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TSFF Preview: Blood and Sand (1922)

blood and sand-rudolph valentino-fred niblo-toroto silent film festival

Bieber-fever is a trifling allergy attack compared to the fan fueled adoration of cinema’s “Latin Lover,” Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D’Antonguolla – or Rudolph Valentino, if you’re nasty. Valentino was the first movie star and the attention devoted to his every move, every smoky look, every career decision was astounding, and (one might dare) crushing. Valentino, like all obedient sex symbols, died at the tender age of 31, remaining his young, beautiful, sexy self for eternity. And he’s coming to Toronto on March 31 as part of the Toronto Silent Film Festival lineup! I hope there’s riot police on call!

Now Mr. Valentino starred in some truly terrible matinee movies. His job was to make the pulse of ladies (and some gentlemen) race and he did so admirably well. No one really cared very much what the movie was or what part he played. But Fred Niblo‘s Blood and Sand is one of the better Valentino offerings. Here our hero plays Juan Gallardo, a poor boy with a talent for bullfighting. He tosses over his sweet childhood sweetheart Carmen (Lila Lee) for vampish Dona Sol (Nita Naldi). Carmen understands and even rushes to nurse Juan back to health after a terrible goring. Does the cad care? No his obsession for Dona Sol leads to his ultimate downfall.

Now, is there anything profound here? Nope. But Blood and Sand sure is exciting, and man, Valentino sure is pretty. If the “Latin Lover” is this titillating 90 years after the fact, it’s easy to see why desolate fans committed suicide when he died and why his 1926 New York funeral erupted into riots. If you want to find out what the fuss is about, get over to Toronto Silent Film Festival and buy your tickets for Blood and Sand.

Screening information:

Blood and Sand

Musical Interpretation: Andrei Streliaev

Saturday March 31, 2012
4pm (doors open at 3:30)
The Revue 400 Roncesvalles Ave. Toronto
Tickets $12.00/$10.00 seniors and members

Plus: “Animation from the Lawless Days” Koko and the Cartoon Factory 1925 Fleischer Studios

The Toronto Silent Film Festival Program

March 29 – Our Dancing Daughters

March 30 – Tabu: A Tale of the South Seas

April 1: 1000 LAFFS: Playmates

April 2: The Italian Straw Hat

April 3: Variety

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Natacha Rambova, or Mrs. Rudolph Valentino

rudolph valentino-natacha rambova

Do you wish your name was Natacha Rambova? Good news… it can be yours. Ms. Rambova hasn’t used it since 1966 and it wasn’t hers to start with. Born Winifred Shaughnessy in Utah, she was kind of half Irish Catholic with a dash or Mormon, despite her exotic sounding name.

Natacha Rambova isn’t exactly a household name these days, but she was an intriguing silent era figure. She did some costume designing, set designing, artistic directing, screenwriting, producing, and a wee bit of acting. She is probably best well know for being married to Rudolph Valentino. She even took a bit of public heat for Valentino’s failings, kind of like 1925’s answer to Yoko Ono. And once she ditched the movie biz, she added fashion designer and Egyptologist (of things) to her CV.

Why am I talking about Natacha Rambova? Because today is her birthday, silly! And because Natacha Rambova is interesting… the kind of lady who makes the whole silent era of filmmaking interesting to us. Really, go check out some of her biography which includes not only Egyptology and couture, but things like spiritualism and controversies over photos of Valentino dressed as a faun-like god. Ms. Rambova is like a flapper poster child, and for that I salute her!

Find out more about Natacha Rambova:

 

And here’ s a slightly creepy slideshow from YouTube:

Vilma Banky, The Hungarian Rhapsody

Vilma Banky Dec 1929 - A Lady To Love (Aka Sunkissed) - By Ruth Harriet Louise

According to my amazing Silent Film Calendar, today is Vilma Banky’s 114th birthday. At first I thought, “Happy birthday Vilma Banky!” Then I thought, “Wait a minute… who’s Vilma Banky.” Read the rest of this entry

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