Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino

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9780571211142: Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino

From the author of Becoming Mae West—an in-depth look at the Silver-Screen legend who forever changed America’s idea of the leading man

Tango pirate, gigolo, powder puff, Adonis—all have been used to describe the silent-film icon known as Rudolph Valentino. From his early days as a taxi dancer in New York City to his near apotheosis as the ultimate Hollywood heartthrob, Rudolph Valentino (often to his distress) occupied a space squarely at the center of controversy. In this thoughtful retelling of Valentino’s short and tragic life—the first fully documented biography of the star—Emily W. Leider looks at the Great Lover’s life and legacy, and explores the events and issues that made him emblematic of the Jazz Age. Valentino’s androgynous sexuality was a lightning rod for fiery and contradictory impulses that ran the gamut from swooning adoration to lashing resentment. He was reviled in the press for being too feminine for a man; yet he also brought to the screen the alluring, savage lover who embodied women’s darker, forbidden sexual fantasies.

In tandem, Leider explores notions of the outsider in American culture as represented by Valentino’s experience as an immigrant who became a celebrity. As the silver screen’s first dark-skinned romantic hero, Valentino helped to redefine and broaden American masculine ideals, ultimately coming to represent a graceful masculinity that trumped the deeply ingrained status quo of how a man could look and act.

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About the Author:

Emily W. Leider is the author of Becoming Mae West (FSG, 1997). She lives in San Francisco.

Review:

"Rich and definitive . . . a timeless [story told] with grace, wit, and empathy." --Vanity Fair

"A fluid, accomplished, deliciously readable biography of the individual who . . . 'helped deflower postwar America.' " --Barry Gewen, The New York Times Book Review

"The continuing fascination with Rudolph Valentino, and the sheer mystique that the name conjures up, is difficult to comprehend. It is almost incredible that at the start of the twenty-first century, an actor who died at the dawn of the last century should sustain the imaginations of such a large number of individuals. Emily Leider helps to dispel all of the myths generated through the years, documents his life and career with elegant accuracy, and does much to record and explain Valentino's complex sexuality. The image of Valentino that was held by his contemporaries and that has endured to this day was one of fable and fantasy. Dark Lover is the first biography to shed the welcome light of reality on to that image." -Anthony Slide, author of Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses

"Emily Leider's exhaustively researched biography of Valentino places the man, the career, and the legend in broad contexts that extend from the birth of the Hollywood studio system to social issues of ethnicity and gender." -Charles Affron, author of Lillian Gish

"Rudolph Valentino's short, sad life unfolds beautifully in this scrupulously detailed biography. Emily W. Leider links the actor's erotically complex image to themes of celebrity, virility and race that are as gripping today as they were in the age of silent film." -Eileen Whitfield, author of Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood

"Dark Lover is a compulsive read. Emily Leider's research into the life of Rudolph Valentino is astonishing and the authority with which she tells the story is admirable." -Kevin Brownlow

"A beautifully researched biography that will doubtless stand as the definitive account of Valentino's legendary career." -James Curtis, author of James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters

"Sensitively reasoned and meticulously researched, Dark Lover is the definitive Valentino biography." -David Stenn, author of Clara Bow

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Leider, Emily W.
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Leider, Emily W.
Published by Faber & Faber (2004)
ISBN 10: 0571211143 ISBN 13: 9780571211142
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