- Not every leading player in a Broadway production or stock company is a genuine star. A star is typically a "name" actor whose appearance guarantees an audience. From the early 19th century, a star system was in place with name actors like Edwin Forrest, Junius Brutus Booth, and others dominating a company of actors. The plays performed were often vehicles for the star, while the remainder of the company labored in supporting and utility roles. In the glory days of the road, a moderately successful actor might declare himself a star and form a company, as William S. Hart did for a season, but this was financially risky. Occasionally, a star is born as an actor bursts into recognition through a worthy role exploiting the actor's gifts.Among the greatest stars working in American theatres between 1880-1930 were European greats, including Sarah Bernhardt, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, and Eleonora Duse, while American stars of particular note included Edwin Booth, Joseph Jefferson, E. H. Sothern, Julia Marlowe, and Minnie Maddern Fiske, to name just a few. Many stars were also managers and producers, such as Grace George, and others gained as much fame as playwrights, including William Gillette, James A. Herne, George M. Cohan, and others. Various variety, musical, and vaudeville stages also spawned several generations of stars.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.