Valentino and Rambova Bigamy Scandal

Speaking of Valentino, there is, naturally, a major scandal attached to him as well. He was briefly jailed for bigamy. The press had a field day with the story.

The illegal marriage was between Natacha Rambova, a costume designer whose real name was Winifred Hudnut (I gotta admit, I’d change my name too if it were Winifred Hudnut), and Rudy Valentino, the popular silent screen heart-throb who was born in Italy Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antoguolla.

When the two met in 1921 on the set of “Uncharted Seas,” it was not love at first sight. According to Rambova, she thought Valentino was a goof-off and not very bright, as he kept trying to tell jokes and forgetting the punch line. Later she realized he was just lonely, and they began dating. A few months later, they moved in together.

Never mind the Roaring Twenties, this was still a big no-no, especially for movie stars in the public eye and especially because Valentino was already married. He got a divorce from first wife Jean Acker and took Rambova to Mexicali, Mexico, in May of 1922 to get married. But California law in those years required a one-year waiting period before remarrying, and the couple had not waited out the year. Perhaps Valentino didn’t know about the law; perhaps he thought he could safely ignore it. He could not.

He was picked up and jailed, briefly, for bigamy. Incredibly, his studio refused to bail him out, so several friends raised the bail money, and he was released. Where was Rambova during his arrest? In New York on studio business. She was on her way home, by train of course, when she heard the news of his arrest. Reporters were all over her when her train stopped in Chicago, but she refused to speak to them at all.

For the remainder of the year, the pair had live in separate apartments, with roommates, no less! They married again, legally this time, in March of 1923.

Read more about this fascinating feminist and the bigamy scandal at this excellent website.