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  • The Ballyhooed Art of Governing Romance

    Giorgio Bertellini

    Chapter from the book: Bertellini, G. 2019. The Divo and the Duce: Promoting Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920s America.


    Chapter 5 shows how in 1921 Valentino’s image changed from the time he completed The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (March 1921) into that of a ruthless and exotic seducer, courtesy of publicity agent Herbert Howe. To support this new, unusual, and popular personality, in concomitance with the release of The Sheik (November 1921), Howe ghostwrote articles in which Valentino publicly praised the institution of the monarchy, in the name of effective leadership, and criticized as a “Bolshevik democratization” the impact of women’s voting rights on American masculinity. While a few ghostwriters and publicity operators like Elinor Glyn sought to tame Valentino’s “sheik” characterization with romantic overtones, his manufactured image as an elegant, passionate, and authoritarian lover endured despite the dearth of sheik-like film roles he was to play in the following years.

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    Bertellini, G. 2019. The Ballyhooed Art of Governing Romance. In: Bertellini, G, The Divo and the Duce. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.62.f

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    Published on Jan. 15, 2019