The Merchant of Venus: The Life of Walter Thornton

A Trailblazer in Modeling, Advertising, WWII Pinup Girls, and Shaping Future Stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age

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Pub Date 03 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 21 May 2024
Tile House Publishing, LLC | Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles

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Two sisters stumbled upon their father's impactful history through an unanticipated discovery: an iconic image appearing in the 2003 film 'Seabiscuit,' now widely recognized as the avatar for the 1929 Stock Market Crash and used as symbol of economic downfall. This revelation shattered the notion within their family that he was an ordinary businessman.

Walter Thornton was a luminary of the New York City beauty, modeling and adverting scenes during the roaring 1920s and beyond. "The Merchant of Venus: The Life of Walter Thornton" explores the fascinating narrative of a man whose legacy transcends time.

In a tale as captivating as any Hollywood script, Walter Thornton's remarkable story unfolds. From his meteoric rise as a prominent male model during the Jazz Age, posing for icons such as Norman Rockwell and JC Leyendecker, to his groundbreaking establishment of the first agency exclusively for photographic advertising models in 1930, Thornton carved his name into the records of American history.

But his influence didn't stop there. Amidst the turmoil of World War II, Thornton played a pivotal role in igniting the patriotic movement of the Pin-Up Girl, leaving an indelible imprint on the cultural landscape of the era. His eye for talent was undeniable, as he discovered and represented future Hollywood icons including Lauren Bacall, Susan Hayward, Joseph Cotten, and the legendary Grace Kelly.

However, Thornton's story is not just one of triumph; it's a tale of resilience in the face of adversity. Bestowed with the moniker "The Merchant of Venus" by renowned columnist Walter Winchell, Thornton's journey took a tragic turn in 1954, tarnishing his once-illustrious reputation. Now, his daughters, Nancy Thornton Navarro and Adriana Thornton-Cornejo, alongside esteemed writer/historian Philip Mershon, lift the veil on their father's enigmatic life.

Through painstaking research spanning over two decades, including exploration of Thornton's personal archives and interviews, the sisters unearth a previously overlooked chapter of history. From the glitz of New York's modeling scene to the corridors of power in post-war America, "The Merchant of Venus" paints a vivid portrait of a man ahead of his time.

Two sisters stumbled upon their father's impactful history through an unanticipated discovery: an iconic image appearing in the 2003 film 'Seabiscuit,' now widely recognized as the avatar for the...

A Note From the Publisher

Hardcover: 9798989273515

eBook: 9798989273522

#Modelingagency, #AnthologyFilmArchives, #TurnerClassicMovies, #Historicalnonfiction, #vintagePhotograph, #Flapper, #Filmnoir, #femmefatale, #GraceKelly, #LaurenBacall, #susahhayward #NewYorkHistoricalSociety, #TheGreatGatsby #AmericanHistory, #NPR, #pinupgirlhistory, #biographychannel #truestroy #themerchantofvenus #pinupgirl #worldwarII #forgottenfemales #GreatDepression, #1929stockmarketcrash, #Memoir, #biographies #Goldenagestars #jazzagemodels #jazzage #goldenage

Hardcover: 9798989273515

eBook: 9798989273522

#Modelingagency, #AnthologyFilmArchives, #TurnerClassicMovies, #Historicalnonfiction, #vintagePhotograph, #Flapper, #Filmnoir, #femmefatale...

Advance Praise

Abigail L, Librarian (NetGalley)- 5 Stars

The Merchant of Venus is a captivating look at the life of Walter Thornton, a man whose legacy transcended ordinary perceptions. Unveiling the unexpected impact of an iconic image tied to the 1929 Stock Market Crash, the book introduces Thornton as a trailblazer in modeling, beauty, and advertising. From pioneering the first agency exclusively for photographic advertising models to shaping the cultural tides of Hollywood, Thornton's journey is a fascinating odyssey through triumphs and resilience. The book was put together and fueled by a quest to understand his tarnished reputation and delivers a poignant account of courage and creativity. I thoroughly enjoyed the book's ability to weave history, family, and societal influences into a compelling tapestry, making it a great read for those intrigued by the hidden chapters of influential lives.

Sue E, Reviewer (NetGalley)-5 Stars

Hold onto your hats, people, because The Merchant of Venus is not your grandma's history book—it's a wild ride through the untold tales of Walter Thornton, the ultimate maverick of the Jazz Age! Picture this: pin-up girls, Hollywood royalty, and a moniker like The Merchant of Venus—yeah, this dude was the OG influencer before influencers were a thing. The book spills the tea on Thornton's rise from a male model extraordinaire to founding the first-ever agency for ad models. But wait, there's drama too! A tragic event, Hollywood icons, and a dash of McCarthy-era conspiracy—it's like a real-life Hollywood blockbuster! If you're tired of dry history, grab this gem; it's a rollercoaster that takes you from the roaring '20s to the silver screen, all with Thornton leading the charge. So buckle up, peeps, and let's dive into the scandalous, dazzling world of The Merchant of Venus!

Mike M, Media/Journalist (NetGalley)-Stars

This was a wonderful book. A totally fun read. I can't give it enough stars. Congratulations to the authors for a job well done.

Glenda T, Reviewer (NetGalley) 4- Stars

There’s nothing better than hearing a good life story. The Merchant of Venus was a GREAT life story.

Pulled into a book by the cover and the description I picked it off the NetGalley shelf and requested permission to read it. The following day I was nose-deep in a family mystery. I learned things I didn’t know, I didn’t know.

Thornton’s daughters with the help of Mershon presented a solid, informative, interesting, and thought-provoking read. I was drawn at first, into this incredible family mystery. I finished the book, cheering for them as they sought truth, doing so, vigorously, with determination and patience. I applaud them for this. I can imagine that digging through the history of their father’s life was both fantastic and frustrating. I’m sorry that they didn’t know these things before their father passed. I’m sure they would love to sit down with him and hear his voice fill in the tiny details of a time forgotten.

I had difficulty midway through as the story felt a little repetitive and dragged, but I persisted and was happy that it pulled itself out of that moment to deliver a great ending.

I applaud Thornton’s daughters for demanding truth and for being strong enough to pursue it. I also think their Dad would be amazed at what they accomplished in this memoir and tribute to him.

I rate The Merchant of Venus a solid 4 out of 5 and recommend it to anyone who enjoys Memoirs. People who are fans of the era of pin-ups as well as those who appreciate American 20th-century history will also love the information and experiences tucked within it.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing the ARC.

Abigail L, Librarian (NetGalley)- 5 Stars

The Merchant of Venus is a captivating look at the life of Walter Thornton, a man whose legacy transcended ordinary perceptions. Unveiling the unexpected...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9798989273508
PRICE $29.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 2 members