Born in the white washed town of Castellaneta, Puglia, he was the middle child in a family with three children; an elder brother, Alberto and a younger sister named Maria. His father, Giovanni Antonio Giuseppe Fedele Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella was an Italian from Martina Franca, Puglia. He was a captain of the calvary in the italian and later became a veterinarian before he died of malaria when Valentino was eleven. His mother was named Marie Berthe Gabrielle Barbin and she was French with Torinese ancestry. She died in 1918.
As a kid, Valentino's exceptional good looks and playful personality led to him being an over indulged child. His mother pampered but his father almost never approved of anything he did. Despite being smart, he did poorly in school and was enrolled later in agricultural school in Genoa. It was there that he finally earned a certificate. He moved to Paris and stayed for a while before returning to Italy. He couldn't obtain gainful employment in Italy and after some time, he began to make plans to depart for the United States. He finally did in 1913. He arrived at Ellis Island at the age of 18, dreaming of a brighter future. In New York, he did several odd jobs including bussing tables. He never really did a good job at them and so he ended up being fired. He later got a job to dance the tango with Joan Sawyer for $50 a week. Valentino became a taxi entertainer at Maxim’s Restaurant-Cabaret where several displaced members of noble families frequented.
In 1916, Valentino had to leave New York after testifying in a sensational divorce trial that landed him in jail. Valentino joined a traveling musical company that traveled to the West Coast. By fall of 1917, he was in San Francisco with a bit part in the Nobody Home theatre production. It was there that he met Norman Kerry who convinced him to try a career in cinema. His first part was as an extra in the film, Alimony. By 1918, he had carved out a career in bit parts for himself. It was his bit part in the film, Eyes of Youth that got him his first big role. After this, the trajectory was just an upward one for him as he went from one big role to another.