A version of this post was originally written for my Classic Movie Hub column Silents are Golden. Hope you enjoy!!
When Rudolph Valentino became a 1920s superstar thanks to the megahits The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and The Sheik (1921), he basically changed the definition of “matinee idol” forever. Unlike many popular actors at the time, who tended to be steady, “regular guy” types, the young Italian often played characters with a dangerous edge and definite air of sensuality. Even today, it’s not hard to see why women became obsessed with him.
“Yuck”–said no woman ever.
Which might make you wonder: before Valentino, which leading actors were considered major heartthrobs? After all, when we list handsome silent film actors today, 1920s personalities like John Gilbert or Ramon Novarro will spring to mind–but who were the “hotties” of the Edwardian era?
So if you, like me, have watched some of those newfangled “modern” movies and documentaries, have read some of the books that everyone reads, and have done some Internet surfing, you’ve found that the general gist of 20th century American history is always something like this:
One thing that really stands out? The idea that the world was straitlaced and proper in the early 20th century but tossed that all aside at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1920 just in time for the crazy, hedonistic ride that was the 1920s. (Then, presumably, the world slowly became straitlaced and proper again just in time for the 1950s). And those first twenty or so years of the 20th century were…well…the Victorian era, right? Continue reading →