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The Kid of Coney IslandFred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements$
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Woody Register

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195167320

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195167320.001.0001

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Millionaires and Monsters

Millionaires and Monsters

Melodramas of Consumption, 1906–12

Chapter:
(p.193) Five Millionaires and Monsters
Source:
The Kid of Coney Island
Author(s):

Woody Register

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195167320.003.0005

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

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