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Twilight of the Idols

Twilight of the Idols: Hollywood and the Human Sciences in 1920s America

Mark Lynn Anderson
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    Twilight of the Idols
    Book Description:

    Twilight of the Idolsrevisits some of the sensational scandals of early Hollywood to evaluate their importance for our contemporary understanding of human deviance. By analyzing changes in the star system and by exploring the careers of individual stars-Wallace Reid, Rudolph Valentino, and Mabel Normand among them-Mark Lynn Anderson shows how the era's celebrity culture shaped public ideas about personality and human conduct and played a pivotal role in the emergent human sciences of psychology, anthropology, and sociology. Anderson looks at motion picture stars who embodied various forms of deviance-narcotic addiction, criminality, sexual perversion, and racial indeterminacy. He considers how the studios profited from popularizing ideas about deviance, and how the debates generated by the early Hollywood scandals continue to affect our notions of personality, sexuality, and public morals.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94942-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Inarguably one of the most important and influential essays written about mass culture during the last century, Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” is itself one of the most reproduced, translated, and widely circulated works of cultural criticism ever published.Twilight of the Idols, like so many other books, is an implicit engagement with several of the insights in Benjamin’s essay, an engagement, in this case, that takes seriously his claims that mass culture was making possible new types of cultural authority and new forms of knowledge that could only be understood as...

  6. 1 The Early Hollywood Scandals and the Death of Wallace Reid
    (pp. 15-48)

    Just after the First World War, the wordjunkieentered into American parlance to describe a population of heroin addicts—a visible and growing population of male derelicts in and around New York City—who supported their drug habit by scouring that city’s junkyards in search of scrap metal, which they then sold to junk dealers. As medical historian David Courtwright has noted, the emergence of the termjunkieat the beginning of the 1920s marked an historical transition in the general demographics of narcotic addiction in the United States. No longer was the typical addict a white, middle-aged, middle-...

  7. 2 Psychoanalysis and Fandom in the Leopold and Loeb Trial
    (pp. 49-69)

    The newspapers could not stop writing about Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb during the summer of 1924. From the time the two young men were arrested for the abduction and murder of fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks in late May until they were each sentenced to life plus ninety-nine years in early September, Leopold and Loeb made banner headlines in the nation’s newspapers almost daily. The case has become a cultural and legal landmark, in part because defense attorney Clarence Darrow successfully avoided the death penalty for his clients by presenting psychiatric evidence of the young men’s developmental abnormality so as to...

  8. 3 Queer Valentino
    (pp. 70-126)

    Almost every biography of Rudolph Valentino begins with a dramatic description of the popular film star’s death in August of 1926 and with the notorious riot that erupted on the first day of his lying in state at Campbell’s Funeral Church in New York City.¹ Tens of thousands of his fans—as well as admirers, well-wishers, and the morbidly curious—stood in line all morning just to get a glimpse of Valentino’s corpse. They stood there until after two o’clock in the afternoon, when at last the doors to Campbell’s were opened and the riot began. The screenwriter logically blind,...

  9. 4 Black Valentino
    (pp. 127-154)

    In an interview in 1985, Lorenzo Tucker, the African American matinee idol of the 1920s and 1930s, commented on Oscar Micheaux’s strategy of billing him as the “colored Valentino,” a promotional label that supposedly occurred to Micheaux while encountering publicity for Rudolph Valentino’sThe Son of the Sheikin 1926. Tucker remembers,

    Yeah, it worked. And I kind of looked like Valentino, too. But I never got any white press at all, and very few people outside the black community ever heard of me. But I want to make one thing straight: these historians today always say that I was...

  10. 5 Mabel Normand and the Ends of Error
    (pp. 155-174)

    In the summer of 1918, as part of an attempt to refashion her stardom and broaden the range of dramatic roles she might pursue,Photoplaymagazine reported on Mabel Normand’s personal library. When visiting the former slapstick comedienne at her New York apartment, journalist Randolph Bartlett reported that he found within her bookcase an “array of authors as unusual as it was fascinating. There were Gautier, Strindberg, Turgeneff, Stevenson, Walter Pater, Kipling, Oscar Wilde, Shaw, Ibsen, John Evelyn, J. M. Barrie, Francois Coppé, Bret Harte. Of superficial best sellers there was not a single sample. Nor was there to be...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 175-204)
    (pp. 205-214)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 215-223)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 224-224)