Year 1931

In 1931, Variety listed the following, in alphabetical order, as America’s biggest male movie stars: George Arliss, Wallace Beery, Maurice Chevalier, Ronald Colman, Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson (pictured) and Will Rogers. 

Wallace Beery married Gloria Swanson (the marriage lasted two years). His nephew, Noah Beery Jr starred as Rocky alongside James Garner in The Rockford Files.

In 1931, Variety listed the following, in alphabetical order, as America’s biggest female movie stars: Constance Bennett, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Marie Dressler, Greta Garbo, Janet Gaynor (pictured) and Norma Shearer.

In 1929, Janet Gaynor became the first recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performances in three films: 7th Heaven (1927), Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), and Street Angel (1928).

Highest Grossing Movies

#3 Palmy Days

A musical comedy, Palmy Days featured dance numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley. The “Goldwyn Girls” made a number of appearances while Betty Grable and Paulette Goddard featured in the chorus. Incidentally, Samuel Goldwyn’s original name was Samuel Goldfish. 

#2 Trader Horn 

An adventure movie directed by W.S. Van Dyke, Trader Horn was the first non-documentary film shot on location in Africa. 

Trader Horn starred Edwina Booth. Sadly, she contracted a career-ending illness while filming in Africa, for which she later sued Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, for over $1 million.

Edwina Booth claimed that MGM failed to provide her with adequate protection and clothing during the African shoot and that they forced her to sunbathe nude for extended periods during filming. The case was eventually settled out of court, for $35,000, approximately $600,000 in today’s money.

#1 City Lights

A silent romantic comedy, City Lights is considered by many critics to be Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece. The story follows the misadventures of Chaplin’s Tramp as he falls in love with a blind girl, Virginia Cherrill. 

By 1931, talkies were all the rage, but City Lights bucked that trend. Critics loved it. Moviegoers loved it. And in 1949, the critic James Agee said the film’s final scene was “the greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid.”

Notable Debuts

Ida Lupino in The Love Race

An actress, singer, director, writer and producer Ida Lupino enjoyed a 48-year career appearing in 59 films and directing eight. She is widely regarded as the most prominent female filmmaker working in 1950s Hollywood. Many of her movies tackled social issues from a female perspective. She was also the first woman to direct a film-noir, The Hitch-Hiker, in 1953.

1920s – 1960s