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Last Updated: Friday, 4 April, 2003, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
How celebrity hit the big time
George Formby and actress
George Formby was a TV regular by the 1950s
Being famous in the late 19th and early 20th Century was a far cry from ancient Rome's mighty leaders having their image imprinted on a coin.

Famous faces now appeared in newpapers, which were becoming increasingly widespread, and carried images of people such as writers and actors as well as politicians and businessmen.

An example of this can be seen in the recollections of two men who walked down a New York street with Huckleberry Finn author Mark Twain, back in 1906.

Twain was a distinctive figure with his white hair and white suit, and like many celebrities of today, was reported to have kept a clipping service recording all of his press coverage.

He was also not averse to writing his own press statements to influence the coverage of stories about him - effectively doing the job of a modern PR company.

Tabloids make for popular reading around the globe
As US journalist Finley Peter Dunne and illustrator Dan Beard accompanied Twain, Beard later recalled how "conspicuous" he felt as people rushed to get a glimpse of the writer.

"The handsomely garbed ladies and gentlemen rivalled the street gamins, the pushcart men and the policemen in their eagerness to get a good look at America's white philosopher," Beard wrote.

Dunne wrote that "in the streets of New York, Twain was a more marked figure than Theodore Roosevelt or [financier] JP Morgan".

Twain had obviously made the connection between maintaining a high profile through publicity and keeping his book sales buoyant. Plus he obviously enjoyed all the attention.

The way celebrities were depicted in newspapers was also changing, especially in the US, with more focus on their personal lives starting to creep in - in broadsheets as well as tabloids.

Other mediums also began to feature starry line-ups.

The Beatles
The Beatles achieved huge levels of fame
Motion pictures and newsreels emerged in both Europe and America, and by the turn of the century cinema put actors and statesmen on the silver screen, albeit in silent form.

And an increase in tabloid newspspers, boosted by improvements in printing press technology, meant they became widely available just after World War I.

Tabloid readers could now expect their papers to be peppered with images and stories about film and stage stars, singers, sporting heroes and ordinary people.

Hollywood studios also cashed in on the growing fascination with stardom by using leading actors, who they invariably managed, to market films through trailers, magazines and merchandise.

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley still has millions of fans
Meanwhile on the small screen, television became more powerful, putting familiar faces straight into people's living rooms - an altogther more intimate experience than radio or reading matter.

By 1950, stars such as musician Larry Adler and entertainer George Formby were regular TV fixtures.

And when The Beatles and Elvis Presley exploded onto the global music scene in the 50s and 60s, they were able to increase their fame through TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, live shows, the music charts, record shops and film appearances.

As well as becoming icons of their era, their impact is still felt today, not least because of the popular nostalgia they evoke, as well as the fact that they are still worth millions.

Although the publicity, or PR industry, was still in its infancy during this time, it became more visible to the public, such as The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, dubbed by Sir Paul McCartney as "the fifth Beatle".

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise has made many a magazine cover
Epstein helped mould the band's image and rapid ascent, pushing them into the limelight, courting publicity and encouraging them to get involved in the Yellow Submarine film.

But although publicity now accompanied fame and fortune, as time progressed the hype surrounding a star was not necessarily favourable.

The popularity of tabloid reporting meant that more and more areas of celebrities' lives were under scrutiny - and that included their personal lives.

Although stars often colluded with the press to gain publicity, by the 80s and 90s paparazzi photographers began to command huge fees for pictures of the famous in compromising positions, or even just going about their daily lives.

This had the double effect of boosting the stars' profile while often tarnishing their reputation, tapping into people's thirst for gossip and intrigue.

The phenomenon of modern-day celebrity had begun.


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