We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.



A rose by any other name might not have ever made it: Even if you looked like Rudolph Valentino, a name like Rodolfo Guglielmi wouldn’t get you very far in ’20s Hollywood. So the young Italian immigrant wisely settled on a snappier moniker after breaking into silent films. Like Chinese-American silent star Anna May Wong, Valentino—film’s first dark-complected leading man—helped break down color barriers. Sure, he usually got stuck playing sheiks, rajahs, or other “exotics,” but even those roles were customarily given to Caucasian actors in brownface. The Hollywood rumor mill kept Valentino in the tabloids—two failed marriages to notorious lesbians!—but it was his transfixing screen presence that made him a star. When he died, at the age of 31, Rudy was at the pinnacle of his fame—80,000 hysterical fans showed up at his funeral for a last glimpse. Author Emily Leider presents a clip-illustrated lecture on the star and discusses her book Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino at 2 p.m. at the S. Dillon Ripley Center’s Lecture Hall, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. $35. (202) 357-3030. (Jason Powell)