Valentino, Rudolph (văləntēˈnō) [key], 1895–1926, American film actor, b. Italy as Rodolfo Guglielmi. He emigrated to the United States in 1913 and, after a brief career as a dancer and bit player, was an instant success in the film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), largely due to a steamy tango scene. His fame, the effect of his exotic good looks, and his ability to provoke a kind of sexual hysteria in his many fans increased greatly with the release of The Sheik in 1921. Subsequent hits included Blood and Sand (1922), Monsieur Beaucaire (1924), and The Son of the Sheik (1926), his last film. By the year of his death, Valentino, the movies' first "Latin lover" and premier sex symbol, had become the idol of millions. Valentino's screen personality and his early death, both surrounded by mystery, made him a cult figure.
See biographies by A. Arnold (1954), R. Oberfirst (1962), and E. W. Leider (2003).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.