Dangerous, outrageous, comic and committed, the extraordinary performers collected here have altered the history of popular entertainment in America and Europe. Some have rarely had their story told, others are familiar figures. The essays explore what made these performers extraordinary; how they were trained, how they practised their art, how they were received, celebrated, satirised and mythologised. From the explosive acting of Richard Burbage to the dislocating quirkiness of Peter Lorre, from the dangerous satire of commedia dell'arte troupes in Russia to the bittersweet collaboration of Morecambe and Wise, this volume explores what made these actors popular. Each contributor has taken care to set the performer and their work in cultural context, so that the collection as a whole charts the changing relationship between acting and popular culture over the last four hundred years.