Katharine Hepburn Was Paid $206,928, While Peter Lorre Made Just $15,265
1937 Was A Good Year For Film Salaries
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).
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 College 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:
- Don Ameche, $34,499;
- Heather Angel, $15,375;
- Jean Arthur, $119,041;
- Fred Astaire, $211,666; Continue reading