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The Actor’s Ring

March 1, 2022

I have had an 81-year-old mystery in my jewelry box for years and for years I’ve often pondered on looking into this teaser from the past in earnest. My quest actually started some 40 years ago when my father gave me a ring that he no longer wanted. Here’s a brief history:

Sterling Silver Ring With Theater Mask With Steps To Success at Left.
Engraved: “B.B. To E.R. 3-1-39”
Jeweler’s Mark: Paval Sterling

This ring was given to my father Gene Rizzi by Ben Bard as a graduation present after my father graduated Ben Bard’s acting school, Ben Bard Drama, and landed his first motion picture part in 1939. Research indicates that this ring was made by Philip Kran Paval (1899-1971), a noted sculptor and jeweler that worked with Hollywood actors and celebrities in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Ben Bard had several of these rings made as presents for students graduating his acting school in Hollywood, California and landing their first motion picture part. The theater group The Ben Bard Players developed out of this school and was considered one of the top “small theaters” in the country.


My father, Gene Rizzi, was an actor in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. He appeared in many movie serials such as The Green Hornet and Junior G-Men as wells as feature films including, The Outlaw, To Be or Not To Be, Crash Dive, Ten Gentlemen From Westpoint and several others. His beginnings as an actor are a bit vague, as he came to the United States from what was Austria in the early 1930’s as a concert violinist. He had played with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra before moving to San Francisco and playing with the Oakland Philharmonic Orchestra. After playing violin with the Warner Brother’s studio orchestra, he began doing radio announcing due to his distinctive voice. Sometime between 1937 and 1939, my father became associated with both the Pasadena Playhouse and the Palos Verdes Playhouse, both acting in and directing local theater productions.

A little bit about the ring’s designer: Philip Paval was well known as a colorful metal smith in Los Angeles, born in Denmark in 1899. In the 1920’s he opened his own studio/shop first on Hollywood Blvd. and then Wilshire Blvd. He became a self proclaimed Hollywood artist catering to celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino for whom he designed a slave bracelet, and Elizabeth Taylor, whose father, gallery owner Francis Taylor was his close friend. Known to be a frequent guest at San Simeon Castle, the retreat of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Daives, Paval created candlesticks for the couple as a house gift. He exhibited in art galleries in Los Angeles and Pasadena California. He was well known for his modernist and cubist styles in his jewelry pieces.

By my estimation, there should be about twenty or more of these rings in circulation. However, only a very few have surfaced publicly. I have been given to believe that Gig Young (real name Byron Barr), Dana Andrews, Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland and Tyron Power all had these rings as they were all associated with the Ben Bard Acting School and later with the Pasadena Playhouse. An actress I believed at the time to be either Olivia de Havilland or Helen Hayes told me personally that she had the same ring in her possession, although I don’t know how she acquired it. This actress saw me wearing the ring in 1971 and inquired if I wanted to sell it.

One identical ring surfaced a few years ago. It was inscribed “B.B. to D.C. 12-1-1939” I have not been able to precisely identify this individual, although I have located a couple of names from the right period with the right initials, namely David Cavendish, David Clyde, Don Castle and Donald Curtis. More research is needed to properly identify the individual. I suspect the ring belonged to Donald Curtis, as he was in Ben Bard’s Acting School during the same period as my father. Another identical ring sold online and bore the inscription: “BB to JC 10.6.38”. This was sized 3 1/2 and belonged to a female actress as yet unidentified.

As I am trying to develop a full documentation of this ring and its history, any comments or help would be immensely appreciated.

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From → America, Family, History

  1. Philip Paval is believed to also designed a ring for Rudolph Valentino that was deadly jinx. I have to find my notes on it to give the deeper details of this. Very interesting. And good luck on the further research.


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