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By: Joshua Gamson

In: Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader

Chapter 12: The Assembly Line of Greatness: Celebrity in Twentieth-Century America

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The Assembly Line of Greatness: Celebrity in Twentieth-Century America
The assembly line of greatness: Celebrity in twentieth-century America
JoshuaGamson

This paper traces the history of two intertwining stories in America celebrity texts and their relationship to the development and organization of publicity apparatuses. In one storyline, dominant in the first part of the century, the deserving rise naturally to the top. In the other storyline, stronger in later decades, celebrities are artificially manufactured. As institutional control weakened and publicity mechanisms grew more sophisticated, image-manufacture and celebrity-production became more visible in texts. In each period a balance was struck between the competing explanations of fame through the entry of new narrative elements, most notably through an increase in the power attributed to audiences.

“It is, we are sure,” wrote ...

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