Chapter

Millionaires and Monsters

Woody Register

in The Kid of Coney Island

Published in print August 2003 | ISBN: 9780195167320
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849710 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195167320.003.0005
Millionaires and Monsters

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Thompson brought plays to Broadway after 1906 that were dramatic adaptations of Luna Park attractions and operated on his amusement credo that thrills “must get quicker and steeper and more joyously terrifying all the time if they are to succeed.” His productions, with few exceptions, were variations on melodrama, the 19th century's favorite form of theater. Exuberant in some instances, terrifying in others, but always didactic, his shows were especially attentive to the unease of middle-class men as they encountered and explored the unfamiliar landscape of desire. Again and again the word “fool” was enlisted to register his heroes' (as well as his own) confusion—they were fools to resist pleasure, fools to indulge in it, fools to let their appetites consume them. In other words, Thompson, through his melodramas of consumption, tried to contain the new market culture's divergent imperatives—to make money and to spend it, to work and to play—and to chart a path that enabled men to recognize and to exploit the opportunities that the world of goods offered.

Keywords: Fred Thompson; plays; melodrama; Broadway; consumption

Chapter.  20925 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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