By Alejandra Ocampo
Without doubts, cinema has been one of the most remarkable achievements in human history with regard to entertainment. From the early silent films, accompained by the live music of a piano, to the current superproductions of Hollywood, the so-called seventh art is one of the largest factories of stories, dreams and fantasy.
It is worth to notice that horses were featured on several of those silent films, ridden by actors such as Douglas Fairbanks, who in addition to their acting skills also proved to be talented riders. And, as the industry grew bigger and bigger, the first movie superstars, who captivated the public, began to emerge.
One the most famous and successful stars of silent movies, who is considered the first sex symbol and latin lover as well, was named Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filiberti Giugelmi di Valentina d’Antoguolla. He was known as Rudolph Valentino.
Born in Castellaneta, Italy, in 1985, Valentino drove women mad with his extremely good looks, something that was a complete scandal by those years. In 1913, he left Italy to go to New York in search of success, at the same time he managed to attract the high society with his good looks and charisma. By 1917, he moved to Hollywood to try a career in cinema. After playing small roles, he found out that a guionist named June Mathis was trying to find him to cast for the main role in a movie called “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, released in 1921. The movie was a fantastic success and elevated Valentino to stardom. That same year, Rudolph Valentino played the starring role in “The Sheikh”, the film that defined his career, image and legacy, and saw him displaying his skills on the saddle, as well.
The actor was a gifted rider; he loved horses and kept them in the stables of his California home, Falcon’s Lair, which he bought in 1925. Despite it is uncertain whether Valentino played polo, by those years he used to appear in photoshoots dressed in full polo outfit.
In 1926, Rudolph Valentino was at the peak of his career; he was getting ready to become the attractive sheikh for the second time in the sequel, called “The son of the Sheikh”. And it’s time to introduce someone who would become as famous as Valentino himself – a horse called Jadaan, a grey Arab stallion.
Jadaan (Abbeian x Amran by Deyr) was foaled in April 1916 at Hingham Stock Farm, in Massachusetts, United States. He was owned by the cereal millonaire, W.K. Kellogg, who paid for the horse USD 1,200 in 1925, and took him to his ranch, Arabian Horse Ranch, in Pomona, California. Despite his Arabian lineage, Jadaan had poor front legs and his get tended to be farther over in the knees. However, Jadaan was extraordinary to fall into beautiful poses very easily; he had a natural grace and a vibrant personality.
Meanwhile, the production of “The Son of the Sheikh” was in full swing to make Rodolfo Valentino the best and most lavish Sheikh ever. And the best Sheikh needed the best horse. Rodolfo Valentino first saw Jadaan in Palm Springs, along his rider and carer, Carl Schmidt. Jadaan was at his prime at 10-years-old. His beauty and personality captivated Valentino inmediatly, so he told Schmidt he wanted the horse for his movie.
He sent a telegram to Kellogg asking for permission to have the horse for ten days promising the return on May 1. Valentino also guaranteed safe shipment for the horse. He wrote: “I especially ask for Jadan (sic) because I consider him the embodiement of the finest Arab from every standpoint (…)”.
Kellogg was interested on the offer, so he sent a telegram to his son, Karl, who managed the ranch, to take care of the issue in order to make sure of expenses, and to ask what sort of credit would be given to the ranch. While Karl Kellogg assured Valentino he would have the horse, the actor wrote back to W. K. Kellogg: “We will guarantee to publicize your splendid Arabian Horse Ranch”. He alsoguaranteed the payment of expenses of transporting the horse, an insurance policy and the carers who would accompany Jadaan. Rudolph Valentino was delighted to have such a splendid horse. He stated: “You may be asssured I look after Jadan (sic) with more care than if he belonged to me”.
The desert scenes were shot in Arizona, and the lavish pair, Rudolph Valentino and Jadaan, made an impressive picture. Once again, Valentino’s skills as a rider were overwhelming and Jadaan proved to be a “true son of the desert”. But Valentino kept Jadaan for a longer period of time due to a delay in the filmimg. As a result, the horse couldn’t been retuned on May 1. A furious W.K. Kellogg sent a telegram to the actor to return the horse inmediatly, as agreed. But it was impossible. So, Valentino wrote back, asking for a few days and return the horse on May 5. To smooth things with Mr. Kellogg, Valentino described the movie as “splendid”.
And so it proved. The movie was fabulously successful and Rudolph Valentino started a tour to promote the film. But the joy didn’t last that much – he passed away unexpectedly, in New York, on August 23 1926, when he was only 31-years-old, as a consequence of a peritonitis. Valentino’s untimely passing was a shock worldwide, to the point that some of his most distraught fans committed suicide and his funeral was sorrounded with massive hysteria.
Meanwhile, Jadaan’s name was not used in the titles of the movies. The credit lines went to W.K. Kellogg and Arabian Horse Ranch, as Valentino guaranteed when he had permision to use the horse. Kellogg also purchased the saddle his horse wore in the movie.
Jadaan’s fame grew as a result of his movie appearence and the enormous success of the film, and he outlived his film partner for several years. Jadaan’s fame was so huge, that visitors who came to Arabian Ranch Horse to see the horses asked “where’s Valentino’s horse?”. Definetly, Jadaan was “the horse that Rudolph Valentino rode”, “the Valentino horse”. Jadaan made appearences in several parades and Arabian Horse Shows, as well as his film career continued in other six movies. But none of those movies equalled the tremendous success of “The Son of the Sheikh”. That’s why he remained “Valentino’s horse” forever. Jadaan died in 1945, aged 29, and one of his last performaces was posing with the Valentino saddle.
Upor Rudolph Valentino’s death, Falcon’s Lair was in disarray and went to public auction. In 1953, the ranch was bought by the American tobacco heiress and philantrophist, Doris Duke. Through 1947 and 1951, Doris was married to Porfirio Rubirosa, the attractive Dominican playboy, diplomat and horse mad, who was also a remarkable amateur polo player, a 5-goaler winner of the second edition of the Coupe d’Or, in Deauville, in 1951.
The fate led Doris Duke to reunite, in a way or another, two of the most fascinating personalities of the XX Century, who shared their love of horses – Rodolfo Valentino and Porfirio Rubirosa.