Classic Hollywood #93 – Rudolph Valentino & His Brother Alberto

Rudolph Valentino Brings His Family Over To The United States – 1926

Rudolph Valentino and brother with family 1926 SS Leviathin

The Screen Sheik Brings His Family

Rudolph Valentino, popular screen actor, arrives from Paris on the S.S. Leviathan after his divorce. He was accompanied by his brother Mr. Alberto Guglielmi whom he will introduce in the movies. Rudolph also brought his nephew Jean and his sister-in-law Mrs. Alberto Guglielmi. (February 14, 1926 ) photo – Keystone

Of course the news slug copy does not even bother to give the first name of Mrs. Guglielmi, she’s just Mrs. Alberto Guglielmi. For the record, her name is Ada.

After three years of marriage Valentino and Natacha Rambova divorced in December 1925.  Valentino had signed a new film contract with United Artists in 1925 and was preparing the next phase of his career. Bringing his trusted brother and his family over to the United States for a film test was part of a new beginning for the film star.

At the time Rudolph Valentino could not get his brother get a motion picture career. How real this proposal was is suspect as Alberto was not half as attractive as his younger matinee idol brother. The Guglielmi family returned to Europe July 24.

Less than a month later on August 21, 1926, Rudolph Valentino died from complications of pleuritis and peritonitis. He was only 31. Alberto was back in Italy when his brother passed away and had to make his way back to the United States for the funeral.

Alberto

Alberto had been a journalist in his native Italy and had an honorary degree in law. After Alberto returned to the United States to settle his brother’s estate, a 1927 newspaper profile on Alberto appeared:

In adjusting his brothers affairs, the sensible Alberto came to the speedy conclusion his brothers greatest heritage was his name. The word “Valentino” spelled romance to millions. The success of Rudolph was more than the popularity of the actor, for it was one of the player’s perplexities that his public often preferred his bad pictures to the good ones. Valentino was simply Valentino and his acclamation could be explained by that blind hero worship the public occasionally falls into.

Alberto told his thoughts to June Mathis, who had been the discoverer of his brothers talent. She proposed Alberto continue the name as a tradition of the motion picture. Alberto saw the point but he shrugged. He was older and he had lost his looks. Thereupon Miss Mathis advised a visit to a surgeon and the modeling of a new face upon an older head. The elder brother pondered. Eventually he complied. In addition, to the lines of his face, it was discovered he had a far too prominent nose to be used to advantage on the screen. This nose according to Miss Mathis, was the principal obstacle he had to overcome.

With a bust of Rudolph for a model, the same surgeon who gave Jack Dempsey his famous nose molded the appendage of Alberto into a softer and more classic outline. He also removed a part of his chin. Alberto had the determined chin of a fighter, which was too domineering to grace the face of a “great lover.’ In the event I do not succeed, he says my son will endeavor to follow in his uncle’s footsteps.

Despite appearing in Tropic Madness (1928) and China Slaver (1929) two lost films, the movie star career never materialized for Alberto. The Gugliemli family stayed in the United States for several years, but moved back to Italy in 1933. By staying in Italy for one year the family could re-enter the United States as immigrants and apply for citizenship, which is what they did in 1934.  By the mid-1930’s the Guglielmi family was living in the space over the garage at Valentino’s estate, Falcon Lair, acting as paid caretakers.

Though Alberto could speak four language fluently, English was not one of them and he had a difficult time obtaining employment.

Alberto never made a career as an actor, but did eventually find work in the movie industry writing foreign dialogue for MGM. He later was an accountant for 20th Century Fox, retiring in 1965. Alberto’s son Jean worked in the management offices at MGM.

Alberto lived until the age of 89 dying in 1981. His wife, Ada Guglielmi died in 1976 at age 87. Their son Jean died in 1996 age 82.

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2 thoughts on “Classic Hollywood #93 – Rudolph Valentino & His Brother Alberto

  1. Elisa Lugo

    A man should control his life. Mine is controlling me.-Rudolph ValentinoHe was precisely as happy as a small boy being kissed by two hundred fat aunts.- H.L. Mencken By 1925, Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla, a.k.a. Rudolph Valentino, a.k.a. Rudy to his friends, was fed up. In four short years, he had skyrocketed from a tangoing Italian immigrant playing small parts in small films to the heights of stardom — “the great lover,” the swoon-worthy superstar of the flapper generation. “Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen,” he sighed. “I am merely the canvas on which women paint their dreams.”

    Reply
  2. ChrisR.

    Excellent article. Jean Valentino worked in the television industry and was successful. Every year, during the Annual Valentino Memorial Service they always attend.

    Reply

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