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The movie industry spread around the globe in the first half of the 20th century and with it the now familiar concept of the instantly recognizable faces of its superstars.
Yet, celebrity wasn't always tied to actors in films, especially when cinema was starting out as a medium.
As Paul Mc Donald states in The Star System: Hollywood's Production of Popular Identities, "in the first decade of the twentieth century, American film production companies withheld the names of film performers, despite requests from audiences, fearing that public recognition would drive performers to demand higher salaries." Public fascination went well beyond the on-screen exploits of movie stars and their private lives became headline news: for example, in Hollywood the marriages of Elizabeth Taylor and in Bollywood the affairs of Raj Kapoor in the 1950s.
The second half of the century saw television and popular music bring new forms of celebrity, such as the rock star and the pop group, epitomised by Elvis Presley and the Beatles, respectively.
Some nationwide celebrities might command some attention outside their own nation; for example, the singer Lara Fabian is widely known in the French-speaking world, but only had a couple of Billboard hits in the U.
S., whereas the francophone Canadian singer Celine Dion is well known in both the French-speaking world and in the United States.
The cult of personality (particularly in the west) can be traced back to the Romantics in the 18th century, whose livelihood as artists and poets depended on the currency of their reputation.
John Lennon's highly controversial 1966 quote: "We're more popular than Jesus now," gives an insight into both the adulation and notoriety that fame can bring.