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Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen

Greg Jenner

6 Reviews

Rated 0

Social & cultural history, Popular culture

A witty, rich and surprising history of celebrity by the historical consultant to HORRIBLE HISTORIES

Celebrity, with its neon glow and selfie pout, strikes us as hypermodern. But the famous and infamous have been thrilling, titillating, and outraging us for much longer than we might realise. Whether it was the scandalous Lord Byron, whose poetry sent female fans into an erotic frenzy; or the cheetah-owning, coffin-sleeping, one-legged French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who launched a violent feud with her former best friend; or Edmund Kean, the dazzling Shakespearean actor whose monstrous ego and terrible alcoholism saw him nearly murdered by his own audience - the list of stars whose careers burned bright before the Age of Television is extensive and thrillingly varied.

Celebrities could be heroes or villains; warriors or murderers; brilliant talents, or fraudsters with a flair for fibbing; trendsetters, wilful provocateurs, or tragic victims marketed as freaks of nature. Some craved fame while others had it forced upon them. A few found fame as small children, some had to wait decades to get their break. But uniting them all is the shared origin point: since the early 1700s, celebrity has been one of the most emphatic driving forces in popular culture; it is a lurid cousin to Ancient Greek ideas of glorious and notorious reputation, and its emergence helped to shape public attitudes to ethics, national identity, religious faith, wealth, sexuality, and gender roles.

In this ambitious history, that spans the Bronze Age to the coming of Hollywood's Golden Age, Greg Jenner assembles a vibrant cast of over 125 actors, singers, dancers, sportspeople, freaks, demigods, ruffians, and more, in search of celebrity's historical roots. He reveals why celebrity burst into life in the early eighteenth century, how it differs to ancient ideas of fame, the techniques through which it was acquired, how it was maintained, the effect it had on public tastes, and the psychological burden stardom could place on those in the glaring limelight. DEAD FAMOUS is a surprising, funny, and fascinating exploration of both a bygone age and how we came to inhabit our modern, fame obsessed society.

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Praise for Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen

  • Fizzes with clever vignettes and juicy tidbits... [a] joyous romp of a book. - GUARDIAN

  • A fascinating, rollicking book in search of why, where and how fame strikes. Sit back and enjoy the ride. - Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads

  • With characteristic wit and curiosity, Jenner reveals the glamour and graft of celebrity lives in this rich, entertaining and original history. - Dr Hannah Greig, historical adviser to The Favourite and Poldark

  • A magical mystery tour through the history of celebrity - eye opening, provocative, triumphant. Greg Jenner is a suave and generous guide to the glittering, glamorous, often deadly world of celebrity. Dead Famous takes you deep into fabulous lives, tells all about price you pay for fame and explores why the world in which we live needs to make a few shining people into icons who thrill us, obsess us and then, finally, we want to tear apart. - Kate Williams, author and historian

  • [An] engaging and well-researched book... Jenner brings his material to vivid life - OBSERVER

  • This is a lively look at history's great and gawped at - and how they reshaped the world around them. - HISTORY REVEALED

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Greg Jenner

Greg Jenner is a public historian, broadcaster, and author, and an Honorary Research Associate at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he does some occasional teaching. He is the Historical Consultant to BBC's Emmy & multiple BAFTA award-winning HORRIBLE HISTORIES, and was a key member of the team on HORRIBLE HISTORIES: THE MOVIE - ROTTEN ROMANS. He is the host of the BBC comedy podcast You're Dead To Me!, is a regular voice on BBC Radio 4, and his TV appearances include BBC2's THE GREAT HISTORY QUIZ and INSIDE VERSAILLES. His first book A MILLION YEARS IN A DAY was a UK number 1 audiobook bestseller and was translated into nine languages.

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