Historical Context is a series in which I share excerpts/information from my ever-growing collection of vintage publications. Today’s installment in the series features the 1954 issue of Who’s Who in Hollywood, an annual publication highlighting the biggest stars of the previous year as well as the “stars of tomorrow.”

One of the gems of my old magazine collection is the 1954 issue of ‘Who’s Who in Hollywood,’ a yearbook-style annual magazine featuring bios on all of the top stars of the previous year. Dell, the publisher of the magazine, also published ‘Who’s Who in Western Stars’ and other genre-specific versions of the publication.

June Allyson is prominently featured on the 1954 cover of the magazine, along with Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, John Wayne and others in smaller images.

Monty Clift and Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity (Image: Classic Movie Chat)
Monty Clift and Frank Sinatra, From Here to Eternity (Image: Classic Movie Chat)

Inside, the first feature lists the top 10 pictures of 1953 and the notable stars from each film. The following are the stars featured in this section and short excerpts of how Dell describes them:

    • From Here to Eternity
      • Montgomery Clift – “as individualistic as they come”
      • Donna Reed – finally given a great role “after too many years of portraying the sweet young thing”
      • Frank Sinatra – “opened new paths as a serious actor”
      • Burt Lancaster – role “was the brilliant climax” of his career
      • Deborah Kerr – “thawed out at last” after years of playing cold roles
    • The Band Wagon
      • Fred Astaire – “must have drunk at the fountain of youth,” if his energetic performance is any indication
      • Cyd Charisse – “really found stardust” in 1953
    • The Robe
      • Jean Simmons – “scored in The Robe, The Actress and Young Bess
      • Richard Burton – “broke with the grim coal miner existence” that his father led to become a successful actor
    • Lili
      • Leslie Caron – “shy, elfin personality and exquisite dancing”
      • Mel Ferrer – “no relation to Jose, [but] is just about as versatile”
    • Stalag 17
      • William Holden – “his most skillful acting job to date”
    • Julius Caesar
      • Marlon Brando – “no young actor in years has captured the imagination of audiences the way this rugged, unpredictable, passionate player has”
    • Roman Holiday
      • Gregory Peck – “fired by the wonders of acting”
      • Audrey Hepburn – “looked so serene and majestic”
    • Mogambo
      • Clark Gable – “after 24 years in movies, is still the king”
      • Ava Gardner – “the very symbol of worldly glamour”
    • Kiss Me Kate
      • Kathryn Grayson – “sang in the cradle”
      • Howard Keel – “got his chance of a lifetime from Rodgers and Hammerstein”
    • Shane
      • Alan Ladd – “only his heroic, tight-lipped gunfighter” in Shane compares to his breakout in This Gun for Hire
      • Brandon deWilde – “eleven very talented years old”
Cover of the 1954 "yearbook"-style magazine (Image: Inside Flipside)
Cover of the 1954 “yearbook”-style magazine (Image: Inside Flipside)

Many of these stars from the top ten films of 1953 are still highly respected by film fans and have lasting fanbases, but the same cannot be said for some of the other “super stars” listed in the next two sections of the magazine: “Super Stars: The Younger Set” and “Super Stars: The Older Set.”

“The Younger Set” features big stars like Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Liz Taylor, Debbie Reynolds and Rock Hudson. Also featured, though, are stars that are nearly forgotten now: Terry Moore (Mighty Joe Young), John Derek (Knock On Any Door), Tab Hunter (The Pleasure of His Company). The same goes for “The Older Set”; while Jane Russell, Betty Grable, John Wayne, Rita Hayworth and the like are mentioned, so are forgotten talents like Jeff Chandler (Broken Arrow).

Even more full of now-forgotten talents is the “Stars of Tomorrow” section. Apparently Dell didn’t have a very good sense of who would become legendary for their talent. Listed here are Richard Allan, Dawn Addams, Pat Crowley, Byron Palmer, Maggie McNamara, Carlos Thompson, Betta St. John, Audrey Dalton, Rick Jason, Mary Murphy, Joan Weldon, Edmond Purdom and Joan Gilbert. As an avid viewer of lesser-known old movies I recognize some of these names, but none of them come close to matching the likes of big names like Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn in terms of lasting legacy.

Keep an eye out next week for a special on the child stars listed in Who’s Who in Hollywood 1954; did they ever make it big, or did their careers fizzle out by adulthood?