Favorite Classic Actors

View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Charles Chaplin
Writer, Modern Times
Charles Chaplin was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the silent era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona "the Tramp" and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry. His career spanned more than 75 years...
 
2.
Humphrey Bogart
Actor, Casablanca
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in New York City, New York, to Maud Humphrey, a famed magazine illustrator and suffragette, and Belmont DeForest Bogart, a moderately wealthy surgeon (who was secretly addicted to opium). Bogart was educated at Trinity School, NYC, and was sent to Phillips Academy in Andover...
 
3.
James Stewart
James Maitland Stewart was born on 20 May 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth Ruth (Johnson) and Alexander Maitland Stewart, who owned a hardware store. He was of Scottish, Ulster-Scots, and some English, descent. Stewart was educated at a local prep school, Mercersburg Academy, where he was a keen athlete (football and track)...
 
4.
Clark Gable
Clark Gable was an American film actor, often referred to as "The King of Hollywood" or just simply as "The King." The 1930s saw him at the peak of his acting ability and his popular appeal, as he often portrayed down-to-earth, bravado characters with a carefree attitude. He was known as the epitome of masculinity with his unmatched charm and knowing smile...
 
5.
Buster Keaton
When, at six months, he tumbled down a flight of stairs unharmed, he was given the name "Buster" by Harry Houdini who, along with W.C. Fields, Bill Robinson ("Bojangles"), Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson shared headlines with "The Three Keatons": Buster, his father Joe Keaton and mother Myra Keaton...
 
6.
Laurence Olivier
Actor, Rebecca
Laurence Olivier could speak William Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were "actually thinking them", said English playwright Charles Bennett, who met Olivier in 1927. Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Dorking, Surrey, England, to Agnes Louise (Crookenden) and Gerard Kerr Olivier, a High Anglican priest. His surname came from a great-great-grandfather who was of French Huguenot origin...
 
7.
Jack Lemmon
Jack Lemmon was born on February 8, 1925 in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. He initially acted on TV before moving to Hollywood for the big screen, cultivating a career that would span decades. An eight time Academy Award nominee, with two wins, Lemmon starred in over 60 films including Some Like It Hot...
 
8.
John Huston
An eccentric rebel of epic proportions, this Hollywood titan reigned supreme as director, screenwriter and character actor in a career that endured over five decades. The ten-time Oscar-nominated legend was born John Marcellus Huston in Nevada, Missouri, on August 5, 1906. His ancestry included English...
 
9.
David Niven
David Niven was named after the Saint's Day on which he was born, St. David, patron Saint of Wales. He attended Stowe School and Sandhurst Military Academy and served for two years in Malta with the Highland Light Infantry. At the outbreak of World War II, although a top-line star, he re-joined the army (Rifle Brigade)...
 
10.
Rex Harrison
Rex Harrison was born Reginald Carey Harrison in Huyton, Lancashire, England, to Edith Mary (Carey) and William Reginald Harrison, a cotton broker. He changed his name to Rex as a young boy, knowing it was the Latin word for "King". Starting out on his theater career at age 18, his first job at the Liverpool Rep Theatre was nearly his last - dashing across the stage to say his one line...
 
11.
Fred Astaire
Actor, Top Hat
Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Johanna (Geilus) and Fritz Austerlitz, a brewer. Fred entered show business at age 5. He was successful both in vaudeville and on Broadway in partnership with his sister, Adele Astaire. After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to Hollywood. Signed to RKO...
 
12.
Peter Ustinov
Actor, Robin Hood
Peter Ustinov was a two-time Academy Award-winning film actor, a director, writer, journalist and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions. He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London...
 
13.
Stan Laurel
Stan Laurel came from a theatrical family, his father was an actor and theatre manager, and he made his stage debut at the age of 16 at Pickard's Museum, Glasgow. He traveled with Fred Karno's vaudeville company to the United States in 1910 and again in 1913. While with that company he was Charles Chaplin's understudy...
 
14.
Oliver Hardy
Although his parents were never in show business, as a young boy Oliver Hardy was a gifted singer and, by age eight, was performing with minstrel shows. In 1910 he ran a movie theatre, which he preferred to studying law. In 1913 he became a comedy actor with the Lubin Company in Florida and began appearing in a long series of shorts; his debut film was Outwitting Dad...
 
15.
Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico, to Manuela (Oaxaca) and Francisco Quinn, who became an assistant cameraman at an LA film studio. His paternal grandfather was Irish, and the rest of his family was Mexican. After starting life in extremely modest circumstances in Mexico...
 
16.
Orson Welles
His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was seven) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr...
 
17.
Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck first film, Days of Glory, was released in 1944. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor five times, four of which came in his first five years of film acting: for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949)...
 
18.
Omar Sharif
He began his career in his native country in the 1950s, but is best known for his appearances in both British and American productions. His films included Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Funny Girl (1968). He was nominated for an Academy Award. He won three Golden Globe Awards and a César Award...
 
19.
Walter Huston
For many years Walter Huston had two passions: his career as an engineer and his vocation for the stage. In 1909 he dedicated himself to the theatre, and made his debut on Broadway in 1924. In 1929 he journeyed to Hollywood, where his talent and ability made him one of the most respected actors in the industry. He won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
 
21.
Groucho Marx
Actor, Duck Soup
From the late 1940s through 1961, he was the highly successful host of You Bet Your Life a quiz show on radio and television. His son, Arthur Marx, is a successful writer of biographies and TV scripts. Arthur complained about his father always being "on". If he asked Groucho about something serious or personal, Groucho would reply with one-liners.
 
22.
Chico Marx
As a kid trying to negotiate his way through various gang territories to a floating crap game or a new pool hall where he was not yet known as a hustler, Leonard (Chico) Marx learned to fake several accents. Because he later employed an Italian accent in the Marx Brothers' act, people assumed his name was pronounced "Cheeko." Instead...
 
23.
Harpo Marx
Actor, Duck Soup
With the big, poofy, curly red hair, a top hat, and a horn, the lovable mute was the favorite of the Marx Brothers. Though chasing woman was a favorite routine of his in the movies, Harpo was a devoted father and husband. He adopted the mute routine in vaudeville and carried it over to the films. Harpo...
 
24.
Peter Sellers
Often credited as the greatest comedian of all time, Peter Sellers was born to a well-off English acting family in 1925. His mother and father worked in an acting company run by his grandmother. As a child, Sellers was spoiled, as his parents' first child had died at birth. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force and served during World War II...
 
25.
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness was an English actor. After an early career on the stage, he was featured in several of the Ealing Comedies, including The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters. He is also known for his six collaborations with David Lean: Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (1946)...
 
26.
James Mason
James Mason was a great English actor of British and American films. He was born in Yorkshire, and attended Marlborough and Cambridge, where he discovered acting on a lark, and abandoned a planned career as an architect. Following work in stock companies, he joined the Old Vic under the guidance of Sir Tyrone Guthrie and of Alexander Korda...
 
27.
Spencer Tracy
Spencer Tracy was born four years after his brother Carroll to truck salesman John Edward and Caroline Brown Tracy. He attended Marquette Academy along with Pat O'Brien and the two left school to enlist in the Navy at the start of World War I. He was still at Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia at the end of the war...
 
28.
Montgomery Clift
Montgomery Clift was an American film and stage actor. He is best remembered for roles in Red River (1948), The Heiress (1949), George Stevens's A Place in the Sun (1951), a Catholic priest in Alfred Hitchcock's I Confess (1952), soldiers in Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity (1953) and Edward Dmytryk's...
 
29.
Karl Malden
Karl Malden resumed his film acting career in the 1950s, starting with The Gunfighter (1950) and Halls of Montezuma (1950). The following year, he was in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), playing Mitch, Stanley Kowalski's best friend who starts a romance with Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). For this role...
 
30.
Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster, one of five children, was born in Manhattan, to Elizabeth (Roberts) and James Henry Lancaster, a postal worker. All of his grandparents were immigrants from Northern Ireland. He was a tough street kid who took an early interest in gymnastics. He joined the circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured...
 
31.
James Dean
James Dean was an American actor. He is a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and surly ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956)...
 
32.
Richard Burton
Probably more frequently remembered for his turbulent personal life and multiple marriages, Richard Burton was nonetheless regarded as one of the great British actors of the post-WWII period. Burton was born Richard Walter Jenkins in Pontrhydyfen, Wales, to Edith Maude (Thomas) and Richard Walter Jenkins...
 
33.
Charlton Heston
Actor, Ben-Hur
With features chiseled in stone, and renowned for playing a long list of historical figures, particularly in Biblical epics, the tall, well built and ruggedly handsome Charlton Heston was one of Hollywood's greatest leading men and remained active in front of movie cameras for over sixty years. As a Hollywood star...
 
34.
Rod Steiger
Rodney Stephen Steiger was born in Westhampton, New York, to Augusta Amelia (Driver) and Frederick Jacob Steiger, both vaudevillians. He was of German and Austrian ancestry. After his parents' divorce, Steiger was raised by his mother in Newark, New Jersey. He dropped out of Westside High school at age 16 and joined the Navy...
 
35.
Lee Marvin
Actor, M Squad
Prematurely white-haired character star who began as a supporting player of generally vicious demeanor, then metamorphosed into a star of both action and drama projects, Lee Marvin was born in New York City to Lamont Waltman Marvin, an advertising executive, and his wife Courtenay Washington Davidge...
 
36.
William Holden
William Holden was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois, to Mary Blanche (Ball), a schoolteacher, and William Franklin Beedle, Sr., an industrial chemist. He came from a wealthy family (the Beedles) that moved to Pasadena, California, when he was three. In 1937, while studying chemistry at Pasadena Junior College...
 
37.
Robert Preston
American leading man of vast charisma, Robert Preston was the son of a garment worker and a record store clerk and grew up in Los Angeles. He was a trained musician, playing several instruments, and in high school became interested in theatre. He joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse, taking classes and appearing in scores of plays alongside such soon-to-be-well-known actors as Dana Andrews...
 
38.
Ernest Borgnine
Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut. His parents were Anna (Boselli), who had emigrated from Carpi (MO), Italy, and Camillo Borgnino, who had emigrated from Ottiglio (AL), Italy. As an only child, Ernest enjoyed most sports, especially boxing, but took no real interest in acting...
 
39.
Yul Brynner
Exotic leading man of American films, famed as much for his completely bald head as for his performances, Yul Brynner masked much of his life in mystery and outright lies designed to tease people he considered gullible. It was not until the publication of the books "Yul: The Man Who Would Be King" and "Empire and Odyssey" by his son...
 
41.
Henry Fonda
Henry Jaynes Fonda was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, to Elma Herberta (Jaynes) and William Brace Fonda, who worked in advertising and printing. His recent ancestry included Dutch, English, and Scottish. Fonda started his acting debut with the Omaha Community Playhouse, a local amateur theater troupe directed by Dorothy Brando...
 
42.
John Gielgud
Actor, Gandhi
Sir John Gielgud is a highly distinguished and prolific performer who is considered to be one of the finest actors of his generation. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Gielgud played his first Hamlet in 1930 and quickly established himself as one of the most eminent Shakespearean interpreters of his time...
 
43.
Cary Grant
Once told by an interviewer, "Everybody would like to be Cary Grant", Grant is said to have replied, "So would I." Cary Grant was born Archibald Alexander Leach in Horfield, Bristol, England, to Elsie Maria (Kingdon) and Elias James Leach, who worked in a factory. His early years in Bristol would have been an ordinary lower-middle-class childhood...
 
44.
Charles Coburn
A cigar-smoking, monocled, swag-bellied character actor known for his Old South manners and charm. In 1918 he and his first wife formed the Coburn Players and appeared on Broadway in many plays. With her death in 1937, he accepted a Hollywood contract and began making films at the age of sixty.
 
45.
Kirk Douglas
Actor, Spartacus
Kirk Douglas is an American actor, producer, director, and author. After an impoverished childhood with immigrant parents and six sisters, he had his film debut in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck. Douglas soon developed into a leading box-office star throughout the 1950s and 1960s...
 
46.
Marcello Mastroianni
Actor,
Marcello Mastroianni was born in Fontana Liri, Italy in 1924, but soon his family moved to Turin and then Rome. During WW2 he was sent to a German prison camp, but he managed to escape and hide in Venice. He debuted in films as an extra in Marionette, then started working for the Italian department of "Eagle Lion Films" in Rome and joined a drama club...
 
47.
Basil Rathbone
Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1892, but three years later his family was forced to flee the country because his father was accused by the Boers of being a British spy at a time when Dutch-British conflicts were leading to the Boer War. The Rathbones escaped to England, where Basil and his two younger siblings...
 
48.
Gene Kelly
Eugene Curran Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the third son of Harriet Catherine (Curran) and James Patrick Joseph Kelly, a phonograph salesman. His father was of Irish descent and his mother was of Irish and German ancestry. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was the largest and most powerful studio in Hollywood when Gene Kelly arrived in town in 1941...
 
49.
Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen was an American actor. Called "The King of Cool", his "anti-hero" persona, developed at the height of the counterculture of the 1960s, made him a top box-office draw of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Cincinnati Kid...
 
50.
John Wayne
John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Iowa, to Mary Alberta (Brown) and Clyde Leonard Morrison, a pharmacist. He was of English, Ulster-Scots, and Irish ancestry. Clyde developed a lung condition that required him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of southern California, where they tried ranching in the Mojave Desert...