I think it’s a shame the superstar actors and filmmakers of the Golden Age of Hollywood—the Bogarts, the Hepburns, the Wilders—rarely, if ever, made sci-fi or fantasy or horror movies while in their prime. Genre material such as that wasn’t taken as seriously back then. What kinds of films might we have gotten if it had been? Who knows.
Movies like Frankenstein or House of Wax really stand out amidst the mountain of schlock, but they also made stars out of the actors in them—Boris Karloff and Vincent Price, respectively, as opposed to stars coming to such movies. That’s not a bad thing, though, and it’s something we still see today, as Daniel Radcliffe and Kristin Stewart, for example, will attest.
Also, with so many old movies being rediscovered and reappraised by younger generations, “stars” are created retroactively by film nerds like us. In googling about the SF/horror flick The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, I noticed one of the movie’s stars, Virginia Leith, died last year. I didn’t think she was big enough to warrant an obit in The Hollywood Reporter, much less one that would use this movie as a selling point—I had certainly never heard of her. (She was in Kubrick’s first film, Fear and Desire, and had smaller parts in TV and film.)