matinee idol

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matinee idol

A handsome male movie actor whose screen presence excites female audiences. Although we now associate “matinee” with the legitimate theater, the word also applied to afternoon movie shows. Perhaps because housewives and young women constituted the largest audience segment at such screenings, any actor whose appearance evoked sighs and other expressions of female approval became known as a matinee idol, regardless of his acting ability. That is not to say that a matinee idol was necessarily a bad actor, but his looks were the defining characteristic.
See also: idol