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Yesterday, had she lived, Marilyn Monroe would have been 90 years old.
What does a sex symbol look like at 90? Probably not so great. Her death truly was tragic, but her youthful beauty is what we'll always remember. We don't know her as a gray haired, post-menopausal granny. (Elizabeth Taylor was 79 when she died in 2011.) Marilyn's death at 36 helps her stay timeless.
Today, and for the next few Thursdays, we'll look back at the MALE sex symbols of the 20th Century. To help narrow the list, all of them have died, some too early and some who lived to a ripe old age. We'll provide thoughts about their lives and ogle at their beauty.
For our first installment…the male celebrity whose life and legacy is most like Marilyn?
Valentino was Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, and millions of male and female fans idolized him as the “Great Lover.” His sensuous, androgynous allure and savage eroticism captivated women. His colorful clothes and flamboyant, ornamental lifestyle made men seethe.
He married twice and divorced twice. This fact helped some newspapers relentlessly proclaim that he was a homosexual. He firmly denied the charge, even going so far as to travel to Chicago in 1926 to challenge one of these writers to a duel.
He and other silent film stars enjoyed the benefit of being seen and not heard. As an Italian national with a thick accent, Valentino would not have survived the transition to talkies.
His death at in 1926 (from a perforated ulcer) sent his fans into a hysterical state of mass mourning. More than 100,000 people attended his funeral in New York City. Even more attended his memorial in Hollywood. As untimely as it was, his death also cemented his legacy: he will as a sex symbol and will always be 31 years old. Was he gay? We can only imagine...
Check out more on Rudolph Valentino here.
Next Thursday, Errol Flynn.