How Russ Columbo became The Valentino of The Radio

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Russ Columbo and Carole Lombard)

Russ Columbo’s connection to Rudolph Valentino was a genuine one. He worked when he was a young man for Pola Negri (Valentino’s last lover). He was a recognized violin virtuoso who played both classical, as well as contemporary music. This ability brought him to the attention of silent movie star Pola Negri, who was looking for a violinist.


Russ Columbo.

Russ Columbo was performing one evening in the ballroom where the Mayfair Ball is held at the Biltmore Hotel when Pola Negri walked in and saw him. The resemblance between her lover Valentino and Russ Columbo was striking. She hired him on the spot, asking him to report to her set the following day to play background mood music. This was the era of silent film and live music was played during filming to help set the mood for the actors.

Russ Columbo was a young eighteen years old and had been looking for a way to work in motion pictures. He worked for Pola Negri playing violin music and occasionally she found him work as an extra, performing as an unnamed actor. For two years Columbo worked for Negri and played his violin. During this time she was involved with Rudolph Valentino with whom she performed in movies.


Rudolph Valentino and Pola Negri

In August of 1926, news was brought to the movie set that Rudolph Valentino had died in New York from complications due to an appendicitis surgery. Valentino was only 31 years old. Columbo was in the middle of performing Dvorak’s Humoresque while a love scene was in the process of being filmed. A messenger whispered to Columbo, “Valentino has collapsed into a comma and died.”

Stunned by the news, he suddenly ceased playing.


Rudolph Valentino and Pola Negri

Noticing that he had stopped and now wore a bereaved expression on his face, Negri asked, “What is the matter with you? Why did you stop playing right in the middle of a scene?”

“Rudolph Valentino is dead,” he responded.


Pola Negri at Valentino’s funeral

The movie star fainted, and Columbo later vouched for the fact that it was not an act, but from genuine shock. For days Negri was inconsolable over the loss of her lover.

Russ Columbo went on with his career and worked with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra playing the violin and singing. It was at The Cocoanut Grove that he was discovered during a performance by the songwriter Con Conrad who became his manager and brought him to New York City where he found stardom on the radio and stage. He won the hearts of thousands of young girls and listeners who heard his velvety baritone voice on the radio. The songs he composed such as,  You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love, Prisoner of Love, and Too Beautiful For Words, became  billboard charted hits.

Years later Russ Columbo returned to Hollywood, after breaking up with his manager. Universal Pictures considered having him star in a biopic about Rudolph Valentino, but it did not come to fruition.


Rudolph Valentino in The Son of The Sheik.


Russ Columbo



Russ Columbo, Happy Birthday from Your Angel, Carole Lombard

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo)

“Carole Lombard  and Russ Columbo were the gayest of gay and continued to dance the rumba long after everyone had gone home…” Silver Screen Magazine reported on the charming couple’s partying in 1934.



Looking back at their romance, I can write they were truly two people who were destined to meet and fall in love. And oh how they enjoyed each other’s company and that of others!


Russ Columbo had once hosted at the height of his radio and theater career in the early 1930’s  a party at the famed  Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York city, hosting over 200 reporters to celebrate his success at the local Paramount Brooklyn Theater. His musical variety shows were sold-out, five shows a day. He set a record that would not be broken for a quarter of a  century at the theater.


The gifted singer and songwriter Russ  Columbo grew-up in show business and performed as a child  as a violin prodigy. He was born into a large Italian American family  on January 14, 1908, in Camden, New Jersey  and had taken the radio airwaves by storm as The Valentino of The Radio, making all the young girls’ hearts flutter with his velvety voice and handsome profile.

And then one fateful night at the Cocoanut Grove his eyes met hers and they started an unforgettable romance. She told reporters, “His love for me was the kind that seldom comes to any woman.” In another interview she said, “I have married, divorced, and loved again.” This was in 1934. Carole Lombard showed her love both in action and words, and sometimes by the gifts she gave him. They were noted in newspapers and by the inventory of his estate.

What kind of gifts would you give a male Hollywood star on his birthday? We know that Carole Lombard gave Russ an Alaskan malamute puppy.


She, according to the accounting of Russ Columbo’s estate, gave him a silver platinum cigarette case with his initials set in small diamonds. It may have looked something like this (see below).


The silver cigarette case Carole Lombard gave Russ Columbo probably looked something like this, but with his initials on top set in small diamonds.




Russ Columbo wearing a trinity ring on his wedding finger. Carole Lombard often wore the matching signet ring.  It was featured with the magazine article where  she stated she had “loved” him.

53bdffd362c600ea5d2c72ef0cc9788fListed among the other items she was known to gift Russ was a Cartier watch inscribed from her to him. Carole Lombard also gave him a ring with an inset solitaire diamond.


1933 Cartier watch.







Happy Birthday Russ!

Love, your Angel,

Carole Lombard





Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo by Beverly Adam

Kindle Preview of Two here for first chapter e-book preview.

Two Lovers is the true love story between legendary Hollywood film actress Carole Lombard, and the famous singer known as The Valentino of The Radio, Russ Columbo.

Recently divorced from her first husband, William Powell (The Thin Man), Carole attends a performance to hear popular radio star Russ Columbo, sing at The Cocoanut Grove, beginning an unforgettable romance.

“Beverly Adam’s fascinating account of Russ and Carole’s star-crossed love story is a must read.” Damon Leigh, President of the Russ Columbo Society.

Comments from my Amazon editor about the new book “Two Lovers”: 
“I think you’ve done a great job in your portrayal of Carole Lombard, 
who comes across as someone who had an excellent sense of humor in the face of adversity and personal tragedy. I also found the descriptions of Hollywood life in the 1930s to be extremely well done and full of rich detail… This was a very enjoyable book to work on”: Editor, Bill (Amazon).


“I started reading it last night and found it hard to put down. Technically it is a work of
fiction, but Adam did a ton of research for the book and based what was going on with the couple’s lives and careers at this time on true facts. I especially enjoy having a chance to get inside Carole’s head, and learning what her life was like before Gable and when she was first on the verge of major stardom.” Bess Korey, Songwriter, DJ, Book Reviewer: Member of Carole Lombard FB.
“Their story is beautifully and accurately told. I love seeing life through Carole’s eyes, knowing the depths of her heart. She was such a fiery brilliant woman, so full of life, a true shining star. The love Russ and Carole shared was epic, rare, and wonderful to read. ” Publisher Leslie D. Stuart (Destiny Rose Editorials and Destiny Whispers Publishing). ” (not the publisher)

You can read the first chapter for free at the following:

To order on Amazon click here large print

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