Teaching Film - Film Stars and Their Salaries Over the Years
Film Stars of the 1920s
- Mary Pickford: A superb actress during the silent film era, “America’s Sweetheart” was also the co-founder of United Artists and an original founder of the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Starting at $10 a day in 1909, she was offered $675,000 plus 50 percent of all profits for three films with First National in 1918. Some of her famous films include Poor Little Rich Girl, Pollyanna, Rosita, Sparrows, and My Best Girl.
- Charlie Chaplin: Possibly the most famous silent actor, director and producer, Chaplin made films which are timeless, touching the masses across social classes, borders, genders, and religions. The Tramp is one of the most beloved film characters of all time. In 1916, Chaplin was contracted by Mutual Film Corporation to produce twelve two-reel comedies for $670,000. Some of his famous films include The Kid, The Circus, Modern Times, and City Lights.
- Douglas Fairbanks: An American actor, director, screenwriter, and producer, “Everybody’s Hero” was famous for his roles as a swashbuckler. Fairbanks appeared in The Mark of Zorro, The Thief of Bagdad, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, and The Iron Mask. He married Mary Pickford in 1920, becoming Hollywood’s first high profile celebrity couple.
- Harold Lloyd: Another big star of the silent era, Lloyd also made the transition to “talkies” in his career as an actor and producer. At one time, Lloyd was demanding “$300,000 per picture for two showings”. Some of his famous films are From Hand to Mouth, Grandma’s Boy, Safety Last!, and Welcome Danger.
- Gloria Swanson: Swanson was a silent and “talkies” actress. Some of her silent films include Don’t Change Your Husband, Why Change Your Wife?, and Beyond the Rocks. Swanson starred as the iconic Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
Film Stars of the 1930s
- Clark Gable: Popularly known as “The King of Hollywood”, Gable was the quintessential leading man, with all the qualities to set a woman’s heart a flutter. After winning the Best Actor Oscar for It Happened One Night, Gable was paid $4000 a week by MGM studios. Some of his other films include Mutiny on the Bounty, Run Silent, Run Deep, The Misfits, and the career defining Gone with the Wind.
- Errol Flynn: Best known for his suave swashbuckling roles, Flynn lived his life in no less a swashbuckling style. Flynn was paid $7000 per week for his role in Edge of Darkness. Some of his other movies are Captain Blood, The Prince and the Pauper, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Sea Hawk.
- Greta Garbo: Garbo was a Swedish silent actress who made a successful transition to talkies in Anna Christie whereby the studio used the publicity line “Garbo Talks!”. She signed a $200,000 contract in 1948 with producer Walter Wagner. Some of Garbo’s films are The Torrent, The Temptress, Anna Karenina, and Two-Faced Woman.
- Fred Astaire: Singer, actor, choreographer, and dancer, Astaire was a pioneer in dance films. His films include Dancing Lady, Shall We Dance, Ziegfeld Follies, and Royal Wedding.
- Mae West: An American actress and screenwriter, West was also one of Hollywood’s earliest sex symbols. She appeared in Night After Night, She Done Him Wrong, I’m No Angel, and Klondike Annie. In 1935, Mae West made close to $340,000.
Film Stars of the 1940s
- Bing Crosby: People used to go to his movies to watch him sing. Some of Crosby’s famous films are White Christmas, Going My Way, The Country Girl, and High Time. Starting with a wage of $150 per week, he went on to sell over 1 billion movie tickets.
- Ingrid Bergman: Winner of three Academy Awards, the Swedish actress was the “ideal of American womanhood”. She starred in For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Bells of St. Mary’s, The Inn of Sixth Happiness, Casablanca, and Murder on the Orient Express. Bergman was paid $175,000 and 25 percent of net profits for her part in the Arch of Triumph.
- Joan Crawford: Crawford was an American actress who possessed all the qualities of the all-American, free-spirited girl, the flapper. She appeared in Our Dancing Daughters, Mildred Pierce, and The Damned Don’t Cry. In 1943, Warner Bros. offered a three-movie $500,000 contract to Crawford.
- Spencer Tracy: Tracy had a 37 year career in film, winning two Oscars. Some of his most memorable movies are Captains Courageous, Boys Town, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Woman of the Year.
- Judy Garland: Best remembered for her leading role in The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was a big international film star. Her other movies include Babes in Arms, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Summer Stock. During the last two years of her option at MGM, Garland was paid $3000 a week.
Film Stars of the 1950s
- James Dean: The rebel of rebels, Dean has a short but combustible film career. His major films are Rebel Without A Cause, East of Eden, and Giant. Dean received $22,500 for his part in Giant.
- Marilyn Monroe: A model, singer, and actress, Monroe was the supreme sex symbol in her time. She was famous for portraying the “dumb blonde” in How to Marry a Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and The Seven Year Itch. In 1955, Monroe formed Marilyn Monroe Productions which worked a deal with 20th Century Fox worth $100,000 for four films over seven years.
- Marlon Brando: With a career lasting over 50 years and a body of work which includes some of the greatest films ever made, Brando was the penultimate master of “method” acting. He appeared in A Streetcar Named Desire, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, and Last Tango in Paris. For his role as Jor-El in Superman, Brando earned $3.7 million for two weeks of work.
- Charlton Heston: A hero in every sense of the word, Heston played Moses in The Ten Commandments and openly championed the Civil Rights Movement in his life. Heston also starred in The Greatest Show on Earth, Ben-Hur, and Planet of the Apes. In The Buccaneer, his salary was $250,000.
- Elizabeth Taylor: One of the biggest international film stars, Taylor was also famous for her flamboyant lifestyle. Some of her major films are Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cleopatra, Butterfield 8, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Taylor received $1 million for playing Cleopatra.
Film Stars of the 1960s
- Julie Andrews: Who could forget her eternal performances in The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins? Her other films include Hawaii, Star!, and Victor Victoria. Andrews was paid $1.1 million to star in Darling Lili in 1970.
- Sean Connery: Starring in seven James Bond films, it’s no wonder that Connery is forever linked with the sexy British spy. Nevertheless, he’s also appeared in The Untouchables, The Hunt for Red October, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Rock. Connery was paid a base salary of $1.25 million for his first Bond movie.
- Sidney Poitier: With his Best Actor Oscar in 1963, Poitier was the first black to win the award. His films include Lilies of the Field, To Sir, with Love, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
- Audrey Hepburn: One of the most famous international film stars, Hepburn was also a humanitarian and fashion icon. Some of her films include Roman Holiday, Robin and Marian, Sabrina, War and Peace, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hepburn was paid $1 million for her role in My Fair Lady in 1964.
- John Wayne: One of Hollywood’s top leading men, John Wayne was the epitome of American masculinity. He appeared in The High and the Mighty, The Searchers, True Grit, and The Shootist. In the early 1960s, Wayne was reported to receive about more than $600,000 per film.
Film Stars of the 1970s
- Al Pacino: Recognized as one of the greatest actors in the world, Pacino played many diverse roles. From Michael Corleone in The Godfather films to Johnny in Frankie and Johnny to Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman, he has shown the scope of his talents. Pacino made $5 million for his part in Godfather III.
- Robert DeNiro: Since the 1970s, DeNiro has built a great body of work including Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, The Godfather Part II, and Awakenings. He’s one of the best proponents of the “method” style of acting. From $35,000 for Taxi Driver, DeNiro was paid $20 million for Meet the Fockers in 2004. Are you talking to him?
- Clint Eastwood: From the Dirty Harry films to Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood has proven to be an excellent actor, an exceptional director as well as an outstanding producer. Some of his other films are Every Which Way But Loose, Escape from Alcatraz, and A Fistful of Dollars. He was paid $1 million for his part in Coogan’s Bluff.
- Jack Nicholson: A supreme “method” actor, Nicholson has played a number of iconic roles like the Joker, George Hanson, Randle McMurphy, and Jack Torrance. He has appeared in a number of movies like Chinatown, Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, The Postman Always Ring Twice, Terms of Endearment, and Batman. Nicholson’s total earnings for Batman in 1989 amounted to $60 million.
- Liza Minnelli: The daughter of Judy Garland, Minnelli is also a famous singer and actress. Some of her films include The Sterile Cuckoo, Cabaret, New York, New York, and Arthur.
Film Stars of the 1980s
- Tom Cruise: Tom Cruise is a major box-office draw in the world. He has starred in Top Gun, the Mission: Impossible films, Rain Man, Vanilla Sky, and Tropic Thunder. Also a producer, Cruise made about $70 million in 1996 for Mission: Impossible.
- Harrison Ford: Ford is the top box office draw of all time with over $6 billion in worldwide ticket sales. He has starred in the Indiana Jones movies, the Star Wars movies, Blade Runner, Patriot Games, and The Fugitive, among others. In 2002, Ford was paid $25 million for his role in K-19: The Widowmaker.
- Sigourney Weaver: Known as the “The Sci-Fi Queen” for the Alien movies, Weaver is actually a very versatile actress. She’s worked in the Ghostbusters movies, Working Girl, Gorillas in the Mist, The Ice Storm, and Avatar. In 1997, Weaver received $11 million to star in Alien: Resurrection.
- Slyvester Stallone: A top international box office champion, Stallone is most well-known for his roles in the Rocky and Rambo movies. He’s also appeared in Nighthawks, Escape to Victory, Assassins, and The Specialist. From $1,000 a week in 1975’s Death Race 2000, Stallone’s salary rose to $20 million for 1995’s Judge Dredd.
- Goldie Hawn: With her sparkly, bubbly charm, Hawn has enchanted movie fans around the world. Some of her famous films include Private Benjamin, Bird on a Wire, Cactus Flower, and The First Wives Club.
Film Stars of the 1990s
- Whoopi Goldberg: An actress of many talents, Goldberg is also famous for being a political activist. She has appeared in The Color Purple, the Sister Act movies, Ghost, and Girl, Interrupted. In 1993, Goldberg made $7 million in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.
- Jackie Chan: Though Chan was already a big movie star in Asia, it wasn’t until 1995’s Rumble in the Bronx that he broke into the US mainstream. Known for his thrilling slapstick kung fu routines, he starred in the Rush Hour movies, Shanghai Noon, The Medallion, and The Karate Kid. In 2007, Chan was paid $15 million plus 15% gross to act in Rush Hour 3.
- Michelle Pfeiffer: A critically-acclaimed actress, Pfeiffer has appeared in Scarface, Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Age of Innocence, and Batman Returns. Her salary for What Lies Beneath in 2000 was $10.5 million.
- Tom Hanks: Winning back-to-back Best Actor Oscars for his performances in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, Hanks is also one of the top box office draws in the world. His other movies include Apollo 13, Big, the Toy Story franchise, and Saving Private Ryan. Hanks made $70 million as Forrest Gump in 1994.
- Jim Carrey: Starring in some of the most memorable comedies in the 1990s, Carrey became an international phenomenon. He has appeared in the Ace Ventura movies, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Man on the Moon. In 2003, Carrey’s salary was $25 million for Bruce Almighty.
Film Stars of the 2000s
- Cate Blanchett: A supremely talented actress with a penchant for dramatic roles, Blanchett made international waves in 1998’s Elizabeth. Her other movies include The Lord of the Rings series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Aviator, and Robin Hood. Blanchett’s salary is estimated to be $13 million per film.
- Christian Bale: Before he donned the Batman suit, Bale’s films include Empire of the Sun, American Psycho, Swing Kids, and The Machinist. He was paid $8 million plus a percentage of gross for his role in Termination Salvation.
- Daniel Radcliffe: Primarily known for his portrayal of Harry Porter in the popular series, Radcliffe also appeared in The Tailor of Panama and December Boys. He’s also a stage and TV actor. Starting at $250,000 for Harry Porter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001, Radcliffe makes $25 million in Harry Porter and the Deathly Hallows in 2010.
- Emma Watson: She’s world famous as Hermione Granger in the Harry Porter series. Other than that, she had a part in the TV film Ballet Shoes and a voice part in The Tale of Despereaux. Watson’s salary for Harry Porter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is $15 million.
- Robert Pattinson: One of the hottest young heart throbs in the world, Pattinson burst onto the international scene with his portrayal of the moody forlorn vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies. His other films include Harry Porter and the Order of the Phoenix, Little Ashes, and Remember Me. Pattinson’s salary for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is reported to be $25 million.