Jean Guglielmi Valentino
August 2nd, 2012
Born: Jean Guglielmi Santeramo, Italy August 14th, 1914 Died: September 22nd, 1996 Los Angeles, CA Buried: Holy Cross Cemetery Culver City, CA
Married: Maria C. Scarpitta till her death (1994). Children: Sylvia and Jeanette
Occupation: Sound Engineer
Known for: being the son of Rudolph Valentino, sound engineer for several television shows
Film Appearances: Jean is incorrectly listed as having taken part in Kevin Brownlow’s Hollywood. Only Alberto Valentino appears in the episode “Swanson and Valentino”
by Hala Pickford @2012, please do not use without permission
Jean Valentino’s story is an awfully sad one. Born into a tough situation, denied the life you knew you should have been given, and taught to be bitter for a good majority of your life. Its a story fit for a soap opera, but unfortunately it was reality for Jean.
Born Jean Vittorio Gabriele Adalberto Guglielmi in Santeramo, Italy on August 14th, 1914 likely in a convent to an unknown mother. His father, Rudolph Valentino, was shipped off to America, by family before his birth in December 1913. For many years the story persisted that Rudy’s older brother Alberto and his wife Ada were the parents of Jean. However the couple had no children before or after him, a major rarity in Italy at the time for a married couple without fertility problems. I will go as far to say unless DNA proves otherwise, it is likely fact.
Ada and Alberto raised Jean, while Rudolph sent money from America whenever he could, particularly as his fame in film rose. In 1923 Rudy tried to adopt his son back in Italy. But unwilling to tell just why he wished this (it would kill his film career and mode of income), and Alberto not wanting to give up the support the family received for Jean, the Italian courts ruled as far as they could see: Jean’s parents were alive and willing to support him, so no need for an ‘Uncle’ to step in. The adoption was denied and unknown, until Alberto accidentally mentioned it in a late in life interview.
Father and son first met in 1923 when Rudy returned to Italy for the first time. Everyone present recalled it as an extremely touching moment. The duo were not only inseparable, but dead look-a-likes for each other.
Rudy reluctantly left and vowed to not only give Jean piano lessons and the best schooling, but to see him again, and soon. In February 1926 this wish was realized when Rudy paid for Alberto, Ada and Jean to travel to Hollywood and stay with him in Falcon Lair. Despite constant fights with Alberto, Rudy and Jean had the time of their lives. Father and son worked on cars and rode horses, while Rudy outfitted Jean in the finest clothing and riding outifts in all over Beverly Hills. After filming Son of the Sheik Rudy and Alberto could stand each other no longer, and Rudy paid for the family to return to Italy. While happy to see Alberto go, it was said Rudy and Jean were extremely emotional over parting again.
After Rudy’s death in August 1926, Alberto arrived in California to try and shake as much money out of the estate as possible. He befriended Pola Negri, who loaned him $1,200 to bring Jean to the US. Despite his promises he initially wished to keep Jean in boarding school, where he had been for most of the 20s.
In 1927 Jean was finally sent for. Alberto arranged a big press event to introduce him, claiming he ‘looked so much like his famous Uncle.’ When the shy Jean got off the train he said,
“My ambition is to be a sound engineer! Don’t say I want to be an actor! Don’t!”
Jean seemed extremely opposed to going in front of the camera and indeed he never did.
As lawsuits battled on between Alberto and George Ullman in regards to Rudy’s estate a big problem had been overlooked. Ullman acted on the best of his knowledge as well as in regards to what remained of Rudy’s will from Day 1. However a page was missing. This will resembled the last one Ullman had known: it bequeathed the estate to Alberto, Maria and Teresa Werner. As such Ullman had, upon request by the three, advancing sums of money against their supposed shares.
Unfortunately Ullman was in the wrong when, years into the legal battles, the missing page was found. One night after his divorce, Rudy had quickly changed it: only Jean was to benefit, and in the case of his death before age 25, then the others would benefit.
But by this point not only had the Great Depression hit but Teresa, Alberto and Maria had taken large sums from what little there was. And once Alberto’s wish was granted in removing Ullman from the estate, the estate went from solid profit to insolvent. Ullman was cleared of any wrongdoing but ordered to pay back $100,000 in 1933 dollars. Obviously he would never have that kind of money. Any and everything Rudy had meant for his son was wiped out not only by his premature death, but by his greedy siblings and the shady maneuvers of Lou Mahoney, who likely removed that page to protect a very odd reference to Jean and thus Rudy’s reputation.
Alberto continued hounding Ullman until Jean came of age in the late 30s. Of course there was no money, and Jean could have absolved Ullman of paying back money his Uncle and Aunt had spent, but he chose not to for whatever reason. Together Alberto and Jean hounded Ullman for nearly 40 years, before shortly before his death they allowed him to be free of any further obligation.
Jean seemed to hold a kind of bitterness that is understandable once you look at the facts, which nobody had until recently. It took 85 years for the truth to come out, and since it has it seems many would rather ignore it (and keep wishing Rudy was gay and only gay) then look at the compelling facts and tale it tells.
Jean never got his due in his lifetime. He died in 1996. But now we know the truth, and his life is easier to understand.
Despite this horrific turn of events, Jean did marry and have children, while also accomplishing his dream of being a sound engineer. He rarely granted interviews but seemed to, at least outwardly, live in the present.
During his lifetime both Jean and Alberto constantly tried to stop the publicity stunt that morphed into the still running Valentino Memorial Service. They found it to be a distasteful and degrading display and even pursued legal avenues.