Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Five Biggest Stars of the 1950s

A while back, we had a lot of fun listing our picks for the Five Biggest Stars of the 1960s. Today, we're turning our attention to the 1950s--quite possibly our favorite decade for classic movies. As before, our very subjective criteria take into account boxoffice power, critical acclaim, and enduring popularity. We expect some dissenting opinions...so bring them on!

James Stewart in The Far Country.
1. James Stewart - Thanks to Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Mann, no actor enjoyed a better decade. In Rear Window and Vertigo, Stewart portrayed complex "heroes" struggling with, respectively, commitment issues and an unhealthy obsession. His hard-edged protagonists in Mann's "adult Westerns" helped redefine the genre. He also starred in a number of hugely popular hits, such as Harvey and The Greatest Show on Earth.

2. Cary Grant - While his career probably peaked in the previous decade, Grant was still going strong in the 1950s. He also benefitted from Hitchcock's magic touch, appearing in To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest. He teamed up with Deborah Kerr in the romantic classic An Affair to Remember. And he started the decade with one of his most underrated and interesting films, People Will Talk.


Deborah in From Here to Eternity.
3. Deborah Kerr - She began the 1950s playing traditional heroines in big hits such as King Solomon's Mines, Quo Vadis, and The Prisoner of Zenda. She then switched things up as a passionate, adulterous wife in From Here to Eternity. She also charmed a generation in The King and I and caught Cary Grant's eye in the aforementioned An Affair to Remember.

4. Marilyn Monroe - She started the decade with a small part in All About Eve and ended it as a major star and iconic sex symbol. Along the way, she starred as a murder-minded spouse in Niagara, appeared in musicals like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, earned critical praise for Bus Stop, and capped it all off with Billy Wilder's quintessential comedy Some Like It Hot.


Burt in Sweet Smell of Success.
5. Burt Lancaster - Admittedly, I struggled with this last slot, because there are a lot of excellent choices. I opted for Lancaster because of the variety and quality of his work. He appeared in lively swashbucklers (The Flame and the Arrow, the irrepressible Crimson Pirate). But he also turned electrified in dramas such as From Here to Eternity, The Sweet Smell of Success, and Gunfight at the OK Corral Two of his lesser films are personal favorites due to the Lancaster charm: The Kentuckian and The Rainmaker.

Honorable mentions:  John Wayne, Grace Kelly, Glenn Ford, Gary Cooper, Elizabeth Taylor, and Audrey Hepburn. Hey, the 1950s was a pretty impressive decade for Hollywood!


16 comments:

  1. I always believed nobody had a decade like Jimmy Stewart in the 1950s for both quality and quantity, and the favourite watchword of the critics, "versatility".

    However, today you have opened my eyes to Burt Lancaster's output. I was certainly aware of all these films, but hadn't properly put them into this 1950s perspective. Wow!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. I love Jack Lemmon, but his greatest successes are split between the 1950s and 1960s. So the whole idea of doing this by decades hurts him.

      Delete
  3. William Holden , Marlon Brando should be considered.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could certainly make a case for either of them. Brando didn't make a lot of films, but several were important ones. Holden had the quantity and the hits.

      Delete
  4. Stewart had such a great decade, you didn't even mention his best film of the decade, Winchester 73, also The Far Country and Anatomy of a Murder were made in the 50s. Quite possibly the best decade any actor ever had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did mention his Anthony Mann Westerns, which include WINCHESTER '73 and THE FAR COUNTRY (the photo is from it...maybe my fave of his Westerns with Mann).

      Delete
  5. Yes, I'd add Marlon Brando too. And Gene Kelly. I was always a bigger fan of Cary Grant's earlier films. But Burt Lancaster in the 50's was amazing. And Deborah Kerr as well. However I was never a huge fan of James Stewart except for two films and I never quite got him as a western hero. Sacrilege I know. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Rick ... the dead have arisen, so to speak. I thought of William Holden too, but it would be a difficult choice between him and Cary Grant. And I was tickled to see you mention "People Will Talk." That is my favorite Cary Grant movie, and I always thought it was strange that it isn't mentioned more often. Excellent writing, excellent acting, very moving.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. TCM should show it in prime time more often!

      Delete
  7. I like the picks. Big fan of Lancaster's "smaller" films "Crimson Pirate" and "The Kentuckian."

    ReplyDelete
  8. Stars of the 1950s list and no mention of Doris Day? That’s just not right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doris was one of our Five Biggest Stars of the 1960s. That was her bigger decade (well, the first half).

      Delete
  9. 5 Stars with Years of Major Stardom Pretty Much Limited to the 1950s —

    1. Marilyn Monroe
    2. Marlon Brando
    3. William Holden
    4. Deborah Kerr
    5. Montgomery Clift

    Also James Dean and Grace Kelly but their careers were so brief.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You're right about the 1950s being an impressive decade for film stars. I'm impressed you could narrow it down to five!

    ReplyDelete
  11. A solid list with some good discussion, too. What a great decade!

    ReplyDelete