Rudolph Valentino in the 1922 silent film Moran of the Lady Letty, a film about a shanghaied Spaniard who falls in love with a female crew member who dressed as a man to work on the ship.
Valentino was a sex symbol of the 1920s and was known as the ‘Latin Lover’. His appearance in American film brought his masculinity into question. While he was seen as the epitome of romance by his female audience, men were less impressed, instead looking to Charlie Chaplin or Douglas Fairbanks as the embodiment of manhood in American film.
Women found Valentino seductive. In an interview, one reporter wrote that Valentino “[put] the love-making of the average husband or sweetheart into discard as tame, flat, and unimpassioned.”
While men strove to imitate Fairbanks in attitude they increasingly emulated Valentino’s style. Valentino died in 1926 at the age of 31, due to complications with appendicitis and ulcers. His early death cemented his place as a sex symbol.
An upcoming silent movie Silent Life is to be based on his life.