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Top Stars of the 1940s - statistically

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http://www.ultimatemovierankings.com/top-movie-stars-1940s/

 

We looked at over 1,300 movies...and this is our Top 15 box office stars of 1940

 

Top 15 Adjusted Domestic Box Office Leaders 1940 – 1949
  1. Van Johnson $4835.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  2. Bing Crosby $4613.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  3. Dorothy Lamour $4349.30 million in adjusted domestic gross
  4. Walter Brennan $4125.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  5. Dana Andrews $4053.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  6. John Wayne $3987.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  7. Bob Hope $3978.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  8. Ray Milland $3865.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  9. Gary Cooper $3817.60 million in adjusted domestic gross
  10. Humphrey Bogart $3675.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  11. Spencer Tracy $3606.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  12. Judy Garland $3529.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  13. Cary Grant $3502.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  14. Fred MacMurray $3478.40 million in adjusted domestic gross
  15. Walter Pidgeon $3410.90 million in adjusted domestic gross
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http://www.ultimatemovierankings.com/top-movie-stars-1940s/

 

We looked at over 1,300 movies...and this is our Top 15 box office stars of 1940

 

Top 15 Adjusted Domestic Box Office Leaders 1940 – 1949
  1. Van Johnson $4835.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  2. Bing Crosby $4613.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  3. Dorothy Lamour $4349.30 million in adjusted domestic gross
  4. Walter Brennan $4125.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  5. Dana Andrews $4053.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  6. John Wayne $3987.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  7. Bob Hope $3978.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  8. Ray Milland $3865.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  9. Gary Cooper $3817.60 million in adjusted domestic gross
  10. Humphrey Bogart $3675.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  11. Spencer Tracy $3606.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  12. Judy Garland $3529.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  13. Cary Grant $3502.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  14. Fred MacMurray $3478.40 million in adjusted domestic gross
  15. Walter Pidgeon $3410.90 million in adjusted domestic gross

 

 

Thanks for posting thread;   Can you provide the top 5 movies (box office) each of these 15 actors was in during the 40s?

 

That would help me 'process' these rankings.    E.g. Are the 'Road' pictures the primary reason for Crosby,  Lamour and Hope?  (I assume yes).

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http://www.ultimatemovierankings.com/top-movie-stars-1940s/

 

We looked at over 1,300 movies...and this is our Top 15 box office stars of 1940

 

Top 15 Adjusted Domestic Box Office Leaders 1940 – 1949
  1. Van Johnson $4835.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  2. Bing Crosby $4613.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  3. Dorothy Lamour $4349.30 million in adjusted domestic gross
  4. Walter Brennan $4125.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  5. Dana Andrews $4053.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  6. John Wayne $3987.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  7. Bob Hope $3978.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  8. Ray Milland $3865.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  9. Gary Cooper $3817.60 million in adjusted domestic gross
  10. Humphrey Bogart $3675.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  11. Spencer Tracy $3606.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  12. Judy Garland $3529.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  13. Cary Grant $3502.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  14. Fred MacMurray $3478.40 million in adjusted domestic gross
  15. Walter Pidgeon $3410.90 million in adjusted domestic gross

 

 

It's an interesting list but a deceiving one.

 

Take Walter Brennan, for example, a character actor who did enjoy popularity.

 

But Brennan wasn't the star of any of his big box office hits. He was a supporting player in some films that were hits that starred the likes of Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne. Yet on your list Brennan is ranked above all of them.

 

The reason people went to see a hit like To Have and Have Not, for example, was because of Bogart and Bacall. Brennan was strictly a side order in that film. Same with Sergeant York and Pride of the Yankees, Cooper films, with Brennan in support, or Red River, with Wayne. Brennan had the luck to appear in a number of popular films during the '40s. His participation in the films may have played some role in the films' popularity but it was not a dominant one, I'm sure.

 

Ditto the inclusion, I suspect, of Dorothy Lamour so high in the rankings. Not one time in that decade was Lamour ranked as one of the top ten stars of the year. There is no way she was as huge as Bob Hope, who is ranked below her. Nor was she as big as some stars who don't even make it on this list (ie Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, both very hot at the beginning of the decade). But she did appear in the Road films and a Crosby musical like Dixie.

 

I'm not quite certain how Van Johnson got in the top position here, though I know he enjoy a lot of popularity. I do know, however, that Bing Crosby was the Number One Box Office Champion of the '40s, according to the Quigley Motion Picture Distributors annual polls.

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This list seems misleading. First of all, the biggest female box office star of the decade, Betty Grable, is nowhere to be found. Walter Brennan was usually a character actor in films; he carried almost none of the films he was in at the box office; the actual stars did. So to list him as one of the top box office leaders of the decade shows the data used to compile this list to be flawed for the conclusions it shows.

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It's an interesting list but a deceiving one.

 

Take Walter Brennan, for example, a character actor who did enjoy popularity.

 

But Brennan wasn't the star of any of his big box office hits. He was a supporting player in some films that were hits that starred the likes of Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne. Yet on your list Brennan is ranked above all of them.

 

The reason people went to see a hit like To Have and Have Not, for example, was because of Bogart and Bacall. Brennan was strictly a side order in that film. Same with Sergeant York and Pride of the Yankees, Cooper films, with Brennan in support, or Red River, with Wayne. Brennan had the luck to appear in a number of popular films during the '40s. His participation in the films may have played some role in the films' popularity but it was not a dominant one, I'm sure.

 

Ditto the inclusion, I suspect, of Dorothy Lamour so high in the rankings. Not one time in that decade was Lamour ranked as one of the top ten stars of the year. There is no way she was as huge as Bob Hope, who is ranked below her. Nor was she as big as some stars who don't even make it on this list (ie Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, both very hot at the beginning of the decade). But she did appear in the Road films and a Crosby musical like Dixie.

 

I'm not quite certain how Van Johnson got in the top position here, though I know he enjoy a lot of popularity. I do know, however, that Bing Crosby was the Number One Box Office Champion of the '40s, according to the Quigley Motion Picture Distributors annual polls.

Tom I agree here _I guess out posts crossed). I totally agree about Lamour, popular though she was. She was in the Road films with Hope and Crosby, as well as a number of hit films with either Hope or Crosby. And while audiences enjoyed the films she did with both of them, Hope and Crosby had much bigger hits without her, than hers were without them.

 

Walter Pidgeon was in huge hits that usually had others as the top draw, especially the series of hits he did with Greer Garson, who btw, was probably the second biggest female star after Betty Grable. Van Johnson was hugely popular for a couple of years in the immediate postwar period, but his popularity leveled off fairly quickly.

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This list seems misleading. First of all, the biggest female box office star of the decade, Betty Grable, is nowhere to be found. Walter Brennan was usually a character actor in films; he carried almost none of the films he was in at the box office; the actual stars did. So to list him as one of the top box office leaders of the decade shows the data used to compile this list to be flawed for the conclusions it shows.

 

The use of the terms 'leaders' and 'box office stars' are misleading (or deceiving as Tom said).   To ensure clarity it should have just said "the data used was the aggregate of the box office for each 40s film an actor appeared in".

 

The data isn't flawed (i.e. the data 'is what it is') but what the data was presented here to represent is.

 

As for Grable;  unless those that complied the data made an error,  Grable could be missing because, while she was the top leading actress box office star,   she didn't appear in many non 'Grable centric' films like Lamour did.  

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More observations:

 

While Dana Andrews became big mid-decade, and was in a number of popular films, his being on this list is probably due more than anything for being in one of the biggest grossers of the 40s, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, and to a lesser extent, films like STATE FAIR. He was probably not the main reason people went to see those films.

 

Abbott and Costello should absolutely be on this list, they were huge that decade, topping the Quigley poll twice.

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More observations:

 

While Dana Andrews became big mid-decade, and was in a number of popular films, his being on this list is probably due more than anything for being in one of the biggest grossers of the 40s, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, and to a lesser extent, films like STATE FAIR. He was probably not the main reason people went to see those films.

 

Abbott and Costello should absolutely be on this list, they were huge that decade, topping the Quigley poll twice.

 

How can you say 'Abbott and Costello should absolutely be on this list'?    Again,  the data used, is the data used.    Therefor anyone NOT on the list wasn't in the top 15 as defined by the criteria associated with the data used. 

 

Classicmovieranking is a very open person.   My guess is that if you asked him to use different criteria your wish would be granted.  

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Actually, the whole idea that if the box office figures used have been adjudted for today, this is still misleading. A film in 1940 grossing $4 million, doesn't necessarily mean the same as one grossing this same amount in 1949. While the dollar inflation in each of these years was used, this won't take into account the relative price of admissions. A truer picture would be using the number of paid admissions.

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Actually, the whole idea that if the box office figures used have been adjudted for today, this is still misleading. A film in 1940 grossing $4 million, doesn't necessarily mean the same as one grossing this same amount in 1949. While the dollar inflation in each of these years was used, this won't take into account the relative price of admissions. A truer picture would be using the number of paid admissions.

Arturo,i totally agree,France still use the paid admission system to determine a movie top draw,we should do the same so the dollars would not be the only crowning factor.

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Actually, the whole idea that if the box office figures used have been adjudted for today, this is still misleading. A film in 1940 grossing $4 million, doesn't necessarily mean the same as one grossing this same amount in 1949. While the dollar inflation in each of these years was used, this won't take into account the relative price of admissions. A truer picture would be using the number of paid admissions.

 

I also prefer the use of "number of paid admissions" over adjusted box office figures (but over the time period of one decade,  the 40s,  I doubt there would be a different outcome in this specific ranking).

 

But how would you define the criteria for "what actors should get credit for a film they are in?" (as in ensuring a Brennan isn't in such a ranking).        E.g. the criteria could be; an actor only get credit for a film if they are listed as one of the top 3 in a film's credits.    Assuming such data exist for those 1,300 films,  there would be cases where the 4th listed actor was a 'star' but wasn't in the top 3 (e.g. Libel Lady, which I know is a 30s film but still a good example).   Therefor I'm fine with all actors being included in such a ranking when aggregating the data on a per actor basis.

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Abbott and Costello should absolutely be on this list, they were huge that decade, topping the Quigley poll twice.

 

Absolutely.

 

According to the Quigley Motion Picture Distributors Poll":

 

Bud and Lou were #3 in 1941, #1 in 1942, #3 in 1943, #8 in 1944, #11 in 1945, #3 in 1948 and #3 in 1949.

 

Seven out of the 10 years they were in the top 15 (actually 5 of them in the top 3!!!).

 

Believe me, the likes of Water Brennan, Dorothy Lamour and Walter Pidgeon are nowhere to be seen (yes, they appeared in popular films of other stars). But to have zero mention of Abbott and Costello in the top 15, something is seriously wrong.

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Absolutely.

 

According to the Quigley Motion Picture Distributors Poll":

 

Bud and Lou were #3 in 1941, #1 in 1942, #3 in 1943, #8 in 1944, #11 in 1945, #3 in 1948 and #3 in 1949.

 

Seven out of the 10 years they were in the top 15 (actually 5 of them in the top 3!!!).

 

Believe me, the likes of Water Brennan, Dorothy Lamour and Walter Pidgeon are nowhere to be seen (yes, they appeared in popular films of other stars). But to have zero mention of Abbott and Costello in the top 15, something is seriously wrong.

 

What does that Quigley poll measure?    E.g. what does #1 represent in terms of DATA.

 

Thanks

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What does that Quigley poll measure?    E.g. what does #1 represent in terms of DATA.

 

Thanks

 

It's a poll of the motion picture distributors, asking them to name who they consider to be the top box office stars of the year. The Quigley Poll, which first started in 1932, is the most common poll upon which the popularity of actors/actresses has been ascertained. So that when, for example, Mickey Rooney is cited as the Number One box office star from 1939 to 1941 inclusive, that comes from the Martin Quigley poll.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Ten_Money_Making_Stars_Poll

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It's a poll of the motion picture distributors, asking them to name who they consider to be the top box office stars of the year. The Quigley Poll, which first started in 1932, is the most common poll upon which the popularity of actors/actresses has been ascertained. So that when, for example, Mickey Rooney is cited as the Number One box office star from 1939 to 1941 inclusive, that comes from the Martin Quigley poll.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Ten_Money_Making_Stars_Poll

 

Thanks for the info.    While the Quigley Poll is another interesting POV it is subjective and I prefer objective data such as actual "number of paid admissions".    

 

Either way I agree it is highly unlikely A&C could be ranked so high in the Quigley Poll and NOT be in this list of Top 15.    E.g.  if every A&C movie released in the 40s was included in the 1,300 films used,  and A&C were consistently top box office draws,  the aggregate of all of their film's box office take should put them in the Top 15. 

 

I recommend ClassicMovieRanking check his SQL query or the underlining data in his movie database.

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All 25 1940s Abbott and Costello movies are included.  They were huge in the early 1940s...but pretty average by the end of the 1940s.....still 35th for the entire decade is pretty awesome.

 

  1. Ride 'em Cowboy (1942) $215.90 million in adjusted domestic gross
  2. Pardon My Sarong (1942) $207.60 million adjusted domestic gross
  3. Rio Rita (1942) $160.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  4. Hold That Ghost (1941) $155.40 million in adjusted domestic gross
  5. The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947) $147.80 adjusted domestic gross
  6. Who Done It (1942) $145.30 million in adjusted domestic gross
  7. Hit The Ice (1943) $144.50 million in adjusted domestic gross
  8. It Ain't Hay (1943) $128.50 million in adjusted domestic gross
  9. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) $124.80 million
  10. Buck Privates Come Home (1947) $123.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  11. Keep em' Flying (1941) $120.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  12. In The Navy (1941) $120.60 million in adjusted domestic gross
  13. Buck Privates (1941) $120.40 million in adjusted domestic gross
  14. Lost in a Harem (1944) $110.50 million in adjusted domestic gross
  15. In Society (1944) $93.50 million in adjusted domestic gross
  16. African Screams (1949) $81.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  17. Abbott & Costello in Hollywood (1945) $75.80 million in adjusted domestic gross
  18. The Noose Hangs Loose (1948) $74.90 million in adjusted domestic gross
  19. Here Come The Co-Eds (1945) $68.90 million in adjusted domestic gross
  20. The Naughty Nineties (1945) $65.40 million in adjusted domestic gross
  21. Little Giant (1946) $65.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  22. The Time of Their Lives (1946) $64.80 million in adjusted domestic gross
  23. Mexican Hayride (1948) $55.50 million in adjusted domestic gross
  24. Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff (1949) $36.30 million
  25. One Night in the Tropics (1940) $25.80 million in adjusted domestic gross

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FYI:  The link shows that Grable is #18 and A&C is #35.  

 

In his database, if the box office figures for each film are accurate and the data was aggregated correctly any major differences to the Quigley Poll just shows that the personal POV of motion picture distributors  is highly subjective (and flawed) as compared to actual data.

 

 

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I have traveled across the country three times collecting this information....and I really think it is the best estimation of box office grosses out there.  The actual gross will never be known....because back then they reported financials in "rental" numbers. 

 

As for Quigley....my granddad used to fill those surveys out every year.....John Wayne and Gary Cooper always made his list regardless if they had a down year or not.  They just did not have great information back then....so the legends remained on the list every year....as well as the "Flavor of the Month"....as granddad would call stars like Sonja Henie.

 

Quigley is a fun list to look at....but it is not accurate portrayal of the biggest stars in a given year.  In recent times George Clooney finished 8th for the year and had one movie (The American) that bombed out at $32.00 million .....yet he still got a Quigley spot.

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  1. Van Johnson $4,835.20
  2. Bing Crosby $4,613.40
  3. Dorothy Lamour $4,349.20
  4. Walter Brennan $4,123.90
  5. Dana Andrews $4,053.30
  6. John Wayne $3,986.50
  7. Bob Hope $3,977.70
  8. Ray Milland $3,865.10
  9. Gary Cooper $3,818.10
  10. Humphrey Bogart $3,675.30
  11. Spencer Tracy $3,606.50
  12. Judy Garland $3,528.40
  13. Cary Grant $3,501.50
  14. Walter Pidgeon $3,411.90
  15. Paulette Goddard $3,311.40
  16. Ingrid Bergman $3,304.00
  17. Betty Grable $3,232.30
  18. Maureen O'Hara $3,231.60
  19. Mickey Rooney $3,156.60
  20. Barbara Stanwyck $3,120.00
  21. Sydney Greenstreet $3,095.70
  22. Anthony Quinn $3,070.70
  23. Lionel Barrymore $3,049.60
  24. Claude Rains $3,046.20
  25. Lana Turner $3,009.60
  26. Alan Ladd $2,944.00
  27. Linda Darnell $2,926.00
  28. Errol Flynn $2,901.30
  29. John Garfield $2,881.00
  30. Gene Tierney $2,878.60
  31. Claudette Colbert $2,873.30
  32. Randolph Scott $2,850.00
  33. Donald Crisp $2,814.50
  34. Abbott & Costello $2,733.00
  35. Greer Garson $2,678.20
  36. Gene Kelly $2,671.10
  37. Peter Lorre $2,637.70
  38. Ronald Reagan $2,616.80
  39. Gregory Peck $2,555.10
  40. Donna Reed $2,538.00
  41. Virginia Mayo $2,528.20
  42. Tyrone Power $2,511.10
  43. Edward G. Robinson $2,502.70
  44. Ginger Rogers $2,501.40
  45. Joseph Cotten $2,476.40
  46. Esther Williams $2,466.10
  47. Van Heflin $2,420.50
  48. Bette Davis $2,363.40
  49. Olivia de Havilland  $2,348.40
  50. Clark Gable $2,302.80

The Top 50

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All I have to add is that at least Olivia De Havilland is ranked higher than sister Joan Fontaine.

 

Olivia is still with us and I would hate for there to be a disruption in the force.     :lol:

 

 

(ok one other thing:  I'm surprised Ward Bond isn't in the top 100,  but I see that Donald Crisp is #33). 

 

 

 

 

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(ok one other thing:  I'm surprised Ward Bond isn't in the top 100,  but I see that Donald Crisp is #33). 

 

Donald Crisp may be #33 but who the heck went to see a film specifically because he was in it? I see that Clark Gable is at the bottom of the list. I rather suspect more Gable films made money because he was the star than made money because of Crisp's presence in any films.

 

Therefore, one should look at this list as a reflection strictly of the domestic box office grosses of the films the stars were in, rather than an accurate reflection of their individual popularity (particularly when it comes to supporting character actors).

 

Criticisms of the Quigley Poll's accuracy are valid, I feel. Take a look at a comparison, for example, of two contemporary male stars of the time often compared to one another, Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn.

 

According to the box office grosses list of ClassicMovieRankings, Flynn's '40s films made more money than Power's throughout the decade, Flynn ranked #28, as opposed to Power as #42. But in the Quigley Poll by Motion Picture Distributors, Power is ranked ahead of Flynn in popularity 5 times out of 6 when both or either of them appeared in the top 25 rankings.

 

However, and this is where it gets complicated, Flynn made films every year of the decade while Power was missing during his two years of marine war service. This may, indeed, compromise an accurate assessment of one actor's popularity as opposed to the other based strictly upon box office grosses, since it places Power at a two year missing in Hollywood action disadvantage.

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Classic Movie Rankings--You have director Vincent Minnelli ranked 65th on the actors list.  I was surprised Joan Crawford ranked so low (88th).  Interesting list--nice work.

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