Classic Hollywood #84 – Party For Rudolph Valentino?

United Artists Holds A Party. Who Is The Guest Of Honor?

United Artists Party with Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Constance Talmadge, Norma Talmadge, Joseph Schenk, Rudolph Valentino, Hiram Abrams at Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles April 8 ,1925United Artists Pictures executives, stars and their families attended this dinner party at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on April 8, 1925.  This was an enormous display of Hollywood power brokers in one small room. What was the reason they were there?

Silent screen idol Rudolph Valentino had signed a contract a month earlier with United Artists.  When this photograph came up for auction several years ago, it was attributed in the auction that Valentino was the recipient for this gathering.

But that is not the case.

The dinner was given by United Artists film executive Joseph M. Schenck to someone who has since been completely forgotten in movie history, Hiram Abrams, President of United Artists. April 8, was also United Artists co-founder, Mary Pickford’s birthday.

Some of the attendees are written in ink on the photo, others are not. So for clarification, here is the complete list and their affiliation.

Seated around the table from the left running clockwise.

Natalie Talmadge (actress & one of the three Talmadge sisters, wife of comedian Buster Keaton)
William S. Hart (major star of westerns)
Norma Talmadge (biggest star of the three sisters and wife of Joseph M. Schenck)
Hiram Abrams (President, Managing Director and co-founder of United Artists)
Douglas Fairbanks (film hero & one of four original movie talent co-founders of United Artists)
Margaret Talmadge (mother of the Talmadge sisters)
Buster Keaton (comedy legend)
Mary Pickford (co-founder United Artists, leading lady and wife of Douglas Fairbanks)
Charlotte Pickford (mother of the Pickford children)
Natacha Rambova (star and wife of Rudolph Valentino)
Syd Chaplin (actor and brother of Charlie Chaplin)
Rudolph Valentino (legendary star of the screen)
Constance Talmadge (successful actress)
John W. Considine Jr. (producer, father of actor Tim Considine of the Mickey Mouse Club)
Lottie Pickford Forrest (actress)
Arthur Kelly (treasurer, United Artists)

(Standing l-r)

Allan Forrest (actor, husband of Lottie Pickford)
R. W. MacFarlane (foreign representative, United Artists)
Charlie Chaplin (co-founder United Artists & the one and only comedy great)
Joseph M. Schenck (host of party and future President of United Artists)

Not in attendance is director D.W. Griffith, the other movie talent co-founder of United Artists. The other original United Artists partner according to many film historians was B.P. Schulberg. But Schulberg was never officially in the company after its founding in 1919 though he claimed it was all his idea which he told to Abrams.

In 1920 Schulberg sued Abrams claiming he never received his share of commissions. The case was settled out of court in 1922 for an undisclosed sum. Abrams denied all along that their partnership even existed and that Schulberg had nothing to do with the founding of United Artists.

Neither Valentino or Abrams would see benefits from the signing of the matinee idol.

Valentino appeared in only one film with United Artists, The Son of The Sheik (1926). Valentino died unexpectedly in New York City on August 23, 1926, at age 31 of a ruptured gastric ulcer and peritonitis.

Three months later, Abrams died at age 48 on November 15, 1926 in New York City of a massive heart attack.

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