100 Famous Actresses of Hollyood's Golden Era (1930-1959)

Here are 100 popular actresses who were very famous at some point during the golden era of Hollywood, the 1930's through the 1940's. They are not listed in any particular order. Due to space limitations I had to leave out actresses best known for the silent era (Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Clara Bow), who rarely worked in Hollywood (Anna Magnani, Danielle Darrieux, Brigitte Bardot). Also please note women who became stars AFTER 1959 such as Anne Bancroft (even though she was in 50's movies) are not included either. Most of these women were STARS, a few might be better described as leading ladies and a few were mainly supporting players but everyone of them was famous to the public in their eras. The list has been edited to now include some major actresses who did not have an IMDb when it was originally created which but alas several still do not such as Penny Singleton.
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Jean Harlow
Harlean Carpenter, who later became Jean Harlow, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1911. She was the daughter of a successful dentist and his wife. In 1927, at the age of 16, she ran away from home to marry a young businessman named Charles McGrew, who was 23. The couple pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles...
Claudette Colbert
Screenwriter Allan Scott was one of Claudette Colbert's biggest fans after working with her on Skylark and So Proudly We Hail!. When she had trouble with one of his scenes she never said, "I can't play this scene"; her attitude was, "I think I'm missing something here", he recalled decades later when writing about Colbert's deep understanding as a friend...
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...
Lucille Ball
Actress, I Love Lucy
The woman who will always be remembered as the crazy, accident-prone, lovable Lucy Ricardo was born Lucille Desiree Ball on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York. Her father died before she was four, and her mother worked several jobs, so she and her younger brother were raised by their grandparents...
Vivien Leigh
Vivian Mary Hartley was born on November 5, 1913, in Darjeeling, India. She was to live in this beautiful country for the next six years. Her parents wanted to go home to England but because of World War I they opted to stay in India. At the end of the war the Hartleys headed back to their home country...
Jane Wyman
Actress, Falcon Crest
Jane Wyman was born Sarah Jane Mayfield on January 5, 1917, in St. Joseph, Missouri (she was also known later as Sarah Jane Fulks). When she was only eight years old, and after her parents filed for divorce, she lost her father prematurely. After graduating high school she attempted, with the help of her mother...
Mae West
Actress, I'm No Angel
Mae West was born in Queens, New York, to "Battling Jack" West and Matilda Doelger. She began her career as a child star in vaudeville, and later went on to write her own plays, including "SEX", for which she was arrested. Though her first movie role was a small part in Night After Night, her scene has become famous...
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson. A frequently overlooked detail is that although born June 1, 1926, she was not born in Los Angeles, California but actually in Lemmon, South Dakota. Her mother was an alcoholic and in a custody battle over Norma Jean with her father when she was about 4-5 years old...
Dorothy Lamour
Actress, Road to Bali
Dorothy Lamour was born with the birth name of Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton on December 10, 1914, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was a beautiful child who turned heads as a teenager with her long dark hair. However, her dream was to become a professional singer not actress. After she won a beauty contest as Miss New Orleans in 1931...
Rita Hayworth
Actress, Gilda
Margarita Carmen Cansino was born on October 17, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York, into a family of dancers. Her father, Eduardo was a dancer as was his father before him. He emigrated from Spain in 1913. Rita's mother met Eduardo in 1916 and were married the following year. Rita, herself, studied as a dancer in order to follow in her family's footsteps...
Doris Day
One of America's most prolific actresses was born Doris Mary Ann Von Kapplehoff on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Alma Sophia (Welz), a housewife, and William Joseph Kappelhoff, a music teacher and choir master. Her grandparents were all German immigrants. She had two brothers, Richard, who died before she was born and Paul, a few years older...
Carole Lombard
Carole Lombard, the 5' 2" beauty was a comedy hit during the 30s and 40s. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 6, 1908 under the name of Jane Alice Peters. Young Jane Alice loved the Friday night movie night with her family and would perform the night before's show in the morning. Her mother and her father divorced in October of 1914...
Ginger Rogers
Actress, Top Hat
Ginger Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, Missouri on July 16, 1911. Her mother, known as Lelee, went to Independence to have Ginger away from her husband. She had a baby earlier in their marriage and he allowed the doctor to use forceps and the baby died. She was kidnapped by her father several times until her mother took him to court...
Janet Gaynor
Actress, Sunrise
Janet Gaynor was born Laura Gainor on October 6, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child, she & her parents moved to San Francisco, California, where she graduated from high school in 1923. She then moved to Los Angeles where she enrolled in a secretarial school. She got a job at a shoe store for the princely sum of $18 per week...
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...
Myrna Loy
Myrna Loy was born Myrna Adele Williams on August 2, 1905 in Helena, Montana, to Adelle Mae (Johnson) and David Franklin Williams. Her paternal grandparents were Welsh, and her mother was of Scottish and Swedish descent. Myrna was raised in Helena and nearby Radersburg. Her father, a rancher, was the youngest person ever elected to the Montana State legislature...
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...
Norma Shearer
Actress, The Women
She won a beauty contest at age fourteen. In 1920 her mother, Edith Shearer, took Norma and her sister Athole Shearer (Mrs. Howard Hawks) to New York. Ziegfeld rejected her for his "Follies," but she got work as an extra in several movies. She spent much money on eye doctor's services trying to correct her cross-eyed stare caused by a muscle weakness...
Jane Russell
Jane's first interest was in dress designing but on leaving high school she enrolled for a term at Max Reinhardt's Theatrical Workshop which changed her mind about being a dress designer. Later she signed for 6 months with Madame Ouspenskaya (an actress and coach) who fired her dramatic ambition. Although...
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...
Dolores del Rio
Dolores del Rio was the first Mexican movie star with international appeal and had a meteoric career in 1920s Hollywood (an extraordinary accomplishment for an Hispanic female on those years). She came from an aristocratic family in Durango. In the Mexican revolution of 1916, however, the family lost everything they had and emigrated to Mexico City...
Hedy Lamarr
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Vienna, Austria, to a banker and his wife. Hedwig, who obviously became Hedy, had a rather calm childhood, but it was cinema that fascinated her. By the time she was a teenager she decided to drop out of school and seek fame as an actress. Her first role was a bit part in the German film Geld auf der Straße (aka "Money on the Street") in 1930...
Gloria Swanson
Actress, Sunset Blvd.
Gloria Swanson went to public schools in Chicago; Key West, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her film debut was as an extra in The Fable of Elvira and Farina and the Meal Ticket. From the following year on, she had leading roles in pictures for Keystone, then a year with Triangle, and, in 1919, a contract with Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille transformed her from a typical Mack Sennett comedienne into a lively...
Irene Dunne
Irene Marie Dunne was born on December 20, 1898, in Louisville, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Joseph Dunne, who inspected steamships, and Adelaide Henry, a musician who prompted Irene in the arts. Her first production was in Louisville when she appeared in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the age of five...
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...
Elizabeth Taylor
Actress, Giant
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was considered one of the last, if not the last, major star to have come out of the old Hollywood studio system. She was known internationally for her beauty, especially for her violet eyes, with which she captured audiences early on in her youth and kept the world hooked on with since...
Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple was easily the most popular and famous child star of all time. She got her start in the movies at the age of three and soon progressed to super stardom. Shirley could do it all: act, sing and dance and all at the age of five! Fans loved her as she was bright, bouncy and cheerful in her...
Betty Hutton
Betty Hutton was born Elizabeth June Thornburg on February 26, 1921, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Two years later Betty's father decided that the family way of life wasn't for him, so he left (he committed suicide 16 years later). Having to fend for themselves, Mrs. Thornburg moved the family to Detroit to find work in the numerous auto factories there...
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...
Marlene Dietrich
Her father was a police lieutenant and imbued in her a military attitude to life. Marlene was known in school for her "bedroom eyes" and her first affairs were at this stage in her life - a professor at the school was terminated. She entered the cabaret scene in 1920s Germany, first as a spectator then as a cabaret singer...
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...
Dorothy Dandridge
Actress, Carmen Jones
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Ruby Dandridge (née Ruby Jean Butler), an entertainer, and Cyril H. Dandridge, a cabinet maker and minister. Under the prodding of her mother, Dorothy and her sister Vivian Dandridge began performing publicly, usually in black Baptist churches throughout the country...
Greer Garson
Actress, Mrs. Miniver
Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson was born on September 29, 1904 in London, England, to Nancy Sophia (Greer) and George Garson, a commercial clerk. She was of Scottish and Ulster-Scots descent. Her childhood was a normal if not non-descript life. Greer showed no early signs of interest in becoming an actress...
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...
Greta Garbo
Actress, Ninotchka
Greta Garbo was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson on September 18, 1905, in Stockholm, Sweden, to Anna Lovisa (Johansdotter), who worked at a jam factory, and Karl Alfred Gustafsson, a laborer. She was fourteen when her father died, which left the family destitute. Greta was forced to leave school and go to work in a department store...
Anna May Wong
Anna May Wong was born Wong Liu Tsong on January 3, 1905, in Los Angeles, California. Her parents ran a laundry in the city's Chinatown section. Anna became a photographer's model when she was still attending Hollywood High School. She was fascinated with the movie industry at a young age, having observed several films being shot in and around her neighborhood...
Betty Grable
Elizabeth Ruth Grable was born on December 18, 1916 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Lillian Rose (Hofmann) and John Charles Grable, a stockbroker. She had German, English, Irish, and Dutch ancestry. Her mother was a stubborn and materialistic woman who was determined to make her daughter a star. Elizabeth...
Deanna Durbin
The girl who one day would be known as "Winnipeg's Sweetheart" was born at Grace Hospital on December 4, 1921, as Edna Mae Durbin. In her early childhood there were no obvious signs that one day she would be a bigger box office attraction than Shirley Temple. Renamed Deanna Durbin for show business purposes...
Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. She was a blue-blood and a cosmopolitan from birth. Her mother, Ella van Heemstra, was a Dutch baroness; Audrey's father, Joseph Victor Anthony Hepburn-Ruston, was born in Úzice, Bohemia, of English and Austrian descent, and worked in business...
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...
Merle Oberon
Merle Oberon was born in Bombay, of mixed Welsh-Indian parentage, as Estelle "Queenie" Thompson. According to Michael Korda, she "became a feature of Bombay nightlife while still in her early teens and eventually made her way to England as the girlfriend of a wealthy young Englishman." In London she...
Carmen Miranda
Soundtrack, Radio Days
Carmen Miranda was a young hatmaker before she was invited to display her singing talents at a music academy. That attempt proved successful and she went on to become a popular singer in clubs and on radio in Brazil. It was during this time that she developed the costume with the distinctive fruit hat from the traditional headdress seen on black women fruit sellers...
Ingrid Bergman
Actress, Casablanca
Ingrid Bergman was one of the greatest actresses from Hollywood's lamented Golden Era. Her natural and unpretentious beauty and her immense acting talent made her one of the most celebrated figures in the history of American cinema. Bergman is also one of the most Oscar-awarded actresses, tied with Meryl Streep, both are second only to Katharine Hepburn...
Judy Garland
One of the brightest, most tragic movie stars of Hollywood's Golden Era, Judy Garland was a much-loved character whose warmth and spirit, along with her rich and exuberant voice, kept theatre-goers entertained with an array of delightful musicals. She was born Frances Ethel Gumm on 10 June 1922 in Minnesota...
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...
Susan Hayward
The youngest of three children, Edythe Marrenner was born in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. Her father and mother, who were of Irish and Swedish descent respectively, endowed her with the milky complexion and ruby mane that would become her trademark. She grew up in poverty in the shadow of her older sister Florence who was her mother's favorite...
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...
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...
Lana Turner
Lana Turner had an acting ability that belied the "Sweater Girl" image MGM thrust upon her, and even many of her directors admitted that they knew she was capable of greatness (check out The Postman Always Rings Twice). Unfortunately, her private life sometimes overshadowed her professional accomplishments. Lana Turner was born Julia Jean Mildred Francis Turner in Wallace...
Debbie Reynolds
Debbie Reynolds was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas, the second child of Maxine N. (Harmon) and Raymond Francis Reynolds, a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Her film career began at MGM after she won a beauty contest at age 16 impersonating Betty Hutton. Reynolds wasn't a dancer until she was selected to be Gene Kelly's partner in Singin' in the Rain...
Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake was born as Constance Frances Marie Ockleman on November 14, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York. She was the daughter of Constance Charlotta (Trimble) and Harry Eugene Ockelman, who worked for an oil company as a ship employee. Her father was of half German and half Irish descent, and her mother was of Irish ancestry...
Olivia de Havilland
Olivia Mary de Havilland was born July 1, 1916, in Tokyo, Japan, to British parents Lilian Augusta (Ruse), a former actress, and Walter Augustus de Havilland, an English professor and patent attorney. Her sister, Joan, later to become famous as Joan Fontaine, was born the following year. Her surname comes from her paternal grandfather...
Lena Horne
Lena Calhoun Horne was born June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York. In her biography she stated that on the day she was born, her father was in the midst of a card game trying to get money to pay the hospital costs. Her parents divorced while she was still a toddler. Her mother left later in order to find work as an actress and Lena was left in the care of her grandparents...
Joan Blondell
Actress, Grease
With blonde hair, big blue eyes and a big smile, Joan was usually cast as the wisecracking working girl who was the lead's best friend. Born into vaudeville to a comic named Eddie, Joan was on the stage when she was three years old. For years, she toured the circuit with her parents and joined a stock company when she was 17...
June Allyson
American leading lady whose sweet smile and sunny disposition made her the prototypical girl-next-door of American movies of the 1940s. Raised in semi-poverty in Bronx neighborhoods by her divorced mother, Allyson (nee Ella Geisman) was injured in a fall at age eight and spent four years confined within a steel brace...
Paulette Goddard
Actress, Modern Times
Paulette Goddard was a child model who debuted in "The Ziegfeld Follies" at the age of 13. She gained fame with the show as the girl on the crescent moon, and was married to a wealthy man by the time she was 16. After her divorce she went to Hollywood in 1931, where she appeared in small roles in pictures for a number of studios...
Miriam Hopkins
Born into wealth in Savannah,Georgia on October 18, 1902, Ellen Miriam Hopkins was able to attend the finest educational institutions including Goddard Seminary in Plainfield, Vermont and Syracuse University in New York State. Studying dance in New York , she received her first taste of show business as a chorus girl at twenty...
Yvonne De Carlo
Actress, The Munsters
Yvonne De Carlo was born Margaret Yvonne Middleton on September 1, 1922 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She was three when her father abandoned the family. Her mother turned to waitressing in a restaurant to make ends meet--a rough beginning for an actress who would, one day, be one of Hollywood's elite...
Anita Page
Beautiful Anita Page was one of the most famous and popular leading ladies during the last years of the silent screen and the first years of the talkie era. She was best known for starring in The Broadway Melody, the first sound film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Her leading men included the likes of John Gilbert, Clark Gable, Buster Keaton and Robert Montgomery...
Alice Faye
Soundtrack, Yes Man
Alice Faye started her career as singer with Rudy Vallee's band in the early 1930s in New York. She went with Vallee to Hollywood, when he was able to get a number for her in George White's Scandals. When the female star of this film, Lilian Harvey left the set, Faye got her role. In her early years in Hollywood...
Constance Bennett
Actress, Topper
Often described as the most beautiful of the Bennett sisters with her blonde hair and blue eyes, Constance Bennett was the daughter of actor Richard Bennett and actress Adrienne Morrison. Her sisters were Joan Bennett and Barbara Bennett. She was educated at Miss Shandor's school, Mrs. Merrill's school and Mme...
Maureen O'Hara
In America, the early performing arts accomplishments of young Maureen FitzSimons (who we know as Maureen O'Hara) would definitely have put her in the child prodigy category. However, for a child of Irish heritage surrounded by gifted parents and family, these were very natural traits. Maureen made her entrance into this caring haven on August 17...
Jayne Mansfield
One of the leading sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s, film actress Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jayne Palmer on April 19, 1933 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, to Vera J. and Herbert W. Palmer. Her parents were well-to-do, with her father a successful attorney in Phillipburg, New Jersey, where Jayne began her girlhood...
Ida Lupino
Ida was born in London to a show business family. In 1933, her mother brought Ida with her to an audition and Ida got the part her mother wanted. The picture was Her First Affaire. Ida, a bleached blonde, came to Hollywood in 1934 and played small and insignificant parts. Peter Ibbetson was one of her...
Maureen O'Sullivan
Maureen Paula O'Sullivan was born on May 17, 1911 in County Roscommon, Ireland, to Evangeline "Mary Eva" Lovatt (Frazer) and Charles Joseph O'Sullivan, an officer in the Connaught Rangers. She was of Irish, English, and Scottish descent. The future mother of Mia Farrow was educated in private Catholic girls schools in London...
Eleanor Powell
Actress, Born to Dance
Eleanor Powell was born in 1912 in Springfield, Massachussetts, and got her professional start in Atlantic City clubs, from where she moved into in revue in New York at the Ritz Grill and Casino de Paris at the age of sixteen. She started her career on Broadway in 1929, where her machine-gun foot work gained her the title of world champion in tapping...
Ethel Waters
Actress, Beulah
The child of a teenage rape victim, Ethel Waters grew up in the slums of Philadelphia and neighboring cities, seldom living anywhere for more than a few weeks at a time. "No one raised me, " she recollected, "I just ran wild." She excelled not only at looking after herself, but also at singing and dancing; she began performing at church functions...
Jeanette MacDonald
Actress, San Francisco
Jeanette MacDonald began her career at age 6, where she had small roles in theaters and operas. By age 13, she was winning singing contests along the eastern United States. Jeanette was a very talented operatic singer/lyrical soprano, with a wide vocal range, E above high C, close to 3 octaves. Her talent soon was spotted by Ernst Lubitsch...
Sylvia Sidney
Actress, Sabotage
"Film after film took advantage of the saddest eyes in Hollywood", says the photo caption for a portrait of Sylvia Sidney published with a 1978 interview conducted by Columbia University film instructor Karyn Kay. Sidney told what it was like working with Hitchcock on Sabotage. She asked him: "How do we do the end of the scene before we've even rehearsed?" Once she learned his methods...
Rhonda Fleming
Actress, Spellbound
A native-born Californian, Rhonda Fleming attended Beverly Hills public and private schools. Her mother, Effie Graham, was a famous model and actress in New York. She has a son (Kent Lane), two granddaughters (Kimberly and Kelly) and four great-grandchildren (Wagner, Page, Lane and Cole). She has appeared in over 40 films...
Lupe Velez
Together with Dolores del Rio, Ramon Novarro, Lupe Velez and José Mojica as among the few Mexican people who made history in the early years of Hollywood. Vélez career began in Mexico City, where she lived with her mother and sisters. In 1925, while working in a clothes store, Vélez caught the attention of three theatrical managers who were impressed by her beauty and grace...
Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern's film career started as an extra in 1927. Originally a redhead, for the comedy roles she began to get she bleached her hair blond. After working at MGM and on Broadway, Ann was signed by Columbia Pictures for Let's Fall in Love. The next year she would work with Eddie Cantor in his hit Kid Millions...
Deborah Kerr
Deborah Kerr was born on 30 September 1921 in Helensburgh, Scotland, the daughter of Captain Arthur Kerr-Trimmer. She was educated at Northumberland House, Clifton, Bristol. She first performed at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, London. She subsequently performed with the Oxford Repertory Company 1939-40...
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...
Marie Dressler
Once you saw her, you would not forget her. Despite her age and weight, she became one of the top box office draws of the sound era. She was 14 when she joined a theater group and she went on to work on stage and in light opera. By 1892, she was on Broadway and she later became a star comedienne on the vaudeville circuit...
Shelley Winters
Actress, Lolita
Shelley Winters was born Shirley Schrift of very humble beginnings on August 18, 1920 (some sources list 1922) in East St. Louis, Illinois. Her mother, Rose (Winter), was born in Missouri, to Austrian Jewish parents, and her father, Jonas Schrift, was an Austrian Jewish immigrant. Her father moved the family to Brooklyn when she was still young so that he...
Jane Withers
Actress, Giant
During the early times of the Depression when life was more famine than feast, child stars became the blue plate special of the day, served up by Hollywood to help nourish a nation besieged with troubles. Following 20th Century-Fox monumental success with Shirley Temple in the early 1930s, every studio...
Helen Hayes
Known as "The First lady of the American Theater", Helen Hayes had a legendary career on stage and in films and television that spanned over eighty years. Hayes was born in Washington, D.C., to Catherine Estelle "Essie" Hayes, an actress who worked in touring companies, and Francis van Arnum Brown, a clerk and salesman...
Maria Montez
Maria Montez, also known as The Caribbean Cyclone, was born Maria Africa Vidal de Santo Silas, on June 6, 1917, in Barahona, Dominican Republic, to a Spanish consul and his wife. After a stint in modeling, she made an attempt at Hollywood. Maria's exotic beauty landed her a contract in the movie colony...
Esther Williams
Esther Jane Williams was born on August 8, 1921 in Inglewood, California. Her youth was spent as a teenage swimming champion and she won three United States National championships. She eventually was spotted by a MGM talent scout while working in a Los Angeles department store. She made her film debut with MGM in an "Andy Hardy" picture called Andy Hardy's Double Life...
Gene Tierney
Actress, Laura
With prominent cheekbones and the most appealing overbite of her day, her striking good looks helped propel her to stardom. Her best known role is the enigmatic murder victim in Laura. She was also Oscar-nominated for Leave Her to Heaven. Her acting performances were few in the 1950s as she battled a troubled emotional life that included hospitalization and shock treatment for depression.
Margaret O'Brien
Born Angela Maxine O'Brien on January 15, 1937 in San Diego, California. Her film debut was one-minute shot in MGM's Babes on Broadway. Her big moment came when she was cast in Journey for Margaret. This film shot her into instant stardom and also resulted in Angela changing her name to Margaret. Throughout the 1940s Margaret was a major child star...
Jeanne Crain
Actress, State Fair
Jeanne Crain was born in Barstow, California, on May 25, 1925. The daughter of a high school English teacher and his wife, Jeanne was moved to Los Angeles not long after her birth after her father got another teaching position in that city. While in junior high school, Jeanne played the lead in a school production which set her on the path to acting...
Jennifer Jones
One of the world's most underrated Academy Award-winning actresses, Jennifer Jones was born Phylis Lee Isley on 2 March 1919 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Flora Mae (Suber) and Phillip Ross Isley, who ran a travelling stage show. As a young aspiring actress, she met and fell for young aspiring actor Robert Walker and they soon married...
Fay Wray
Actress, King Kong
She was born Vina Fay Wray near Cardston, Alberta, Canada, on September 15, 1907. Fay was from a large family that included five siblings. She moved to Arizona when she was still small in order for her father to find better work than what was offered in Alberta. After moving again to California, her parents divorced...
Ann Blyth
The dark, petulant beauty of this petite American film and musical star worked to her advantage, especially in her early dramatic career. Ann Marie Blyth was born of Irish stock to Harry and Nan Blyth on August 16, 1928, in Mt. Kisco, New York. Her parents split while she was young and she, her mother and sister moved to New York City...
Judy Holliday
A New York girl, born and raised, Judith Tuvim was the only child of parents Abe Tuvimand Helen. In school, she excelled in academics, winning several awards for her skills as a writer. While in her early teens, she developed what would become a life-long love for theater. In 1938, she made her professional debut as part of a nightclub act called "The Revuers"...
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...
Leslie Caron
Actress, Gigi
Actress and dancer. Gene Kelly got her to the movies for the film An American in Paris in 1951. Got a world-wide reputation for her roles in Lili (1953) and Gigi (1958).
Sophia Loren
Actress, Two Women
Sophia Loren was born as Sofia Scicolone at the Clinica Regina Margherita in Rome, Italy, on September 20, 1934. Her father, Riccardo Scicolone, was married to another woman and refused to marry her mother, Romilda Villani, despite the fact that she was the mother of his two children (Sophia and her younger sister Maria Scicolone)...
Luise Rainer
Luise Rainer, the first thespian to win back-to-back Oscars, was born on January 12, 1910 in Dusseldorf, Germany, into a prosperous Jewish family. Her parents were Emilie (Königsberger) and Heinrich Rainer, a businessman. She took to the stage, and plied her craft on the boards in Germany. As a young actress...
Ann Miller
Ann Miller was born Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier on April 12, 1923 in Chireno, Texas. She lived there until she was nine, when her mother left her philandering father and moved with Ann to Los Angeles, California. Even at that young age, she had to support her mother, who was hearing-impaired and unable to hold a job...
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...
Kim Novak
Actress, Vertigo
Kim Novak was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 13, 1933 with the birth name of Marilyn Pauline Novak. She was the daughter of Joseph Novak, a former teacher turned transit clerk and his wife, Blanche Kral Novak, also a former teacher. Throughout elementary and high school, Kim did not get along well with teachers...
Kathryn Grayson
Actress, Show Boat
Kathryn Grayson was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick in Winston-Salem, NC, on February 9, 1922. This pretty, petite brunette with a heart-shaped face was discovered by MGM talent scouts while singing on the radio. The studio quickly signed her to a contract, and she was given acting lessons along and had to pose for countless publicity photos...
Jane Powell
Actress, Royal Wedding
Jane Powell was singing and dancing at an early age. She sang on the radio and performed in theaters before her screen debut in 1944. Through the 1940s and 1950s, she had a successful career in movie musicals. However, in 1957, her career in films ended, as she had outgrown her innocent girl-next-door image...
Kay Francis
Kay Francis is possibly the biggest of the 'forgotten stars' from Hollywood's Golden Era, yet, for a while in the 1930s, she ranked as one of the most popular actresses, tagged the 'Queen of Warner Brothers', by 1935 earning a yearly salary of $115,000 (compared to Bette Davis with $18,000). The daughter of actress Katherine Clinton and businessman Joseph Gibbs...
Ruby Keeler
Ruby Keeler started as a dancer on Broadway. After her marriage to Al Jolson she moved to Hollywood and become a star in Warners musicals opposite Dick Powell. After her divorce from Jolson she retired for almost 30 years, until she appeared in "No No Nanette" on Broadway in 1971 under the direction of Busby Berkeley.
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...
Madeleine Carroll
Actress, The 39 Steps
The original ash-blonde "iceberg maiden", Madeleine Carroll was a knowing beauty with a confident air, the epitome of poise and "breeding". Not only did she have looks and allure in abundance, but she had intellectual heft to go with them, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Birmingham University at the age of 20...