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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wallace Reid is an example of a matinée idol. The original caption of this image from Picture-Play Magazine reads: "The only reason why they don’t let Wally play in dress-suit rôles all the time is that the casualties among the ladies would soon empty the picture houses. In fact, we feel that we’re toying with the fan hearts even to print this picture."[1]

Matinée idol is a term used mainly to describe film or theatre stars who are adored to the point of adulation by their fans. The term almost exclusively refers to adult male actors.

Matinée idols often tend to play romantic and dramatic leading or secondary leading roles and are usually known for having good looks. The term can be taken as faintly pejorative in that it suggests the star's popularity came from the afternoon matinée performances, frequented more by women, rather than the "big picture" evenings and, hence, a less discriminating audience. Matinée idols often became the subject of parody during the height of their popularity, an example being Stan Laurel spoofing Rudolph Valentino in his film Mud and Sand.

Now a somewhat old-fashioned term, the phenomenon reached its height from the 1920s to around the 1960s in Hollywood. "Teen idol" is a similar term, which more often refers to youthful musicians rather than film actors. In today's Asia, “idols” pertain to a broader pop culture.

The term differs from "sex symbol", which refers to a star's sexual attractiveness in and outside of film more so than their romantic performances on the screen. However, a sex symbol may also be a matinée idol.

In Eugene O'Neill’s autobiographical play Long Day's Journey into Night, there is a speech where the character of the mother describes how as a convent-educated schoolgirl she became enamored with the dashing matinee idol modeled after O’Neill’s popular father.

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Famous matinée idols

Photoplay named Richard Barthelmess the "idol of every girl in America" in the 1920s.[2] An admirer wrote that "his wonderful black hair and soulful eyes are enough to make any young girl adore him" in 1921.[3]
Rudolph Valentino is the epitome of a matinée idol.


Matinée idols during this time were commonly referred to simply as "lovers". "Latin lovers", or actors who specialized in characters of Latin American or Romance European descent, became popular in the 1920s after Rudolph Valentino's famous performance as Julio Desnoyers in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). Other Latin lovers include Ramon Novarro, Antonio Moreno and Ricardo Cortez, although the latter was actually a Jew named Jacob Krantz who passed as Latin to capitalize on the trope's popularity.[4]






  1. ^ (1918). "Favorite Picture Players" Picture-Play Magazine.
  2. ^ a b "The Shadow Stage". Photoplay. New York: Photoplay Publishing Company. February 1922. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  3. ^ a b G. C. (1921). "What the Fans Think" Picture-Play Magazine.
  4. ^ "The Plot of Today". Motion Picture Magazine. New York: Brewster Publications. March 1924. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i St. Johns, Adela Rogers (April 1924). "What Kind of Men Attract Women Most?". Photoplay. New York: Photoplay Publishing Company. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Underhill, Hariette (January 1925). "Men I Love". Photoplay. New York: Photoplay Publishing Company. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e Smith, Anges (July 1926). "Have They Got It?". Photoplay. New York: Photoplay Publishing Company. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c Williams p.12-15
  9. ^ a b c d e Chesterfield, Winston (February 16, 2008). "Unmistakable Style of Matinee Idol". Men's Flair. Men's Flair. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  10. ^ William J. Mann (1998). Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star. Viking Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-6708-7155-1.
  11. ^ Anderson, Mark Lynn (2011). "Black Valentino". Twilight of the Idols. Oakland, California: University of California Press. p. 127. doi:10.1525/9780520949423. ISBN 9780520949423.
  12. ^ Newsweek, Incorporated, 1968
  13. ^ Wagner, Laura. "Robert Taylor: Matinee Idol." Archived 2009-04-12 at the Wayback Machine Films of the Golden Age. Retrieved: December 2, 2018.
  14. ^ Barry, Michael Thomas (August 25, 2011). "Van Johnson, Paul Muni". Official Blog of Author and Columnist Michael Thomas Barry. Blogspot. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  15. ^ "1940s Matinee Star Guy Madison Dead at 74". Associated Press. February 7, 1996.
  16. ^ "NTR, A Biography: This account of Telugu matinee idol-turned-politician's life is a must-read". Firstpost. 11 May 2019.
  17. ^ Archived 2009-11-19 at the Wayback Machine.


  • Williams, Michael. Ivor Novello: Screen Idol. BFI, 2003.
This page was last edited on 7 June 2024, at 05:29
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