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The concept of guest stars in movies


TopBilled
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When did they start billing people as guest stars in the movies? Was this something influenced by television?

I'm watching a British comedy from 1961 called DOUBLE BUNK and nearly all the supporting cast (well known British comics and character actors) are billed as guest stars. 

Also while we're on the subject of special billing when was the "introducing" credit first established?

Answers greatly appreciated.

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5 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

'The Thin Man' has a special opening credit for 'Asta', I recall that much.

What's the exact text of the 'guest' mention you're seeing? The word 'star' instead of just 'with'...'player's name'?

From the opening credits for DOUBLE BUNK (1961):

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 7.40.56 PM.jpg

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The term "Cameo" didn't really exist until the late 50's, when Michael Todd invented it as a nice-sounding euphemism for getting A-list stars to make one two-minute appearance in Around the World in 80 Days (1956).

Up to then, credits had to be creative about how to suggest that major stars showing up in one scene without playing a lead character was only a "highlight" of the film, but they still required major notice in the credits.  Thus, he was a special "Guest" of the movie.

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Some of the movies in American International Pictures' "Beach Party" series featured a "Special Guest Star" (Keenan Wynn and Paul Lynde, for instance).

The 1965 film "Beach Blanket Bingo" listed Buster Keaton under "Special Cameo Stars" along with columnist Earl Wilson and series semi-regular Bobbi Shaw.

Image result for buster keaton beach blanket bingo

 

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1 hour ago, jakeem said:

Some of the movies in American International Pictures' "Beach Party" series featured a "Special Guest Star" (Keenan Wynn and Paul Lynde, for instance).

The 1965 film "Beach Blanket Bingo" listed Buster Keaton under "Special Cameo Stars" along with columnist Earl Wilson and series semi-regular Bobbi Shaw.

Image result for buster keaton beach blanket bingo

 

Yes, certainly a different kind of billing. In this case, he is put into a "special" group because he was no longer allowed to headline a film despite his many talents and legendary reputation. And he's too good to be listed among the guest stars.

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Yes, certainly a different kind of billing. In this case, he is put into a "special" group because he was no longer allowed to headline a film despite his many talents and legendary reputation. And he's too good to be listed among the guest stars.

I always saw it as a way to give attention to an actor who was too big a star for the role. Also, notice this gained popularity when the studio system was fading away and agents were the main source of stars getting roles.

Without the studio to promote you, you had to get inventive. This was a way to get the word out that "this former star is still active and can still do work on screen."

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Just now, GGGGerald said:

I always saw it as a way to give attention to an actor who was too big a star for the role. Also, notice this gained popularity when the studio system was fading away and agents were the main source of stars getting roles.

Without the studio to promote you, you had to get inventive. This was a way to get the word out that "this former star is still active and can still do work on screen."

Yes, I think you've summed it up correctly. 

My original question was about when this started becoming common practice. And when it first occurred in the credits of a studio movie. Usually we associate guest stars with television shows. So maybe this concept in movies was influenced by big name stars getting special billing when they made rare appearances on TV.

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This is a most interesting topic. Thanks for raising it, TB. Stage Door Canteen is an earlier "parade of guest stars" kind of movie, though I don't recall how they were billed. It exemplified that everyone was pitching in for the war effort. The Story of Mankind (1957) is another film with a lot of well-known actors playing small roles, and that's around the same time as Around the World in 80 Days. The Greatest Story Ever Told was another film with so many stars doing cameo roles that it's sometimes unintentionally humorous.

Maybe it's worth noting that a couple of very big stars took smaller roles in early 1950s films: Bette Davis in Phone Call from a Stranger and James Stewart in The Greatest Show on Earth. Bette no doubt wanted to be in a film with her husband, Gary Merrill. She turned down the role Shelley Winters was eventually cast for, but asked for the somewhat smaller but much more memorable role as Keenan Wynn's paralyzed wife. Today, the studio would probably have pushed her for a Best Supporting Actress nomination, but Bette would not have wanted that. The part is rather like a guest starring role in a weekly TV drama series, which supports TB's point.

I'm not sure why James Stewart took the role of doctor-turned-clown in The Greatest Show on Earth.

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5 hours ago, kingrat said:

I'm not sure why James Stewart took the role of doctor-turned-clown in The Greatest Show on Earth.

Stewart's hardly a "cameo", his character has one of the major subplots, and probably as central to the story as the other leads.  As for why, he was no stranger to sardonic but good-hearted loners by that point.

The real-life Ringling circus performers in the bit-part scenes, OTOH, are cameos, and they get "Guest-star" billing.

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8 hours ago, EricJ said:

Stewart's hardly a "cameo", his character has one of the major subplots, and probably as central to the story as the other leads.  As for why, he was no stranger to sardonic but good-hearted loners by that point.

The real-life Ringling circus performers in the bit-part scenes, OTOH, are cameos, and they get "Guest-star" billing.

Though TCM doesn't really show Cecil B. DeMille's films, he was a director all the big stars wanted to work with...so I am sure Stewart was eager to do that picture.

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Some posters have mentioned cameos and special cameos.

There is also such a thing as an extended cameo. It is a form of a guest appearance. James Stewart's role in THE SHOOTIST is an extended cameo. He plays Duke's doctor and confidant, and has a large scene. But then he isn't really seen again for the rest of the picture. 

Basically they would take these roles to keep working and to work with their pals. Despite being household names and box office draws, they were not playing the lead...so in the billing, they were given extra consideration.

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4 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Though TCM doesn't really show Cecil B. DeMille's films, he was a director all the big stars wanted to work with...so I am sure Stewart was eager to do that picture.

That makes sense, but then too...

It was work.  And as the acting profession has  been and still is a profession that still racks up some of the highest unemployment rates, there really isn't much room for ego or a skewered sense of "integrity" to get in the way of survival.

Plus too, it might have been seen by Stewart as a way to do something "against type".

Sepiatone

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26 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

That makes sense, but then too...

It was work.  And as the acting profession has  been and still is a profession that still racks up some of the highest unemployment rates, there really isn't much room for ego or a skewered sense of "integrity" to get in the way of survival.

Plus too, it might have been seen by Stewart as a way to do something "against type".

Sepiatone

I don't think Stewart was ever in any great danger of being unemployed. Do you?

In this instance, he'd reached a point in his career where he could work with the directors he wanted to work with...probably his choice of costars too.

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No, Jimmy wasn't in any danger of being out of work, but by that time he still probably remembered the "salad" days and how fickle the fates were to actors and knew too, that nothing was a "sure thing" in that business.

And I don't think ANY actor had the luxury of "choice" back in those days of megalomaniac studio heads.

Sepiatone

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4 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

No, Jimmy wasn't in any danger of being out of work, but by that time he still probably remembered the "salad" days and how fickle the fates were to actors and knew too, that nothing was a "sure thing" in that business.

And I don't think ANY actor had the luxury of "choice" back in those days of megalomaniac studio heads.

Sepiatone

He had the luxury of choice, or whatever you want to call it. By 1950 he had become a freelancer and his agent negotiated a non-exclusive contract for him with Universal, which allowed him to do outside films at other studios. So when he heard DeMille was starting another production at Paramount, I'm sure he campaigned for it. They all wanted to be in a DeMille picture in those days because of the director's legendary reputation and because of the strong record DeMille's pictures had at the box office.

There is no evidence that his lean days as a young actor influenced his decision to work for DeMille.

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Never said it did.

I was merely suggesting that his lean days as a young actor and what he's witnessed over the years in the "biz" probably implanted the knowledge that nothing's ever a "sure thing" in Hollywood, except the realization that for good reason, or even no discernible reason at all everything one has achieved and acquired as far as personal security is concerned can disappear without a moment's notice.  So, NO role could be considered beneath him and a paycheck is a paycheck.  

Sepiatone

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1 hour ago, Sepiatone said:

Never said it did.

I was merely suggesting that his lean days as a young actor and what he's witnessed over the years in the "biz" probably implanted the knowledge that nothing's ever a "sure thing" in Hollywood, except the realization that for good reason, or even no discernible reason at all everything one has achieved and acquired as far as personal security is concerned can disappear without a moment's notice.  So, NO role could be considered beneath him and a paycheck is a paycheck.  

Sepiatone

I don't agree with the last part of what you wrote. If that was true, then Stewart would have been working for American International Pictures in the 70s or doing movies for Roger Corman or John Waters in the 80s, when he was no longer an A-list star. Some roles, some productions, were definitely beneath him. He didn't just work because he wanted to work. He didn't just do anything for a paycheck. Some stars did.

I looked at an interview TV producer Donald Bellisario did about an 80s crime drama he produced. He said they wanted Orson Welles for a voice-over, and it was easy to get Welles because Welles did anything for money. I don't think Stewart was that way at all.

Anyway, we're getting off track. Stewart definitely took the role in THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH because it was a feather in his cap to be able to say he'd done a DeMille film.

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You do seem to be taking a lot of what I'm posting out of context.  Really, the only person who can settle any of this would be Jimmy himself.  But I still kinda lean toward him taking the role(and too, possibly campaigning for it) due to it, for him, was "against type".  I mean, admit it....

HOW many were surprised to learn it was INDEED Jimmy Stewart playing that role?  I know was!

Sepiatone

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