Salaries Of Hollywood In 1937 – A List of The Film Stars Pay

Katharine Hepburn Was Paid $206,928, While Peter Lorre Made Just $15,265

1937 Was A Good Year For Film Salaries

Gary Cooper - Filmdom's top paid personality in 1937

Gary Cooper – Filmdom’s top paid personality in 1937

I find this sort of stuff fascinating.

In 1938 the U.S. Treasury released a report to Congress that listed how much compensation was paid to luminaries in the film industry for 1937.

The highlight of the report was that Gary Cooper ($370,214) overtook Mae West ($323.333) as the highest salaried film personality.

This was during the height of the Great Depression, so many of the salaries seem astronomical when compared to the average annual salary of a working person which was only $890 in 1937 according to Time magazine.

The list is interesting to look over and there are quite a few surprises. For instance Zeppo Marx ($56,766) is listed in the report and his more famous brothers Groucho, Chico and Harpo are not. Laurel and Hardy are there, and Stan Laurel ($135,167 ) earned nearly $50,000 more than his rotund comedy partner Oliver Hardy ( $88,600).

Ginger Rogers and those famous legs. Ginger received a $124,770 salary in 1937.

Ginger Rogers and those famous legs. Ginger received $124,770 in pay in 1937.

Studio chief and creative genius Walt Disney made only $39,000, yet William A. Seiter, director in 1937 of This is My Affair and Life Begins In CollegeĀ made $135,750!

Box office draws, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers and Claudette Colbert were all pulling in over $100,000.

I recognized most of the names on the list, but there are also a handful of people I never heard of like The Yacht Club Boys, ($32,166) who were a popular singing group. And I should have known Alan Dinehart, ($39,666) a busy character actor who appeared in 89 movies during his abbreviated acting career (he died at the age of 54 in 1944).

Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Spencer Tracy, Olivia de Havilland, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and many others who were big stars are unfortunately not listed.

There are writers, directors, producers, and songwriters mixed in among the stars and supporting players of the movies.

Sadly, so many of these names are now completely forgotten except by a much older generation of contemporaries or rabid TCM movie fans.

Here are the 1937 salaries of over 160 of some of Hollywood’s top talent in alphabetical order:

  1. Don Ameche, $34,499;
  2. Heather Angel, $15,375;
  3. Jean Arthur, $119,041;
  4. Fred Astaire, $211,666;
  5. George Bancroft, $16,250;
  6. Warner Baxter, $284,384;
  7. Wallace Beery, $56,250;
  8. Ralph Bellamy, $16,791;
  9. Constance Bennett, $60,000;
  10. Joan Bennett, $18,750;
  11. Pandro Berman, producer, $202,186;
  12. Erie Blore, $20,888;
  13. Charles Boyer, $249,145;
  14. Alice Brady, $30,416;
  15. Samuel T. Briskind, R.K.O. studios, $157,000;
  16. Helen Broderick. $32,000;
  17. J. Edward Bromberg, $33,700;
  18. Frank Capra, director, $208,000;
  19. Leo Carrillo, $57,832;
  20. Earl Carroll, associate producer, $26,000;
  21. Madeleine Carroll, $287,913;
  22. Charles Chaplin, $125,000;
  23. Charley Chase, $50,187;
  24. Ruth Chatterton, $249,500;
  25. Claudette Colbert, $167,500;
  26. Walter Connolly, $66,541;
  27. Gary Cooper, $370,214;
  28. Ronald Colman, $262,500;
  29. William H. Conselman, writer, $62,250;
  30. Dolores Costello Barrymore, $25,000;
  31. John Cromwell, director, $153,665;
  32. Harry L. (Bing) Crosby, Jr., president Crosby Productions, Inc. $156,000;
  33. E. M. Crosby, secretary Crosby Productions, Inc. $42,337
  34. Irving Cummings, director $94,541;
  35. Cecil B. De Mille, director, $35,500;
  36. Constance A. De Mille, $18,200;
  37. Roy Del Ruth, director, $238,333;
  38. George G. De Sylva, associate producer, $75,350;
  39. Marlene Dietrich, $200,000;
  40. Alan Dinehart, $39,666;
  41. Walt Disney, cartoonist, $39,000
  42. Richard Dix, $89,062;
  43. Melvyn Douglas, $27,791;
  44. Alan Dwan, director, $52,666;
  45. Alice Faye, $45,500;
  46. Henry Fonda, $56,208;
  47. John Ford. $166,916;
  48. Gene Fowler, writer, $97,508.
  49. Preston Foster, $40,173;
  50. Pauline Frederick, $16,066;
  51. Helen Gahagan, $20,000;
  52. Tay Garnett, director, $66,333;
  53. Janet Gaynor, $220,666;
  54. George and Ira Gershwin, $55,000;
  55. James Gleason, $52,333;
  56. Sam Goldwyn, president United Artists, $22,000;
  57. Paulette Goddard, $26,000;
  58. Margot Grahame. $16,637;
  59. Howard Green, $53,125;
  60. Zane Grey, $36,000;
  61. Edward H. Griffith, director, $98,000;
  62. Raymond Griffith, associate producer, $90,791;
  63. Jack Haley, $76,999;
  64. Ann Harding, $60,000;
  65. Oliver Hardy, $88,600;
  66. Howard Hawks, director, $112,166;
  67. Sam Hellman, writer, $67,791;
  68. Sonja Henie, $72,500;
  69. Katharine Hepburn. $206,928;
  70. Jack Holt, $58,269;
  71. Edward Everett Horton, $38,666;
  72. Rochelle Hudson, $26,875;
  73. Michael S. Jacobs, president Twentieth Century Sporting Club, New York, $55,000;
  74. Julian Johnson, scenario editor, $61,199.
  75. Nunnally Johnson, associate-producer, $123,160;
  76. Buck Jones $143,333;
  77. Victor Jory. $28,866;
  78. Jason S. Joy, scenario executive, $39,500;
  79. Arline Judge, $23,716;
  80. Patsy Kelly, $45,216;
  81. Jerome Kern (music.) $45,357;
  82. Henry King director, $143,750;
  83. Sidney Lanfield, director, $67,000;
  84. Stan Laurel, $135,167;
  85. Francis Lederer, $43,500;
  86. Sonya Levien, writer, $62,516;
  87. Howard Lindsay, $25,833;
  88. Anatole Litvak, $28,194;
  89. William P. Lipscomb, writer, $50,750;
  90. Frank Lloyd, director, $30,000;
  91. Harold Lloyd, $52,666
  92. Peter Lorre, $15,625;
  93. Edmund Lowe, $19,166;
  94. Kenneth McGowan, associate producer, $73,116;
  95. Victor A. McLaglen, $113.283;
  96. Gordon Mack and Harry Revel, songwriters, $54,500;
  97. Rouben Mamoulian, director, $68,000;
  98. Fredric March $245,000;
  99. Gene Markey, associate producer, $61,583;
  100. Marian Marsh, $15,391;
  101. George E. Marshall, director, $52.666;
  102. Herbert Marshall, $111,000;
  103. Nino Martini, $54,000;
  104. Zeppo (Herbert) Marx. $56,766;
  105. Ken Maynard, $37,100;
  106. Adolphe Menjou, $82,291
  107. Bess (Curtiz) Meredith, writer, $77,275;
  108. Grace Moore, 74,999;
  109. Victor Moore, $56,791;
  110. Lloyd Nolan, $37,116;
  111. Jack Oakie , $47,500;
  112. Warner Oland, $59,999;
  113. Moroni Olson, $15,411;
  114. Dorothy Parker, writer, $27,024;
  115. Harriett Parsons, $15,600:
  116. Joe Penner, $24,583;
  117. Walter Pidgeon, $40,000;
  118. Walter Plunkett, $17,216;
  119. Lily Pons, $65,000;
  120. William Powell, $60,116
  121. George Raft, $51,041;
  122. Basil Rathbone. $60,208;
  123. Gregory Ratoff, $67,600;
  124. Gene Raymond, $75,625;
  125. Harry Richman, $27,000;
  126. Robert Riskind, writer, $104,000;
  127. Al Ritz, $64,500;
  128. Ginger Rogers, $124,770;
  129. Edward Sedgewick, $10,000;
  130. William A. Seiter, director, $135,750;
  131. Nathaniel Shilkret, $52,966;
  132. Louis Silvers, musical director, $33,500;
  133. Simone Simon, $95,916;
  134. Charles P. Skouras, president Fox West Coast Agency Corporation, $52,562
  135. Edward Small, $97,333;
  136. C. Aubrey Smith, $23,833;
  137. Ann Sothern, $33,666;
  138. Ned Sparks, $26,250;
  139. Lionel Stander, $22,882;
  140. Barbara Stanwyck, $151,979;
  141. Fred Stone, $22,999;
  142. John Stone. associate producer $59,208;
  143. Margaret Sullavan, $63,333;
  144. Slim Summerville, $69,062;
  145. Sylvia Sydney, $226,812;
  146. Norman Taurog, director, $68,000;
  147. Gertrude Temple, actress, $68,666;
  148. Shirley Temple, $121,122;
  149. Lawrence Tibbett, $112,500;
  150. Lee Tracy, $33,416;
  151. Arthur Treacher, $28,900;
  152. Claire Trevor, $27,655;
  153. Rudy Vallee, $238,744;
  154. Josef von Sternberg, director, $95.000;
  155. Raoul Walsh, director, $67,500
  156. Mae West, $323.333;
  157. Helen Westley, $15,166;
  158. Warren William $65,000;
  159. Walter Winchell, $66,500;
  160. Charles Winninger, $16,625;
  161. Sol M. Wurtzel, executive producer, $163,166;
  162. Jane Wyatt, $20,000;
  163. The Yacht Club Boys, $32,166;
  164. Jack Selig Yellen, writer, $54,333;
  165. Loretta Young, $118,998;
  166. Victor Young, $89,092
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10 thoughts on “Salaries Of Hollywood In 1937 – A List of The Film Stars Pay

  1. Laura Sasia

    Hello,
    I am writing a postgraduate dissertation on gender equality in Hollywood and this article is very interesting.
    I was wondering if you had a link of the original report? I tried to find it on Google/the U.S. Treasury website but have been unlucky so far.
    Thank you for your help,
    Laura

    Reply
    1. B.P. Post author

      Hi Laura
      The original article is from the Los Angeles Times. You probably have access to it through your postgrad facility by looking at your library databases. It will be under Proquest Historical Newspapers and then searching the LA Times. They routinely published annual lists like this. I happened to pick 1937 to focus on. Good luck with your dissertation.

      Reply
  2. Pingback: One in a Million (1936) | The Blonde at the Film

  3. Thomas Buttita

    I’m greatly interested in old Hollywood specifically Gale Sondergaard. Any and all info on her personal and professional life.
    I didn’t see her name on the above list of Hollywood stars earnings. ( or net worth )
    I understand on or about 1950 her acting career was destroyed.
    Many Thanks
    Tom B

    Reply
  4. James

    Hi, was interested in their incomes because my dad was born in 1918 and worked then and made no money. So, basically times haven’t changed that much.
    On another point. I was looking at the stars on the hollywood walk of fame and Louis Calhern and Una O’Conner aren’t there. How Calhern doesn’t have a star is extraordinary. He was an extensive stage actor. He was Julius Caesar in Julius Caesar with Marlon Brando and James Mason movie in 1953 et al. Nominated for the Academy Award in The Magnificent Yankee. He was in Duck Soup, The Life of Emile Zola and so many others. And one roll I liked him in, Confidentially Connie. He plays a rich Texan and the father of Van Johnson. He wants Van Johnson to take over the wealthy family ranch (cattle) business. It’s a funny role for him, but shows he can play a Texan and Caesar.
    Instead we have the new idiots having their star.
    Well, thanks for reading and putting up with my rant.
    All the best.
    God Bless
    James

    P.S. If there is a way I could help get him a star, or Una, then I would gladly help them have lasting impressions on the sidewalks of Southern California.
    Lord knows we need some more class down there.

    Reply
    1. B.P. Post author

      Hi James
      Unfortunately greatness is fleeting and getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame involves a lot of things, but the main criteria is money.

      You can nominate anyone, but I would think getting a deceased star added would be quite an undertaking. There are many deserving stars of television, radio and the screen that are not represented and dozens of others who probably shouldn’t be, but are.

      I agree Louis Calhern should have a star. He was a great actor, especially in The Asphalt Jungle.

      Reply
    2. BARZIN SAMIMI

      Louis Calhern was in many more fine movies in the golden age of Hollywood demonstrating excellent performances including the role of the corrupt lawyer in The Asphalt Jungle, the CIA Officer in Notorious, the exiled Imperial Russian officer in pre-World War II Paris in Arch of Triumph, the Soviet officer in The Red Danube, as king of Karlsberg, a fictional Central European kingdom in pre-World War I Europe in The Student Prince, as the Brazilian grandfather of Ricardo Montalban in Latin Lovers, or the teacher in Blackboard Jungle, and in other films such as The Executive Suite, Rhapsody, A Life of Her Own, Devil’s Doorway, Heaven can Wait, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and many others. It’s really a shame that he has not a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.

      Reply
  5. Bruce Hirsh

    I noticed that (at number 96) the composer/lyricist Mack Gordon is listed as “Gordon Mack.” Also, I was curious what $100,000 in 1937 would be worth today. The 2017 equivalent is about $1.7 million.

    Reply
    1. BARZIN SAMIMI

      No. $100’000/- in 1937 is equal to $3’000’000/- in 2017 worth. If $890/- was the average working man earnings annually in 1937 according to the above list, today the average earning is more like $30’000/- annually, so the inflation adjusted for $100’000/- would be more like 3 million USD in today’s times. Although with regard to the worth of real estate it may even be much higher, for example, Gary Cooper (the top earning star in Hollywood in 1937 according to the above list)’s house was worth $37’000/- then. It is inconceivable that today a similar house can be bought for less than 20 million USD. Sometimes the economists also take into account the population and the Gross National Product at that time and at present time for comparison of how much a particular amount back in yesteryears would be worth today. You can also count it in this way that for example a cup of coffee and a donut at a diner cost 15 cents then, and how much it costs today. Or, a brand new Ford model T was being sold at less than $500 back in 1935 and how much a similar car costs today, or the Blue Plate Special cost 50 cents at a diner back in the 1930s and how much a similar meal would cost today. Back in the 1930s, newspapers were sold for 2 cents a copy, Time magazine was sold 10 cents a copy, a glass of beer cost 5 cents back then, so was a packet of cigarettes for the same amount. Back then, a one Dollar tip to a hotel bellboy seemed generous, out of town motel rooms went for $2 a night (but they did not have private bath), furnished rooms with private bath in Los Angeles area in 1937 were rented for $9 a week, extras acting in movie productions were paid $2.50 per day of work plus lunch, US senators’ salary was $10’000/- annually in the 1930s and 1940s.

      Reply
      1. B.P. Post author

        Good points.

        Wealth and what money is worth over a period of time can be very complicated. It all depends upon what you are measuring.

        Here is one very good calculator which looks at answers depending upon various formulas-

        https://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/

        This is what measuringworth.com says about the subject-

        The annualized growth rate is the average growth rate measured over a year. In other words, it is the hypothetical constant year-to-year growth rate necessary to take the beginning-year value of a series to its ending-year value. To understand the construction of the hypothetical growth rate, see how the growth rates are constructed. Note that, contrary to intuition, this uniform growth rate is not obtained by averaging the year-to-year percentage changes in the observed value of the series. Because most economic variables grow over time, the annualized growth rate is a useful computation for comparing rates of growth of a given series for various time periods and of different series over the same time period.

        This point is illustrated by the following examples of how the growth rate of GDP can vary, depending on the time period of the computation.

        General knowledge of history tells us that growth during the Great Depression of the 1930s was slower than the growth during the “economic boom” of the 1960s. Using the calculator, one can put numbers on the comparison. U.S. real GDP grew at only 0.9 percent per year from 1931 to 1935, but 4.65 percent during the 1960s.

        Economic historians often ask: did the U.S. economy “take off” after the Civil War? The answer, from the calculator, is negative. The annual average growth of real GDP for 1840 to 1860 (the last antebellum year) is 4.9 percent; while from 1866 (the first postbellum year) to 1886, the growth rate is somewhat less, at 4.6 percent.

        Reply

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