The Dream of Valentino – Synopsis
Scene one – The Avalon Ballroom, Broadway, post-World War I
Rodolfo Valentino has just arrived from Italy, and has found employment as a dancer in a Broadway dance palace. He recoils when one of his partners makes a provocative and inappropriate move. Insulted, the woman calls for the police. Valentino is saved by June Mathis, who is there conducting research for an upcoming film.
Scene two – The parlor of June Mathis’ apartment, New York
Mathis provides food and wine as a grateful Valentino presents his abilities as an actor. He believes fate has brought them together, but the screenwriter has her doubts – could this attractive young man truly be a movie star?
Scene three – A studio screening room in Hollywood
The Mogul and his entourage are watching a Valentino B-movie. All agree the young Italian has screen appeal, particularly among the female sex. He is already signed with another film company, so they are content to wait and see how things develop.
Scene four – A garden in Alla Nazimova’s estate on Sunset Boulevard
Natacha Rambova and Jean Acker are discussing a possible film version of Camille with Alla Nazimova. The celebrated actress believes the project’s success hinges on casting the perfect Armand, the love interest. Valentino auditions for her and her guests. Later, he dances a tango with Acker while the rest look on admiringly. Nazimova is determined to get Valentino under contract so that she can guide and polish his career.
Scene five – Louella Parsons’ desk at the Hearst offices
Louella Parsons writes about the recent and hasty marriage between Jean Acker and Rudolph Valentino while the other reporters gossip about the wedding night. The Camille project has been delayed, but Mathis has written a new screenplay, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, with a leading role for Valentino.
Scene six – The Mogul’s office at the film studio
The Mogul discusses Valentino’s recent box office success with Marvin Heeno. He is determined to get this hot new actor under contract and exploit his popularity with women.
Scene seven – At the film studio
Valentino poses for publicity shots in preparation for the movie The Sheik. Mathis is angered by the breaking of the Metro contract she negotiated. A lawyer informs her that the actor is under a personal contract with Nazimova and therefore unavailable to the Mogul. Meanwhile, Acker demands financial support as Nazimova asserts her right to influence all aspects of the film. As the chaos swirls around him, Valentino finds himself helpless to control his life.
Scene eight – A silent film stage
Rambova coaches Valentino through his newest film, Monsieur Beaucaire. The sensitive role is very much the opposite of the manly sheik, and Mathis objects. Heeno asks Valentino if he has secretly married Rambova, and the actor confirms that the rumor is true. Heeno and Mathis openly express their disappointment. The Mogul bursts in, complaining that the new film is trash. This effeminate new image, along with the gossip over Valentino’s sudden marriage, will ruin his career.
Scene nine – Valentino’s studio dressing room
As he removes his wig and makeup, Valentino studies his reflection in the mirror, trying to understand what he has become. Is it too late to recover his dreams?
Scene ten – The Mogul’s office
Monsieur Beaucaire is a flop. The Mogul and Heeno strategize how they can get Valentino back on track and out of Rambova and Nazimova’s control. With their lavish lifestyle, the two women are driving the actor to financial ruin. Mathis suggests getting a court injunction requiring that he will work for the Mogul exclusively.
Scene eleven – The backstage of a theater, Omaha
Deeply in debt and abandoned by Rambova, Valentino has been reduced to performing dance in a Midwest vaudeville theater. The Mogul has pursued him to Nebraska and tries to convince him to return to Hollywood. Valentino refuses, preferring to be his own man rather the property of a film studio. Upset by the meeting, he begins the tango rather unsteadily, eventually falling off the stage.
Scene twelve – Aboard the New York-bound S.S. Aquitania
Returning to America after a private visit to Italy, Valentino dreamily reviews his destroyed life in anguish and in pain. Newspapermen wait at the docks, eager for a story about “The Pink Powder Puff,” an appellation given to him by the Chicago Tribune. Valentino collapses. Headlines report his ailing condition arising from a perforated ulcer.
Scene thirteen – Campbell’s Funeral Parlor, New York, 1926
Valentino has died at the age of 31 and is mourned by Mathis. She expresses remorse for her role in his rise to stardom and ponders what she could have done to save him. Through his legendary fame and premature death, Valentino has at least achieved immortality.