All ten top box office stars in 1957 are men. This apparently was the first and only time a female star didn’t make the list.
Or did she?
Well, like everything there are two sides to the story. Who compiles the top ten box office lists anyway? There seems to be two versions of the 1957 list. One has a woman, Kim Novak (pictured above) in sixth place. The second list has no female star listed.
In the all male list Rock Hudson is ranked first, followed by John Wayne, Pat Boone, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, William Holden, James Stewart, Jerry Lewis, and in the tenth spot, Yul Brynner. (Brynner is missing from the list which includes Novak, otherwise they are about the same.)
Well let’s look at what the hit films of the era were.
Of course Brynner was in two of the highest grossing films of the time, The Ten Commandments and The King and I. Wayne had scored in The Searchers and even an old film he’d done years earlier but held up for release, Jet Pilot,was a big hit.
Hudson was in his heyday. Not only was Giant a huge success, but Written on the Wind was a hit. Sinatra had scored in High Society and Pal Joey.
The teenagers were divided between clean cut Pat Boone, and his first film, April Love, and the sexier Presley in Love Me Tender and Loving You.
Holden was in Bridge on the River Kwai, Stewart in The Man Who Knew Too Much. Cooper in Friendly Persuasion.
So how did Novak make the list (at least one of the lists)?
Besides appearing with Sinatra and Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey, she had costarred with Ty Power in The Eddy Duchin Story, which had scored big.
BUT, more importantly, she had carried a picture all by herself ! It was a small black and white drama biopic, 1957’s Jeanne Eagels. And it grossed over $4 million. A huge hit in those days.
Jeanne Eagels was an ill-fated Broadway star of the 1920s who’d originated the role of Sadie Thompson in Rain. By playing her, Novak finally realized her value to Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn. She complained vociferously to Cohn that while she was paid $13,000 for paying the title role in Jeanne Eagels, her male costar (Jeff Chandler) was paid a fast $200,000.
A brouhaha ensued with Cohn finally caving — on Novak’s terms. She emerged a star at last, one with real box office clout.