a witness”. Being so close to the person then having an affair with her Partner, Joan Sawyer, he was, she knew, not only perfectly placed but credible. Something he himself was obviously aware of. However, Cue states: “… Rodolfo, out of consideration for his friend, refused to go to testify.” That was, until one evening in August 1916, when he was given a reason by the friend, Jack de Saulles, at the popular Cafe des Artistes, at 1 West 67th Street.
Cue tells us that Jack de Saulles was indeed jealous of Rodolfo Gugliemi. And angered to the point that he: “… was already on the verge of exploding.” Rodolfo, it seems, encountered Jack and his “usual friends” at the venue, and, despite being his natural self, was soon provoked by his friend. de Saulles accosting him and: “… asking who he was to go around dancing with his wife. To which Rodolfo replied: — I respect her as a lady. A response that prompted the following one from Jack:
— Well, then, we don’t want any pimp here.”
The insult was apparently swiftly followed by the obviously riled and drunken de Saulles emptying his glass of liquor in Rudy’s face. Who, rising from his seat, and making not: “… the slightest move to materially punish the material offense he had just received, next said: — Jack, your wife has urgently asked me to testify against you, in the divorce proceedings, and I have not accepted until now because I believed you my friend. Tomorrow I will tell her that I am willing to declare everything I know…”
The extent to which this is all true is open to question, when we see that the Cafe des Artistes didn’t actually exist in the Summer of 1916. It would, as advertisements prove, be nearly a whole year later, that the then legendary, Gustave A. Becker, would open his establishment. Of course the location being non-existent doesn’t totally invalidate the story. Perhaps R. V. misremembered where it occurred, or, failed to mention it, and the Biographer simply filled in the blank. Yet it does teach us a valuable lesson about swallowing without scrutiny what people wrote about Valentino. We must always question a supposed authority.
Regardless of the sporadic inaccuracy of Cue’s writings, it’s a fact that the unhappy pair did divorce. (Even if it wasn’t awarded, as we see in the posthumous biography, solely because of the then Guglielmi’s revelations.) In her Dissertation Jeanine T. Villalobos wonders about the move made by her relation. And finds justification of his, career-wise, plainly suicidal decision to side with the married woman exploiting him, in the behaviour of de Saulles in front of his Broadway pals. We might wonder ourselves – I do – why it wasn’t sufficient for him to break with Jack on the strength of his claimed poor treatment of Blanca. (Leaving her alone for extended periods. Squandering her money. Sleeping with every chorus girl that passed his way.) After all he loved her madly. Saw her side of things. Was understanding of her needs over his. Or was that treatment, as was put forth, not as bad as was afterwards stated? What’s the explanation for Rodolfo Guglielmi’s inaction up to the point where he was publicly insulted. That he feared being out of work? Feared the beating of his life from de Saulles? Maybe. Or was it, that as a man among men in a masculine atmosphere, he appreciated his male friend’s dilemma? Turned, as they say, A Blind Eye? After all, wasn’t he partial himself to fraternising with dancers, actresses, writers, musicians and other artistic types? Crucially, as a man of his times, he also expected a wife to be at home with the child while the husband worked. (Inescapable, unshakeable and solid truth.) As would be seen later, Valentino was as inwardly old-fashioned as his murdered Buddy; if not more so, given his Southern Italian origins.
In an “Engagement De Luxe” “The Peerless Queen of the Modern Dance”, Joan Sawyer, headlines at B. F. Keith’s Palace Theatre, at Broadway and 47th Street, New York, assisted by Signor Rudolph. (It will be a week-long engagement.)
Rudolph Valentino continued to work with Joan Sawyer because he’d yet to be a witness for Blanca de Saulles. And if he’d already had the fight with Jack there’s no way that Joan would’ve continued to allow him to partner her. This means we can date their altercation, as described in Cine Mundial in 1927, to some point during the week long run detailed above. Rather convenient timing for the would-be Divorcee.
Justice Tierney, rules that Mr. de Saulles must pay to Mrs. de Saulles: “… $300 a month alimony, pending her suit for divorce.” The Justice also rules that Jack must pay her legal fees (of $1,000). And that their young three-year-old Son, Jack Jr., will initially be placed in the custody of his Mother.
(Source: the New York Tribune, Aug. 15th, 1916, Page 9.)
On pages 69 and 70, of The Valentino Affair: The Jazz Age Murder Scandal That Shocked New York Society and Gripped the World (2014), we see exactly what Rodolfo Guglielmi had to contribute at the Provisional Hearing. That he and a female friend had attended a dinner party at Joan’s where Jack was a guest. And that they’d been “on the cosiest of terms.” To him she was Joan. And to her he was Jack and dear. (Rodolfo also told the court he’d called her: “‘sweetheart'”.) Further, when he initially partnered Sawyer, in March 1916, in Washington, they returned to New York rather than stay the night. Rudy asked the taxi driver to drop Joan at Jack’s: “… apartment, where he would pick her up the following day at 8:45 a.m.” When he did so, Sawyer got into the waiting auto. and waved at de Saulles; who waved back at her from an above window, in his pyjamas. And, lastly, at the end of an engagement “in Providence, Rhode Island, at the Albee Theatre”, Jack arrived in time for both the final performance and the celebration afterwards for Joan. That night the pair “‘retired to her room upstairs.'” A room which only had “‘one large bed.'” Returning the next day to New York they shared a drawing room, while he (Rodolfo), slept in a nearby upper berth. From this vantage point he spotted a douche in her travel bag. Which, he testified, she’d opened in front of him.
Not surprisingly, given the revelations, after this date there are no further adverts, or reports, of Miss Sawyer and Signor Rudolph dancing. Their popular act of just a few months is terminated. And yet there’s plenty of evidence available to suggest that Sawyer’s glory days were behind her. So, even if Rudolph hadn’t taken the side of Blanca, it’s likely the partnership would’ve ended this year anyway. Or, in the next.
For me this is when he would begin to properly seek out alternative opportunities. And when those opportunities, given the time of year, were few-and-far-between, he gravitated towards the motion picture field.
It’s reported, in the Thursday, August 24th, 1916 issue of THE SUN newspaper, that Joan Sawyer has been contracted to appear in moving pictures. (A move that won’t be a lengthy one.)
A richly illustrated one third page article, in the August 26th edition of MOTION PICTURE NEWS, reveals that the moving pictures debut of the dancers Maurice (Mouvet) and Florence Walton, will be titled The Quest of Life.
Interestingly, the “Famous Players Film Company” production, in which Rodolfo Guglielmi will be an Extra, was already underway. Meaning that he’d either appeared in it (as a dancer) or was about to.
It’s announced that Mrs de Saulles has departed for Europe with her Brother, Lieutenant Guillermo Errazuriz, and her Sister, Miss Amalia Errazuriz. While there, she will be in England, and travel to Scotland to enjoy some hunting at her brother’s box. (Significantly, and surprisingly, considering later events, she abandons her tiny Son, leaving him with “friends” according to her legal team.)
(Source: the WASHINGTON TIMES, Sun., Aug. 27th, 1916, Page 14.)
Blanca’s sudden departure (on the 26th, on the S. S. St. Paul, according to Colin Evans), draws back the curtain on her heartlessness and lack of feeling. Not for the first time she abandons her Son (who’s just been placed in her custody). Likewise, she deserts the young man that’s risked everything he’s so far achieved, during his two and a half years in the metropolis. A young man, who, a little over a week later, will be detained by the authorities, and plunged into a waking nightmare of epic proportions.
What occurred next, was still of such note in the Nineteen Eighties, that it was included in the Miscellaneous section, for 1916, in CRIME CHRONOLOGY: A Worldwide Record 1900-1983, by Jay Robert Nash (1984). As follows:
“Rudolph Valentino, who became the great Latin lover of the silent screen within a few years, is arrested by vice squads in New York City for conducting a badger game in a Manhattan whorehouse run by Mrs. Georgia Thym; all details of his arrest will later be mysteriously expunged from New York City Police Department records.”
The “details of his arrest” did indeed disappear from the records of the New York City Police Department. However, four years ago, in 2017, I discovered long untouched documents, that, though they’re not the missing records themselves, do reveal exactly what the accusations were; what happened on the day of the arrest; and, what happened afterwards. These forgotten, jigsaw piece legal papers, which largely relate to Rudolph Valentino’s failed attempt to win compensation from the publications he felt had defamed him, not only transport us back to that moment, but also help us to see that the reporting at the time was in no-way-shape-or-form a concoction, even it was extremely sensational and wounding. (Four years later Valentino would secure a printed apology from the newspapers concerned.)
(Here, we should pause, once more, to look at what Cue had to say in 1927, about the incident eleven years earlier:
“But that was only the first consequence of the dancer’s declaration. Jack, who was not one-armed, knew that Rodolfo lived in a not a little suspicious house. He reported that house to the police; and one night the authority fell there by surprise and took Rodolfo prisoner, accusing him of engaging in the white slave trade. For several days he was in jail, from which he escaped thanks to the skill of a Jewish lawyer.”
As we see he makes the following points: 1. Jack had influence and contacts. 2. the place where Rodolfo was living was already viewed as suspicious. 3. de Saulles reported the suspicious building to the authorities. 4. he was taken by surprise one night. (It was early morning.) 4. he was jailed for several days. 5. his skilled Lawyer rescued him.)
Due to the fact I plan to write this year on the topic of The Missing Half Year, I won’t be going into great detail, now, about what happened, beyond what was already divulged in my excruciatingly detailed post September 5th, 1916. Suffice to say that the following definitely occurred:
- On the strength of what were serious, true or false accusations, he’s aggressively apprehended, at 7 a. m., at his then place of residence, 909 Seventh Avenue, New York, by armed detectives. (According to Valentino, the violent entry by the authorities spanned a tense 5 to 10 minutes, while they forced their way in through the front and attic doors.)
- He’s asked to confirm who he is. Asked if he’s a U. S. Citizen (which he wasn’t). And then told he must say nothing and accompany the officers, in order to be informed of what he and his Landlady, Mrs. Thym, are accused.
- Once dressed, the then Guglielmi and Thym are taken, by subway, to District Attorney Swann’s office. Here, Rudy requests a call be put through to acquaintance Frank A. Lord, the Deputy Police Commissioner, who he hopes will help him. (Lord denies knowing who he is.)
- In the afternoon, after questioning, both Rodolfo and Georgiana are taken to the chambers of a Judge, to be interviewed briefly. The Judge, Otto Rosalsky, Justice of the Court of General Sessions, asks what they’re accused of. Asks if the Officer, Mr. Smith, is certain of the accusations (which he says he is). Tells them they’re to be held as material witnesses. And sets their bail at $10,000.
- Rodolfo Guglielmi is then taken to the House of Detention of 53rd Street. (Not infamous The Tombs as previously believed.) Where he remains for a total of three days.
the 6th and 7th
Rodolfo Guglielmi continues to be held as a potential Material Witness, at the House of Detention, at 53rd Street and Eighth Avenue, New York City.
Aside from the location and the length of his incarceration we know almost nothing about Valentino’s stay at 53rd Street. It goes without saying that it would’ve been an uncomfortable and stressful experience for him. Was he allowed visitors? Probably not. However, his Jewish Lawyer, Mr. Moos, would’ve been granted access. The one thing we do know, thanks to his interview four years later, is that he was provided with newspapers to read, and was therefore able to see how it was all being reported.
Who was Mr. Moos? Research indicates that his full name was Louis H. Moos, and that his law firm was situated at 19 Cedar Street, New York.
After 3 days at the House of Detention, from the 5th to the 8th, Rodolfo Guglielmi’s released on reduced bail of $1,500.
Mr. Moos has worked hard to arrange the end of his detention. As Cue states, years later, his relatively quick escape was achieved thanks to the Lawyer’s skill. However, though we know that it was his legal representative that secured his release, we don’t know where the funds came from to achieve it. And this is something that will probably forever remain a mystery.
the 9th to the 30th
In the days and weeks immediately following his release, Rudy will discover the extent to which he’s been damaged by his seizure on the 5th, and the subsequent headlines. As Baltasar Fernandez Cue tells us:
“From that moment, Rodolfo the dancer was despised by all who knew him; above all, by the artists, who esteemed Jack to the point of taking as their own the offense inflicted on him. Not only did they no longer give him work, but they didn’t even greet him when they saw him pass by. For them, Rodolfo the dancer was no longer but a man dedicated to the white slave trade. At Cafe Montmartre and at the Sixty Club, which he used to frequent, he was denied entry.“
Supreme Court Justice Guy names Phoenix Ingraham as the Referee who’ll hear testimony in the de Saulles V de Saulles divorce trial. Blanca de Saulles has named two women in her suit. Jack de Saulles has filed a denial.
Source: De Saulles Divorce Goes to Referee, THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Sat., Sept. 16th, 1916, Page 3.
The September 23rd issue of MOTOGRAPHY (The MOTION PICTURE TRADE JOURNAL), announces the imminent release of the “Paramount program for the week of September 25th”, which includes The Quest of Life (1916), a Famous Players-Lasky production. Featuring, for the very first time in any film, the internationally renowned dance pairing of Maurice Mouvet and Florence Walton. And, in one scene, as a Dance Extra, the crest-fallen but not totally defeated, Rodolfo Guglielmi.
Looking at his early career in films, it’s clear that following his apprehension, the friendless, workless and optionless Rudy didn’t sit back and do nothing. And by at least the end of September, or the first week of October, he’d added the Louise Huff/Jack Pickford vehicle, Seventeen (1916), to his list of extra appearances.
(The obvious, sunny weather in the scene in which the 21-year-old Rodolfo Guglielmi appears, strongly suggests that it was shot on a late Summer/early Autumn day. Other promotional images also indicate this time of year. It was in mid.-to-late September that MOTOGRAPHY announced that the Booth Tarkington adaptation would be Pickford’s next picture.)
During this month, while he awaits a further hearing later in the year, the disgraced Rodolfo Guglielmi continues to seek-out opportunities in the motion picture field.
A report from The Bayside Bugle, Bayside, Long Island, reproduced in MOTION PICTURE NEWS, reveals that the cast and crew of Seventeen (1916), had passed through, on October the 5th, on their way to Oyster Bay to film. Was Rudy in the crowd? We don’t know.
The film industry publication MOTOGRAPHY, reports that Clara Kimball Young’s second independently produced starring vehicle, The Foolish Virgin (1916), has been temporarily interrupted.
The Foolish Virgin will be Rodolfo’s third outing as an Extra, in either mid.-to-late October, or early November. (The film will be issued in late December.)
Three years later, in the small role of Clarence Morgan, Rodolfo Guglielmi will appear opposite Young in her motion picture The Eyes of Youth (1919). And this will be the portrayal that persuades June Mathis that he can successfully play Julio Desnoyers in TFHotA (1921).
In the first week of the month, Blanca de Saulles returns to the U. S. A., on board the Baltic, in order to finalize her divorce from her Husband. (She has left her young Son in the care of others for the best part of three long months.) As far as is known she has no contact with Rodolfo and he has none with her.
A report indicates she was back on U. S. soil by November 5th/6th.
The Louise Huff and Jack Pickford comedy, Seventeen (1916), is generally released in the United States. As the lobby card (above) shows, Rudy managed to make himself prominent in at least one, important scene.
Though he never, to my knowledge, admitted it, it’s inconceivable that Valentino didn’t search for himself on the screen when this film was released.
In the final month of 1916, Rudolph Valentino, still at this point Rodolfo Guglielmi, looks back on a year he’d rather forget and put behind him. He’s plunged from dizzying heights to miserable depths. More miserable, in actuality, than when he was a practically a Vagrant, two-and-a-half years before. Back then his name wasn’t tarnished. Moving forward he’ll ditch that family name, not so much because it’s hard to pronounce (which it plainly is), but because it’s tainted and linked to scandal. By now, ahead of a Habeas Corpus hearing at the Supreme Court, he must already be seriously thinking of quitting New York.
Rodolfo Guglielmi appears before Supreme Court Justice Eugene A. Philbin.
As this appearance will be fully written about at some point this year, when I look at the six months no biographer has yet accounted for, I’ll say only that it was a Habeas Corpus hearing, to look into what had transpired in September.
THE SUN newspaper, reports that Jack de Saulles has donated cups for an indoor Polo tournament, in which he’ll participate, scheduled to begin December the 11th. His three man team is named the Cock Robins.
This snippet, reveals that right before his divorce trial, Mr. de Saulles is living his life to the fullest, and enjoying the company of his men friends.
An attempt is made to secretly file the findings of Referee Ingraham, appointed on September the 16th, in order to protect Joan Sawyer from damaging publicity. The attempt fails.
Source: The Evening World, FINAL EDITION, Fri., Dec. 22nd, 1916, Front Page.
Phoenix Ingraham recommends that Mrs. de Saulles divorces her Husband after Joan Sawyer is named as co-respondent. His recommendations are filed with the Supreme Court.
According to later reports, his recommendations as Referee are forwarded to Supreme Court Justice Pendleton, a specialist in divorce cases, for final consideration and judgement.
THE SUN newspaper reveals details of the projected divorce settlement of Mr. and Mrs. de Saulles. Mr. de Saulles will pay his former Wife $300 per month alimony (which will be reduced to $150 per month if she remarries). Their only child, John Longer de Saulles Jr., won’t be permitted to leave his country of birth until the end of WW1. Once hostilities have ceased, he’ll be allowed to travel, but must be back in the U. S. A. by June the 1st each year, in order to be handed to his Father. For most of the year he’ll be with his Mother; however, at the age of eight, he’ll be given to his Father in order to receive a proper education. And his Mother will be able to have him for a few months and for 3 hours when it won’t affect his studies. (It’ll be these terms that lead to the death of Jack de Saulles in the following year.)
Rodolfo Guglielmi probably endures a Christmas almost as bleak he did in 1913. His whereabouts at this time isn’t known.
If the future Rudolph Valentino has been downcast during the holiday season he’s perhaps been lifted a little on New Year’ Eve., by reflecting on the outcome of his Habeas Corpus hearing, and the fact that 1917 approaches. A year that will see him leave his adopted home city on the East Coast for a new life in the West of the country.
I conclude this lengthy, detailed Timeline, by stating: that of all of the women who Rudolph Valentino encountered in his 31 years, I believe Blanca de Saulles to’ve been the most dangerous and destructive. Her seduction of him – flattering him to death and drawing him into her scheme – was simply a means to an end. (An end demonstrably achieved at much cost to him.) As a result of her encouragement of his attentions he fell out with her Husband/his Friend. As a result of his testimony on her behalf his successful dancing partnership with Joan Sawyer was terminated. As a result of that evidence it’s possible that he was targeted by the authorities — the threat of deportation being very real. As a result of that seizure, he was jailed for an indefinite period, and only sprung thanks to his expert Legal Representative, Mr. Moos. His reputation totally destroyed and his options narrowed almost to nothing as a consequence. Leading, half a year later, to him having to quit New York to make a new life; first in San Francisco, then, Los Angeles; with years of struggle and disappointment resulting. Lastly, and most tragically for all concerned, Mrs. de Saulles murdered Mr. de Saulles. How Valentino’s life and career might’ve progressed were it not for all this, like him, we’ll never know. It has to be said he appears never to’ve blamed her. And his move Westwards eventually led to Stardom and then Superstardom and Eternal Fame. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Timeline, which will be followed by The Missing Half Year, and New York Timeline (1917).