The Greatest Actors of the golden era of cinema

From 1975 to below
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1.
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time, rivaled only by the more theatrically oriented Laurence Olivier in terms of esteem. Unlike Olivier, who preferred the stage to the screen, Brando concentrated his talents on movies after bidding the Broadway stage adieu in 1949...
 
2.
Cary Grant
Cary Grant was an English actor who became an American citizen in 1942. Known for his transatlantic accent, debonair demeanor, and "dashing good looks", Grant is considered one of classic Hollywood's definitive leading men. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Grant the second greatest male star of Golden Age Hollywood cinema (after Humphrey Bogart)...
 
3.
James Stewart
James Stewart was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one in competition for The Philadelphia Story (1940) and receiving an Academy Lifetime Achievement award. Stewart was named the third greatest male screen legend of the Golden Age Hollywood by the American Film Institute. He was a major Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract star...
 
4.
Paul Newman
Screen legend, superstar, and the man with the most famous blue eyes in movie history, Paul Leonard Newman was born in January 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, the second son of Theresa (Fetsko) and Arthur Sigmund Newman. Paul's father was Jewish, the son of immigrants from Poland and Hungary; he owned a successful sporting goods store...
 
5.
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...
 
6.
Clark Gable
William Clark Gable was born on February 1, 1901 in Cadiz, Ohio, to Adeline (Hershelman) and William Henry Gable, an oil-well driller. He was of German, Irish, and Swiss-German descent. When he was seven months old, his mother died, and his father sent him to live with his maternal aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania...
 
7.
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...
 
8.
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...
 
9.
Charles Chaplin
Writer, Modern Times
Charlie Chaplin, considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular "Little Tramp" character; the man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk...
 
10.
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...
 
11.
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...
 
12.
James Cagney
Actor, White Heat
One of Hollywood's preeminent male stars of all time (eclipsed, perhaps, only by "King" Clark Gable and arguably by Gary Cooper or Spencer Tracy), and the cinema's quintessential "tough guy", James Cagney was also an accomplished--if rather stiff--hoofer and easily played light comedy. James Francis Cagney was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City...
 
13.
Gary Cooper
Actor, High Noon
"Dad was a true Westerner, and I take after him", Gary Cooper told people who wanted to know more about his life before Hollywood. Dad was Charles Henry Cooper, who left his native England at 19, became a lawyer and later a Montana State Supreme Court justice. In 1906, when Gary was 5, his dad bought the Seven-Bar-Nine...
 
14.
Sidney Poitier
A native of Cat Island, The Bahamas (though born in Miami during a mainland visit by his parents), Poitier grew up in poverty as the son of farmers Evelyn (Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, who also drove a cab. He had little formal education and at the age of 15 was sent to Miami to live with his brother...
 
15.
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...
 
16.
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...
 
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.
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...
 
19.
James Dean
James Byron Dean was born February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana, to Mildred Marie (Wilson) and Winton A. Dean, a farmer turned dental technician. His mother died when Dean was nine, and he was subsequently raised on a farm by his aunt and uncle in Fairmount, Indiana. After grade school, he moved to New York to pursue his dream of acting...
 
20.
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...
 
21.
Robert Mitchum
Robert Mitchum was an underrated American leading man of enormous ability, who sublimated his talents beneath an air of disinterest. He was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Ann Harriet (Gunderson), a Norwegian immigrant, and James Thomas Mitchum, a shipyard/railroad worker. His father died in a train accident when he was two...
 
22.
Sean Connery
Actor, Dr. No
Connery is best known for portraying the character James Bond, starring in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983. In 1988, Connery won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Untouchables. His film career also includes such films as Marnie, The Name of the Rose, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...
 
23.
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...
 
24.
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...
 
25.
Steve McQueen
He was the ultra-cool male film star of the 1960s, and rose from a troubled youth spent in reform schools to being the world's most popular actor. Over 25 years after his untimely death from mesothelioma in 1980, Steve McQueen is still considered hip and cool, and he endures as an icon of popular culture...
 
26.
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...
 
27.
Peter O'Toole
O'Toole was one of several actors to be Oscar-nominated for playing the same role in two different films: he played King Henry II in both Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968). O'Toole played Hamlet under Laurence Olivier's direction in the premiere production of the Royal National Theatre in 1963...
 
28.
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...
 
29.
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...
 
30.
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...
 
31.
Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz, the eldest of three children of Helen (Klein) and Emanuel Schwartz, Jewish immigrants from Hungary. Curtis himself admits that while he had almost no formal education, he was a student of the "school of hard knocks" and learned from a young age that the only person who ever had his back was himself...
 
32.
Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson arrived in the United States at age ten, and his family moved into New York's Lower East Side. He took up acting while attending City College, abandoning plans to become a rabbi or lawyer. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts awarded him a scholarship, and he began work in stock...
 
33.
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...
 
34.
Montgomery Clift
Edward Montgomery Clift (nicknamed 'Monty' his entire life) was born on October 17, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska, just after his twin sister Roberta and eighteen months after his brother Brooks Clift. He was the son of Ethel "Sunny" Anderson (Fogg) and William Brooks Clift. His father made a lot of money in banking but was quite poor during the depression...
 
36.
Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn was a Mexican-born American actor, painter and writer. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including La Strada, The Guns of Navarone, Zorba the Greek, Guns for San Sebastian, Lawrence of Arabia, The Message and Lion of the Desert. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice: for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956...
 
37.
Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn was born to parents Theodore Flynn, a respected biologist, and Marrelle Young, an adventurous young woman. Young Flynn was a rambunctious child who could be counted on to find trouble. Errol managed to have himself thrown out of every school he was enrolled in. In his late teens he set out to find gold...
 
38.
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)...
 
39.
James Garner
Amiable and handsome James Garner had obtained success in both films and television, often playing variations of the charming anti-hero/con-man persona he first developed in Maverick, the offbeat western TV series that shot him to stardom in the late 1950s. James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman...
 
40.
Christopher Lee
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was perhaps the only actor of his generation to have starred in so many films and cult saga. Although most notable for personifying bloodsucking vampire, Dracula, on screen, he portrayed other varied characters on screen, most of which were villains, whether it be Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film...
 
41.
Lee J. Cobb
Lee J. Cobb, one of the premier character actors in American film for three decades in the post-World War II period, was born Leo Jacoby in New York City's Lower East Side on December 8, 1911. The son of a Jewish newspaper editor, young Leo was a child prodigy in music, mastering the violin and the harmonica...
 
42.
Toshirô Mifune
Toshiro Mifune achieved more worldwide fame than any other Japanese actor of his century. He was born in Tsingtao, China, to Japanese parents and grew up in Dalian. He did not set foot in Japan until he was 21. His father was an importer and a commercial photographer, and young Toshiro worked in his father's studio for a time after graduating from Dalian Middle School...
 
43.
Jack Palance
Actor, Batman
Jack Palance exemplified evil incarnate on film -- portraying some of the most intensely despised villains witnessed in 50s westerns and melodrama. He received two Best Supporting Actor nominations early in his career, but it would take a grizzled, eccentric comic performance 40 years later for him to finally grab the coveted statuette...
 
44.
Rock Hudson
Actor, Giant
Rock Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. in Winnetka, Illinois, to Katherine (Wood), a telephone operator, and Roy Harold Scherer, an auto mechanic. He was of German, Swiss-German, English, and Irish descent. His parents divorced when he was eight years old. He failed to obtain parts in school plays because he couldn't remember lines...
 
45.
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...
 
46.
William Powell
William Powell was on the New York stage by 1912, but it would be ten years before his film career would begin. In 1924 he went to Paramount Pictures, where he was employed for the next seven years. During that time, he played in a number of interesting films, but stardom was elusive. He did finally attract attention with The Last Command as Leo...
 
47.
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...
 
48.
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...
 
49.
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...
 
50.
Anthony Perkins
Actor, Psycho
Anthony Perkins was born April 4, 1932 in New York City to Janet Esselstyn (Rane) and Osgood Perkins, an actor of both stage and film. His paternal great-grandfather was noted engraver Andrew Varick Stout Anthony. Perkins attended the Brooks School, the Browne & Nichols School, Columbia University and Rollins College...