Stars of the '30s and '40s who are still with us

by crisso | created - 26 Mar 2011 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

Some were big and some small - but they all noticeably appeared in at least two films at some point during the 1930s and/or 1940s. Note: TV work or extra work does not count.

1. Olivia de Havilland

Actress | The Heiress

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 ...

My vote for number one living screen legend goes to this lady. There's several reasons why: her hugely memorable screen partnership with Errol Flynn, which included some of the greatest and most memorable adventure epics of all time, the greatest of them being The Adventures of Robin Hood. She starred in possibly the best loved Hollywood film of all time - a film so well known I need not mention it by name. And possibly her greatest achievement of all was winning the landmark legal battle against Warner Bros, following which she did her best work, including her two Oscar winning performances in To Each His Own and The Heiress, as well as her highly acclaimed role in the groundbreaking The Snake Pit. Her career seemed to go into decline somewhat afterwards but it semed to be based on her own choices. After all what else did she need to prove?

UPDATE: As of 2017, and at 101 years of age, de Havilland is the oldest living Oscar winner and the last surviving name-above the title adult stars of 1930s Hollywood.

2. Glynis Johns

Actress | Mary Poppins

Husky voiced Glynis is the daughter of actor Mervyn Johns. Best known for her light comedy roles and often playful flirtation, Glynis was born in South Africa while her parents were on tour there (her mother was a concert pianist) but was always proud of her Welsh roots and took delight in playing ...

Film debut: 1938

3. Angela Lansbury

Actress | The Manchurian Candidate

British character actress, long in the United States. The daughter of an actress and the granddaughter of a high-ranking politician, Lansbury studied acting from her youth, departing for the United States as the Second World War began. She was contracted by MGM while still a teenager and nominated ...

Film debut: 1944

4. Kirk Douglas

Actor | Spartacus

Cleft-chinned, steely-eyed and virile star of international cinema who rose from being "the ragman's son" (the name of his best-selling 1988 autobiography) to become a bona fide superstar, Kirk Douglas, also known as Issur Danielovitch Demsky, was born on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, New York. ...

Film debut: 1946

5. Doris Day

Soundtrack | Pillow Talk

One of America's most prolific actresses was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff 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 ...

Film debut: 1948

6. Marsha Hunt

Actress | Pride and Prejudice

Stardom somehow eluded this vastly gifted actress. Had it not perhaps been for her low-level profile compounded by her McCarthy-era blacklisting in the early 1950s, there is no telling what higher tier Marsha Hunt might have attained. Perhaps her work was not flashy enough, or too subdued, or ...

Film debut: 1935

7. Margaret O'Brien

Actress | Meet Me in St. Louis

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 (1941). Her big moment came when she was cast in Journey for Margaret (1942). This film shot her into instant stardom and also resulted in Angela changing her name ...

Film debut: 1941 (and still working!)

8. Sally Ann Howes

Actress | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Sally Ann Howes grew up in a show business family led by her father, famous English comedian/actor Bobby Howes, her mother Patricia Malone and grandfather, Broadway director Capt. J.A.E. Malone. She had her first screen test offer on her 12th birthday and went on to star in several films before she...

Film debut: 1943

9. Ann Blyth

Actress | The Helen Morgan Story

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 ...

Film debut: 1944

10. 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 ...

Film debut: 1932

11. Rhonda Fleming

Actress | Out of the Past

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 ...

Film debut: 1943

12. Mary Carlisle

Actress | Tip-Off Girls

She was the standard prototype of the porcelain-pretty collegiate and starry-eyed romantic interest in a host of Depression-era films and although her name may not ring a bell to most, Mary Carlisle enjoyed a fairly solid decade in the cinematic limelight. The Boston-born, blue-eyed blonde was ...

13. Patricia Morison

Actress | Dressed to Kill

Woefully misused while in her prime screen years at Paramount during the late '30s and '40s, Patricia Morison, lovely and exotic with Rapunzel-like long, dark hair, nevertheless became a star in her own right -- as a supremely talented diva on the singing stage. Born on March 19, 1915, in New York ...

14. Nanette Fabray

Actress | Harper Valley P.T.A.

A sparkling, entertaining, highly energetic presence ever since her early days (from age 4) as a singing and tap dancing child vaudevillian, Nanette Fabray (born Ruby Fabares in San Diego) was once billed as "Baby Nanette" and working with the top headliners of the era, notably Ben Turpin, in the ...

15. Muriel Pavlow

Actress | Murder She Said

Lovely, delicate-looking actress Muriel Pavlow belongs firmly to the British cinema of the 1950s and often provided a nice counterbalance to the hectic goings-on in many comedies. Born in 1921 in Leigh, Kent, England, she was a dominant stage actress despite her petite frame and made her theatrical...

16. Norman Lloyd

Actor | Dead Poets Society

Norman Lloyd was born Norman Perlmutter in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Sadie (Horowitz), a housewife and singer, and Max Perlmutter, a furniture store manager. His family was Jewish (from Hungary and Russia). He began his acting career in the theater, first "treading the boards" at Eva Le Gallienne...

17. Arlene Dahl

Actress | Journey to the Center of the Earth

Elegance and femininity are fitting descriptions for Arlene Dahl. She is considered to be one of the most beautiful actresses to have graced the screen during the postwar period. Audiences were captivated by her breathtaking beauty and the way she used to it to her advantage, progressing from ...

18. Peggy Cummins

Actress | Gun Crazy

Peggy Cummins was born on December 18, 1925 in Prestatyn, Denbighshire, Wales as Augusta Margaret Diane Fuller. She is an actress, known for Gun Crazy (1950), Curse of the Demon (1957) and Escape (1948). She was previously married to Derek Dunnett.

19. Gloria Jean

Actress | I Surrender Dear

Gloria Jean Schoonover was born on April 14, 1926 in Buffalo, New York. Her family moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania shortly after that; this is where Gloria spent the early part of her childhood. Her father owned a music store, while her mother, who had been a bareback rider in a circus, took care ...

20. Darryl Hickman

Actor | Leave Her to Heaven

Although younger brother Dwayne Hickman is probably the better-remembered sibling today with his still-huge cult following as TV's Dobie Gillis, Darryl Hickman was certainly the more popular actor and deemed more talented when they were children. During his years at MGM in the wartime 40s, Darryl ...

21. Dorothy Malone

Actress | Written on the Wind

The blonde, sultry, dreamy-eyed beauty of Dorothy Malone, who was born in Chicago, Illinois, took some time before it made an impact with American film-going audiences. But once she did, she played it for all it was worth in her one chance Academy Award-winning "bad girl" performance, a role quite ...

Film debut: 1944

22. Baby Peggy

Actress | Helen's Babies

Silent moppet star Jackie Coogan, immortalized as Charles Chaplin's The Kid (1921), had only one screen rival during the early 1920s, and that was none other than Baby Peggy. She was "discovered" while visiting the Century Studios lot on Sunset Boulevard with her mother when she was a mere 19-...

23. Jane Powell

Actress | Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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 ...

24. Mickey Kuhn

Actor | A Streetcar Named Desire

One of Hollywood's staple child actors during the 30s and 40s, Mickey Kuhn played alongside many a top Hollywood star from Leslie Howard and Conrad Nagel's son to playing Dick Tracy's ward. Once he reached the "awkward teens" stage, however, he found himself primarily unemployed or in unbilled ...

25. Terry Kilburn

Actor | Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Hollywood child actor.

26. Claude Jarman Jr.

Actor | Rio Grande

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Claude was the son of a railroad accountant. With no intentions of becoming a screen actor at the time, 12-year-old Claude Jarman, Jr. was discovered during an MGM nationwide talent search for their upcoming film, The Yearling (1946), and won the coveted role of Jody ...

27. Honor Blackman

Actress | Goldfinger

Comparing this sultry-eyed blonde to Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich may seem a bit overzealous, but Honor Blackman's stylish allure over the years cannot be denied.

One of four children, Blackman was born in London's East End to a statistician father employed with the civil service and a homemaker ...

Film debut: 1947

28. Valentina Cortese

Actress | La nuit américaine

Valentina Cortese was born in Milan, Lombardy, Italy, in 1923. She made her movie debut in 1940 and played many "ingenue" parts in Italian films of that period, before making a real sensation in Caccia all'uomo (1948) and Tempesta su Parigi (1948), playing both female leads, Fantine and Cosette (...

29. Michael Medwin

Actor | The Duchess

Michael Medwin was born on July 18, 1923 in London, England as Michael Hugh Medwin. He is an actor and producer, known for The Duchess (2008), Scrooge (1970) and Never Say Never Again (1983). He was previously married to Sunny Sheila Back.

30. Micheline Presle

Actress | Under My Skin

Dark-haired, Paris-born Micheline Presle (better known in the States as Micheline Prelle) was the daughter of a businessman and took acting classes as a teen. She was discovered by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and cast in Jeunes filles en détresse (1939) (Young Girls in Distress) and Four Flights to ...

31. Peggy Stewart

Actress | The Runaways

Florida-born Peggy O'Rourke's parents divorced when she was very young. Peggy's mother eventually married a wealthy attorney named Stewart, and Peggy took his name. She grew up in Atlanta (where she developed the athletic skills she would later demonstrate in her many westerns for Republic Pictures...

32. Jerry Maren

Actor | Dahmer vs. Gacy

He took dancing lessons when he was young and aspired to be an actor. In November 1938, standing just three foot four, he met up with the Oz-bound group of little people in New York and went by bus to California. There he was chosen to be the Munchkin who hands Dorothy a welcoming lollipop.

33. June Lockhart

Actress | She-Wolf of London

Born in New York City on June 25, 1925, the daughter of actors Gene Lockhart and Kathleen Lockhart, June Lockhart made her professional debut at age eight in a Metropolitan Opera production of "Peter Ibbetson", playing Mimsey in the dream sequence. In the mid-1930s, the Lockharts relocated to ...

34. Marge Champion

Actress | The Party

One of the great dancer and choreographers in both movies and stage, Marge Champion is best known today as the former wife of Gower Champion, when they worked together as a highly successfully dancing team in the MGM musical years. After retiring from movies, Champion now works as a dance teacher ...

35. Margaret Barton

Actress | Brief Encounter

Margaret Barton was born on May 27, 1926 in Finsbury Park, London, England as Margaret Ann Barton. She is an actress, known for Brief Encounter (1945), Fly Away Peter (1948) and The Gay Dog (1954). She was previously married to Raymond James.

36. Richard Erdman

Actor | Stalag 17

Richard Erdman was born on June 1, 1925 in Enid, Oklahoma, USA as John Richard Erdmann. He is an actor and director, known for Stalag 17 (1953), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Objective, Burma! (1945). He was previously married to Sharon Randall and Leza Holland.

37. Gigi Perreau

Actress | There's Always Tomorrow

A major little talent, this French-American moppet star of the late '40s and early '50s was not able to parlay her precocious popularity into a sizeable adult career, but has nevertheless maintained on the fringe for decades. Gigi Perreau was born in Los Angeles to a French father, who fled his ...

38. Petula Clark

Soundtrack | Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Petula Clark was a star at the age of 11. She starred in British concert halls and on BBC radio singing for the troops during WWII. She was a child star in a series of British films from the end of WWII through to the early 1950s,and by 1954 was having hit records. After a move to France in 1960, ...

39. Cora Sue Collins

Actress | Black Moon

Cora Sue Collins was born April 19, 1927, in Beckley, West Virginia. She was a beautiful child actress who was in very much demand during the '30s. Her first film, at the age of five, was The Strange Case of Clara Deane (1932). She appeared in small roles throughout the early part of the decade. ...

40. Ann Gillis

Actress | 2001: A Space Odyssey

Ann Gillis was born Alma Mabel Conner on February 12, 1927, in Little Rock, Arkansas. At age seven, she appeared in her first film, Men in White (1934), as an extra. During the next two years, she had uncredited appearances in six more films until she received her first major role in King of Hockey...

41. Robert Blake

Actor | Lost Highway

American actor who began as a child in Our Gang comedies and reappeared as a powerful adult performer of leading and character roles. Born in New Jersey, the young Mickey Gubitosi won a role in MGM's Our Gang series at the age of 5. As one of the more prominent children in the Gang, he gained ...

42. Marilyn Knowlden

Actress | Show Boat

In 1931, a one-day effort by Marilyn Knowlden's attorney father led to an interview, a next-day screen test and a large part for four-year-old Marilyn in one of the early "talkies", Women Love Once (1931). A ten-year movie career followed, where she played the daughter of such stars as Claudette ...

43. Rose Marie

Actress | The Dick Van Dyke Show

Rose Marie is a legend of show business with a career stretching over 80 years since her debut as her self in a Vitaphone musical short that appeared on the bill with The Jazz Singer (1927) at its premiere in 1927. According to Rose Marie, when she approached Al Jolson at The Wintergarden Theater ...

44. Janis Paige

Actress | Silk Stockings

Joyous scene-stealer Janis Paige started out playing rather bland film ingénues, but never seemed to be comfortable in those roles--she had too much snap, crackle and pop to be confined in such a formulaic way.

Born Donna Mae Tjaden in 1922 in Tacoma, Washington, she was singing in public from age 5...

45. Nancy Gates

Actress | World Without End

Nancy Gates was born February 1, 1926 in Dallas, Texas. She entered show business, at an early age, when she was signed to a contract with RKO Studios when she was 15. Her first production with that studio was in 1942's Hitler's Children (1943). Nancy was also in two more films that year, those ...

46. Dwayne Hickman

Actor | Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine

Boyishly handsome Dwayne Hickman, the younger brother of Darryl Hickman, followed in his sibling's tiny footsteps as a moppet film actor himself, appearing in such features as Captain Eddie (1945) (with Darryl) and as "Nip Worden" in The Return of Rusty (1946) and the rest of that dog adventure ...

47. Suzy Delair

Actress | L'assassin habite... au 21

Prototype of the sexy cheeky French lady, Suzy Delair was discovered by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who became her companion and gave her two memorable roles : Mila Malou, inspector Wens' unbearable girlfriend in two films, Le dernier des six (1941), which he wrote, and L'assassin habite... au 21 (1942),...

48. William Phipps

Actor | The War of the Worlds

In the early days of 1950s science-fiction, one of the first people to become identified with the genre was actor William Phipps. Aside from furnishing the voice of Prince Charming in Disney's cartoon classic Cinderella (1950), Phipps also hid his boyish face beneath a beard as the star of Arch ...

49. Jacqueline White

Actress | The Narrow Margin

Warm, charming leading lady of 1940s films, Jacqueline White was under contract to both MGM (which wasted her in mostly unbilled bits) and then RKO, where she appeared in two classics--Crossfire (1947) and The Narrow Margin (1952). RKO used her as a second lead in A pictures and leading roles in Bs.

...

50. Donnie Dunagan

Actor | Son of Frankenstein

Born in Depression-era Texas, Donnie Dunagan moved with his parents to Memphis as a young child. There, as a three-year-old, he was taught to tap dance by a neighbor and entered in a talent contest at the Orpheum Theatre. Donnie won the $100 prize and caught the attention of a movie talent scout in...

51. Terry Moore

Actress | Come Back, Little Sheba

Born Helen Luella Koford on January 7, 1929, the Los Angeles, California, native worked as a model before she made her film debut at age 11 in 20th Century-Fox's Maryland (1940). Throughout the 1940s she worked under a variety of names (her own, Judy Ford and January Ford) before settling on Terry ...

52. Christopher Severn

Actor | Mrs. Miniver

Christopher Severn was born on August 21, 1935 in Los Angeles County, California, USA as Christopher Aubrey Reginald Severn. He is an actor, known for Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943) and The Man from Down Under (1943).

53. Ted Donaldson

Actor | A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Ted Donaldson was born on August 20, 1933 in New York City, New York, USA. He is an actor, known for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), The Return of Rusty (1946) and Rusty Saves a Life (1949).

54. Russ Tamblyn

Actor | West Side Story

Russ Tamblyn might as well face it...he will be a Jet "till his last dying day." Indelibly linked to the "womb to tomb" role of Riff, the knife-wielding, rocket-tempered, Edward Villella-styled gang leader of the streetwise Jets in the musical film masterpiece West Side Story (1961), it's not a bad...

55. Jimmy Lydon

Actor | Life with Father

Born to a large Irish Catholic family (the fifth of nine children) and raised in New York City, Lydon overcame a birth defect and alcoholic father to begin a Broadway career in 1937, acting opposite Van Heflin, Sidney Lumet and Uta Hagen in separate productions. After a number of films with ...

56. Rex Downing

Actor | Wuthering Heights

Rex Downing was born on April 21, 1925 in San Francisco, California, USA. He is an actor, known for Wuthering Heights (1939), Blood and Sand (1941) and The Escape (1939).

57. Marcy McGuire

Actress | Sing Your Way Home

This Kansas redhead, only 16 when she was cast in Seven Days' Leave (1942), was already working as a nightclub entertainer. When her first role received excellent notices, stressing her singing and wide-eyed appeal, she was signed to an RKO contract. RKO made little use of her comedy talent, ...

58. Julie Gibson

Actress | The Contender

Julie Gibson was born on September 6, 1913 in Grant County, Washington, USA as Gladys Camille Sorey. She is known for her work on The Contender (1944), Bowery Buckaroos (1947) and Chick Carter, Detective (1946). She was previously married to Charles Barton and Dean Dillman Jr..

59. Yoshiko Kuga

Actress | Kono hiroi sora no dokoka ni

Yoshiko Kuga was born on January 21, 1931 in Tokyo, Japan. She is an actress, known for Somewhere Under the Broad Sky (1954), Yûyake-gumo (1956) and Jôshû to tomo ni (1956). She was previously married to Akihiko Hirata.

60. Jean Porter

Actress | Betty Co-Ed

One of MGM's more vivacious secondary stars during the 40s, petite and lovely Jean Porter was born in Texas in 1925 but left the state while young to pursue her dream as an actress. Following some vaudeville experience, she made her uncredited film debut in 1939 (age 14) and slowly graduated to ...