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Studio era's biggest money-maker$


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1930

1. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

2. WHOOPEE!

3. HELL'S ANGELS

4. ANIMAL CRACKERS

5. FEET FIRST

6. THE ROGUE SONG

7. THE LIFE OF THE PARTY

8. HOLD EVERYTHING

9. SUNNY

10. THE VAGABOND KING

 

1931

1. FRANKENSTEIN

2. CIMARRON

3. MATA HARI

4. CITY LIGHTS

5. A FREE SOUL

6. DRACULA

7. PRIVATE LIVES

8. NO LIMIT

9. THE PUBLIC ENEMY

10. THE SMILING LIEUTENANT

 

1932

1. SHANGHAI EXPRESS

2. GRAND HOTEL

3. A FAREWELL TO ARMS

4. RED DUST

5. THE CHAMP

6. TROUBLE IN PARADISE

7. LOVE ME TONIGHT

8. DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

9. RED-HEADED WOMAN

10. SCARFACE

 

1933

1. QUEEN CHRISTINA

2. I'M NO ANGEL

3. KING KONG

4. 42ND STREET

5. SHE DONE HIM WRONG

6. STATE FAIR

7. DINNER AT EIGHT

8. HOLD YOUR MAN

9. LITTLE WOMEN

10. DESIGN FOR LIVING

 

1934

1. VIVA VILLA!

2. CLEOPATRA

3. THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET

4. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT

5. THE THIN MAN

6. THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD

7. THE GAY DIVORCEE

8. IMITATION OF LIFE

9. THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI 

10. THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD

 

1935

1. MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY

2. BECKY SHARP

3. TOP HAT

4. THE LITTLEST REBEL

5. THE INFORMER

6. CHINA SEAS

7. BARBARY COAST

8. CAPTAIN BLOOD

9. ANNA KARENINA

10. CURLY TOP

 

1936

1. SAN FRANCISCO

2. THE GREAT ZIEGFELD

3. MODERN TIMES

4. THESE THREE

5. LIBELED LADY

6. THREE SMART GIRLS

7. POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL

8. CAMILLE

9. THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE

10. WIFE VERSUS SECRETARY

 

1937

1. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES

2. SARATOGA

3. ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL

4. TOPPER

5. WEE WILLIE WINKIE

6. STELLA DALLAS

7. IN OLD CHICAGO

8. THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER

9. THE GOOD EARTH

10. THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA

 

1938

1. ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND

2. TEST PILOT

3. BOYS TOWN

4. THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD

5. YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU

6. SWEETHEARTS

7. MARIE ANTOINETTE

8. HAPPY LANDING

9. ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES

10. OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS

 

1939

1. GONE WITH THE WIND

2. JESSE JAMES

3. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON

4. THE RAINS CAME

5. BABES IN ARMS

6. DODGE CITY

7. GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS

8. THE WIZARD OF OZ

9. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

10. GUNGA DIN

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  • 3 years later...

1940

1. BOOM TOWN

2. NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE

3. THE GREAT DICTATOR

4. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY

5. THE GRAPES OF WRATH

6. REBECCA

7. STRIKE UP THE BAND

8. NORTHWEST PASSAGE

9. THE FIGHTING 69TH

10. THE SEA HAWK

 

1941

1. SERGEANT YORK

2. HONKYTONK

3. LOUISIANA PURCHASE

4. A YANK IN THE RAF

5. HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY

6. BABES ON BROADWAY

7. CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT

8. ROAD TO ZANZIBAR

9. KEEP 'EM FLYING

10. IN THE NAVY

 

1942

1. MRS. MINIVER

2. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY

3. RANDOM HARVEST

4. ROAD TO MOROCCO

5. REAP THE WILD WIND

6. THE BLACK SWAN

7. SOMEWHERE I'LL FIND YOU

8. HOLIDAY INN

9. EAGLE SQUADRON

10. THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES

 

1943

1. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

2. THIS IS THE ARMY

3. THE SONG OF BERNADETTE

4. HITLER'S CHILDREN

5. STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM

6. CASABLANCA

7. AIR FORCE

8. DESTINATION TOKYO

9. A GUY NAMED JOE

10. CONEY ISLAND

 

1944

1. GOING MY WAY

2. WILSON

3. SINCE YOU WENT AWAY

4. LADY IN THE DARK

5. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

6. MRS. PARKINGTON

7. HERE COME THE WAVES

8. THE STORY OF DR. WASSELL

9. WINGED VICTORY

10. HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN

 

1945

1. THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S

2. SPELLBOUND

3. LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN

4. MILDRED PIERCE

5. ANCHORS AWEIGH

6. WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF

7. SARATOGA TRUNK

8. THRILL OF A ROMANCE

9. THE VALLEY OF DECISION

10. WONDER MAN

 

1946

1. SONG OF THE SOUTH

2. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES

3. DUEL IN THE SUN

4. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE

5. BLUE SKIES

6. THE YEARLING

7. THE RAZOR'S EDGE

8. NOTORIOUS

9. TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY

10. ROAD TO UTOPIA

 

1947

1. UNCONQUERED

2. THE EGG AND I

3. THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY SOXER

4. MOTHER WORE TIGHTS

5. LIFE WITH FATHER

6. GREEN DOLPHIN STREET

7. ROAD TO RIO

8. FOREVER AMBER

9. GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT

10. CASS TIMBERLANE

 

1948

1. THE RED SHOES

2. THE THREE MUSKETEERS

3. RED RIVER

4. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE

5. WHEN MY BABY SMILES AT ME

6. EASTER PARADE

7. THE SNAKE PIT

8. JOHNNY BELINDA

9. JOAN OF ARC

10. ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN

 

1949

1. SAMSON AND DELILAH

2. BATTLEGROUND

3. SANDS OF IWO JIMA

4. JOLSON SINGS AGAIN

5. I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE

6. TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH

7. A LETTER TO THREE WIVES

8. THE HEIRESS

9. PINKY

10. LITTLE WOMEN

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4. HITLER'S CHILDREN

 

Wow, never knew it was that big. HC must be one of the great sleeper hits of the studio era

 

 
4. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE
 
Never knew this was such a big hit
6. GREEN DOLPHIN STREET
9. JOAN OF ARC
10. ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN

 

 

I've always heard these were flops. Maybe they cost so much they had trouble getting their budgets back.
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Never knew this was such a big hit

 

I've always heard these were flops. Maybe they cost so much they had trouble getting their budgets back.

 

Perhaps the frequency with which we see (or don't see) certain titles on TCM skews our perspective about box office hits. For example, TCM plays BRINGING UP BABY fairly often and it was actually a big dud at the box office in 1938. Other films, like BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, were moderate hits but because we see them so often on TCM, we may assume they were huge money-makers when they really were not.

 

Then there are all the Abbott & Costello pictures from the early 1940s that made a bundle of cash for Universal and the Deanna Durbin vehicles which did well too. We hardly see them on TCM, so we forget or simply do not realize what big successes they were with audiences.

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Another one that surprised me a bit in terms of revenue was White Cargo.  I don't have access to the figures, but I read that it did quite well for being on the shoestring budget that it is.

 

Unfortunately, from what I can tell, it seems that most of those figures were supressed by the studios back in the Studio System days.  So a list like this is refreshing to see, and a good reality check of what people were actually interested in seeing back then.

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1950

1. CINDERELLA

2. KING SOLOMON'S MINES

3. ANNIE GET YOUR GUN

4. SUNSET BOULEVARD

5. FATHER OF THE BRIDE

6. WABASH AVENUE

7. ALL ABOUT EVE

8. BORN YESTERDAY

9. AT WAR WITH THE ARMY

10. MY BLUE HEAVEN

 

1951

1. QUO VADIS

2. ALICE IN WONDERLAND

3. SHOW BOAT

4. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

5. DAVID AND BATHSHEBA

6. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

7. THE AFRICAN QUEEN

8. A PLACE IN THE SUN

9. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

10. PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN

 

1952

1. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

2. THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

3. THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO

4. IVANHOE

5. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

6. SAILOR BEWARE

7. MOULIN ROUGE

8. HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN

9. AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD

10. MONKEY BUSINESS

 

1953

1. THE ROBE

2. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY

3. SHANE

4. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE

5. PETER PAN

6. HOUSE OF WAX

7. MOGAMBO

8. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES

9. SALOME

10. THE BAND WAGON

 

1954

1. WHITE CHRISTMAS

2. 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA

3. REAR WINDOW

4. DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS

5. THE CAINE MUTINY

6. VERA CRUZ

7. CARMEN JONES

8. THE COUNTRY GIRL

9. THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA

10. A STAR IS BORN

 

1955

1. MISTER ROBERTS

2. BATTLE CRY

3. OKLAHOMA!

4. GUYS AND DOLLS

5. LADY AND THE TRAMP

6. NOT AS A STRANGER

7. STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND

8. TO HELL AND BACK

9. THE SEA CHASE

10. THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH

 

1956

1. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

2. AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

3. GIANT

4. WAR AND PEACE

5. THE KING AND I

6. THE SEARCHERS

7. BUS STOP

8. THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT

9. HIGH SOCIETY

10. WRITTEN ON THE WIND

 

1957

1. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

2. PEYTON PLACE

3. SAYONARA

4. OLD YELLER

5. RAINTREE COUNTY

6. ISLAND IN THE SUN

7. WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?

8. A FAREWELL TO ARMS

9. GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL

10. PAL JOEY

 

1958

1. SOUTH PACIFIC

2. AUNTIE MAME

3. CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

4. NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS

5. GIGI

6. THE VIKINGS

7. VERTIGO

8. THE YOUNG LIONS

9. SOME CAME RUNNING

10. THE SHERIFF OF FRACTURED JAW

 

1959

1. BEN-HUR

2. SLEEPING BEAUTY

3. NORTH BY NORTHWEST

4. SOME LIKE IT HOT

5. PILLOW TALK

6. IMITATION OF LIFE

7. SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER

8. THE NUN'S STORY

9. RIO BRAVO

10. ANATOMY OF A MURDER

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Wow, never knew it was that big. HC must be one of the great sleeper hits of the studio era

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never knew this was such a big hit

 

 

 

I've always heard these were flops. Maybe they cost so much they had trouble getting their budgets back.

Well, JOAN OF ARC, GREEN DOLPHIN STREET, and DON JUAN were conceived as epics, and were all very expensive productions for their times, each costing around $5 million dollars.

 

Despite.it doing very well.at the boxoffice, JOAN OF ARC was so very expensive it could barely hope to make back its costs. The fact that Ingrid Bergman's scandal broke out during its run didn't help matters.

 

DON JUAN was a long shoot, plagued by Flynn's many absences due to his substance abuse and illnesses. It did make money, but relative to its costs, less than the studio hoped for. Warners would subsequently curtail expensive budgets on Flynn's films while still there.

 

Lana Turner had a string of high grossing movies during the second half of the 40s (these lists bear this out). Starting with the all star.WEEKEND AT THE WALDORF in 1945, and continuing until 1948's all star THE THREE MUSKETEERS, all her films were among MGM's biggest hits in their respective years. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, GREEN DOLPHIN STREET, CASS TIMBERLANE and HOMECOMING all did huge business. The biggest grosser was also the most expensive, GREEN DOLPHIN STREET, which while profitable, made less profit than the others. At the end of this period, in 1948, Lana ended up taking a break from filmmaking, as she embarked on marriage number 3 (I believe she got pregnant during this time as well). She did not return until some two years later, in the fall of 1950, in A LIFE OF HER OWN, which failed to be a huge grosser. In the interim, vehicles meant for her were assigned to others (Jennifer Jones/MADAME BOVARY, Barbara Stanwyck/TO PLEASE A LADY), or shelved (including another film with Gable, as well as a Preston Sturges script).

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1950

1. CINDERELLA

2. KING SOLOMON'S MINES

3. ANNIE GET YOUR GUN

4. SUNSET BOULEVARD

5. FATHER OF THE BRIDE

6. WABASH AVENUE

7. ALL ABOUT EVE

8. BORN YESTERDAY

9. AT WAR WITH THE ARMY

10. MY BLUE HEAVEN

 

1951

1. QUO VADIS

2. ALICE IN WONDERLAND

3. SHOW BOAT

4. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

5. DAVID AND BATHSHEBA

6. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

7. THE AFRICAN QUEEN

8. A PLACE IN THE SUN

9. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

10. PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN

 

1952

1. THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

2. THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

3. THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO

4. IVANHOE

5. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

6. SAILOR BEWARE

7. MOULIN ROUGE

8. HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN

9. AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD

10. MONKEY BUSINESS

 

1953

1. THE ROBE

2. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY

3. SHANE

4. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE

5. PETER PAN

6. HOUSE OF WAX

7. MOGAMBO

8. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES

9. SALOME

10. THE BAND WAGON

 

1954

1. WHITE CHRISTMAS

2. 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA

3. REAR WINDOW

4. DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS

5. THE CAINE MUTINY

6. VERA CRUZ

7. CARMEN JONES

8. THE COUNTRY GIRL

9. THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA

10. A STAR IS BORN

 

1955

1. MISTER ROBERTS

2. BATTLE CRY

3. OKLAHOMA!

4. GUYS AND DOLLS

5. LADY AND THE TRAMP

6. NOT AS A STRANGER

7. STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND

8. TO HELL AND BACK

9. THE SEA CHASE

10. THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH

 

1956

1. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

2. AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

3. GIANT

4. WAR AND PEACE

5. THE KING AND I

6. THE SEARCHERS

7. BUS STOP

8. THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT

9. HIGH SOCIETY

10. WRITTEN ON THE WIND

 

1957

1. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

2. PEYTON PLACE

3. SAYONARA

4. OLD YELLER

5. RAINTREE COUNTY

6. ISLAND IN THE SUN

7. WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?

8. A FAREWELL TO ARMS

9. GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL

10. PAL JOEY

 

1958

1. SOUTH PACIFIC

2. AUNTIE MAME

3. CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

4. NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS

5. GIGI

6. THE VIKINGS

7. VERTIGO

8. THE YOUNG LIONS

9. SOME CAME RUNNING

10. THE SHERIFF OF FRACTURED JAW

 

1959

1. BEN-HUR

2. SLEEPING BEAUTY

3. NORTH BY NORTHWEST

4. SOME LIKE IT HOT

5. PILLOW TALK

6. IMITATION OF LIFE

7. SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER

8. THE NUN'S STORY

9. RIO BRAVO

10. ANATOMY OF A MURDER

The biggest surprise to me was that THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL was the second highest grossing film of 1952. Glad to see it.

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TB, Thanks for sharing. Just one question, what is the source for these lists?

These are interesting lists, TB. But I have to ask if you would supply the source for them.

 

Quite frankly, some of the films listed (and not listed) as top ten for their year surprise me. In 1940, for example, you list The Sea Hawk as No. 10. Yet, of Flynn's films released that year, I've always had the strong impression that Santa Fe Trail was the actor's most popular film at the box office, considerably more so than Sea Hawk. Yet Santa Fe Trail didn't make it into the top ten.

 

High Noon was NOT one of the ten biggest money makes of 1952?

 

I see Wizard of Oz listed as No. 8 for 1939. Yet I've always had the impression that Wizard didn't do well upon its initial release. That leads to my next question.

 

Are these lists reflective of the box office for the year of release only? Or, in the case of films that were frequently reisssed over the years (such as GWTW or Wizard of Oz, for example) are the box office takes in later years also included in the film's oversall tally? That, in my opinion, skews any reflection of the box office for an individual year, and gives films that were reissued again an unfair advantage in the numbers game over films that did not get a ressue when it comes to an appraisal of the popularity of a film in its year of release.

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These are interesting lists, TB. But I have to ask if you would supply the source for them.

 

Quite frankly, some of the films listed (and not listed) as top ten for their year surprise me. In 1940, for example, you list The Sea Hawk as No. 10. Yet, of Flynn's films released that year, I've always had the strong impression that Santa Fe Trail was the actor's most popular film at the box office, considerably more so than Sea Hawk. Yet Santa Fe Trail didn't make it into the top ten.

 

I see Wizard of Oz listed as No. 8 for 1939. Yet I've always had the impression that Wizard didn't do well upon its initial release. That leads to my next question.

 

Are these lists reflective of the box office for the year of release only? Or, in the case of films that were frequently reisssed over the years (such as GWTW or Wizard of Oz, for example) are the ressus box offices in later years also included in the film's oversall tally. That, in my opinion, skews any reflection of the box office for an individual year.

I had always heard that REAR WINDOW was the top grossing film of its year, not #3.

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1940

1. BOOM TOWN

2. NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE

3. THE GREAT DICTATOR

4. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY

5. THE GRAPES OF WRATH

6. REBECCA

7. STRIKE UP THE BAND

8. NORTHWEST PASSAGE

9. THE FIGHTING 69TH

10. THE SEA HAWK

 

1941

1. SERGEANT YORK

2. HONKYTONK

3. LOUISIANA PURCHASE

4. A YANK IN THE RAF

5. HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY

6. BABES ON BROADWAY

7. CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT

8. ROAD TO ZANZIBAR

9. KEEP 'EM FLYING

10. IN THE NAVY

 

1942

1. MRS. MINIVER

2. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY

3. RANDOM HARVEST

4. ROAD TO MOROCCO

5. REAP THE WILD WIND

6. THE BLACK SWAN

7. SOMEWHERE I'LL FIND YOU

8. HOLIDAY INN

9. EAGLE SQUADRON

10. THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES

 

1943

1. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

2. THIS IS THE ARMY

3. THE SONG OF BERNADETTE

4. HITLER'S CHILDREN

5. STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM

6. CASABLANCA

7. AIR FORCE

8. DESTINATION TOKYO

9. A GUY NAMED JOE

10. CONEY ISLAND

 

1944

1. GOING MY WAY

2. WILSON

3. SINCE YOU WENT AWAY

4. LADY IN THE DARK

5. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

6. MRS. PARKINGTON

7. HERE COME THE WAVES

8. THE STORY OF DR. WASSELL

9. WINGED VICTORY

10. HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN

 

1945

1. THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S

2. SPELLBOUND

3. LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN

4. MILDRED PIERCE

5. ANCHORS AWEIGH

6. WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF

7. SARATOGA TRUNK

8. THRILL OF A ROMANCE

9. THE VALLEY OF DECISION

10. WONDER MAN

 

1946

1. SONG OF THE SOUTH

2. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES

3. DUEL IN THE SUN

4. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE

5. BLUE SKIES

6. THE YEARLING

7. THE RAZOR'S EDGE

8. NOTORIOUS

9. TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY

10. ROAD TO UTOPIA

 

1947

1. UNCONQUERED

2. THE EGG AND I

3. THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY SOXER

4. MOTHER WORE TIGHTS

5. LIFE WITH FATHER

6. GREEN DOLPHIN STREET

7. ROAD TO RIO

8. FOREVER AMBER

9. GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT

10. CASS TIMBERLANE

 

1948

1. THE RED SHOES

2. THE THREE MUSKETEERS

3. RED RIVER

4. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE

5. WHEN MY BABY SMILES AT ME

6. EASTER PARADE

7. THE SNAKE PIT

8. JOHNNY BELINDA

9. JOAN OF ARC

10. ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN

 

1949

1. SAMSON AND DELILAH

2. BATTLEGROUND

3. SANDS OF IWO JIMA

4. JOLSON SINGS AGAIN

5. I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE

6. TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH

7. A LETTER TO THREE WIVES

8. THE HEIRESS

9. PINKY

10. LITTLE WOMEN

I also had heard that TBYOOL was the top grossing film of the entire '40s decade. This list only has it as #2 for 1946.

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TB, Thanks for sharing. Just one question, what is the source for these lists?

I combined information from the box office mojo website, another website called the-numbers.com and wiki data for the films. Some sites give estimates so this is not an exact science.

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I had always heard that REAR WINDOW was the top grossing film of its year, not #3.

Another peculiarity, speaking of Jimmy Stewart in 1954, since The Glenn Miller Story, a HUGE hit little remembered today, is not on the list for that year. I thought that Glenn Miller was bigger box office than Rear Window, actually.

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These are interesting lists, TB. But I have to ask if you would supply the source for them.

 

Quite frankly, some of the films listed (and not listed) as top ten for their year surprise me. In 1940, for example, you list The Sea Hawk as No. 10. Yet, of Flynn's films released that year, I've always had the strong impression that Santa Fe Trail was the actor's most popular film at the box office, considerably more so than Sea Hawk. Yet Santa Fe Trail didn't make it into the top ten.

 

High Noon was NOT one of the ten biggest money makes of 1952?

 

I see Wizard of Oz listed as No. 8 for 1939. Yet I've always had the impression that Wizard didn't do well upon its initial release. That leads to my next question.

 

Are these lists reflective of the box office for the year of release only? Or, in the case of films that were frequently reisssed over the years (such as GWTW or Wizard of Oz, for example) are the box office takes in later years also included in the film's oversall tally? That, in my opinion, skews any reflection of the box office for an individual year, and gives films that were reissued again an unfair advantage in the numbers game over films that did not get a ressue when it comes to an appraisal of the popularity of a film in its year of release.

The wiki page for 1940 lists SANTA FE TRAIL as #12, two notches below THE SEA HAWK. In the references section, Box Office Digest is cited, with information from April 1941. Therefore, I would say this information is before reissues. There is also a section on the same wiki page that says to date PINOCCHIO has earned $84 million, a large part of its revenues from reissues, so clearly PINOCCHIO would be #1 overall, higher than BOOM TOWN which was the top grossing film during the original year of release.

 

I agree these lists are debatable, because I don't think they factor in home video and television syndication sales. Also, I think an inflation calculator should be used to do more accurate comparisons to 2014/2015 box office. Plus I know wiki, which I did not use exclusively to compile these lists, is not always reliable but wiki does give us valuable references to check and revise information, hopefully leading to a more accurate analysis.

 

This is merely a starting point and a way to begin a discussion about this topic. One thing I really wanted to get across with this information is how some films that made a lot of money upon initial release are mostly forgotten now. Does that mean audience tastes have changed? Probably.

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I also had heard that TBYOOL was the top grossing film of the entire '40s decade. This list only has it as #2 for 1946.

I think Best Years WAS the biggest film of 1946 (and, in fact, the biggest film since GWTW). That's why I suspect that reissues of Song of the South may have it listed as No. 1 for 1946, not an accurate reflection of the real box office numbers for that year, to the best of my knowledge. Wikipedia did that a lot in their numbers.

 

I think it's a bit of a mug's game to really come up with a truly accurate top ten for any year, unfortunately.

 

Tyrone Power, for example, was named the No. 5 box office star of 1940 by the Quigley poll.. Yet his smash hit Mark of Zorro did not rank among the top ten films of that year, according to these lists. (Keep in mind that Power's other two films released that same year, Johnny Apollo and Brigham Young, did NOT do well. Therefore, for Power to be No. 5 Zorro must have been a HUGE hit, yet it's not in the top ten????). I have a problem understanding this.

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I also had heard that TBYOOL was the top grossing film of the entire '40s decade. This list only has it as #2 for 1946.

SONG OF THE SOUTH'S amount does include reissues. All Disney box office includes reissues.

 

But THE BEST YEAR OF OUR LIVES was still not the top grossing film of the 1940s before reissues. The winner was SAMSON AND DELILAH, which made more than THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Now I know some will say that SAMSON AND DELILAH earned most of its money in 1950, and technically that is true. But it was released in December 1949. Also, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES was released in late November '46, and I am sure some of its total box office occurred in the early part of '47. Still, the data is attributed to the actual year of release.

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I think Best Years WAS the biggest film of 1946 (and, in fact, the biggest film since GWTW). That's why I suspect that reissues of Song of the South may have it listed as No. 1 for 1946, not an accurate reflection of the real box office numbers for that year, to the best of my knowledge. Wikipedia did that a lot in their numbers.

 

I think it's a bit of a mug's game to really come up with a truly accurate top ten for any year, unfortunately.

 

Tyrone Power, for example, was named the No. 5 box office star of 1940 by the Quigley poll.. Yet his smash hit Mark of Zorro did not rank among the top ten films of that year, according to these lists. (Keep in mind that Power's other two films released that same year, Johnny Apollo and Brigham Young, did NOT do well. Therefore, for Power to be No. 5 Zorro must have been a HUGE hit, yet it's not in the top ten????). I have a problem understanding this.

Regarding Tyrone Power, maybe they combined the totals for all his releases in that given year. Although JOHNNY APOLLO and BRIGHAM YOUNG underperformed, they still made some money and added to Power's overall marquee value.

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SONG OF THE SOUTH'S amount does include reissues. All Disney box office includes reissues.

 

But THE BEST YEAR OF OUR LIVES was still not the top grossing film of the 1940s before reissues. The winner was SAMSON AND DELILAH, which made more than THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Now I know some will say that SAMSON AND DELILAH earned most of its money in 1950, and technically that is true. But it was released in December 1949. Also, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES was released in late November '46, and I am sure some of its total box office occurred in the early part of '47. Still, the data is attributed to the actual year of release.

Many films are released in the latter part of a year, so its box office will be divided between that year and the next year, causing it to suffer on the lists of both years. That indicates a huge problem with these lists, for MANY films.

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Some observations--

 

I would say the biggest moneymakers from these lists that TCM does not play very often would be: Marlene Dietrich (from her early Paramount days); Shirley Temple's early films (at Fox); Deanna Durbin (all at Universal); Abbott & Costello (during their Universal peak); and Martin & Lewis (during their Paramount peak). 

 

Also, TCM seldom plays Cecil B. DeMille's Paramount films, and many of those were hugely profitable and popular with audiences.

 

The wiki page for 1944 actually lists the top 22 money makers. DOUBLE INDEMNITY is not on that list in any way, shape or form. Interesting that a film we regard so highly today was not very embraced by movie-goers of its era.

 

Meanwhile, it surprises me that JOLSON SINGS AGAIN made the top ten of its respective year, but the original, THE JOLSON STORY, did not. Does that mean the earlier year had more stiff competition? Or that this is a case where a sequel vastly outperformed the original?

 

Claudette Colbert was in three top-ten films in 1934. A few stars had two in various years, but nobody else ever had three top grossing films during the studio era, roughly 1930 to 1959. 

 

In 1958, the top five are all films based on big Broadway hits. I think it proves producers and studios felt stage extravaganzas could help them compete with television.

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Claudette Colbert was in three top-ten films in 1934. A few stars had two in various years, but nobody else ever had three top grossing films during the studio era, roughly 1930 to 1959.

 

1941 

3. LOUISIANA PURCHASE 

7. CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT 

8. ROAD TO ZANZIBAR

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Many films are released in the latter part of a year, so its box office will be divided between that year and the next year, causing it to suffer on the lists of both years. That indicates a huge problem with these lists, for MANY films.

It just means that you have to be aware that the year of release (even if released on the last day of the year) will get the credit. GWTW was gobbling up the box office in 1940 but it's 1939 (when it was only in release for two weeks) that is listed as the year in which it was Number One. The reality is that GWTW was the biggest box office film of 1940 (not 1939 in which lots of fims made more money during that 12 month period) but these lists don't look at it that way.

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