I'm surprised at how many movie stars graced TIME magazine's cover during the 1930s-50s. Considering that many who appeared on it over the years were supposed to be important yet are totally forgotten today (men of industry, government, business, etc.) makes me wonder just how "important" people in those fields actually are. They may have been essential folk back in their day, but we're still talking about the movie stars. Sorry, Clarence K. Streit...you should have preserved your life's work on film.
Ginger Rogers April 10, 1939
Bette Davis March 28, 1938
Audrey Hepburn Sep 7, 1953
Elizabeth Taylor August 22, 1949
Katharine Hepburn September 1, 1952
Ava Gardner September 3, 1951
The timing of these cover shots is interesting. Ginger and Bette were at their career peak when they made the cover. Audrey, Ava, and Liz were at the beginning of theirs; Audrey had just made her film debut in Roman Holiday and Taylor was just beginning her career as an adult after a successful run as a child actress. Kate Hepburn was still going strong-- and yes, her cover sketch is far from the most flattering I've seen of her, (it's during her Pat and Mike period, a film I've never liked all that much--considering the director, George Cukor, is revered here at Hollywood Dreamland as are the movie's stars, Spencer Tracy and Kate Hepburn).
I haven't read these issues to determine the substance of the articles, but I'll guess that they were "state of the cinema" pieces, reviews, or personal profiles. In the case of the Ginger Rogers cover, it's about Astaire & Rogers' final 1930s film, The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle and includes a Ginger profile. If a performer made the cover because of their onscreen work rather than any charitable or offscreen accomplishments, but it has gotten me interested enough in TIME's journalistic history to take a closer look at how movie stars were covered in the national, non-movie mag press.
I guess appearing on TIME isn't the immortalization they'd like us to think it is. Maybe popularity is the pocket change of history, I don't know. At least not as far as these movie stars are concerned. Anyway, take a look through TIME's cover archive and see how many people you recognize-- and how many you don't.