An actor’s funeral procession down Broadway

Judging by the 100,000 people lining Broadway, you’d think the hearse in the photo below would be carrying the coffin of a politician or war hero. 

rudolphvalentinoheadshotNope, it’s Rudolph Valentino, the silent movie heartthrob who died suddenly in a New York City hospital in August 1926. He was 31. Before becoming one of the first A-list actors, he clocked in time as a busboy at city restaurants and then as a dancer at Maxim’s, a swanky Manhattan nightclub.

His body was brought to the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Church at Broadway and 66th Street. An estimated 30,000 fans tried to get a glimpse into his open casket, smashing windows and causing a near riot.

From there funeral home staffers orchestrated a Hollywood-like procession, driving the casket down to St. Malachy’s Church—the Actor’s Chapel—on Broadway and 49th Street for a mass. Crowds of young women swooned and cried as the procession passed. 


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4 Responses to “An actor’s funeral procession down Broadway”

  1. Patell and Waterman’s History of New York · First We Take Manhattan Says:

    […] on the side of Rudolph Valentino’s mausoleum. Not too long ago the blog Ephemeral New York posted on the actor’s 1926 funeral procession down Broadway. var addthis_language = 'en';var addthis_options = 'email, favorites, digg, delicious, myspace, […]

  2. Yeah, I’d hit that: Dead Guy Edition « Jonathan Brandis Is Dead Says:

    […] Valentino: Valentino was so handsome that he didn’t need to prove a modicum of talent to flood the streets of New York with grieving women when he […]

  3. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    Your photo shows the Campbell Funeral home with 100,000 mourners, which was matched by 80,000 more mourners in California when Valentino’s second service and burial took place there. Part of this was serious fan-worship and part may have been the PR Department of the studio pushing his recent film, “THE SON OF THE SHEIK”. They wished to recover their investment; They believed a Hollywood star ‘whose light-had-gone-out’ might not be a big ticket-seller without a bit of hype!

    Rudy died touring to promote the film. He was taken from his NYC hotel to the Polyclinic Hospital with abdominal pains. The malady – a ruptured appendix plus a perforated ulcer. Surgery followed; infections developed and he died. Another twist to this tale. Attending physicians were in awe of the patient. (Legend has it) they put off operating for several hours because no one wished to be the one to ‘slice’n dice’ the great actor. Valentino might have been saved had swifter attention been provided! Alas, the 1913 Italian immigrant, (only 31 years of age) his own fame.’

    The hospital placed his corpse in a wicker ‘dead basket’ covered with a cloth and it was transported across town. The ‘Latin Lover’ was placed in a bronze casket at Campbell. Another rumor suggests an artist sculpted a wax-likeness of Valentino – this was displayed for the thousands viewing the remains. (The real body of Valentino was kept cooling in preparation for the looong trip out to the West Coast.) Either Valentino or the wax-figure was garbed in a dinner jacket, heavy make-up and mascara (after all, he was an actor…)

    Upon arrival in California, a burial site was needed. Friend June Mathis offered her husband’s future vault on a temp basis. (Sadly, she died the following year and is now beside Rudy.) Plans had been discussed for a crypt with statues, etc… Valentino’s estate was lacking in funds, so his temp burial site became permanent at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

  4. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    One more note of interest regarding the splendid B&W pic presented on this blog. The street pavement displays the reverse SHADOW lettering of a roof-top sign’s letters. If you read it backwards / right to left — it is the “44th Street Theater” — perfection for an actor’s final snapshot as the funeral motorcade was rolling past.

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