Nureyev stars but he is not really an actor and
probably his ego stopped him giving up totally to Russell's direction.
He starts well but the film is a bit too long and the accent starts to
grate. He was originally brought in to play the small role of the dancer
Nijinsky. In the film he says "I haven't much acting experience I
am afraid", and the scenes where he has a lot of dialogue show
his limited acting ability. Compare with fellow dancer
Christopher Gable who is magnificent in Song of Summer and other Russell films.
Regular Russell actors include Lindsey Kemp (also a dancer!) as
the mortician and Jennie Linden who played Ursula in Women in Love. Other
actors are Michelle Phillips (singer from the Mamas and the Papas),
Felicity Kendal, Carol Kane
Cinematography is again by Peter Suschitzky
and editing by Stuart Baird. Shirley Russell does the costumes.
The script is by Russell and Mardik Martin, who also
contributed to Mean Streets, New York New York and Raging Bull for
Scorsese. The basis is a pulp fiction biography of Valentino by
Brad Steiger. An example of Russell's vision is the scene at the
beginning of the book and film where the screaming fans break through
the glass of the funeral parlour. In the book the windows are then
boarded up with planks of wood. Russell's film changes the planks
of wood to coffin lids.
Russell appears briefly as, of course, the director. Ken also has a songwriting credit, the parody
lyrics for the updated "The Sheik of Araby".
The real-life Valentino was a silent film star. Born in relative
poverty in 1895 he entered the film world in bit parts until he starred
in The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse when he became a major Hollywood
star seen as the “latin lover". Other major films include The
Eagle and Blood and Sand. Like all great silent film actors he
could convey emotion including deep sadness with facial gestures.
And the film shows changing attitudes as the seductress states in captions:
"His persona and seductive style were adored by women, but his
masculinity was frequently questioned by other American film stars",
partly because of his colourful dress style. Aged 31, he collapsed
while in New York and was rushed into surgery for a gastric ulcer and
appendicitis and died 8 days later. "His funeral was a public
spectacle attended by fans and Hollywood Stars alike". Quotes by
Teresa C. Schneider from Gentleman's Gazette, 14 Mar 2012
here. Images of Valentino and caption from the film Blood and Sand.