The Leslie Flint Educational Trust

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'Tonight' - BBC TV Interview

Recorded: May 26th 1976

‘‘All my séances are held

under normal, natural conditions.

There are no flying trumpets... no tilting tables...”

Fifty years after the death of silent film star Rudolph Valentino,
the public once again became interested in his life and his work. 

To capitalise on this renewed interest, new books were published
 - including one by film critic Alexander Walker -

and a film by Ken Russell was in production,
with Rudolf Nureyev in the lead role.

And as the foremost authority on the life of the legendary actor
and head of the Valentino Memorial Guild,
Leslie Flint was interviewed at his home in London
for the BBC 'Tonight' programme.

<< Originally broadcast on BBC One at 11:10pm
on Wednesday May 26th 1976 >>

Introduced by Denis Tuohy. Interview by John Pitman.

Note: This enhanced audio was originally recorded directly from the 1976 TV broadcast and is not to modern standards.

Please read the full transcript below as you listen.

[Part of Denis Tuohy's introduction is missing from this copy of the audio]

[...'The Great Lover' as he became known, died 50 years ago. Published tomorrow is a biography of Valentino and next month two more are being published, including one by the film critic Alexander Walker. Already a film has been made in America and this summer Ken Russell starts shooting his interpretation of Valentino with Rudolf Nureyev in the main role.]

[Recording begins]

John Pitman reports on Valentino and on one man who has done more than most to keep the legend alive.

August 1926 and Rudolph Valentino, the ex-dishwasher and dancer who became the cinematic symbol of primitive love, has died.

When he was alive Valentino was said to have satisfied the repressed needs, incoherent longings and the subconscious wants of the world of women.

When he died, some of those women died with him; flung themselves from balconies, took poison murmuring his name with their last breath, went wild with grief, as his body lay in floral state.

But not everybody was wild about Rudy. Some critics condemned the much vaunted magnetism...

(Piano music plays)

the flashing eyes and flaring nostrils. In ardour they said Valentino was like a vampire about to bite and next month he would be forgotten, someone else would come along to take his place.

(Piano music)

But 50 years on everybody is going to be reminded of Valentino, although one man needs no reminding.

Leslie Flint, a widower in his 60s, has devoted his life to keeping alive the legend of the great lover. He's travelled the world just to meet people, who met people, who met Valentino.

Mr Flint does all in his power to promote the Valentino Memorial Guild which he runs from his house in Bayswater and he, apparently, has more power than most because he's a medium.

According to Mr Flint people who die or pass over, speak to him at séances. Voices come in the dark. Valentino, he says, has been coming through for more than forty years to talk to him and anybody else who is interested in listening.

This is the room in which we occasionally hold our séances...oh do sit down please.

We, uh, don’t have any special room set aside or anything like that. All my séances are quite free and easy and impromptu, we may or may not get results. People just sit down as if they were coming to a social gathering and, uh, when Alexander Walker, who recently wrote a book about Valentino, he sat just over there and we sat and chatted together all of us. Until such time as something began to happen, which it did eventually, uh, we did get a contact with Valentino, which I'll play you in a few moments.

You see, all my séances are held under normal, natural conditions, uh, there are no flying trumpets, there's no flying tambourines, there's no tilting tables, uh, there is none of the stupidities that do go on, unfortunately, in Spiritualism, which often gets it a bad name.

We have no set arrangement or anything that, we just sit together as friends and we talk. We put the light out and then eventually and if we are fortunate, which we were on this occasion, uh, we receive the communication from Valentino.

Does a voice actually occur in the room?

Oh yes. Well we all sit around, as I have already said, all being quite normal, quite natural, chatting about all sorts of things and we wait until we hear this voice.

Now the voices are quite separate and quite apart from me. I go into no trances, I can hear what is said, I converse with the voices and, as far as I’m concerned, I’m just an ordinary person sitting in a room with my friends, waiting for something to happen. And these voices are completely separate and completely independent of me and, uh, when the voice comes, well, we just sit and listen and we ask questions - as you will hear probably on this, uh, particular recording of Alexander Walker, coming for his very first time.

Having written this book, he was naturally intrigued with the idea of the possibility of contacting Valentino and fortunately - it doesn’t always happen that the person you most want will come and talk to you, but since Valentino has been a fairly regular communicator for many, many years, one naturally hoped he would - and he did. And, of course, this is the recording or I'll play a part of it for you, so that you can hear for yourself...


I am very interested in your book, so, uh, and I am sure you have done a very good job uh?

But, um, also you have to think it is not easy, uh, for people - whether it is you or whether it is someone else - to write a book about someone, fifty years after the events. I...I don’t want to appear ungrateful.

Oh no, you don't...

I don't want to give you the impression that I don't appreciate anything that you or anyone else may do, then I would not be human.

And I am still human on this side, because we do not change all that much, but um, I...I still appreciate whatever a person may do, uhh, in remembrance of me or if they are sincere, as you are and as, uh, Mr Flint is...

Leslie Flint has a lot of fans himself. But there are still some people, like Alexander Walker, who, having heard the voices in the dark, continue to view the whole phenomena with friendly scepticism.

(Piano music)

What isn’t in doubt is that Leslie Flint is Europe’s foremost authority on Valentino. He's even built a cinema in his house, so that he can have private viewings of the 'great lover' in action. And although he never met Valentino, he feels that he knows and understands him.

(Piano music)

But the point is that Valentino was a unique personality. Quite apart from being a very attractive personality, he was also a very talented person and, of course, he had very great charisma, uh I...I just think that Valentino will always be remembered. Whereas others are forgotten, his image will always remain as the great personification of the great lover.

(Piano music)

Are you pleased therefore that there are books, films...


all happening now?

Of course I’m pleased, in as much that, I think that, um, he should be remembered and I think that these books, uh, in themselves, will help to revive the remembrance of the man.

Unfortunately, not all the statements made in some of these books are correct, uh...and most of these books are written by people who have never met Valentino, uh...

They are not of his era at all and a great deal of the material that they have put into the book or books, have been culled from other sources; written nearer to Valentino's lifetime itself.

But it doesn't alter the fact that there is a great deal of truth in this present book and a great deal there that will give a good insight into Valentino's personality and character. I think these books will serve a very good purpose.

What sort of statements have been made that are not true?

Well, I mean, for instance, that Valentino had been described in several books as being short - which is completely and absolutely untrue. He was five feet eleven and a half, the records show that on his American citizenship papers, which have to be absolutely accurate.

On his, um, entry into the Athletic Club Hollywood, a statement had to be put down as to his height, his weight and so on. He was a very well-built young man, muscular, great athlete...

(Piano music)

He had to be an athlete to do some of the things he did in films. Even a few months before he died, when he made the film 'The Son of the Sheik' he had, um, some very, very strenuous things to do in the desert sequences.
I mean, there is so much nonsense written about the man.

Most of the things I've read about Valentino say that he was a gigolo. That...that he earned his money by, uh, not only dancing with, but keeping happy rather elderly ladies.

Well I think it's rather sad that people should write these sorts of things.

Because, in the first instance, it's not completely true - it's true of course that Valentino was a dancing partner, uh, eventually, to two very famous dancers. But previous to that he was giving lessons to, quite often, elderly ladies, no doubt, and escorted them to dances, because he had to earn a living - he had been practically destitute in New York, even sleeping out on a park bench.

And he was very glad to earn some money and since he was a very good dancer and he was a very attractive person of course, he was much sought after and he did do this sort of thing. But there is no, as far as I can see, anything derogatory about that. I don't see why an issue should be made of it.

The man did an honest living. But this business about, presumably, taking the old ladies, or what have you, to bed. I mean, this is all just, um, I would imagine, uh, a lot of stupid nonsense. I mean, what evidence is there to support these statements? None. Because they can't.

But, in fact, the only things you'll ever read that are derogatory about Valentino, in every instance - and there are hundreds of them during his lifetime and since - have always been written by men; who resent Valentino's image, his success with the women...

They considered that he was something of a 'lady killer', which he was not in private life, of course. In fact, he was devoted to his second wife and was heartbroken when their marriage broke up. In fact he died within nine months of her leaving him.

Women raved over him, women adored him. But the one woman who could have meant everything in his life, deserted him, neglected him. She was a career woman...

Do you think that, uh, that the Ken Russell film will portray Valentino as you know him from research?

With all due respect to Ken Russell and any other producer that makes a movie pertaining to be Valentino's life, I think it is doomed to failure.

For the simple reason, there is no one who could be a second Valentino, anymore than if anyone, should they ever decide at some later date, to make a film about the life, the life about Garbo or Chaplin...

No one can ever be a second anybody. Whoever portrays the character is doomed to fail.

(Piano music)

I mean Valentino was Latin. Valentino had jet black hair, a rather olive complexion, um, deep, very mesmeric brown eyes and flashing white teeth...he was a charmer.

I mean, whether one likes the man or whether one doesn't, is neither here nor there. Valentino was unique.

(Piano music)

Before it was known that Nureyev was going to play him in the Russell film, did you have any conversations about who might be playing, what might happen?

No well, we knew, of course I knew ages ago. I mean, I get so much information before it ever comes out. You may think this a very odd remark to make, but it's perfectly true. Valentino has kept me informed over the years of so many things, which I seriously to thought myself, 'oh well he’s wrong there'.
Such as the revival of 'Blood and Sand' in the West End, it was an unheard of thing - a silent movie in the West End in 1975, attended by royalty? It sounded crazy, but it all happened, uh, so it didn’t come as a surprise to me. But he didn't tell me who was going to play the character...his character, but there you are.

I’d love to know what he thinks about the whole thing.

I don't think he really worries very much. After all, he's now out of the reach of the critics and the mud-slingers and the people who are always ready to bring a man down. Fortunately he is high above them, in every sense. So I don't think it matters very much to him.


This transcript was created for the Trust by Coleen Mackenzie - May 2018