My Favorite Movie Actresses

Female movie actors whose body of work I admire and love, listed alphabetically. As evident from the list, I am a fan of "Golden Age" Hollywood.
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Alexis Smith
Statuesque, smart Canadian-born Alexis Smith, with her blue/green eyes and a seductively husky voice, lent a touch of class to her leading ladies of the 1940s and 1950s. After her family moved to California, Alexis grew into a precocious talent, performing ballet in public by the age of thirteen, dancing to 'Carmen' at the Hollywood Bowl...
Anne Baxter
Actress, All About Eve
Anne Baxter was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on May 7, 1923. She was the daughter of a salesman and his wife, Catherine, who herself was the daughter of Frank Lloyd Wright, the world-renowned architect. Anne was a young girl of 11 when her parents moved to New York City, which at that time was still the hub of the entertainment industry even though the film colony was moving west...
Ava Gardner
Actress, The Killers
Ava Lavina Gardner was born on December 24, 1922 in Grabtown, North Carolina, to Mary Elizabeth (née Baker) and Jonas Bailey Gardner. Born on a tobacco farm, where she got her lifelong love of earthy language and going barefoot, Ava grew up in the rural South. At age 18, her picture in the window of her brother-in- law's New York photo studio brought her to the attention of MGM...
Barbara Stanwyck
Today Barbara Stanwyck is remembered primarily as the matriarch of the family known as the Barkleys on the TV western The Big Valley, wherein she played Victoria, and from the hit drama The Colbys. But she was known to millions of other fans for her movie career, which spanned the period from 1927 until 1964...
Bette Davis
Actress, All About Eve
Ruth Elizabeth Davis was born April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Ruth Augusta (Favor) and Harlow Morrell Davis, a patent attorney. Her parents divorced when she was 10. She and her sister were raised by their mother. Her early interest was dance. To Bette, dancers led a glamorous life, but then she discovered the stage...
Celeste Holm
Actress, All About Eve
Celeste Holm was an only child, born into a home where her mother was a painter and her father worked in insurance. She would study acting at the University of Chicago and make her stage debut in 1936. Her Broadway debut came when she was 19. She appeared in many successful plays, including "The Women"...
Claire Trevor
Actress, Stagecoach
Claire Trevor was born Claire Wemlinger in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, NY, the only child of Fifth Avenue merchant-tailor Noel Wemlinger, an immigrant Frenchman from Paris who lost his business during the Depression, and his Belfast-born wife Betty. Trevor's interest in acting began when she was 11 years old...
Eleanor Parker
Eleanor Jean Parker was born on June 26, 1922, in Cedarville, Ohio, the last of three children born to a mathematics teacher and his wife. Eleanor caught the acting bug early and began performing in school plays. She was was so serious about becoming a thespian, she attended the Rice Summer Theatre on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts beginning when she was 15 years old...
Elsa Lanchester
Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was born into an unconventional a family at the turn of the 20th century. Her parents, James "Shamus" Sullivan and Edith "Biddy" Lanchester, were socialists - very active members of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in a rather broad sense and did not believe in the institution of marriage and being tied to any conventions of legality for that matter...
Eve Arden
Eve was born just north of San Francisco in Mill Valley and was interested in show business from an early age. At 16, she made her stage debut after quitting school to joined a stock company. After appearing in minor roles in two films under her real name, Eunice Quedens, she found that the stage offered her the same minor roles...
Gail Patrick
Producer, Perry Mason
Cold, calculating and hard-as-nails is probably the best definition of Gail Patrick's femmes on the 30s and 40s silver screen, and the actress herself was no softie in real life. The tall, slender, patrician beauty was born with the equally stately-sounding name Margaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick in Birmingham...
Gloria Grahame
Gloria Hallward, an acting pupil of her mother (stage actress and teacher Jean Grahame), acted professionally while still in high school. In 1944 Louis B. Mayer saw her on Broadway and gave her an MGM contract under the name Gloria Grahame. Her debut in the title role of Blonde Fever was auspicious...
Grace Kelly
Actress, Rear Window
Grace Kelly was an American actress who, after marrying Prince Rainier III in April 1956, became Princess of Monaco. After embarking on an acting career in 1950, at the age of 20, Kelly appeared in New York City theatrical productions and more than 40 episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television...
Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr, the woman many critics and fans alike regard as the most beautiful ever to appear in films, was born Hedwig Eva Kiesler in Vienna, Austria. She was the daughter of Gertrud (Lichtwitz), from Budapest, and Emil Kiesler, a banker from Lviv. Her parents were both from Jewish families. Hedwig had a calm childhood...
Helen Walker
Helen Walker was a beautiful and bright actress whose career never reached its full potential, in spite of her evident talent. She was a successful actress on Broadway, and in 1942 her performance in the play "Jason" was so impressive that she was signed up to act in films. She immediately earned good notice and received star billing in her film debut...
Jane Russell
Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell was born on June 21, 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her father was a United States Army lieutenant and her mother had been a student of drama and an actress with a traveling troupe. Once Mr. Russell was mustered out of the service, the family took up residence in Canada...
Jean Arthur
This marvelous screen comedienne's best asset was only muffled during her seven years' stint in silent films. That asset? It was, of course, her squeaky, frog-like voice, which silent-era cinema audiences had simply no way of perceiving, much less appreciating. Jean Arthur, born Gladys Georgianna Greene in upstate New York...
Jean Simmons
Actress, Spartacus
Demure British beauty Jean Simmons was born January 31, 1929 in Crouch End, London. As a 14-year-old dance student, she was plucked from her school to play Margaret Lockwood's precocious sister in Give Us the Moon, and she went on to make a name for herself in such major British productions as Caesar and Cleopatra...
Joan Bennett
Actress, Dark Shadows
Joan Geraldine Bennett was born on February 27, 1910, in Palisades, New Jersey. Her parents were both successful stage actors, especially her father, Richard Bennett, and often toured the country for weeks at a time. In fact, Joan came from a long line of actors, dating back to the 18th century. Often...
Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford was born Lucille Fay LeSueur on March 23, 1905, in San Antonio, Texas, to Anna Belle (Johnson) and Thomas E. LeSueur, a laundry laborer. By the time she was born, her parents had separated, and by the time she was a teenager, she'd had three stepfathers. It wasn't an easy life; Crawford worked a variety of menial jobs...
Joan Fontaine
Actress, Rebecca
Born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland on October 22, 1917, in Tokyo, Japan, in what was known as the International Settlement. Her father was a British patent attorney with a lucrative practice in Japan, but due to Joan and older sister Olivia de Havilland's recurring ailments the family moved to California in the hopes of improving their health...
Judith Anderson
Actress, Rebecca
Dame Judith Anderson was born Frances Margaret Anderson on February 10, 1897 in Adelaide, South Australia. She began her acting career in Australia before moving to New York in 1918. There she established herself as one of the greatest theatrical actresses and was a major star on Broadway throughout the 1930s...
Katharine Hepburn
Born May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut, she was the daughter of a doctor and a suffragette, both of whom always encouraged her to speak her mind, develop it fully, and exercise her body to its full potential. An athletic tomboy as a child, she was also very close to her brother, Tom, and was devastated at age 14 to find him dead...
Lauren Bacall
Actress, The Big Sleep
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in New York City. She is the daughter of Natalie Weinstein-Bacal, a Romanian Jewish immigrant, and William Perske, who was born in New Jersey, to Polish Jewish parents. Her family was middle-class, with her father working as a salesman and her mother as a secretary...
Lizabeth Scott
Lizabeth Scott was born Emma Matzo on September 29, 1922 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the oldest of six children of Mary (Pennock) and John Matzo, who were Bohemian immigrants. Scott attended Marywood Seminary and the Alvienne School of the Theatre in New York City, where she adopted the stage name of "Elizabeth Scott." After doing a national tour of Hellzapoppin...
Loretta Young
Sweet, sweeter, sweetest. No combination of terms better describes the screen persona of lovely Loretta Young. A&E's Biography has stated that Young "remains a symbol of beauty, serenity, and grace. But behind the glamor and stardom is a woman of substance whose true beauty lies in her dedication to her family...
Lucile Watson
Unsmiling character player Lucile Watson was one of Hollywood's most indomitable mothers of the 1930s and 1940s...and you can take that both ways. The archetypal matriarch who enhanced scores of plush, soapy, Victorian-styled drama, her prickly pears could be insufferable indeed and heaven help anyone who gathered up the courage to take them on...
Maggie Smith
One of the world's most famous and distinguished actresses, Dame Maggie Smith was born Margaret Natalie Smith in Essex. Her Scottish mother, Margaret (Hutton), worked as a secretary, and her English father, Nathaniel Smith, was a teacher at Oxford University. Smith has been married twice: to actor Robert Stephens and to playwright Beverley Cross...
Marilyn Monroe
Probably the most celebrated of all actresses, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles General Hospital. Prior to her birth, Marilyn's father bought a motorcycle and headed north to San Francisco, abandoning the family in Los Angeles. Marilyn grew up not knowing for sure who her father really was...
Marjorie Main
Her father was a minister, and when she joined a local stock company as a youngster she changed her name to avoid embarrassing her family. She worked in vaudeville and debuted on Broadway in 1916. Her film debut was in A House Divided. She repeated her stage role in Dead End as Baby Face Martin (Humphrey Bogart)'s mother...
Mary Astor
Her German immigrant father pushed her into a beauty contest at 14 and her first movie Sentimental Tommy at 15. After a number of minor parts she starred in John Barrymore's Beau Brummel. She had a lively affair with Barrymore, over with before she starred a second time with him, in Don Juan...
May Robson
Born Mary Jeanette Robison. She was the youngest daughter of Henry Robison of Penrith, Cumberland, England and Julia Schelesinger of Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Her father died in 1860 and her mother remarried. In 1866/67 they were living in St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and moved back to London...
Dame May Whitty
Born Mary Whitty on June 19, 1865 to a Liverpool newspaper editor and his wife, she became known as May Whitty to the world. She first stepped on the London stage in 1882. She worked as an understudy at the St. James Theatre, and then, began playing leading roles when she joined a traveling stock company...
Myrna Loy
Myrna Williams, later to become Myrna Loy, was born on August 2, 1905 in Radersburg, Montana. Her father was the youngest person ever elected to the Montana State legislature. Later on her family moved to Helena where she spent her youth. At the age of 13, Myrna's father died of influenza and the rest of the family moved to Los Angeles...
Rita Hayworth
Actress, Gilda
Spanish dancer Eduardo Cansino's daughter Margarita studied dancing beginning in her girlhood. At age 12, the mature-looking Rita joined Eduardo's stage act, in which she was spotted three years later by Fox studio head Winfield R. Sheehan, leading to her first studio contract and film debut at age 16 in Dante's Inferno...
Rosalind Russell
The middle of seven children, she was named after the S.S. Rosalind at the suggestion of her father, a successful lawyer. After receiving a Catholic school education, she went to the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York, having convinced her mother that she intended to teach acting. In 1934...
Ruth Hussey
A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Drama, Ruth Hussey's first show-business job was as a fashion commentator on a local radio station. She journeyed to New York City, where she was signed as a model by the world-famous Powers agency. She obtained some stage roles with touring companies and was noticed by MGM...
Sara Allgood
Dublin-born Sara Allgood started her acting career in her native country with the famed Abbey Theatre. From there she traveled to the English stage, where she played for many years before making her film debut in 1918. Her warm, open Irish face meant that she spent a lot of time playing Irish mothers...
Thelma Ritter
Actress, Rear Window
Thelma Ritter appeared in high school plays and was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In the 1940s she worked in radio. Her movie career was started with a bit part in the 1946 Miracle on 34th Street. In the movie she played a weary Xmas shopper. Her performance in the short scene was noticed by Darryl F. Zanuck who insisted her role be expanded...