At the end of 1949, the Motion Picture Herald announced the top stars for the year, as chosen by exhibitors. As you can tell from the headline, Bob Hope took the top slot away from Bing Crosby, with the help of The Paleface. Being that Bob never got the girls in their films together, this might’ve been a bit of a consolation.
There was a separate list for Western stars, with Roy Rogers being indeed the King Of The Cowboys. Looking at this list today, you can easily see the change in the Western genre that was about to take place. By the next summer, The Gunfighter and Winchester ’73 (both 1950) would show us what a 50s Western was — and by 1953, most of these cowboys were out of theaters for good.
1. Roy Rogers: Roy’s TV show would debut in 1951. His last feature would be Son Of Paleface in 1952.
2. Gene Autry: On television by 1950, he’d leave the big screen with Last Of The Pony Riders (1953).
3. Gabby Hayes: Cariboo Trail (1950) with Randolph Scott would be Gabby’s last picture. He’d have his own TV show the same year.
4. Tim Holt: His excellent series for RKO would wrap up in 1952. He wouldn’t make another Western.
5. William “Wild Bill” Elliott: His last Western came in 1954, with the last of his Monogram/Allied Artists pictures. His last feature was released in 1957.
6. Charles Starrett: Like Holt, Starrett would ride into the celluloid sunset in ’52 with the last of his Durango Kid pictures.
7. William Boyd: Hopalong Cassidy would make the switch to TV in 1952, and hang up his spurs in ’54.
8. Johnny Mack Brown: His last series Western came in 1953, but his career kept going into the 60s.
9. Smiley Burnette: He’d make Autry’s Last Of The Pony Riders his final film, but have a quite a career in television with Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. (By the way, he eventually had his named legally changed to Smiley.)
10. Andy Devine: Andy’s filmography was always a diverse one, and he rode out the death of the series Western with ease and continued in features (including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and on TV.
* William Holden in The Wild Bunch (1969)