The television series made use of seldom seen archive material and world famous film and audio material where celebrities did or said famous things. Sometimes the footage wasn’t that famous, but used as a typical example of what the public associates with the celebrity or to show them during a more casual moment, instead as an icon. Examples are:
A recording of Enrico Caruso's famous delivery of Vesti La Giubba, the first best selling record.
Harry Houdini escaping while being tied to a chair in the presence of a sleeping guard.
Isadora Duncan dancing in a forest.
Charlie Chaplin‘s first appearance as The Tramp in Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914).
Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik (1921).
Buster Keaton in the "rock boulder" scene in Seven Chances (1925).
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert sharing the first "horizontal kiss" in Flesh and the Devil (1925).
Benito Mussolini giving one of his bombastic speeches.
Al Jolson speaking in the first movie with sound The Jazz Singer (1927).
Josephine Baker performing her famous banana skirt dance.
The Long Count Fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney (1927).
Charles Lindbergh landing in Paris and greeted by a massive crowd, after flying non-stop over the Atlantic Ocean (1927).
Alfred Hitchcock in one of his earliest film cameo's, in the film Blackmail
A recording of Louis Armstrong's West End Blues and What A Wonderful World.
Johnny Weissmuller swinging from a vine, shouting his Tarzan yell and delivering his famous speech as Tarzan to Jane.
A recording of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.
A recording of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.
Marlene Dietrich singing while sitting on a crate in Der Blaue Engel (1930).
James Cagney pushing a grapefruit in the face of his lover in The Public Enemy (1931).
Greta Garbo asking to be "left alone" in Grand Hotel (1932).
Mae West asking Cary Grant "to come up and see her some time" in She Done Him Wrong (1933).
George Bernard Shaw describing Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin in a film reel.
Adolf Hitler’ s final speech in Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph des Willens (1934).
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing together in Top Hat (1935).
Clark Gable removing his shirt and revealing himself to be bare chested in It Happened One Night (1934).
Laurel & Hardy using a box of snuff on side of a bridge in Bonnie Scotland (1935).
The Marx Brothers' parody on the MGM lion logo at the beginning of their film A Night at the Opera (1935).
Shirley Temple singing Animal Crackers in My Soup in Curly Top (1935).
Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
Orson Welles’ notorious radio play War of the Worlds (1938).
Neville Chamberlain declaring "peace in our time" and waving a peace agreement he signed with Hitler at Munich (1938)
James Stewart's final speech in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).
Judy Garland singing Over The Rainbow inThe Wizard of Oz (1939).
Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh's final scene in Gone with the Wind where Gable says, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" (1939).
One of Franklin D. Roosevelt’ s fireside chats.
Glenn Miller performing In the Mood.
Charlie Chaplin imitating Hitler in The Great Dictator (1940).
Bette Davis shooting her partner while descending some stairs in The Letter (1940)
Winston Churchill declaring that " we will fight them on the beaches" (1940).
Orson Welles in his groundbreaking film Citizen Kane (1941).
Betty Grable as the Pin-Up Girl.
Humphrey Bogart in the "Play it, Sam"- scene in Casablanca (1942).
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the final scene of "Casablanca" (1942).
Ronald Reagan in his famous "Where's the rest of me?" scène in Kings Row (1942).
Vera Lynn singing We'll Meet Again.
Rita Hayworth singing "Put the Blame on Mame" in Gilda.
Benito Mussolini hung upside down in public after being murdered by partisans (1945).
The coronation of Elizabeth II (1952).
Gene Kelly singing Singin’ in the Rain in the movie of the same name (1952).
The I Love Lucy episode Lucy Goes to the Hospital in which Lucille Ball's character has to give birth and is brought to the hospital. It was the most watched television broadcast in the United States at that time. (1953).
Marilyn Monroe standing on a subway grate which makes her dress blown above her knees in The Seven Year Itch (1955).
James Dean in a television commercial for road safety.
Elvis Presley singing and swinging his hips during his highly watched and controversial first appearance in the Ed Sullivan Show (1956).
Pablo Picasso painting on the camera in Henri-Georges Clouzot's documentary The Mystery of Picasso (1956).
Nikita Krushchev debating with Richard Nixon during the Kitchen Debate (1959).
Nikita Krushchev during his shoe-banging incident at the United Nations convention (1960)
Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy in 1962.
Martin Luther King delivering his I Have a Dream speech (1963).
The assassination of John F. Kennedy in the famous Zapruder film (1963).
Jack Ruby assassinating Lee Harvey Oswald (1963).
The Beatles arriving in the United States at the airport in 1964 and performing on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther (1963).
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra (1963 film) (1963).
Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name in Sergio Leone's westerns.
Mohammed Ali, declaring himself "the greatest" after winning the 1964 world championship boxing.
The Rolling Stones performing (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.
The Beatles performing All You Need Is Love in an international live television broadcast (1967).
The Beatles visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1967–1968).
Elvis Presley performing during his Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special
Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon and saying: "It's one small step for men, one giant leap for mankind." (1969)
A 1970 commercial for Lanvin chocolate starring Salvador Dalí.
Frank Sinatra performing My Way.
Clint Eastwood delivering his "Magnum"-speech in Dirty Harry.
Marlon Brando in The Godfather (1972).
Olga Korbut, Mark Spitz and Bobby Fischer at the Olympic Games of 1972.
Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (1973).
Richard Nixon's resignation speech after the Watergate scandal (1974).
Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (film) (1975)
Robert De Niro during his famous You talkin' to me? speech in Taxi Driver (1976).
Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (1976).
Gerald Ford caught on camera during several of his famous falls and other accidents.
The Sex Pistols performing God Save the Queen.
John McEnroe shouting and protesting against the referee during his tennis match against Bj?rn Borg (1980).
A late 1970s commercial for Paul Masson champagne with Orson Welles.
Larry Hagman being shot in his role as J.R. Ewing in Dallas in 1980.
The wedding of Prince Charles and Diana in 1981.
Ronald Reagan being shot by John Hinckley, Jr. (1981).
Michael Jackson in his famous music video Thriller and singing Billie Jean at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special in 1983, where he performed his first moon walk dance.
Arnold Schwarzenegger saying "I'll be back" in The Terminator (1984).
The infamous cliffhanger ending of the Dynasty episode "Moldavian Massacre" (1985) in which a wedding of the main characters is interrupted by terrorists in a military coup, seemingly killing many cast members, including Joan Collins as Alexis.
Sylvester Stallone killing people as Rambo.
Bob Geldof at the Live Aid concert (1985).
Oliver North trying to defend himself in front of the United States Congress at the height of the Iran-Contra affair (1987).
Luciano Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma at the first Three Tenors concert in 1990.
Celebrities portrayed in the series
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Early 20th century celebrities who were already famous in the late 19th century
Clive James included them because these celebrities were internationally famous at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century.
William Randolph Hearst, Thomas Alva Edison, Queen Victoria, Leo Tolstoy, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Sarah Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan and Buffalo Bill.
Celebrities who became famous in the 20th century
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Enrico Caruso, Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright, Louis Blériot, Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Florence Lawrence, Francis X. Bushman, William S. Hart, Theda Bara, Harry Houdini, Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen, Henry James, Jack Johnson, Wilhelm II, Paul von Hindenburg, Ferdinand Foch, George V, Lloyd George, Lord Kitchener, The Red Baron, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Mata Hari, Lenin, Henry Ford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Sigmund Freud, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer
Ramon Novarro, Suzanne Lenglen, Anna Pavlova, Nellie Melba, Amy Johnson, Malcolm Campbell, Henry Seagrave, Jack Hobbs, Donald Bradman, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Coco Chanel, No?l Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Al Jolson, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, The Marx Brothers, T. S. Eliot, Marlene Dietrich, Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Jean Harlow, Mae West, Cary Grant, George Gershwin, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Bruno Hauptmann
Benito Mussolini, George Bernard Shaw, Adolf Hitler, Rudolph Hess, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann G?ring, Heinrich Himmler, Eva Braun, Johnny Weissmuller, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, Arturo Toscanini, Walt Disney, Gary Cooper, Howard Hughes, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, James Cagney, John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Edward G. Robinson, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Ernest Hemingway, Francisco Franco, Orson Welles, Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson, George VI, Salvador Dali, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Max Schmelling, Neville Chamberlain, Joseph Stalin, Judy Garland, J. Edgar Hoover, Billie Holiday
Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Philippe Pétain, Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Hirohito, Hideki Tojo, Isoroku Yamamoto, Erwin Rommel, Bernard Law Montgomery, Lord Louis Mountbatten, George Formby, Jr., Gracie Fields, Vera Lynn, Laurence Olivier, Douglas MacArthur, David Niven, Ronald Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Cocteau, Chester W. Nimitz, Harry S. Truman, Ava Gardner, Audie Murphy, Guy Gibson, Douglas Bader, Mao, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Parker, Margot Fonteyn
Liberace, Lucille Ball, Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Roger Bannister, Elizabeth II, Richard Nixon, William Holden, Joseph McCarthy, Edward Murrow, Paul Robeson, Richard Burton, Gene Kelly, Sophia Loren, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, Joe Dimaggio, Arthur Miller, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Brigitte Bardot, Diana Dors, Guy Gibson, Richard Todd, Kenneth More, Alec Guinness, Grace Kelly, Rainier III, Hugh Hefner, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Miles Davis, Farouk I, Aga Khan III, Prince Aly Khan, Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Charlton Heston, Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, Evita Peron, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Colonel Parker, Pele, Nikita Khruschev, Fidel Castro
John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery, Christine Keeler, John Profumo, Sammy Davis Jr., D.H. Lawrence, Peter Sellers, Steve McQueen, Rudolph Nureyev, Yuri Gagarin, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Lyndon B. Johnson, Diana Ross, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Brian Epstein, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan, Billy Graham, Che Guevara, William Calley, Muhammed Ali, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Leonid Brezhnev, William Shatner, Clint Eastwood, Neil Armstrong, Charles Manson, Andy Warhol, Prince Charles
Henry Kissinger, Jane Fonda, Mother Teresa, Diane Keaton, Al Pacino, Cher, Elton John, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Raymond Burr (as Ironside), William Conrad (as Cannon), Peter Falk (as Columbo), James Garner (as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files), Telly Savalas (as Kojak), The Osmonds, Gerald Ford, Mark Spitz, Bobby Fischer, Olga Korbut, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Jodie Foster, Roger Moore, Bj?rn Borg, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Abba, Bruce Lee, David Bowie, Baader-Meinhof, Patty Hearst, Idi Amin, Woody Allen, Dustin Hoffman, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, John Travolta, Farrah Fawcett, George Lucas, The Sex Pistols, Jimmy Carter, Pope John Paul II, Meryl Streep, Larry Hagman (as J.R. Ewing in Dallas), Ruhollah Khomeini
Lech Wa??sa, Margaret Thatcher, Mark David Chapman, John Hinckley Jr. Sylvester Stallone, Lady Diana, Michael Jackson, Joan Collins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Eddie Murphy, Bill Cosby, Bob Geldof, Oliver North, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Donald Trump, Martina Navratilova, Colonel Gadaffi, George Bush Sr., Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Salman Rushdie, Václav Havel, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis, Mike Tyson, Saddam Hussein, Norman Schwarzkopf, Luciano Pavarotti