JADAAN, THE SHEIK AND THE CEREAL BARON
Walter H. Roeder
(Originally published in The Cal Poly Scholar, vol.1, (fall 1988) p.99-103)
This article deals with the early history of Cal Poly Pomona. In 1926 W.K. Kellogg allowed Rudolph Valentino to use Jadaan, a gray stallion, in the silent film "The Son of The Sheik." Jadaan gained fame by appearing in six films, three Tournament of Roses Parades, and many Arabian Horse Shows. His skeleton is used in a U.C. Davis teaching display and it was on view during Cal Poly Pomona's 50th anniversary celebration.
The year 1926 was a significant date in the early history of Cal Poly Pomona. The previous year W.K. Kellogg purchased the land for his ranch and started acquiring Arabian horses. Jadaan, a regal stallion that later appeared in six motion pictures, was among the first group of horses which were brought to Pomona.
The roaring twenties were in full swing. Prohibition spawned illegal liquor sales estimated at 3.6 billion dollars a year. Al Capone ruled the Chicago underworld. Harry Houdini, the escape artist, made headlines by remaining underwater 91 minutes in an airtight crate. "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" was a hit song. Adults read The Sun Also Rises; while children read Winnie-The-Pooh. "Silent Cal" Coolidge occupied the White House. Female audiences idolized the silent film star Rudolph Valentino. H. L. Mencken (1956) wrote that Valentino "was catnip to women" (p.284). Valentino, an excellent horseman, had displayed his riding ability in "The Sheik" (1921).
"The Sheik," based on a novel by Edith M. Hull, was a box office success which earned about $3,000,000. Ms. Hull wrote a sequel, The Sons of The Sheik, which was purchased by United Artist. The plot was changed eliminating one of the twin sons and the new title became The Son of The Sheik. At first Valentino expressed no interest in another Sheik film, he wanted to do films which offered him more of an opportunity to display his acting skills. George S. Ullman, Valentino's business manager, convinced him to take a chance on the film (Oberfirst, 1977, p. 215).
Valentino then became enthusiastic about this new film. Shulman (1967) reported "Valentino decided to be the best dressed Sheik in all of Araby" and spent $11,260 on a full wardrobe which included a sword ($4,000), a sapphire ring ($3,000), and Arabian costumes (p.309). His leading lady would be the beautiful Vilma Banky. The director, George Fitzmaurice, was someone he trusted. Now Valentino needed a horse worthy of a Sheik.
On April 15, 1926, Valentino sent a long telegram to W.K. Kellogg's office in Battle Creek, Michigan, asking for permission to use Jadaan for ten days. He guaranteed safe shipment of the horse and promised its return before May 1st. Valentino stated, "We will give you tremendous clear advertising and publicity campaign through magazines, press and film"... "I especially ask for Jadan [sic] because I consider him the embodiment of the finest Arab from every standpoint..." (Parkinson, 1975, p. 67).
The offer interested W.K. Kellogg. At the time Dr. Karl Kellogg, W.K.'s son, managed Kellogg Ranch and Carl Schmidt cared for the horses, W.K. Kellogg sent a telegram to his son stating, "We certainly should be assured of expenses providing you and Schmidt think favorable of the proposition. I am wiring Valentino asking what sort of credit will be given Arab Horse Ranch" (Parkinson, 1975, p. 69).
Valentino in his reply to W.K. Kellogg answered, "We will guarantee to publicize your splendid Arab Horse Ranch" and would pay expenses of transporting the horse and the hostlers who would accompany Jadaan (Parkinson, 1975, p. 70).
Events moved quickly, Valentino wrote to W.K. Kellogg agreeing to pay all expenses, including a $25,000 insurance policy, return the horse by May 1st, and give screen credit to the Arab Horse Ranch. He stated, "You may be assured I will look after Jadan [sic] with more care than if he belonged to me" (R. Valentino, Personal Communication, April 17, 1926).
Ullman (1927) wrote about Valentino's reaction after W.K. Kellogg granted permission to use the horse, "I shall never forget Rudy's joy when he discovered that he could have Jadan [sic]. It was one of those small things, unimportant to some, which delights the soul of the artist" (p. 174).
The desert scenes for the film were shot near Yuma, Arizona. Valentino kept Jadaan for a longer period of time than had been agreed upon. When W.K. Kellogg learned that Jadaan had not been returned by May 1st he sent a scolding telegram to Valentino, "In my business dealings I am not accustomed to treatment of this sort... shall ask you return Jadaan to the Ranch at once. An immediate answer advising me of your compliance is expected" (Parkinson, 1975, p. 76).
Valentino's return telegram stated that Jadaan would be returned on May 5th describing the movie as "splendid" and that publicity would begin on May 15th (Parkinson, 1975, p. 76). Valentino was right about the movie, it was a tremendous box office success. He started a tour of the country to promote the film. Sadly this triumphant tour ended when Valentino suffered a ruptured ulcer and died in New York on August 23, 1926.
Dr. Karl Kellogg was one of the 1,500 people who stood in line to see "The Son of The Sheik" at Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles. Dr. Karl was extremely disappointed with the use of Jadaan and wrote to his father, "Your name was not mentioned with this picture in any way, nor was the name 'Jadaan' used in any of the titles" (Parkinson, 1975, p 88).
Eventually the credit line for W.K. Kellogg and the Arabian Horse Ranch was added as Valentino had guaranteed when he first requested permission to use Jadaan (Parkinson., 1975, 89).
Jadaan's fame grew as a result of this movie appearance. W.K. Kellogg purchased the saddle used in "The Son of The Sheik." Visitors who came to the Arabian Horse Shows were able to see the horse that Valentino rode in his last motion picture. Today the saddle is displayed in the office of the Cal Poly Arabian Horse Center.
Jadaan was one of many Arabians ridden in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. W.K. Kellogg anticipated that there might be problems on parade day. In 1928 he wrote to Herbert H. Reese, ranch manager, "I hope there will be no accidents in connection with the Rose Tournament Show. It occurs to me that these intelligent horses will be more or less nervous on account of the crowd" (W.K. Kellogg, personal communication, November 26, 1928).
Jadaan made three appearances in the Tournament of Roses Parade, two of them were successful, in 1929, with movie actor Victor McLaglen and in 1931, with General C.S. Farnsworth in the saddle. The 1930 appearance of Jadaan did not go as planned. Cowboy movie star, Ken Maynard, was scheduled to appear on Jadaan, but a broken leg prevented him from riding. A Hollywood actor who knew nothing about horses replaced Maynard. When the band started to play Jadaan reared up and ran away with the rider wrapped around his neck (Parkinson, 1975, pp. 137,155,169).
Jadaan's film career included "The Garden of Allah" (1927), "The Desert Song" (1929), "Beau Ideal" (1931), "The Scarlet Empress" (1934), and "Under Two Flags" (1936). In the last movie the script called for Jadaan's rider to be "wounded" and fall off his horse. The battle scene was shot without a rehearsal. Jadaan stopped when the rider fell and he remained with the fallen rider. Jadaan proved himself a "true son of the desert because in Arabia all horses stop in this manner if something happens to the rider" (Reese & Edwards, 1958, p. 145).
Jadaan's life ended in 1945. Parkinson (1975) reports: "It was decided that Jadaan, age 29, had outlived his usefulness. He posed for the last time with the Valentino saddle he had worn so many times...and was taken to the University of California College of Agriculture at Davis. There he was destroyed on May 28, and his skeleton prepared for use as a classroom display" (p. 277).