'Whoever heard of anyone being a screaming success for doing nothing?': 'Sabrina', the BBC and television fame in the 1950s

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Drawing on archival sources from the BBC Written Archive Centre, including press coverage, memos and scripts, this article seeks to contribute to historical work on celebrity by exploring the discourses surrounding television fame through the prism of ‘Sabrina’—a young woman made famous by BBC television in the mid-1950s as the ‘bosomy blonde who didn't talk’. It is particularly productive to excavate this case study of Sabrina right now, when popular media discourse is saturated with debate about the apparently declining currency of modern fame—a debate which often positions female celebrities centre stage. Indeed, in 1955 one BBC official asked a question which might seem decidedly familiar to celebrity audiences today: ‘[Sabrina] is a wonder of our time which makes us absolutely terrified of the power of television. Whoever heard of anyone being a screaming success for doing nothing?’ In returning to the case study of Sabrina, this article examines a so far neglected persona in the institutional, cultural and ideological contexts which shaped early (British) television fame.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-48
Number of pages16
JournalMedia History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2011

Cite this