In the years before television, Hollywood stars added to their substantial movie incomes by appearing on radio programs.

It’s interesting  to read in a 1935 Radio Mirror magazine what salaries various performers could command .


”Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone divided $5000 for a single air appearance.”


“Jeanette MacDonald went on the Atwater Kent program one night and banked $4000 the next day. Not so long ago, Miss MacDonald was content with $600 per broadcast.”

(Atwater Kent was a radio manufacturer).


” Clark Gable got $3500 for a solo performance. Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore each nicked sponsors for $6500”


Charles Ruggles  and  Mary Boland oblige for $2500 for the team. You can hire Irene  Dunne, Adolphe Menjou and Leslie Howard at the same amount.”


”But you ain’t heard nothin’ yet – Greta Garbo has been offered $25000 for a 15-minute broadcast of a scene from one of her photo plays…”


Lesser lights like Lupe  Velez, Bebe Daniels, Colleen Moore, Cary Grant, Bruce Cabot, Ricardo Cortez and Douglas Montgomery may be lured to the microphone upon receipt of $1000”.


”Then there is still a larger group whose broadcast salaries run from a few hundred to just short of $1000 a showing – Ginger Rogers, Reginald Denny, June Knight, Ralph Bellamy, Paul Lukas, Gene Raymond, Heather Angel and a host of others.”


”Is it any wonder that the Hollywood  stars still believe in Santa Claus?!”

($1000 in 1935 is worth about $20,000 today.)

I don’t know how accurate it is, but I read that the average American weekly income in 1935 was $40.








6 responses »

  1. Those are fairly hefty sums and give a fair indication of the power and success of radio in those years. I’m rather fond of some of those old time radio shows, and while it’s a shame many have been lost over time it’s great there are still quite a few freely available to us today. I first got drawn in by Orson Welles Harry Lime adventures, then John Dickson Carr’s terrific efforts for Suspense and later I found myself enjoying Sydney Greenstreet’s turn as Nero Wolfe.

  2. Hefty indeed! As yiu say, so much of old time radio is available to us. I listen to which has a daily schedule of old shows. Each night you can hear Box 13 (Alan Ladd), Michael Shayne (Jeff Chandler), Adventures of Philip Marlowe (Gerald Mohr) and Orson Welles Mercury Theater.
    Also inner Sanctum is available. I’ve just finished the six Lon Chaney Inner Sanctum films. More of that later!

  3. Look forward to reading your Inner Sanctum review! I have that box set and my favourite is Weird Woman, good roles for real life friends Anne Gwynne and Evelyn Ankers.

  4. It appears according to a book I’m reading that the hepburn contract was for a series of 12 shows 1934-35. That puts it around $540 per appearance, quite a long ways from that Clark Gable figure, and more like the “larger group whose broadcast salaries run from a few hundred to just short of $1000 a showing.”

    Have not seen anything about Barrymore but it seems unlikely that by the late date of 1935 he was getting double what Clark Gable was getting for a single appearance. Barrymore’s last great film, Twentieth Century, was 1934 but while he was hilarious in spots, he was clearly aging… and although it was a Lombard triumph, it was a box office dud.

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