In 1919, just before the rise of his career, Italian actor Rudolph Valentino impulsively married actress Jean Acker. Acker became involved with Valentino in part to remove herself from the lesbian love triangle, quickly regretted the marriage, and locked Valentino out of their room on their wedding night. The couple separated soon after, and the marriage was never consummated. The couple remained legally married until 1921, when Acker sued Valentino for divorce, citing desertion.
In 1921, Valentino first met Natacha Rambova – an American silent film costume and set designer, art director, and protégée of Nazimova – on the set of Uncharted Seas. The two worked together on the Nazimova production of Camille, by which time they were romantically involved. They married on March 14, 1923 at the Lake County Court House in Crown Point, Indiana.
Many of Valentino’s friends disliked Rambova and found her controlling. During his relationship with her, he lost many friends and business associates. Towards the end of their marriage, Rambova was banned from his sets by contract. Valentino and Rambova divorced in 1925. The end of the marriage was bitter, with Valentino bequeathing Rambova one dollar in his will.
Valentino died in 1926 at the age of 31 because of Peritonitis. Considered as an early pop icon, and a sex symbol of the 1920s, who was known in Hollywood as the “Latin lover” or simply as “Valentino”. His premature death caused mass hysteria among his fans and further propelled his status as a cultural film icon.
From the time he died in 1926 until the 1960s, Valentino’s sexuality was not generally questioned in print. At least four books, including the notoriously libelous Hollywood Babylon, suggested that he may have been gay despite his marriage to Rambova. For some, the marriages to Acker and Rambova, as well as the relationship with Pola Negri, add to the suspicion that Valentino was gay and that these were “lavender marriages.”
Here below is a beautiful colorized photo collection of Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova during their short marriage.