Real Men Don't Sing: Crooning in American Culture
“The Mouth of the Machine”: The Creation of the Crooning Idol, 1929
This chapter situates Vallée’s appeal within the context of a more gender-fluid 1920s masculinity, drawing on his vast archive of news clippings and photographs, recordings, radio scripts, and films to affirm and analyze his status as a broadly popular American star across lines of class, ethnicity, race, age, and gender. His voice and persona combined aspects of Victorian and modern urban cultures: simple melodies and jazz music, technology and sensuality, gentlemanly romantic idealism and contemporary erotic desire, femininity and masculinity, public and private. The chapter also analyzes the “home wrecker” persona constructed around Vallée by the powerful and influential New York tabloid press, whose promotion of Vallée as a female-only star and a threat to men would have far-reaching consequences as gender norms narrowed.