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1930s & Earlier / Rudolph Valentino Funeral Riot
Silent movie heartthrob Rudolph Valentino died from complications of pleuritis on August 23, 1926 at the age of 31. Such was Valentino's popularity that an estimated 100,000 disorderly people lined the streets of New York City to pay their respects at his funeral. The arrangements were handled by the Frank Campbell Funeral Home. The event was a combination of facrce and drama. Suicides of despondent female fans were widely reported. Windows were smashed as fans tried to force their way into the funeral parlor. What can only be described as an all-day riot erupted on August 24. More than 100 mounted officers and NYPD's Police Reserve were deployed to try to restore order. A phalanx of officers lined the streets for the remainder of the viewing. Drama occurred inside the funeral home too. Polish actress Pola Negri, claiming to be Valentino's fiancée, collapsed in hysterics while standing over the actor's coffin. Four fascist Blackshirts formed an honor guard, which was purportedly dispatched by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Afterward the honor guard was revealed to have been comprised of actors. It was a publicity stunt orchestrated by the funeral home.