Monday, May 01, 2006

Battle of the Stars

One last follow up to the discussion of the greatness of Tom Hanks: In the comments it was suggested that classic stars such as Bogart or John Wayne may have had strings of box office success equal or greater to that of Hanks.

Unfortunately, Box Office Mojo only dips back so far. It doesn't track data for Wayne or Bogart--or even Paul Newman, whom I had thought might be in a similar class with Hanks.

Second, even if we had the data for the classic stars, I don't think it would be fair to compare them to contemporary stars because working in the studio system they had little-to-no control over the projects they worked on. If Sam Goldwyn told Bogart to star in Movie X, Bogie had to do it, no matter how good or bad the project was. After the studio system broke down, stars became increasingly involved in production to the point where a fellow like Hanks not only chooses what movies he'll star in, but in some cases will choose whether or not a given movie even gets made. All of which is to say that if Bogart or John Wayne didn't have streaks like the one Hanks is on, it wouldn't necessarily be their fault.

That said, when you're talking about whatever the stuff is that makes a "movie star," it's pretty clear that Bogart, Wayne, Cary Grant, and Spencer Tracy had "it" in such copious amounts as to be completely unimaginable today. Nobody--not Tom Hanks, not Robert De Niro, not Russell Crowe--has the type of stuff they had. We just don't make stars like that anymore.

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