A history of public relations on screen: Cinema and television depictions since the 1920's

Jane Johnston

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionResearchpeer-review


While public relations rode a wave of success with the ballyhoo surrounding film in the 1920s and 30s, Hollywood developed its own screen images of the public relations industry. As early as 1924, cinema began depicting public relations stunts in the short film Publicity Pays. As film genres developed and social and cultural norms changed so too did the depictions of the industry: from the 1938 corporate manoeuvrings of Four's a Crowd to the 1962 ethical struggles of Days of Wine and Roses, and the80s, 90s and 00s political spin and satire of Yes Minister, Wag the Dog and In the Loop. This paper presents a study of the representation of public relations in film and television from the 1920s through to the present day. It extends the discussion raised in Miller‘s seminal 1999 paper which looked at PR in film and fiction in the United States, by turning the focus onto international changes and developments in the industry over more than 80 years, drawing on memory theory and chronicled public relations history to provide a framework. It features two films, each made and remade over different decades: A Star is Born (1937, 1954, 1976) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994), as well as more than a dozen others, to illustrate how public relations evolved. The paper suggests that film and television, as forms of popular culture, can be useful tools to enrich our understanding and knowledge of the public relations industry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the first International History of Public Relations conference (2010)
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherBournemouth University
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventInternational History of Public Relations conference - Bournemouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jul 20109 Jul 2010
Conference number: 1st


ConferenceInternational History of Public Relations conference
Abbreviated titleIHPRC 2010
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'A history of public relations on screen: Cinema and television depictions since the 1920's'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this