About 100 Years Ago, Rudolph Valentino Described Americans…And His Words Ring True Today

In 1922 a journalist named Willis Goldbeck interviewed Rudolph Valentino in Motion Picture Magazine. Although it carried an enticing title–The Perfect Lover–Valentino opined in this article about the 18th Amendment which established Prohibition, as well as his views about the passivity of Americans, words that seem prescient and which could apply to a large part of the American public today.

Weighty discussion in Motion Picture magazinE
circa 1922

Valentino was baffled about how comparatively well-educated Americans at the time seemed to be so intellectually passive:

Valentino said:

“I CANNOT UNDERSTAND YOU AMERICANS….”

Back then, Valentino was comparing Americans to his European understanding of the world. In the context of today, I would define “Americans” with the characteristics he described as being the current masses of Trump voters, evangelicals, and many of the Americans who sit glued to reality TV for hours at a time, totally oblivious to national and international news. In 1922, Valentino called out the “individualism” that we are told Americans possess…he could see even then how thinking was already reduced to mass acceptance of messaging presented to them. Today we have social media and toxic right wing media spouting “alternative facts” both which makes things even worse compared to how Valentino saw the papers and the public then…propounding and the public accepting. The trashy tabloids and William Randolph Hearst’s “yellow journalism” reached the masses and Valentino’s personal issues with unrelenting press coverage certainly made him sensitive to issues regarding the press.

One hundred years later, things haven’t changed that much…