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I can't answer all of Grady Ballenger's questions about the term "star"
except to note that it was a term used in, at least, 19th century
American theater.  Some stars were genuinely acclaimed by audiences,
e.g., Edwin Booth and Joseph Jefferson III.  Other actors took the
term onto themselves when they established touring companies.
 
As these things go, it's likely that the term was also applied to
popular players in England at least as early as the 17th century.
 
The accepted version of the term's usage in the United States was
the first named film "star" was Florence Lawrence; before her
(ca. 1912) film performers were anonymous but audiences
choose their own "stars," e.g., "Little Mary" later known as
Mary Pickford.
 
I haven't directly researched the last paragraph; it is offered as
common knowledge.
 
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