By Mark Lynn Anderson
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Additional info for Twilight of the Idols: Hollywood and the Human Sciences in 1920s America
Of course, studios simply passed this responsibility onto the performers themselves by making the terms of their employment void if, by their involvement in a public controversy, their reputations became compromised. Morality clauses were introduced into actor’s contracts on a regular basis in 1922. It is generally thought that Hays had seriously underestimated the resolve of those groups that, in 1922, were concerned about the personal conduct of fi lm 22 Twilight of the idols performers. At the end of the year, Hays, while continuing the industry’s ban on distribution contracts for Arbuckle’s previous fi lms, reinstated the now infamous actor’s right to pursue employment in the motion picture industry.
It was within the context of such a transformation that the popular fi lm star Wallace Reid died in January 1923 at the age of thirty-one, due to complications resulting from an attempted withdrawal from narcotic addiction. Reid’s death is generally considered one of the three most significant scandals of early Hollywood, along with the criminal trials of the film comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in 1921 and 1922 and the sensationalized murder of director William Desmond 15 16 Twilight of the idols Taylor in February 1922.
In this well-known version of the story, some of the early popular film performers were simply known to exhibitors and to the film-going public as the “Biograph girl” or the “Vitagraph girl” until producers finally began furnishing the names of their players to film exhibitors and to a curious public. Early fi lm stars were, of course, represented as having appreciative audiences and as having vast popular appeal, but their celebrity was something given to them by the industry that placed them before the public.