When I was in university, I read Edward Said’s book Orientalism, which is a staple text for any studies involving a post-colonialist perspective. The concept of the “exotic Other”, although often cited with reference to the hyperbolically exotic “Eastern” female figures in 19th-century art, literature, etc., could equally well be applied to Rudolph Valentino, whose brooding image dominated the silent screens of the ’20s.
Valentino’s real name was (*drum roll*)…
Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla
“!!!!” That’s what I have to say about that. Makes one’s little three-piece name look ever so slightly… thruppence-y.
But the point is, Valentino’s mystique extended far beyond his octo-barrelled moniker (and that’s saying something). Whether arrayed in Arabian-style robes, gaucho pants, or a Cossack uniform, Valentino in any sort of “foreign” garb embodied the mysterious, otherworldly allure of, well, pretty much anywhere non-WASP.
And having said all that, I still love Valentino films. Yup, I genuinely do! You just have to take them for what they are, sift away the outdated stuff, and then they’re actually quite enjoyable – including the costumes!
So, here’s some classic Valentino apparel….
with some tango dancing:
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
and some more dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFXmQnKQ55U
Blood and Sand (1922)
A Sainted Devil (1924)
The Eagle (1925)
the famous “Are you not woman enough to know?” scene from The Sheik (1921):
and a rather more notorious scene from the sequel:
Son of the Sheik (1926)
And underneath all those layers of exotic costuming?