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REVIEWS 85 For he was certainly the most uncooperative of men. As a child, his mother had tried to beat that recalcitrance out of him. As a young archaeologist digging with Leonard Wooley at Carchemish, he insisted on wearing exotic Arab garb and on traveling about in unseemly intimacy with an Arab youth. As a member of the official British delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference, he expressed moral outrage that he had been deceived into rousing the Arabs to fight and die for their independence, while secretly the Arab lands had already been parceled out into British and French spheres of influence. Lawrence also was totally uncooperative with standard models for standard heroes, from his small stature to his ambivalence about fame and his contempt for money. Most unfortunately, he was also totally uncooperative with history. From checkered beginnings, he had risen to inordinate renown. But then he chose obscurity, vulgar pseudonyms, vulgar surroundings, the suffering imposed by a humiliating vice, and—most unforgivably—a banal and meaningless death. Desmond Stewart ends his book with it. But Mack reports that his brother, Arnold Lawrence, "still receives letters from people who were enabled to do something useful with their lives, or found a new, deeper meaning through Lawrence's writings and personal example." As Lawrence confided to Mrs. (Bernard) Shaw in 1931: "Colonel Lawrence still goes on, and it is only me who has stepped out of the way." Alice Goldfarb Marquis University of California, San Diego Alexander Walker, Rudolph Valentino. New York: Penguin Books, 1977. 127 pp. $2.95. It is difficult to guess just whom Alexander Walker and Penguin Books felt this slight volume would appeal to. To suggest that it falls between stools is to ascribe to it weight and substance, which it utterly lacks. The film scholar will find very little about how Valentino's enormously successful fims were made in Hollywood's salad days, for Walker resolutely ignores the contributions of directors, cinematographers , producers, and all the other participants in this most collective of art forms. The sociologist interested in Valentino as a star/culture hero of the brightest magnitude will finish the book unilluminated about the process, surely an interesting one, by which an Italian immigrant was tranformed into an American hero adored by millions. The cultural historian wishing to discover something of the relationship of Valentino's popularity to larger cultural patterns will have to 86 biography Vol. 1, No. 4 be satisfied by a few hoary generalities about bobbed hair and bathtub gin. And the student of biography—well, whether he is particularly interested in Valentino as a personality, or in the art of biography, he will find little or nothing to repay a reading of this book. Although his book lacks documentation, Walker has apparently relied exclusively for his information on the five books, two memoirs and three biographies, he lists in his "select" bibliography. His failure to undertake any original research is a liability, to be sure, but it is not necessarily a fatal one. He could have written a provocative and searching biographical essay based upon previously published materials , as Norman Mailer did in his misunderstood and undervalued Marilyn, but that would have required an imaginative commitment to his subject which Walker lacked either the energy or the ability for. Walker draws a contrast, for example, between Valentino's public fame as a great lover and his private experience of two allegedly unconsummated marriages, both of them to women who had intimate attachments to the lesbian star, AUa Nazimova. This is fairly steamy stuff, but fair game for the biographer of a national heartthrob; Walker , however, fails to charge these materials with any resonant significance . Why was Valentino attracted to these women? Why were they attracted to him? What tensions and conflicts assailed Valentino because of this disparity between his public reputation and his private life? These questions are not answered, even tentatively, in Walker's book; they are barely even raised. For that matter, the evidence Walker adduces to suggest that Valentino's second marriage was never consummated is extremely flimsy and circumstantial, namely his wife's putative lesbianism, and the fact that her memoirs, published in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1456
Print ISSN
0162-4962
Pages
pp. 85-87
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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