Frederic Raphael

Principle Actors

Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics


Oxford University Press 500pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

The interplay of show business and politics goes back at least as far as fifth-century Athens. The young Perikles acted as producer for Aeschylus’s Persae, which advertised Athenian naval power. Thanks to the play, the Battle of Salamis is taken to be the moment of Europe’s salvation from oriental domination. In fact, the later land battle of Plataea was more decisive, but that victory owed most to the Spartans, who had no theatrical genius for the mythologisation of fact. In Rome, the actor Roscius served as elocution teacher to Cicero, as Warren Beatty would to Gary Hart; Nero – like Ronald Reagan – never saw any difference between playing the leading part and being a leader.

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