FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, THE (Rex Ingram, 1921, USA, 114m, BW)
Cast: Alan Hale, Bridgetta Clark, Mabel Van Buren, Nigel de Brulier, Brinsley Shaw, Josef Swickard, Rudolph Valentino, Alice Terry, Pomeroy Cannon
Director: Rex Ingram
Running Time: 132 min.
In Argentina, Julio (Rudolph Valentino) is a smooth-talking, wanton man, and the favorite grandson of rich landowner Madariaga (Pomeroy Cannon). Julio is French, and his very large family also has a German side, but after Madariaga's death, Julio decides to desert them all for Paris. There, he takes up with married woman Marguerite (Alice Terry). But as World War I begins, Julio joins up with the French, and soon has an unpleasant reunion with his German relatives on the battlefield.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is the movie that turned 25 year old Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla into Rudolph Valentino, the greatest love god the movies would ever know. His star would burn brighter than any other romantic leading man’s of the silent era before its supernova a mere 5 years after lighting up the celluloid firmament. Four Horsemen is the story of a wealthy family living in Argentina, led by a Spanish immigrant and cattle rancher. He has two daughters. One marries a German and has three sons. The younger daughter marries a Frenchman and has a son and a daughter. The patriarch favors the younger daughter and spoils his half French grandson over his three male cousins. Valentino plays the favorite grandson. He makes his entrance in a smoke filled bar and performs the most famous tango in the history of movies. This is the scene that made him a star and it is easily the most famous moment in an otherwise mostly forgotten film. After the patriarch’s death the two son-in-laws move their families back to their respective homelands right before the First World War begins. Predictably the cousins wind up on opposite sides of the war.
An Italian immigrant, Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D'Antonguolla arrived in New York City in 1913, adopted the soon-to-be-famous name of Rudolph Valentino and struggled to support himself doing odd jobs like gardening, dishwashing and waiting tables. He was, however, a good dancer, which proved to be his break into movies via his friend and occasional dance partner Alla Nazimova. The tango scene from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was embellished and expanded to optimally display Valentino's talents in the sensual dance. Since the role of Julio was a feature part, Valentino was originally paid $100 per week; this was soon increased to $350 per week. After the release of the film and the resulting "Valentino mania," Metro still refused to increase his salary to a starring player's rate. Metro may have been truly unaware of Valentino's massive potential, or perhaps they were wishfully hoping to keep him on at bargain basement prices. At any rate, Valentino called their bluff and moved over to Paramount, which quickly released The Sheik (1921), sealing Valentino's celebrity status. Rudy would star in nine more films before succumbing to peritonitis in 1926; his death sparked mass hysteria and near riots when fans learned the news.
During the filming of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, however, Valentino was still new to the publicity game. Director Ingram found him one day on the back of the lot, posing for informal photographs. Unfortunately, the heroic image he was trying to project astride a horse was compromised by the saddle being on backwards, so Ingram kept a close eye on Valentino's publicity throughout the remainder of the production. Ingram also takes credit for extending the tango scene, claiming that he reused a scene from one of his earlier Universal pictures and transposed it into the Horsemen plot. Given Mathis' influence and initiative with the project, however, one is inclined to think that the scene was a cooperative effort at the very least. Ingram did have an expert crew to work with, led by editor Guy Whytock and cinematographer John Seitz. Whytock often worked with Ingram, and was well prepared to deal with the director's propensity to overshoot production.The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ended up with half a million feet of raw footage for Whytock to sort through. Seitz, nominated for his work on such films as Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), and Sunset Boulevard (1950), was a pioneer in his field with such contributions as the matte shot and his trademark usage of low-key lighting.
In the era of the silent film, directors were king; the recipients of top billing, they were often better known than the film's actors. A handful of men were at the forefront of the Hollywood game during those years, including D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, and Erich von Stroheim. Add to that list Rex Ingram, who has been called the master of silent cinema, but is better known today as the director who introduced Rudolph Valentino to the world. In an ironic twist, the focal shift from director to star by film audiences began following the release of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), which ignited an unparalleled worship of Valentino. The film was helmed by Ingram, and starred the beautiful Alice Terry, but Valentino stole the show by demonstrating his skills with - summed up in two words - the tango.
Rudolph Valentio (1895-1926)
On 18 July 1926, the Chicago Tribune published an unsigned editorial that railed against
a pink powder machine supposedly placed in a men's washroom on Chicago's North Side.
Blame for 'this degeneration into effeminacy' was laid at the feet of a movie star then
appearing in the city to promote his latest film: Rudolph Valentino. The muscular star
challenged the anonymous author of the 'Pink Powder Puff attack to a boxing match, but
the editor failed to show. Nevertheless, the matter would be settled, in a way, the
following month. On 23 August the 3 1 -year-old star died at New York City's Polyclinic of
complications from an ulcer operation.
Following Valentino's unexpected death, the vitriolic response of American men to
Valentino was temporarily put aside as women, long regarded as the mainstay of the star's
fans, offered public proof of their devotion to the actor The New York Times reported a
crowd of some 30,000, 'in large part women and girls,' who stood in the for hours to
glimpse the actor's body lying in state at Campbell's Funeral Church. These mourners
caused, noted the Times, 'rioting . . . without precedent in New York'. The funerary
hysteria, including reports of suicides, led the Vatican to issue a statement condemning
the 'Collective madness, incarnating file tragic comedy of a new talent'.
Valentino was not the first star constructed to appeal to women; but in the years that
followed his death his impact on women would be inscribed as Hollywood legend. The
name of Rudolph Valentino remains one of the few from the Hollywood silent era that
still reverberates in the public imagination; a cult figure with an aura of exotic relational
ambiguity. Valentino's masculinity had been held suspect in the 1920s because of his
former employment as a paid dancing companion, because of his sartorial excess, and
because of his apparent capitulation to a strong-willed life, the controversial dancer and
production designer Natasha Rambova. To many, Valentino seemed to epitomize the
dreaded possibilities of a 'woman-made masculinity, much discussed and denounced in
anti-feminist tracts, general interest magazines, and popular novels of the time.
Valentino came to the United States from Italy in 1913 as a teenager. After becoming a
professional dancer in the cafes of New York City, he ventured out to California in 1917,
where he entered the movies in bit parts and graduated to playing the stereotype of the
villainous foreign seducer. Legend has it that June Mathis, an influential scriptwriter for
Metro, saw his film Eyes of Youth ( 1919), and suggested him for the role of the doomed
playboy hero in Rex Ingram's production of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
( 1921). The film became a huge hit; by some reports it was Holl5wood's biggest box-
office draw of the entire decade
Through the films that followed Valentino came to represent, in the words of Adela
Rogers St Johns, 'the lure of the flesh', he male equivalent of the vamp. Valentino's exotic
ethnicity was deliberately exploited by Hollywood as the source of controversy, as was
the 'Vogue of Valentino' among women, discussed in the press as a direct threat to
American men. The hit movie The Sheik ( 1921) made Valentino a top star and sealed his
seductive image, but he was not satisfied with playing 'the sheikh' forever, and began to
demand different roles. After a sensitive performance in Blood and Sand ( 1922) and his
appearance in other, less memorable films (like Beyond the Rocks and Moran of the Lady
Letty, both 1922), Valentino was put on suspension by Famous Players-Lasky because of
his demand for control over his productions. During his absence from the screen,
Valentino adroitly proved his continuing popularity with a successful dance tour for
Mineralava facial clay. He returned to the screen in a meticulously produced costume
drama. Monsieur Beaucaire ( 1924), in which he gives a wonderful nuanced
performance as a duke who masquerades as a fake duke who masquerades as a barber.
Valentino's best performances, as in Monsieur Beaucaire and The Eagle ( 1925), stress his
comic talents and his ability to move expressively. These performances stand in contrast
to the clips that circulate of Valentino's work (especially from The Sheik) that suggest he
was an over actor whose brief career was sustained only by his beauty and the relational
idolatry of female fans. However, the limited success of Monsieur Beaucaire outside
urban areas would prove (at least to the studio) that Madam Valentino's control over her
'henpecked' husband was a danger to box-office receipts. After a couple of disappointing
films and separation from his wife, a Valentino 'come-back' was offered with the expertly
designed and directed The Eagle, cleverly scripted by frequent Lubitsch collaborator Hans
Kraly. Ironically, Valentino's posthumously released last film. The Son of the Sheik,
would be a light-heated parody of the vehicle that had first brought 'The Great Lover's to
fame only five years before.
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