At least two extra editions of the Los Angeles Record carried the above headline following the death of silent film star Rudolph Valentino at New York’s Polyclinic Hospital. Valentino had been hospitalized since collapsing in the Hotel Ambassador, but the official announcements of his condition were that he would recover fully from the perforated ulcers which had stricken him. The last reports given to the media were that he was recovering on August 18, and unless there were negative developments, the press were informed there would be no further announcements. On August 23 Valentino died. The reports of his death led to mass hysteria in New York and across the nation.
The funeral home in New York which handled his service was surrounded by bereft fans, who smashed windows in an attempt to jump the long lines of those wishing to pay their respects. As Valentino was laid out in the Campbell Funeral Home a riot erupted on the street outside, over 100 New York City Policemen were dispatched to control the crowd, composed mainly of hysterical women (The Campbell Funeral Home has long experience in handling celebrity funerals, over the years they conducted the services for Fatty Arbuckle, Greta Garbo, Bat Masterson, Walter Cronkite, Nikola Tesla, Ayn Rand, and Heath Ledger, to name just a very few).
After a funeral Mass in New York, Valentino’s remains traveled to Los Angeles for a second funeral Mass and interment. The second Mass was by invitation only, but not without drama dutifully reported in the press. Valentino’s friend and possibly lover, Pola Negri, collapsed in hysterics at the Mass. There were reports of suicides following Valentino’s death, with at least two women attempting suicide in front of the hospital as his body was being removed in New York, and others reported as the casket was carried to its place of interment in Los Angeles. The reports of the number of suicides around the country were exaggerated, but some did take place.
Valentino was interred in a crypt which a friend had purchased for the eventual use of her husband, before she divorced him. Although the arrangement was supposed to be temporary, the late actor’s estate was complicated by debt, leading to the re-release of some of his films to raise money. When his friend died before the estate was settled she was interred in the crypt next to his, which she had purchased at the same time as the one occupied by the actor. They remain there to this day, in the Hollywood Forever cemetery.
In life, Valentino was never as popular with men – who largely considered him effeminate – as he was with women. Men preferred his rival Douglas Fairbanks as a symbol of masculinity. According to interviews conducted during the height of his fame women considered Valentino to be “triumphantly seductive.” H.L. Mencken called Valentino “catnip to women.” Since his death, there have been attempts to label the actor as gay, but no substantive evidence has been produced that establishes the twice married star of the silent film era as being anything but heterosexual.