Cereal millionaire, W.K. Kellogg, was an Arabian horse breeder in Pomona, California. One of Kellog’s stallions had caught the attention of Rudolph Valentino who wanted to ride him in The Son of the Sheik, a sequel to The Sheik which had catapulted him to international fame in 1921.
The horse’s name was Jadaan and he was to outlive the silent movie star by 19 years.
Born Rodolfo Guglielmi in southern Italy, Valentino, as he became known, was a hyperactive and handsome boy who would tame donkeys and ride horses around his hometown of Castellaneta. His mother idolised him while his strict father, a veterinarian and former cavalry captain, found him an annoying nuisance. He was sent to agricultural college, later travelling to Paris and on to America. He learnt the tango, became a professional dance partner in a night club and went on to score some bit parts in movies.
His career then segued into a string of successes including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Blood and Sand and The Sheik, in which he played a seductive Arabian chieftain riding a sturdy grey named “Anna”. She was to appear in a couple more silent spectaculars then went to work on the Broadway stage pulling a chariot in the opera Aida. The mare did this for 25 years and when she died, aged 39, The New York Times ran her obituary.
In The Son of the Sheik, Valentino played dual roles. As the son he was teamed with a black trick horse trained to spin and rear; when playing the father, he was keen to use Jadaan (Arabic for “goodness”) who he had seen at the Pomona ranch being ridden by the German-born scholar and Arabian horse aficionado, Carl Schmidt.
During his time in California, this European horseman had been asked by Kellogg to obtain breeding stock from Lady Wentworth’s Crabbet Stud in Sussex. One of the best he selected was a highly valued Arabian stallion named Raswan, who was later accidentally killed. Upon learning of his death, Schmidt cried: “Dead? No! He will live! From now on everything I do is done in his name!” Schmidt – who had travelled extensively in the Middle East and studied Arabian culture and language before moving to the US – changed his surname to Raswan. Considered a great scholar of bloodlines and Arabian culture, he died in 1966.
Jadaan, born in 1916, was by the desert bred Abbeian out of Amran by Deyr 33, whose skeleton is on display at the LA Museum as a classic example of an Arabian horse’s framework. Jadaan’s granddam was Wadduda, who had been imported to the US in 1906 accompanied by a desert tribesman to care for her.
TRIVIA: Mr Ed’s mother, Zetna Hara, a part-Arabian, is also related to Waddudda.
Despite coming from the best of old-line Arabian stock, Jadaan had poor front legs and produced very ordinary foals which were more over at the knees than their father. However, Valentino regarded him as a fine Arab from every standpoint, especially when it came to the movies. The horse could pose beautifully, had a natural grace and a vibrant personality.