29 January 2020 | GeorgeFairbrother
A Lost Gem
It's such a great loss that, owing to the complications of copyright and licensing over a huge number of clips, we will probably never see Fame in the 20th Century on screen, ever again.
Clive James takes a forensically researched and eloquent look at the culture of 20th Century fame, from the silent film era to the media obsession surrounding Princess Diana. It's worth noting that the extreme celebrity culture that is examined, exists well before the days of dominant social media.
One of the strengths of the series is the narrative, and Clive James puts his skills as a wordsmith to very good use. A number of quotes still resonate, his description of Las Vegas, for instance; "...an elephant's graveyard, where ageing entertainers sell off their own ivory before crashing to their knees for the last time..."
Clive James also likens modern fame to the ritual sacrifices of the Aztecs, where they would choose young people at random, treat them like royalty for a while, then cut out their hearts. It says as much about the consumers of fame and celebrity culture, as it does about the famous people themselves. Even though it was made nearly thirty years ago, in a very different world, it would be just as relevant, perhaps more so, today.