John Valva

Lover of actor Roddy McDowall in 1962


In 1962 and possibly into 1963, Roddy McDowall had a lover named John Valva.  C. David Heymann in his biography of Elizabeth Taylor states that at the time Liz and Eddie Fisher stayed in New York, Roddy McDowell and John Valva were "sharing a ten-room apartment in the El Dorado, a grand art deco building at 300 Central Park West" (pg 215). This author goes on to state that when Roddy McDowall signed on to play Octavian in 1963's Cleopatra "As an accomodation to McDowall, Joe Mankiewicz created a minor part for Roddy's live-in companion; accordingly the director cast John Valva as a Roman soldier named Valvus." (pg 234)  This movie is available to view, freely, on YouTube, so can we find a picture of John Valva by viewing it?

The shooting script for Cleopatra, dated 3/7/62 is available online for free download.  The first thing I notice, is that there is no part "Valvus", however there is a part for a "Vallus".  A Google search for Cleopatra Valvus, generates 729,000 results, while a Google search for Cleopatra Vallus generates 969.  Not thousand, just 969.

According to the shooting script, Vallus first appears, in a scene, just after Caesarion has ridden away with his guardians to escape to Arabia and then to India.  In the freely watchable version of Cleopatra, Part 22, which was available as of today 27 Jan 2011 at this link, this scene occurs at time 6:40, while the script has this scene on Page 311A.  However from this point until Antony rides back to Alexandria, the movie veers quite sharply away from the script.

 In the movie  In the script
The next scene starts at time 7:08 showing four men riding horses up to a camp, and then a man shouts "Hail, Antony!"  They dismount, and go inside a tent.  Then follows a discussion of tactics.  This entire section from 7:08 was added to the movie, and does not appear in the shooting script at all, as far as I can see.
You can watch Part 23, which I discuss below at this link.

Antony tells Ruffio to be certain to awaken him the next morning.  However, Antony awakens to a deserted camp.  He finds Ruffio already dead from falling upon his sword.

Octavian and Agrippa appear with their legion.
Antony, Rufio, Vallus and another Roman, plus three Egyptian horsemen on their way to the encampment of the Tenth Legion, come upon the Egyptian mercenaries retreating.  The three Egyptians bolt after their countrymen, Antony lets them leave.  We would have seen Vallus, who at this point even though he had no lines, is addressed by name, by Antony.

The next scene, should have shown how Caesarion was killed.

The four horsemen, including Vallus, come upon a deserted camp or battle site.  We realized that the Tenth Legion has fled, and so Ruffio kills himself by falling upon his sword.

Octavian and Agrippa appear with their legion, Antony orders Vallus to go join them, which he does.

Octavian now calls upon Antony to join them, to come back into their ranks, but Antony does not respond.  Antony shouts at Octavian or Agrippa to face him alone but they won't, so he charges the line of officers.

It's curious that all the scenes with Vallus were cut or altered to exclude him.  I can think of a reason why that might be, that could possibly have nothing to do with whether they were worthwhile scenes.

During the filming of this movie, was when the romance between Elizabeth Taylor (then married to Eddie Fisher) and Richard Burton was in full tilt.  Then was when she told Eddie it was over, and he left to return to the US.  Richard's wife Sybil, who was also a close friend of Roddy McDowall and John Valva, also left to return to the US.  Evidently she was a close enough friend, that John left Roddy and moved in with Sybil.  That peculiar romance, between John Valva and Sybil, didn't last very long, however it's quite possible that Richard or Roddy or even Elizabeth, took umbrage at that odd twist, and requested that all the scenes with Valva be re-shot or cut.

C. David Heymann states that he conducted a personal interview with John Valva. The summary of this is that Sybil Burton divorced Richard Burton Dec 1963. Sybil and her daughter Kate moved into the same apartment building where Roddy McDowall was living with his lover John Valva. A few months later she moved to Staten Island and invited John to visit her. "At first, I spent weekends with her. I gradually fell in love with her, or thought I had, and moved in full-time," said Valva. "I left Roddy McDowall to be with Sybil."

After a month with Sybil, John thought maybe he'd made a mistake and Sybil agreed. He left her, but Roddy wouldn't take him back, so John attempted suicide (page 269-270) In Jul 1963, Walter Winchell, a columnist focusing on movie stars, commented that "Sybil Burton's New York action is called John Valva."

Was he the same John F Valva who lived on 73rd St, born in 1935 and died in 1999 in New York City ?

There was a John F Valva, born in 1935, who had been married in 1964 to an Irene Maltman.  They divorced in 1966 in San Diego.  It seems like this one, could be the same John F Valva, born in 1935, who died in 1999 in New York City per the SSDI.  This last one, is most likely the same person as the John F Valva, who from 1993 to 1999 was living at 270 W 73rd St in New York City.


I was a good friend of John Valva's

Indeed, they are the 1 and the same. John and Irene had a son Christopher and I believe he still lives in San Diego. I lived across the street from John at 273 W. 73rd St. from about 1972-1979. We remained close friends until his death.

Anonymous - 27 Apr 2011