The AFI had John Wayne in the #14 ranking for their top 25 male stars a few years back. I always thought was ridiculously low. Bogart was their #1 choice. Cary Grant was PREMIERE's in one issue when they had a top 50. Tom Cruise may have been as high as three for that one.
Wayne held superstar status pretty essentially from 1939 to 1976. I think perhaps only Clint Eastwood has surpassed Wayne's longevity record, while not greatly receding in status.
Here are my 44 honorable mention runners-up, all of whom could justifiably held a spot in the 40. A few are my favorites here as well. A handful of these names arguably should have been included with the others, at least for a top 50 or similar group. In no particular order:
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
Lon Chaney, Sr.
Robert Downey, Jr.
George C. Scott
My personal favorites in these runners-up include Laurel, Arkin, Shaw, Spacey and Freeman. I'll concede it does seem odd not to have Kirk Douglas, Clark Gable and especially Morgan Freeman in the final 40. In Freeman's case, it's probably due to his general shift to supporting roles. In Gable's case? I guess I just don't give a damn. Olivier's strongest work was in live theater, while Lemmon and Mifune among others didn't fall in my favored range. Ask away if you want to know why any of these others didn't get higher. And now we're left with the one name I didn't mention yet.......the final finalist. Guess if you wish. Give Nicolas Cage some hope.