Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.' " The New York Times Book Review
"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, author of Mary Pickford Rediscovered
"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
"Leider exhaustively details the life of one Hollywood's first heartthrobs....Leider subtly discusses Valentino's sexuality without exploiting it, and wonderfully weaves in his voice..." Publishers Weekly
"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
Tango pirate, gigolo, powder puff, Adonis all have been used to describe the silent-film icon known as Rudolph Valentino. In this thoughtful retelling of Valentino's short and tragic life, Leider looks at the Great Lover's life and legacy, and explores the events and issues that made him emblematic of the Jazz Age. 84 photos.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -498) and index.
About the Author
Emily W. Leider
is the author of Becoming Mae West
(FSG, 1997). She lives in San Francisco.