The sexual revolution for women in the 1920s had its ripple effects among men. For the first time, women were able to express desire in public - and they did so, especially for movie stars. A movie star could basically subsist off his appeal to the opposite sex - a role that had been previously confined to the gigolo. Another profoundly frightening aspect of the male movie star was how profoundly feminine he was. The "man" that movie-going women seemed attracted to was powdered, lipsticked, and otherwise made up for the camera. The insinuation was that the "she-man" type didn't mind making up off-screen, either:
There was a sense that the silent movie star was not quite "all there" as a man.
Nowhere did this sense of "queerness" operate more strongly than in the case of Rudolph Valentino. Immensely popular with women, the male half of the American population virulently attacked him. Valentino seemed to embody all the sterotypes of the "she-man" - and American men built their own "Nordic" images (in a very race-conscious time) in opposition to the European immigrant. Even favorable (well, fawning) accounts emphasized Valentino's extravagence and his difference from other men. Louella Parsons, not someone to malign an interviewee, wrote that:
What were American men "rebelling" against exactly? The "Latin lover" didn't help his own cause by marrying dancer Natacha Rambova. His loving wife gave him a "slave bracelet" and hung around the famous actress, spirtualist, and lesbian Alla Nazimova. (Hansen, 259) Outside of his personal life in Hollywood itself, Valentino's past came back to haunt him. Before going into films, Valentino had been a dancer for hire. This occupation, if not exactly that of gigolo, was close enough to get him classed as a "lounge lizard" and a "tango pirate" - a man who was "effeminate, will-less, and dependent on women for money." (Hansen, 259) Valentino also had a taste for flashy clothing, showing off in flashy spats, ties, custom-made suits, and of course the stunning slave bracelet.
The American man struck back. The excerpt from the Chicago Tribune's "Pink Powder Puff" attack above exemplifies this method of attack. "A Song of Hate," by one Dick Dorgan, displays a lipsticked, shiny-toothed Valentino with, of all things, an huge, Christmas-ornament style earring. "All men hate Valentino," the rather tongue-in-cheek article declares. Yet Dorgan's claim to speak for "all men" goes unnoticed.
Here Valentino's charms spark the same desire in woman that a pretty child or even a well-groomed pet presumably would. He is truly a kept man, but a man who is reduced to the status of a knick-knack. The "real" man still commands the sexual attentions of American women. This view is the one that comes closest to calling effeminate men actually homosexual - they obviously have no interest in conquering these women, just leeching off them.
Actors themselves traded in this stereotype. Adolphe Menjou stated in an interview that
Despite the shrug-off, though, the "she-man" continued to be associated with the acting career. Whether or not the effeminate man was really a threat to masculine concepts of sex was a moot point - he was still a suspicious character, different from the "ordinary" American man.