Last, but almost greatest

Here’s one for the film crowd.

I have always been very intrigued by the formalities of movie credits, but have never found any resource for a comprehensive explanation of these strictures or their history. I could give a whole short catechism of various points I am curious about, but one thing in particular has always puzzled me: how did the last position in the initial list of named stars become a place of emphasis?

You know what I mean: the names pop up at the start of the movie (and in the first line or two at the bottom of the movie poster), and it is pretty much always star A, Star B, Star C, then a half dozen or so character actors, then finally another Big Star with the conjunction and stuck in front of their name. Sometimes there might be two bigger names at the end of the list, the first prefixed by with, the second by and.

I get the visual/rhetorical force of this practice. I just wonder where it started, and how it gained the force of rubric. Please tell me. Please.

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