Valentino's 100 years of passion with a passion

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The Independent Online

Los Angeles

Under the watchful gaze of 12 marble apostles and close to the resting places of Tyrone Power and Jayne Mansfield, 100 people turned out yesterday to remember Rudolph Valentino, the silver screen's greatest romantic idol, on the centenary of his birth. More than any other star, he came to symbolise the legendary glamour of Hollywood in the age of silent movies.

The service, at a marble mausoleum in Hollywood Memorial Park, has been held every year since Valentino's death in 1926. It attracted the strange breed of movie enthusiasts and dreamers who live in the twilight here. "This is what Hollywood is all about," enthused Ann Magnusson, a modern- day diva, who attended the service. ``Hair pieces and cummerbunds."

Women in widow's weeds arrived in imitation of the Lady in Black, a studio- inspired publicity stunt in which starlets were organised to mourn Valentino at his grave. One carried a doll yesterday. "I guess I just feel close to him when I have this," she said, tears filling her eyes.

With a burnoose, an Arabian steed, a pair of riding boots and a luxurious tent with intimations of a harem, Valentino ignited the passions of millions of women with his mystery. "He had the ideal charm and magnetism for the camera," said Bud Testa, the 87-year-old organiser of the event. "The big stars of today are not even close; none of them attract women the way he did.''

Valentino, whose real name was the impressive Rodolpho Rafaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valetina d'Antonguolla, came to the America in 1917 . His first appearance, in the The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in 1919, introduced audiences to the Latin lover, who would treat women with courtesy and deference but promised skill and experience behind the bedroom door.

Valentino died in 1926 in New York at the age of 31, barely 15 years after he had first arrived in America.