Rudoph Valentino, The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (1921). Click Photo to view full-size.
Born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi in Castellaneta, Italy (1895). Valentino was the leading male film star of his time. He married actress Jean Acker, a lesbian who locked him out of the couple's hotel room on their wedding night. Valentino filed for divorce and married costume and set designer (and writer/actress) Natacha Rambova before the divorce from Acker was final, resulting in his being jailed for bigamy. He remarried Rambova after resolving his legal problems and was linked later to silent screen star Pola Negre (photo).
In 1926, Valentino was the subject of a humorous article in the Chicago Tribune. The writer complained of pink talcum powder provided in a hotel restroom and blamed Valentino's films for the "effeminization of the American man." The incident so deeply ticked off Valentino that he challenged the writer to a duel. The writer did not respond.
Valentino met with H.L. Mencken to discuss how he should deal with the situation. Mencken advised him to simply let the matter blow over. A short time later, at the age of 31, Valentino died following surgery for a perforated ulcer.
Mencken wrote after Valentino's death:
It was not that trifling Chicago episode that was riding him; it was the whole grotesque futility of his life. Had he achieved, out of nothing, a vast and dizzy success? Then that success was hollow as well as vast -- a colossal and preposterous nothing. Was he acclaimed by yelling multitudes? Then every time the multitudes yelled he felt himself blushing inside . . . The thing, at the start, must have only bewildered him. but in those last days, unless I am a worse psychologist than even the professors of psychology, it was revolting him. Worse, it was making him afraid . . .
Here was a young man who was living daily the dream of millions of other men. Here was one who was catnip to women. Here was one who had wealth and fame. And here was one who was very unhappy.