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Monday, August 20, 2007

Biggest US box office draws by decade

1910s: Hard to find reliable information, but probably Mary Pickford, followed by Douglas Fairbanks or William S. Hart.

1920s: Uh, Norma Talmadge? Really not sure. Could be Pickford, Fairbanks, Clara Bow, Tom Mix, Colleen Moore, Rudolph Valentino, Lon Chaney... but probably not Chaplin, who didn't make enough movies.

1930s: Do you go for Clark Gable, who drew heavily throughout the decade, or Shirley Temple, who might've had a better four year peak than anyone else ever? Next group: Joan Crawford, Janet Gaynor, Will Rogers even though he died halfway through the decade.

1940s: Bing Crosby at #1. His mate Bob Hope fights it out with Betty Grable for #2. Then comes Gary Cooper, then Abbott & Costello or Gable.

1950s: John Wayne first, Jerry Lewis second. Then some ordering of Jimmy Stewart, Cooper and Dean Martin (hard to separate the contributions of Martin and Lewis). No actress stands out: Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day and maybe Grable all have claims, but none would make the top ten overall.

1960s: Too close to call between, this is funny, Day and Wayne. Liz Taylor third. Next group is Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Julie Andrews.

1970s: Clint Eastwood, by a huge margin. Burt Reynolds, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford and Newman are way behind.

1980s: Very close between Eastwood and Eddie Murphy. Next group is Reynolds, Tom Cruise, Sly Stallone. Bad decade for actresses: Jane Fonda might come top, and she spent most of the decade making exercise videos.

1990s: Top group is Cruise, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, maybe in that order but maybe not. Next group is Robin Williams, Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, Governator, Jim Carrey.

2000s so far: Cruise is way ahead. Hanks is a clear second. Then George Clooney, Roberts, or Johnny Depp.


  • At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your list is horrible. During the 1930's, Chaplin was gigantic, and there was also Edward G. Robinson, Gable, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Shirley Temple, and Bette Davis.

    The 1940's was mostly Humphrey Bogart. James Stewart would be a close seocnd if he didn't go to war, but then Edward G. Robinson. Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, and Olivia De Havilland as well.

    The 1950's it was probably led by John Wayne. Who comes in second is hard, since you had Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, William Holden, Robert Mitchum, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Doris Day, and James Dean.

    The 1960's was ruled by two names; Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. McQueen, then Newman, was the biggest draw of the decade. Then you can debate Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Rock Hudson, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood.

    For you not to even list the names like Bogart, Robinson, Peck, Lancaster, Holden, and McQueen is ridiculous when listing box-office draws.

  • At 1:17 AM, Blogger bradluen said…

    You're probably right: Bogart no doubt was a huge draw but even after Casablanca he was stuck in his share of B movies. Holden probably should be in the pack chasing Wayne in the Fifties. McQueen is unlucky that his prime period gets split between two decades; you could make a strong argument for him in the Seventies.

    You're probably wrong: Peck to me seems like a reliable draw for a long time rather than a champ. Lancaster had a high peak in the mid-Fifties but as for the whole decade, I don't see it. Robinson, well, he made a lot of movies, but did he ever headline a bigger hit than Little Caesar?


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