Laurie Hornsby and Stephen Duckham
A musical based on the life of the first movie superstar
Book, music and lyrics by Laurie Hornsby and Stephen Duckham
The show opens in 1913 in the town of Castanalletta, Italy, where a young 18 year old Rudolpho Guglielmi is preparing to leave to start a new life in America. His leaving is not wholly of his own choice but is instigated by threats from local men who believe he is paying far too much attention to their women.
Arriving at Ellis Island, New York, Rudolpho finds Manhattan vastly different from the glamorous city he thought it was. He is invited to lodge with Fredo, a family friend, who tells him he must get a job to exist, and soon finds himself waiting on tables at a local speak-easy. At this time the dance rage is the tango and Rudolpho soon learns that being a tango dancer not only pays better than waiting at tables, but is also a good introduction to the wealthy and bored ladies of Manhattan. One such lady is Bianca de Saulles, the wife of shady businessman Jack de Saulles. She is immediately smitten with Rudolpho’s charm and good looks. They enter into a passionate affair, but in order for them to be together Bianca accuses her husband of adultery with a young Broadway starlet. Following a divorce settlement in her favour, Jack pulls a gun on Rudolpho and a fight ensues. Bianca manages to get the gun and shoots Jack dead.
Terrified that he may be implicated in the murder and deported, Rudolpho is persuaded by Fredo and the club manager Sam Malone to leave New York and head for California and the movies.
Arriving in Los Angeles he is befriended by Natacha Rambova, a wardrobe assistant for Paramount Pictures. She gets him on the extras line and very soon he is spotted by scriptwriter June Mathis who suggests to the studio boss, Jesse Lasky, that he should feature in a film. Very soon he is getting parts and moving up the list of credits.
Another actor, Norman Kerry, takes Rudolpho under his wing and they become very close friends. At a Hollywood party to launch his latest film, Lasky introduces Rudolpho to flamboyant actress Alla Nazimova. Nazimova is a friend of Bianca de Saulles and immediately denounces him as a gigolo who left her friend to take a murder rap. Embarrassed, Rudolpho rushes from the party. Outside he meets another actress, Jean Acker. He is immediately attracted to her and they spend an idyllic four days together before he impetuously asks her to marry him. She agrees to as long as he changes his name, and so Rudolph Valentino is born. On their wedding night however, he is shocked to find out that to her the marriage is one of convenience and that Jean and Nazimova are an item.
After the embarrassment of the sham marriage, Rudolph throws himself into his work and is soon being called a screen heartthrob. Natacha Rambova has risen from wardrobe assistant to costume designer and the two are thrown together in the film Camille. After completing The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and divorcing Jean, the two young lovers run off to Mexico and get married. Natacha now tries to manage Rudolph’s affairs and demands that Lasky give her approval of future scripts. Lasky is furious and refuses, so Natacha says that Rudolph will make no more pictures for Paramount. Lasky sues for breach of contract and an injunction is brought that says Valentino cannot make any movies for five years.
After the court case Rudolph meets his old friend and first employer, Sam Malone, who is now a promotions agent for the Mineralava Beauty Clay Company. Sam offers Rudolph and Natacha a chance to go on a nationwide tour, dancing before the main features in movie houses and promoting a beauty product. At $7,000 a week it is an offer they can’t turn down. The tour is a major success and Valentino’s name is bigger than ever. Fearful that Paramount without Valentino may be heading for disaster, Lasky relents and Rudolph returns to the studio to be hailed as the first movie superstar.
Natacha makes more demands and a confrontation takes place between her and Lasky. Rudolph realises that he must take charge of his own life and Natacha should just be a wife. Not willing to make any compromises, Natacha walks out of the studio and out of his life.
Rudolph makes a sequel to his most famous film, The Sheikh, but while on a promotional tour he collapses and is rushed to hospital. He is diagnosed with acute appendicitis and septic pneumonia. He dies at the age of thirty-one with his faithful friends Norman and June at his bedside.
- Rudolph Valentino
- June Mathis [Hollywood script writer]
- Immigration official
- Fredo [family friend]
- Sam Malone [nightclub manager]
- Bianca de Saulles [socialite and wife of Jack de Saulles]
- Norman Kerry [actor]
- Bonnie Sawyer [actress/dancer]
- Jack de Saulles [businessman and gangster]
- Natacha Rambova [designer]
- Jesse Lasky [head of the studio]
- Milt [director’s assistant]
- Alla Nazimova [actress]
- Jean Acker [actress]
Purser, sweeper, ferryman, salesman, customer, cop, stage manager (Broadway), prostitute, reporters, detective, police photographer, railroad porter, actress (Diana), 1st grip, 2nd grip, stage manager (Vermont), ASM.
Many of the characters only appear in certain scenes but make up the ensemble, commenting on the action. The musical takes place between the years 1913 and 1926 and charts the life of Rudolph Valentino, the first movie superstar, from the age of 18 until his death. It is set in his hometown of Castanalletta, Italy, and New York and Los Angeles, USA.
The action should be continuous with the feel of a movie, with one scene dissolving into another. Scenery can be merely suggestive of each location with a permanent movie screen at the rear of the stage showing pictures, movie posters, newspaper headlines, dates etc.
MAIN CHARACTER BREAKDOWN
Aged between 18 and 31 years, he is a handsome man with a captivating manner and winning smile. He never loses his Italian accent, but at times Americanisms fall into his speech. He has mood swings and can explode with anger and passion. A complex man sexually, he is compulsive, passionate, headstrong and at times foolish, but equally comfortable in the company of a woman or a man. Singing range is tenor.
Aged in her early 30s, she is level headed and sensible, with a writing ability that has given her a good profession in the movie business. She has a quick wit and a keen eye for talent. Her adoration of Valentino is never more than platonic and she defends and stands by him throughout all his ups and downs. Singing range is alto chest voice.
Aged mid 20s to mid 30s, Norman is an actor/singer and a hopeless romantic. He becomes Valentino’s assistant/manager and part-time lover. He adores the man but never truly has his feelings reciprocated. Singing range is lyrical baritone.
Aged in her early 20s, she is at first a fresh faced, eager young lady with ambition. After her ambition is realised she becomes demanding and ruthless. Singing range is high alto.
Aged in her mid 20s, Jean is a strong-minded and ambitious actress. Because of her beauty she has the ability to charm anyone into getting her own way – man or woman. Singing range is alto chest voice.
Bianca de Saulles
Aged in her mid 20s, Bianca is a socialite and very sensuous woman. Although married she has numerous affairs until she meets Valentino who completely captivates her to the point of obsession. Singing range is high alto.
Aged in her late 20s, she is a stunningly beautiful Russian actress. Demanding and volatile.
Aged mid 30s, Sam is manager of Maxims. He is business-like but friendly and in Act Two he almost becomes a performer. Singing range is baritone.
Aged in his 50s, he is head of the studio and a tough movie mogul. He is fair but demanding. Singing range is baritone.
Aged 30 to 45, Fredo is an Italian American. He is affable and totally Americanised. Singing range is baritone.
Aged in her mid 20s, she is a Broadway starlet. She is flirty, a giggler and a good dancer. Non-singing role.
Jack de Saulles
Aged in his mid 40s, he is a businessman and a gangster. A nasty piece of work who knows what he wants and gets it both in business and with women. Non-singing role.
Ensemble characters: Mother, Alberto, immigration official, bailiff, Milt, secretary, reporters, director, judge and doctor. These and other small characters make up the ensemble cast and can be various ages. The company consists of the townspeople of Castanalletta, New Yorkers, tango dancers, waiters, customers at Maxims, travellers, studio staff and party guests.
- Valentino Company
- Brave New World Valentino
- This Is New York Company
- You Get The Girl Fredo Valentino and company
- I’m Yours Norman and Valentino
- Valentino (Dangerous) Company
- What You’ve Been Waiting For Bianca and Sam
- Once In A Lifetime Moment Bianca
- Union Pacific Valentino, Fredo, Sam and company
- Valentino (What Was His Name) Natasha
- Being With You Valentino, Jean, June and Norman
- Never Again Valentino
- Opening Act 2 Hollywood Clown Company
- Valentino (Hollywood Machine) June and Norman
- What We Need Lasky, June and secretary
- Our Personal Movie Valentino and Natasha
- Valentino (Injunction) Norman, June and company
- Promotion Sam and company
- The Mineralava Beauty Clay Co. Valentino, Natasha and company
- The World Belongs To You
- Who I Am Valentino
- Finale Company