Ray Milland : Milland's box office popularity

Milland's box office popularity

Ray Milland hit the peak of his popularity when he was ranked Number 12 on the Quigley Box Office Poll in 1946. Milland had been a popular leading man for a decade and would continue in a long and successful career.

Ray Milland: The Way It Was

Ray Milland was never a box-office champ type star. He had his share of hits, some very high grossers like Reap The Wild Wind, others turned good profits, and he certainly had a good run as an A lister, Junior Division in the late 30s, gaining strength after 1940.

There really wasn't a Big Fall Off for Milland. I don't think there was a year in the 40s, World War, especially, and after, that he didn't have a well above average moneymaking film, usually more than one; he was fortyish, still looked good, Paramount treated him well as to high quality projects.

Come the 50s, his looks were fading, and as to his career as a star, he was still bankable; however he had failed, as was becoming apparent around that time, to become an iconic star, a true superstar.

As an Englishman, he had fallen short of success at not only the Ronald Colman level but also Leslie Howard's. Even Aussie born Errol Flynn achieved a level of top of the line major stardom that eluded Ray Milland. In-between, there were the George Brents, Louis Haywards, and yes, the up and coming David Niven, who in retrospect seems like he'd gone further than Milland as a major name player with high public recognition.

Niven sort of "grew" as a star; and not as a top billed superstar, just a sort of dapper, likable refined type English leading man who was also a survivor, working with Dick Powell, on television, and co-starring in a popular Academy award winning blockbuster, Around The World In 80 Days; and then, two years later, yet another Oscar Best Picture, this one more serious and dramatic: Separate Tables.

In those years, Milland's starring roles were in more modestly budgeted fare, with his last star appearance in a hit film, Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder. That he played the villain in that one, top billed though he was, shows a decline in status in Hollywood, suggesting that, unlike David Niven, Ray Milland wasn't Going Places, while Niven clearly was, if closer to the kind of career Fred MacMurray had during the same period, and for several years thereafter.

Why? Can't say. A top flight agent maybe. More energy; better career management skills; and also, ambition. Niven had it. He was spry, had a spring in his step. Milland was coming to look (and act) phlegmatic, almost lethargic. It's the way it was for him.