Wednesday, 19 October 2011

How Tall Was Rudolph Valentino?

Written accounts vary as to Rudolph Valentino's height: I have seen it put at between five feet eight to five feet ten and there is a photograph of Valentino standing next to the boxer Jack Dempsey, which makes Valentino look like a midget - but Dempsey was only six feet one. However, camera distance and angle can make a big difference to proportion and perspective.

So how tall was Valentino and is it possible now to find out? Well I sent out a couple of inquiries. The first was to Anda Rowland, the gov'nor of his London tailors Anderson & Sheppard; Anda Rowland immediately replied and promised to look into their records and did so the next day. The second was to Campbell's funeral parlour in New York. They laid Valentino to rest, and have not yet replied. When they do, I'll put up the result.

The Anderson & Sheppard ledgers show that Valentino was measured by them on 21st November 1925 and, from the following measurements (note the contemporary comment on the shoulders), the current head cutters in that firm estimate that Valentino was 'approximately six feet tall':

Chest: 38"
Very sloping shoulders
Overcoat length 62"
Jacket length 31"
Outside leg 42"
Inside leg 32"
High waisted rise 10"
Waist 32"

This all comes from one of the best firms of tailors in the world and it goes without saying that one accepts the figures; after all they made perfectly fitting clothes from them. Moreover, they certainly well-disguised the sloping shoulders, just as Hawes & Curtis did for Robert Donat, who suffered from the same condition.

It seems generally to be accepted that Greta Garbo was five feet seven tall. Here is a picture of her with John Barrymore in a film still:

It is certainly true that film studios sometimes played hooky with actors' heights (with built-up shoes and even boxes to stand on) but let's take it that this picture shows them at their real heights. I have seen John Barrymore's height described as five feet ten to five feet eleven but never less and that seems consistent with this shot.

Here is John Barrymore receiving an acting award from Rudolph Valentino and Valentino looks a little taller (although that might be accounted for by camera distance and angle):

But all this makes it fairly plain that Valentino was much nearer six feet than he was to five feet eight. All that I can think is that the jealous, adverse publicity (which probably contributed to his early death), continued afterwards.

But (to twist a quotation from F E Smith): even if we are now none the wiser, at least we are far better informed!

Here is a youtube clip of Rudolph Valentino literally introducing the Argentinian tango to the world, in Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse (1921); he is dancing with Beatrice Dominguez (who tragically died before the film was released) - please be patient as the (rather absurd) first male dancer in the clip is not Valentino:

They also said that Valentino had a 'squeaky' voice and would never have made the transition to the 'talkies' - another myth that is put paid to in this clip of him singing two songs:

It is clear that he had a pleasing baritone - and no more 'accent' than Omar Sharif.

One final, revealing fact is that my twenty-one year old daughter had to be told who Fred Astaire was - but when I asked her whether she knew who Rudolph Valentino was, she replied

"Of course!"


  1. Sorry but Who cares?

  2. One of Valentino's biographers, Donna Hill, has told me that Valentino's WWI registration card (as a non-American) states that he was five feet nine. However, I have seen a recent official British record which mis-states someone's height by about five inches.

  3. John Barrymore was no more than 5'7". Valentino was about 5'8".

    Hollywood always did hide any height discrepancies.

    Never go by official photographs.

  4. Hi, the tailor measurements are, I believe, typical for a man of 5ft 10in (jacket 31" and inside leg 32").

    However, Rudolph had those sloping shoulders, and I think a long neck, thus 6ft could be possible.

    Relatively short legs, but his short torso would offset such a look.

    Pete Procrastinator

  5. Numbers are numbers, but photos often tell the truth. Douglas Fairbanks was 5.6 or 5.7. There are photos of Valentino standing next to him...eye to eye.

    1. But even you are starting with numbers - as premises or givens; from which to draw your inferences!

  6. Yes. It's so nice to demolish poisonous rumours circulated by Valentino's detractors all suffering from penis envy. About "who cares", well, check out his fan club 100 years later. Immortals are prone to scrutiny and in his case height is important.