“Tanguay was certainly a ‘new woman,’ critical of the trappings of marriage (‘wedding bells don’t sound like music to me,’ she once said). She devoted her career to scrambling conventions of sex, gender, morality and decorum of all kinds. Yet Mr. Erdman’s book reminds us it doesn’t always pay to be ahead of one’s time. Tanguay’s star began to fade as vaudeville lost sway to the burgeoning culture of cinema. She starred in one ill-suited feature film, the 1917 silent ‘The Wild Girl,’ and after her 1947 death served as the subject of a bumbling biopic, ‘The I Don’t Care Girl,’ that consigned her to a fate of being misremembered when she was remembered at all.
“Welcome, then, this valuable, vivacious corrective.”