Actors And Their Billing In The Credits
I never really considered some of the strange billing an actor might request to make up for not getting the top billing. That was until I listened to the special features on the Lost In Space DVD set. Jonathan Harris was talking about how Irwin Allen promised him whatever special billing he wanted, even though his name would be featured at the end. So he came up with being billed as special guest star.
For years I wondered why he was billed like that. I used to even wish he’d be bumped up to being a regular cast member opposed to only being a special guest star. Little did I know he was a regular, he just made up that special billing so you’d take notice of his name.
Anyway, it’s gotten me to notice the way some actors have special billing when their named are listed first. I recently rewatched The Stand and Gary Sinise got top billing. He was what I consider one of the three top leads, however his character is the only one who survives in the end. At that point some might have considered Rob Lowe to be a bigger star than Sinise and perhaps that’s why he got special billing. His name was last in what you might consider the lead characters. He was billed as, “And Rob Lowe as Nick Andros.” Adam Storke who may not have been in anything aside from this mini-series got listed pretty low on the list of names in the credit, even though he was one of the top male leads.
I also noticed the two actors who played the couple in the lighthouse got special billing in the movie The Day Of The Triffids. After Howard Keel and Nicole Maurey are listed it says, “By Special Arrangement Janette Scott and Kieron Moore.” I’m guess they wanted top billing but the movie thought Howard Keel was a bigger star. Maybe the two were big stars in England, but I’ve never heard of Scott and Moore before and the only movie I ever saw either of them is in The Day Of The Triffids. Anyway, it left me wondering by what special arrangement? Why are those two so special? So if they wanted that special billing to make their names stand out in the credits it worked. I’m still wondering by what special arrangement.
Of the currents shows on TV, the opening credits that has stymied me is why Thomas Gibson is listed last, when to me he’s the lead character of the show. I’m guess both Mandy Patankin and Joe Mantegna felt they were bigger stars than Gibson so he got stuck at the end as, “And Thomas Gibson.”
I’ve even noticed in some of the old movies that some of the actors had their names printed a little big bigger than the rest of the actors. It’s really kind of funny when you think about it. It makes actors seem kind of petty and childish with their demands to try and get their names to stand out in the credits. It makes me glad I’m not an actor.
You should read the closing credits for Yankee Doodle Dandy. It’s a real trip. James Cagney has his name written the biggest, even though he’s the star. Than Joan Leslie and Walter Houston got the next largest. And on the second page of credits some woman that sang for about five minutes in the movie got her name printed larger than most of the other names. And the guy that played the president, got his name larger, too. Plus he also got an “And”.
I’ve also seen a couple of movies where the male leads didn’t appear to want to share co-top billing with their leading ladies. In Yankee Doodle Dandy and Murder He Says both James Cagney and Fred MacMurray got their names featured first before the title of the movie and their leading ladies Joan Leslie and Helen Walker got a with after the movie title and their names a bit larger than the rest of the cast.
However, one credit I always thought was rather nice was when a new actress was featured in the movie and a co-lead but wasn’t featured at the top, the movie would give her as, “And Introducing [insert actress’ name].” Strangely it always seemed to be only an actress that got that kind of billing though. Madeline Kahn got that billing in What’s Up Doc?
However, Lost In Space still has the strangest credits. First you had, “Starring Guy Williams.” Then you got a, “Co-Starring Mark Goddard.” Followed by, “Special Guest Star Jonathan Harris.” Strangely enough it seems to be the men more than the woman most often requesting special billing.
You really have to laugh thinking of the poor people behind the movie having to deal with all these actor’s and their egos and all wanting top billing, but only one person can get that. So then they start coming up with bizarre billing to make their names stand out. The ultimate in billing has to be, “And By Special Arrangement Special Guest Star blah blah blah as blah blah blah.” I haven’t seen any actor request that billing, but give them time. I’m sure someone will.
The sad thing is an actor’s billing in a TV show or movie doesn’t really matter. I doubt most people remember if the actor was featured first or if their name was written bigger than anyone else’s. What people remember is the performance the actor gives. The billing an actor gets seems to be all about ego and thinking they got better billing than everyone else in the show or movie got.
I remember the couple in the lighthouse in The Day Of The Triffids because they were fighting and trapped in a lighthouse and finally figured out how to kill the triffids and save mankind. I didn’t remember them because they got the billing, “By Special Arrangement.” I remember the actress playing Lanie in Murder He Says more than anyone else because of the performance she gave and I’m not even sure what her name is. And I remember Adam Storke in The Stand more than a lot of the other actors because of that stupid song his character sang, “Baby, Can You Dig Your Man,” and he got pretty lousy billing in the mini-series.
Maybe the movies that list their cast by either order of appearance or in alphabetical order are the smartest. They eliminate all the hassle of actors demanding special billing. Everyone gets treated the same in the credits. No one gets their name featured bigger than everyone else’s. Whether their name appears first depends on if they were the first person to appear on screen or what letter of the alphabet their last name starts with. That way that don’t have to deal with any of this, “I want my name featured first before the title and I want my name written bigger than anyone else’s,” that a lot of other productions have had to deal with. You can just seem some actor demanding preferential treatment being shut right down by a, “I’m sorry, there is no preferential billing. Everyone’s name is featured in the order they first appear in the film.”