Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla was born in Italy in 1895 and emigrated to America in 1913.
He began getting bit parts in silent films in the mid-1910s. As he progressed to larger parts in the later 1910s, he started being credited as “Rudolph Valentino” or some variant thereof.
He finally achieved fame in 1921 with his breakthrough role as Julio in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the top-grossing film of the year.
He went on to make more than a dozen other films — including The Sheik (1921), which turned Valentino into America’s first sex symbol.
But his superstardom was cut short when, at the age of 31, he died suddenly (of peritonitis, after suffering from a perforated peptic ulcer) soon after the premiere of his final film, The Son of the Sheik (1926).
The death of Valentino not only “caused worldwide hysteria, several suicides, and riots at his lying in state, which attracted a crowd that stretched for 11 blocks,” but also influenced U.S. baby names.
- 1929: 1,220 baby boys named Rudolph [rank: 140th]
- 1928: 1,308 baby boys named Rudolph [rank: 134th]
- 1927: 1687 baby boys named Rudolph [rank: 110th]
- 1926: 1636 baby boys named Rudolph [rank: 111th]
- 1925: 1243 baby boys named Rudolph [rank: 136th]
Similarly, the name Valentino saw a spike in usage in 1927, reaching a level that wasn’t surpassed until the late 1990s.
- 1929: 30 baby boys named Valentino
- 1928: 49 baby boys named Valentino [rank: 991st]
- 1927: 90 baby boys named Valentino [rank: 682nd]
- 1926: 49 baby boys named Valentino [rank: 990th]
- 1925: 43 baby boys named Valentino
What are your thoughts on the names Rudolph and Valentino? Would you use either one? (If so, which?)
P.S. One factor — beyond style — that could have contributed to the decreasing usage of the name Rudolph from the mid-20th century onward is the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It was the top song in the nation at the end of 1949 — a year before “Frosty the Snowman” hit big — and went on to become a holiday classic, cementing the association between the name Rudolph and not just reindeer, but Christmastime in general.