As some of you may know, I went to California for a week and just came back about a week ago. While I was there, I had a chance to visit some old friends like Buster Keaton, Mabel Normand, Barbara La Marr, Peggy Shannon...and many others. I also had a chance to go visit the Hollywood History Museum (where you are now allowed to take pictures, which made me scream for joy in the lobby) and visit the Jean Harlow exhibit. I will post the pictures on here when I get a chance. Seeing her Packard, dresses, pictures, letters...it was just incredible. Another place I visited was the Hollywood Heritage Museum in the Cecil B. DeMille barn. I had never heard of it until just before I left and was uber excited to visit. And it was the coolest place! It is not very big, but it packs a lot of information and a lot of memorabilia in it's space. Buster Keaton's personal movie camera made me tear up. One of the coolest things was the little Valentino exhibit they had. They were playing a documentary about the Valentino memorial service and had a case of memorabilia, some of them I didn't know were still around! The record and sheet music was so amazing to see because I just thought they were no longer in existence.
The theme of my vacation did seem to be Valentino. I got to visit his grave (per usual), I went to the Silent Movie Theatre to see a showing of The Son of the Sheik starring Rudy, and then seeing and hearing about him at the Hollywood Heritage Museum. I was gonna go visit him again before I left, but I had a huge mix up with my flight and itinerary and just...yeah, nightmare.
So, I was getting all philosophical at the movie theatre watching him on screen. During scenes where the actors were being over the top dramatic and the title cards were saying some strange things, people would laugh and I realized that a lot of what Rudy did and other silent film stars did is considered cliche in movies nowadays. The main cliches are the damsel tied to the train tracks by the evil mustachioed villain and the pie in the face comedy scenes. But there is also the dark, handsome sheik (like Rudy) who is just utterly charming and irresistible. I mean, during the movie, it definitely implies that the sheik rapes Yasmin and she falls in love with him! In the original sheik movie, Diana is implied to have been raped and in the sequel she talks about not being able to resist his charms. So, in that sense it is laughable. Yes, Rudy is a babe but I think I would be kinda pissed if he raped me.
Anyways, people have to understand that silent movies was not about what was being said on the title cards, so they had to "over act" in order to really get their emotions to shine through to the audience. This is also why a lot of actors didn't like the coming of talkies because now they would have to act with words and tone down their physical motions. I mean, can you imagine Nazimova and Valentino acting out Camille as a talkie? It would be laughable! But, as a silent, it works! I was going to use Nazimova's Salome as an example, but her version is just plain weird no matter what. Sorry Madame.
I think these cliches are what makes people hesitant about silent film (also the stupid way of thinking that just because a movie is black and white, it is stupid...I hate people who think that way). I took my mom and sister to see My Best Girl with Mary Pickford for my birthday a year ago and they both admitted that they were not that excited because of preconceived notions about silent film. But at the end, they actually both really liked it! My mom even went to a Charlie Chaplin film with me months later. But, I will say I think the cliche of having the handsome prince come and rescue you will stick around for some time. I don't care so much for Rudy the sheik storming in my house and kidnapping me, but he could come rescue me from villainous gypsies or whatever anytime.
Ah Rudy...I do think the talkies would have ruined him because his mystique would have been gone. On the silent screen, he can sound like whatever we want him to sound like. And we can picture him as a sheik, or a bullfighter, or Armand and he can live in our silent film fantasies (we all have them. I was a jazz baby flapper like Clara Bow who was married to Buster Keaton of course). He is a beautiful legend and it was great to meet some people who love and adore him as much as I do.
On a sour note, I watched the 1977 movie Valentino the other night with Rudolf Nureyev as Rudy. Um, no offense to Nureyev, but what the hell was going on in that movie?! I turned it off after about 10 minutes. It makes no sense, Rudy is portrayed as some weird caricature of the real Rudy (it makes sense, really) and it was a total disappointment. Save your time and don't watch it.