Since the test library that you created worked as expected your orignal library is the culprit. First try this: make a temporary, backup copy (if you don't already have a backup copy) of the library and try the following:
1 - delete the iPhoto preference file, com.apple.iPhoto.plist, that resides in your
2 - delete iPhoto's cache file, Cache.db, that is located in your
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3 - launch iPhoto and try again.
NOTE: If you're moved your library from its default location in your Home/Pictures folder you will have to point iPhoto to its new location when you next open iPhoto by holding down the Option key when launching iPhoto. You'll also have to reset the iPhoto's various preferences.
NOTE 2: In Lion and Mountain Lion the Library folder is now invisible. To make it permanently visible enter the following in the Terminal application window: chflags nohidden ~/Library and hit the Enter button - 10.7: Un-hide the User Library folder.
If that doesn't help try the following again: make a temporary, backup copy of your library if you don't already have one (Control-click on the library and select Duplicate from the contextual menu) and apply the two fixes below in order as needed:
Launch iPhoto with the Command+Option keys held down and rebuild the library.
Since only one option can be run at a time start with Option #1, followed by #3 and then #4 as needed.
Using iPhoto Library Manager to Rebuild Your iPhoto Library
Note: This creates a new library based on the LIbraryData.xml file in the library and will recover Events, Albums, keywords, titles and comments but not books, calendars or slideshows. The original library will be left untouched for further attempts at fixing the problem or in case the rebuilt library is not satisfactory.