split image of Jean Acker and Rudolph Valentino

When a celebrity marries another celebrity, it doesn’t often end well.

Nicolas Cage, Miley Cyrus, Colin Farrell, and countless others have gotten married and quickly regretted it, resulting in plenty of hasty divorces over the years.

However, the shortest Hollywood marriage ever happened over a century ago, in 1919, between silent-film stars Jean Acker (1892–1978) and Rudolph Valentino (1895–1926).

In fact, the marriage ended before it had even really begun, as Acker locked Valentino out of their honeymoon suite and the union was never consummated.

Jean Acker in the 1920s

The couple met at a party in 1919, the same year that Acker moved from New Jersey to Hollywood. 

Despite being in a romantic relationship with actress Alla Nazimova, who introduced Acker to her “sewing circle”, a group of secretly bisexual and lesbian actresses, Acker took a liking to Valentino, beginning a whirlwind romance with the struggling actor.

Regardless of whether she was truly in love with him, or simply seeking to disguise her sexuality, Acker married Valentino two months later, on 6 November.

Their wedding day proved to be rather anticlimactic though, as Acker began to regret her decision.

After the ceremony, she locked herself in the suite they’d booked at the popular Hollywood Hotel, and despite Valentino pounding on the door, Acker did not let him inside.

After reportedly knocking for 20 minutes, the dejected groom went home.

Acker is claimed to have said, years later, that she refused to sleep with Valentino because he admitted to having gonorrhoea. Other rumours suggest that Acker felt she’d made a mistake in marrying a man, and opted to return to her female lover, Grace Darmond, the third party in her 'love triangle' with Nazimova.

Whatever the reason was, the marriage went unconsummated, and the newlyweds separated soon after, though they remained legally married until 1921, when Acker sued for divorce, citing desertion.

After the divorce was granted, with Acker receiving alimony, Valentino quickly moved on – too quickly, in fact. He did not wait a full year, as required by California law at the time, before marrying his second wife, Natacha Rambova, in Mexico. Upon his return to the USA, he was charged with bigamy.

Rudolph Valentino (1925)

And that wasn’t the end of Valentino’s legal woes. He had become increasingly famous during the preceding years, having appeared in hit films such as The Sheikh and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and perhaps due to this success, Acker sued him again for the legal right to call herself Mrs. Rudolph Valentino. She succeeded and was credited under that name in the 1923 film The Woman in Chains.

Valentino remained angry with Acker for several years afterwards, but the pair reconciled before Valentino’s untimely death in 1926, at the age of 31.

An estimated 100,000 people poured out onto the streets of Manhattan to pay their respects on the day of his funeral, and several fans reportedly took their own lives.

After his passing, Acker wrote a song about Valentino titled “We Will Meet at the End of the Trail”. 

As for Acker, she had several love interests following her divorce: she was engaged to Marquis Luis de Bezan y Sandoval of Spain, then she entered a relationship with Egyptian magician Fakir Rahman Bey, and she was also reputedly a “kept” woman of married politician William Delahanty, whom she unsuccessfully sued in 1930 after losing all her savings in the 1929 stock market crash.

Acker eventually settled down with Chloe Carter, the first wife of film composer Harry Ruby, and remained with her until she passed away in 1978, aged 85. The couple are buried next to each other at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

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