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Twilight of the Idols

Hollywood and the Human Sciences in 1920s America

Mark Lynn Anderson

Publication Year: 2011

Twilight of the Idols revisits 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.

Published by: University of California Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Every author knows that books have no real beginnings or endings. It is impossible for me to say exactly where or when Twilight of the Idols took shape, but its first incarnation as a manuscript was as a doctoral thesis I wrote at the University of Rochester. Thus, my first thanks go to a wonderful dissertation committee, ...

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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. ...

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Chapter 1. The Early Hollywood Scandals and the Death of Wallace Reid

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pp. 15-48

Just after the First World War, the word junkie entered 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. ...

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Chapter 2. Psychoanalysis and Fandom in the Leopold and Loeb Trial

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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. ...

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Chapter 3. Queer Valentino

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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— ...

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Chapter 4. Black Valentino

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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’s The Son of the Sheik in 1926. ...

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Chapter 5. Mabel Normand and the Ends of Error

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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, Photoplay magazine 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 ...


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pp. 175-204


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pp. 205-214


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pp. 215-223

Production Notes

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pp. 239-239

E-ISBN-13: 9780520949423
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520237117

Page Count: 238
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 719321908
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Twilight of the Idols

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Motion pictures -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Popular culture -- United States.
  • Motion picture industry -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Motion picture actors and actresses -- United States.
  • Celebrities -- United States.
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