The life of Hollywood's Latin Lover, Rudolph Valentino, is reduced to a collection of cinematic cliches in this ridiculous, highly fictionalized screen biography. Valentino (Dexter) arrives in the US as a member of an Italian dance troupe. On board ship he meets Parker, whom he begins to
pursue, not realizing she is an important film star traveling under an assumed identity. In New York, He leaves the dance company and, forced to find employment, he takes a job washing dishes, though this comes to an abrupt end when he punches another employee who calls him a greaseball.
Fortunately, Dexter's skills as a dancer soon get him another job, working at a fancy dance hall. As he guides thrilled women around the floor, Dexter once again runs into Parker, who is accompanied by film director Carlson. Though Carlson insists his star is tired, Dexter sweeps her off her feet,
and together they dance the tango. Carlson watches the two and senses a certain charisma in Dexter. He has him appear as an Apache dancer in a film, and realizes he is on to something. Medina, another actress, is attracted to Dexter, but he is only interested in a romance with Parker. He realizes
his future lies in Hollywood, so, after borrowing money from a friend, he heads west. Once in California, he finds the studios uninterested in his talents. Medina, who is driving by, sees Dexter on the street and offers him a ride while she picks up a script. When she leaves him in the car, Dexter
spots a sign advertising a new film: "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." The sign tantalizes him because it implies that the search is still on for an actor to play the role of Julio. Dexter gets hold of the script but cannot get an interview with Kruger, the film's producer. He crashes
Kruger's birthday party, then tells the shocked man he will perform a dance number that could serve as the film's prolog. Kruger likes what he sees, and the part is Dexter's. After the film's release, he becomes an overnight sensation. He continues to have professional success after success, but
remains unsatisfied as Parker still spurns his attentions. This changes quickly when Kruger buys a property called "The Sheik" in which he plans to cast the two as lovers. Dexter feels uncomfortable with the part, for Carlson (now Parker's husband) is assigned to direct the film. Kruger is
disturbed that the Latin Lover is so unusually restrained in his love scenes. Finally the two costars play with more passion, and Dexter later tells Parker that perhaps they should not have done this film. Both balk at doing a sequel, which angers their producer. While out driving, Dexter
experiences sharp pains in his stomach that force him to stop the car. He goes to bed, but is disturbed by a call from Parker, who begs to see him. She goes to his home, not realizing that a gossip columnist and photographer are trailing her. When Dexter and Parker leave the house, the
photographer surprises them with his flash camera. Dexter angrily smashes the camera, then goes after the two men. He takes several blows in his already pained middle, and the reporter promises to smear both of them in the newspapers. To save face, Dexter goes back to New York, where he phones the
reporter to say that he is about to elope with Medina, though this is hardly the truth. Dexter's stomach pains force him to go into the hospital. As he lies in his sickbed, he has a friend pull up the shades to let sunshine into the room. As the beams grace his face, Dexter quietly passes away.
His death causes riots among fans, who come in droves to his funeral. Carlson comforts Parker, while telling reporters he knew what went on between her and the late screen idol. Twenty-five years go by, and, as a narrator informs the audience, a mysterious "Lady in Black" continues to lay a wreath
at Dexter's tomb each year on the anniversary of his death.
The Valentino story, as presented here, is a lifeless soap opera brimming with fanciful situations that blatantly ignore the truth behind the legend. Dexter never conveys the electricity that Valentino radiated on-screen, though he brings enthusiasm to the role. He is hampered by a cliche-ridden
script and the often ridiculous lines he must recite. Allen's direction is lackluster and fails to give the story any of its much needed spice. Columbia interviewed nearly 2,000 actors to find the perfect Valentino before finally deciding on Dexter, a relatively unknown stage actor. He spent three
years working on the part, and at the time of VALENTINO's production was already a year older than the Latin Lover was when he died at age 31. Though the majority of the film is fiction, Valentino's brother Alberto and his sister, Maria Strada, sued Columbia for $700,000. The two claimed they had
never been consulted about their brother's life, which made this an unauthorized biography, humiliating the family. Alice Terry, the widow of Rex Ingram (Valentino's costar in THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE), also filed suit. Eventually these legal troubles were settled out of court. The
legend of Valentino is one that has always intrigued Hollywood. At one point Tyrone Power was considered for the part of filmdom's greatest lover, and, 26 years after this film, Ken Russell made his own version of the Valentino myth, featuring ballet star Rudolph Nureyev in the title role.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The life of Hollywood's Latin Lover, Rudolph Valentino, is reduced to a collection of cinematic cliches in this ridiculous, highly fictionalized screen biography. Valentino (Dexter) arrives in the US as a member of an Italian dance troupe. On board ship he… (more)