On this day, August 23, 1926, Italian actor, early pop icon Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla died. Known as the “Latin Lover,” Valentino was a sex symbol of the 1920s.
He starred in several well-known silent films including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle and Son of the Sheik.
On August 15, 1926, Valentino collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador in New York City, New York. Hospitalized at the New York Polyclinic Hospital, an examination showed him to be suffering from appendicitis and gastric ulcers which required an immediate operation. Despite surgery Valentino developed peritonitis.
Although his doctors gave an optimistic prognosis for Valentino and told the media that unless Valentino’s condition changed for the worse there was no need for updates, on August 21 he was stricken with a severe pleuritis relapse that developed rapidly in his left lung due to the actor’s weakened condition. During the early hours of August 23, Valentino was briefly conscious and chatted with his doctors about his future. He fell back into a coma and died a few hours later. He was 31 years of age.
An estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of New York City to pay their respects at his funeral. The event was a drama itself: Suicides of despondent fans were reported. Windows were smashed as fans tried to get in and an all-day riot erupted on August 24.
Valentino’s funeral Mass in New York was held at Saint Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church, often called “The Actor’s Chapel”, as it is located on West 49th Street in the Broadway theater district, and has a long association with show business figures.
After the body was taken by train across the country, a second funeral was held on the West Coast, at the Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills
1912 – Gene (Eugene Curran) Kelly (dancer, actor: Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Anchors Aweigh, The Three Musketeers, Marjorie Morningstar, Inherit the Wind, North and South Book I; director: Singin’ in the Rain, Hello, Dolly!, A Guide for the Married Man, The Cheyenne Social Club; died Feb 2, 1996)
1922 – Jean Darling (LeVake) (actress: March of the Wooden Soldiers, Little Rascals-Book 17)
1929 – Vera Miles (Vera June Ralston) (actress: The Wrong Man, Psycho, The FBI Story, Autumn Leaves, Into the Night, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Sergeant Ryker, Jigsaw, Our Family Business)
1934 – Barbara Eden (Barbara Jean Moorhead) (actress: I Dream of Jeannie, Harper Valley P.T.A., The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Seven Faces of Dr. Lao)
1940 – Tony Bill (actor: Barb Wire, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Shampoo, Ice Station Zebra, You’re a Big Boy Now, None But the Brave, Come Blow Your Horn, What Really Happened to the Class of
’65?; director: Next Door, Crazy People, The Princess and the Pea, My Bodyguard)
1949 – Shelley Long (Emmy Award-winning actress: Cheers [1982-83]; Irreconcilable Differences, Outrageous Fortune, Troop Beverly Hills, Night Shift, Don’t Tell Her It’s Me, The Brady Bunch Movie, The Money Pit)
1970 – River (Jude) Phoenix (actor: Running on Empty, Stand by Me, This Thing Called Love, Sneakers, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Little Nikita, The Mosquito Coast, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; died Oct 31, 1993)