Have you heard about the, “Ring of Destiny?” This piece of jewelry is blamed for Rudolph Valentino’s tragic life.
The Legend of Valentino
Rudolph Valentino was in a pawnshop one day in 1920. He noticed a ring in the display. It was not particularly pretty, but something about it made him take notice. He wore the ring in the filming of, “The Young Rajah,” and the picture flopped. He didn’t wear it again for 2 years. By the time he adorned the piece again, he was doing a tour for his new movie, “Son of Sheik.” A week later, he was hospitalized for bleeding ulcers. He then died.
The ring went to his girlfriend Pola Negri. His family said she could choose one item from Valentino’s estate as a memento. Her health began a dramatic decline as soon as she got the ring. Her career nearly ended as well as her life.
She gave the ring to Russ Columbo, a singer known to resemble Valentino. He died in an unsolved shooting accident. One of Columbo’s relatives gave the ring to a gangster named Joe Casino. Casino knew the ring was unlucky, but wore it anyway. He was hit by a truck within a week.
The ring then went to Del Casino, Joe’s brother. He didn’t wear it, but the ring was stolen during a robbery at his house. The unlucky thief happened to take the Ring of Destiny among other things. The police shot and killed him as he tried to escape.
Recently, an actor wore the ring to an audition. He was to play the role of Valentino about the silent star’s life. He died of a rare blood disease within a week.
Now the ring sits in a vault in Hollywood bank awaiting its next victim.
The Life of Valentino
It’s a great story, but much of it is simply unproven.
Rudolph Valentino was born in 1895 to a French mother and an Italian father. Valentino came to New York City before the 1920s. Little did he know, he would eventually become the first sex symbol in the history of American cinema. Sadly, Valentino’s life was not something you might find on the silver screen.
He befriended a New York socialite named Blanca de Saulles. It’s frequently implied that the two were lovers; however, there is no evidence of that. Blanca’s real name was Blanca Errázuniz, a native of Chile who married John Sulles, a highly influential and wealthy businessman. From all accounts, the marriage was far from a happy one. Sulles was over a decade older than his bride was and her family had more wealth than he did.
Valentino worked as a, “taxi dancer,” or someone paid to dance with another. Paid dancers were common during the 1920s and 1930s. Sometimes club owners wanted a high standard of dancing on their floor, sometimes they wanted people who could teach their patrons proper dance. Valentino caught Blanca’s eye while he was performing the tango, a novel and celebrated form of dance at that time. The two became friends and Valentino agreed to testify for her in court in her upcoming divorce trial. However, he wasn’t the only individual to support Blanca. Valentino supported the statement that John Sulles was cheating with a dancing girl. Others testified that Sulles was abusing his wife’s wealth.
Sulles was enraged. He used his political sway to drum up false charges against Valentino as well as another woman, suspected of being a madam. What those charges were are lost to time, today. At the time, the scandal of the trial and the trumped charges were enough. Valentino found he couldn’t work after the trial and none of his friends would speak to him. As far as it’s known, Blanca didn’t even thank him.
Valentino had enough of New York and the drama that had overtaken his life. He left the city, with his grandfather, and they traveled out west to San Francisco. His luck wasn’t a great deal better. He suffered a failed marriage that was never consummated. He landed a role in the movie Camille. There he met Natacha Rambova, a director. The two became a couple, but it seemed both remained unlucky. They married in 1923 and their union remained rocky. He wanted children, but she didn’t. Every movie they starred in together flopped. Eventually, Rambova had an affair with a cameraman.
This alone often amazes women today, but just as Vivian Leigh had an affair (with Peter Finch) when she was married to Lawrence Oliver, Valentino was the victim of infidelity.
The couple divorced in 1926 and Valentino, it seemed, developed a death wish. His behavior became risky and careless. He had a string of simultaneous open affairs. He nearly killed himself in several automobile accidents and, when he became ill, he refused to see a doctor.
Naturally, many men of his time strongly disliked the silent screen star. One journalist from the Chicago Tribune publicly labeled him a, “pink powder puff” and declared he was responsible for the effeminization of men nationwide. Valentino became so angry he challenged the journalist to a boxing match. The cowardly writer refused, but the paper sent someone they believed would be a worthy challenger. Valentino won the match and he beat the other man while sick.
Valentino suffered from bleeding ulcers and refused to see a physician until he had no choice. He was on tour for his film Son of Shiek when he collapsed. He was admitted to the hospital. Surgery was performed, and they said it was successful, but a few days later, Valentino succumbed to infection from the surgery.
In New York, 80,000 women attended his funeral. They showed his body in Los Angeles and several mourning women there committed suicide at his memorial. He is still seen haunting many places he frequented in life.
Blanca de Sulles eventually fought with her husband over custody of their son. She drew a weapon on him and he grabbed it, she shot five times while they struggled over it. She was acquitted of his murder because he refused to acknowledge court orders.
Pola Negri had a tragic life of her own, which included fleeing Nazis. She had a history of poor health, however, and that included a stay in a sanitarium.
Columbo was a singer, and he did die from a shooting accident in September of 1934. It was not “unsolved.” He was at a long-time friend’s house and the two were looking at the friend’s gun collection. His friend accidentally shot the weapon, which ricocheted off a piece of furniture, and hit Columbo in the eye.
Joe Casino, an alleged “gangster” and victim of the ring, has not been remembered in history. No information can be found on him or his brother, Del.
Jack Dunn is the actor, often referred to as the final victim. There is no record of him wearing the ring, but the British Olympic ice skater was just starting a career in film. He indeed had landed the role of Valentino in a movie about his life. He was hit with a mysterious blood disease and, within two weeks, was dead at 21. He was diagnosed to have contracted, “rabbit fever,” or tularemia, a rare disease that goes from rodent to human. It can be fatal if untreated. Dunn died in July of 1938.
There is no record of what happened to the infamous ring. Some accounts state a barber in Brooklyn, New York, eventually won the ring in a contest. Other accounts state the ring is somewhere in a Hollywood bank.
Valentino’s acquirement of the ring is likewise debated. Sometimes it was in a pawnshop, sometimes a curio shop, and sometimes a jewelry store. In a few stories, the proprietor actually warns Valentino that it’s the, “Ring of Destiny,” and it has a history of bad luck. Sometimes the ring is just a silver band, and other accounts say it was a silver ring with a cat’s eye stone.
Valentino pictures are available online today, and sometimes you can see the rings he wore. In all fairness, there are photographs of him wearing rings like what is described.
Regardless of the truth, the story continues to be one of the most fascinating to emerge from the silent film era of Hollywood. It revolves around much information that can’t be proven or debunked.