Memorable Actresses to Light Up Your Screen

Heavenly stars from the constellation of film's illustrious past, with brief comments from this viewer's perspective, followed by the title of my favorite film recommended for your viewing pleasure.
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1.
Grace Kelly
Actress, Rear Window
Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to wealthy parents. She was the daughter of Margaret Katherine (Majer), a phys ed instructor, and John Brendan Kelly, Sr., a three-time Olympic Gold winner for rowing. Her uncle was playwright George Kelly. She was of half Irish and half German descent...
“ The fairest Princess of them all, Grace is #1. REAR WINDOW (1954) ” - bc_benz
 
2.
Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr, the woman many critics and fans alike regard as the most beautiful ever to appear in films, was born Hedwig Eva Kiesler in Vienna, Austria. She was the daughter of Gertrud (Lichtwitz), from Budapest, and Emil Kiesler, a banker from Lviv. Her parents were both from Jewish families. Hedwig had a calm childhood...
“ Austria's loveliest export to the world of film, Hedy is #1, too. TORTILLA FLAT (1942) ” - bc_benz
 
3.
Vivien Leigh
If a film were made of the life of Vivien Leigh, it would open in India just before World War I, where a successful British businessman could live like a prince. In the mountains above Calcutta, a little princess is born. Because of the outbreak of World War I, she is six years old the first time her parents take her to England...
“ What a "storm" in such an exquisitely beautiful and immensely talented "teacup," Vivien is my favorite actress of all time. WATERLOO BRIDGE (1940) ” - bc_benz
 
4.
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...
“ "Here's looking at you," Ingrid, and loving what we see. CASABLANCA (1942) ” - bc_benz
 
5.
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...
“ Looking into those eyes of Jennifer's, Neil Young's lyric in "A Man Needs a Maid" comes true every time: "I fell in love with the actress. She was playing a part that I could understand." PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948) ” - bc_benz
 
6.
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...
“ Some actresses have those dreamy eyes, and others have it all, such as the cool and foxy Ava. MOGAMBO (1954) ” - bc_benz
 
7.
Gene Tierney
Actress, Laura
Gene Tierney was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 19, 1920, to well-to-do parents. Her father was a very successful insurance broker and her mother was a former teacher. Her childhood was lavish indeed. She also lived, at times, with her equally successful grandparents in Connecticut and New York...
“ "Jean, Jean, you're young and alive," wrote Rod McKuen in 1969. Substitute "Gene" for Jean and you know what I'm talking about. TOBACCO ROAD (1941) ” - bc_benz
 
8.
Cyd Charisse
Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea on March 8, 1921 in Amarillo, Texas. Born to be a dancer, she spent her early childhood taking ballet lessons and joined the Ballet Russe at age 13. In 1939, she married Nico Charisse, her former dance teacher. In 1943, she appeared in her first film, Something to Shout About...
“ I am utterly charmed by Cyd's beauty, elegance, and the way she could work magic on the dance floor. A delightful actress in the eye of this beholder. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1951) ” - bc_benz
 
9.
Anne Shirley
They didn't come packaged any sweeter and lovelier than Anne Shirley, a gentle and gracious 1930s teen film actress who didn't quite reach the zenith of front-rank stardom and retired all too soon at age 26. On film as a toddler, she went through a small revolving door of marquee names before legally settling (at age 16) on the name Anne Shirley...
“ Anne stole my heart away in a William Dieterle film and I could never get it back. I very much prize the few movies I have of hers. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941) ” - bc_benz
 
10.
Joan Leslie
Joan Leslie was born in Detroit and began acting as a child performer. She was never able to escape the good girl role in her early work. She married Dr. William Caldwell in 1950. She quit her acting career to raise her identical twin daughters Patrice and Ellen. Both daughters are now Doctors teaching at universities.
“ What a wealth of youthful charm Joan possessed. She completely disarmed me with her personality and her acting talents and she will always be one of my favourite actresses. SERGEANT YORK (1941) ” - bc_benz
 
11.
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...
“ Vivien Leigh will always be Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, and yet the beautiful Paulette was Vivien's chief contender for that coveted role (and lucky Robert Osborne who knows all this stuff). It just goes to show that Hollywood knew their women. KITTY (1946) ” - bc_benz
 
12.
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...
“ Red hair and green eyes adorned this Irish lass, who was more than a match for any actor with whom she co-starred. Bob Hope may have had his favorite brunette, but Maureen is my favorite redhead. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE-DAME (1939) ” - bc_benz
 
13.
Teresa Wright
A natural and lovely talent who was discovered for films by Samuel Goldwyn, the always likable Teresa Wright distinguished herself early on in high-caliber, Oscar-worthy form -- the only performer ever to be nominated for Oscars for her first three films. Always true to herself, she was able to earn Hollywood stardom on her own unglamorized terms...
“ Perhaps not quite as blessed with the physical beauty which some other actresses had, Teresa had an inner beauty that put her in a league all her own, and she is my second favorite actress of all time. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) ” - bc_benz
 
14.
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...
“ Olivia is my third favorite actress of all time. I am not a Gone With the Wind fan, but the treat for me was watching Vivien and Olivia together on screen. (Mogambo pairs Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner, another visual treat.) But Olivia has a breadth and a depth to her which few actresses have ever achieved. THE SNAKE PIT (1948) ” - bc_benz
 
15.
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...
“ It's something how a movie can take hold of you and leave you feeling good. That's how Claudette won me over thanks to Turner Classic Movies. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) ” - bc_benz
 
16.
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...
“ When I was driving tour bus, Palm Springs, California was part of a tour I had with a group of university students from Alberta in May 2007. Little did I know then that this national treasure was residing there until her passing four months later. Jane captivated me without ever having spoken a word in a film for which she won an Academy Award for best actress. JOHHNY BELINDA (1948) ” - bc_benz
 
17.
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...
“ Elizabeth certainly gave us some memorable screen moments and her beauty was nothing short of stunning. CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF(1958) ” - bc_benz
 
18.
Priscilla Lane
Priscilla Lane attended the Eagin School of Dramatic Arts in New York before she began touring with her sisters in the Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians Dance Band. She was a popular singer with her sisters and, after 5 years, she was signed to a Hollywood contract with Warner Brothers in 1937...
 
19.
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...
 
20.
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...
 
21.
Rochelle Hudson
From ingenue to leading lady to character actress, she appeared in Hollywood films from the early 30s through the late 60s.
 
22.
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...
 
23.
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...
 
24.
Frances Farmer
Born in Seattle, Frances Farmer studied journalism and drama at the University of Washington, Seattle. In 1935, after winning a trip to Russia to see the Moscow Art Theater, she went to Hollywood where she secured a seven-year contract with Paramount. By the end of 1936, she was one of Paramount's most talked-about new stars...
 
25.
Dorothy Lamour
Actress, Road to Bali
In addition to being Miss New Orleans in 1931, Dorothy Lamour worked as a Chicago elevator operator; band vocalist for her first husband, band leader Herbie Kaye; and radio performer. In 1936 she donned her soon-to-be-famous sarong for her debut at Paramount, The Jungle Princess, and continued to play female Tarzan-Crusoe-Gauguin-girl-with make-up parts through the war years and beyond...
 
26.
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).
 
27.
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...
 
28.
Marlene Dietrich
Marie Magdelene Dietrich von Losch (aka Marlene) was born in Berlin, Germany on December 27, 1901. Her father was an army officer who had served in the Franco-Prussian War. Because of his constant absences from the family due to his army duties, Marlene and the rest had to rely on themselves. When he died...
 
29.
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...
 
30.
Vera Miles
Actress, Psycho
Born in Boise City, Oklahoma, Vera Miles attended school in Pratt, Kansas and Wichita, Kansas. The patrician beauty of Miss Miles won her the title of "Miss Kansas" in 1948, leading soon to small roles in Hollywood films and television series. Fame came to the forthright, spirited Miles when she attracted the attention of two master directors...
 
31.
Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint is an American actress and producer. She is known for starring in Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Her film career also includes roles in Raintree County, Exodus, The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, Grand Prix, Nothing in Common, Because of Winn-Dixie, Superman Returns and Winter's Tale...
 
32.
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...
 
33.
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...
 
34.
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...
 
35.
Susan Hayward
Susan Hayward was born Edythe Marrener in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30, 1917. Her father was a transportation worker, and Susan lived a fairly comfortable life as a child, but the precocious little redhead had no idea of the life that awaited her. She attended public school in Brooklyn, where she graduated from a commercial high school that was intended to give students a marketable skill...
 
36.
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...
 
37.
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...
 
38.
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...
 
39.
Lillian Gish
Lillian Diana Gish was born on October 14, 1893 in Springfield, Ohio. Her father James Lee Gish was an alcoholic who caroused around, was rarely at home and left the family to more or less to fend for themselves. To help make ends meet, Lillian, her sister Dorothy Gish and their mother Mary Gish a.k.a...
 
40.
Patricia Neal
Patricia Neal, the Oscar- and Tony Award-winning actress, was born Patricia Louise Neal in Packard, Kentucky. Her father managed a coal mine and her mother was the daughter of the town doctor. She grew up in Knoxville, where she attended high school. She was first bit by the acting bug at the age of 10...
 
41.
Linda Darnell
Linda Darnell was born Monetta Eloyse Darnell in Dallas, Texas, one of five children of a post office worker and his wife. It was evident at an early age that she would be a ravishing beauty, and her mother encouraged her to model. By age 11 she was modeling clothes for an area department store. She had no trouble getting modeling jobs even at such a young age...
 
42.
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...
 
43.
Donna Reed
Donna Reed was born in the midwestern town of Denison, Iowa, on January 27, 1921, as Donna Belle Mullenger. A small town - a population of less than 3,000 people - Denison was located by the Boyer River, and was the county seat of Crawford County. Donna grew up as a farm girl, much like many young girls in western Iowa...
 
44.
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...
 
45.
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...
 
46.
Rita Hayworth
Actress, Gilda
Spanish dancer Eduardo Cansino's daughter Margarita studied dancing beginning in her girlhood. At age 12, the mature-looking Rita joined Eduardo's stage act, in which she was spotted three years later by Fox studio head Winfield R. Sheehan, leading to her first studio contract and film debut at age 16 in Dante's Inferno...
 
47.
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...
 
48.
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...
 
49.
Dorothy Hart
A former model, the luminously beautiful Dorothy Hart was signed to a contract by Universal Pictures after having made only one film, Columbia's Gunfighters. However, the studio system couldn't quite find a place for a woman with her carriage and elegance, and relegated her to westerns, costume dramas...
 
50.
Constance Bennett
Actress, Topper
Independent, outspoken Constance Bennett, the first of the Bennett sisters to enter films, appeared in New York-produced silents before a chance meeting with Samuel Goldwyn led to her Hollywood debut in Cytherea. She abandoned a burgeoning career in silents for marriage to Philip Plant in 1925; after they divorced...
 
51.
Joan Bennett
Actress, Dark Shadows
Eighteen-year-old Joan Bennett had intended to avoid the Bennett tradition of acting but, divorced and with a child to support, had little choice; she accepted a role in her father's play "Jarnegan", then her first leading film role in Bulldog Drummond. Her popularity growing, she made 14 films under a Fox contract...
 
52.
Jeanette MacDonald
Actress, San Francisco
She was the third daughter of Daniel and Anne MacDonald, younger sister to Blossom (MGM's character actress Marie Blake), whom she followed to New York and a chorus job in 1920. She was busy in a string of musical productions. In 1928 Paramount tested and rejected her, but a year later Ernst Lubitsch saw her test and picked her to play opposite Maurice Chevalier in The Love Parade...
 
53.
Giulietta Masina
Born in San Giorgio di Piano, Giulietta Masina spent part of her teenage years living with a widowed aunt in Rome, where she cultivated a passion for the theater and studied for a degree in Philosophy. She began her career on the radio with the program "Terzoglio" (1942), about the adventures of newlyweds Cico and Pallina from scripts written by Federico Fellini...
 
54.
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...
 
55.
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...
 
56.
Dorothy Malone
Actress, Peyton Place
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 filmgoing 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 unlike the classy and straight-laced lady herself...
 
57.
Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern, born Harriet Lake on January 22,1909 in Valley City, North Dakota, and her film career started as an extra-bit part in the film Broadway Nights in 1927. She would work as an extra for the next six years. It barely paid the bills. Finally, Ann got her break with Columbia Pictures when they signed her to a contract in 1934...
 
58.
Carole Landis
Carole Landis was born on New Year's Day in 1919 in Fairchild, Wisconsin, as Frances Lillian Mary Ridste. Her father, a railroad mechanic, was of Norwegian descent and her mother was Polish. Her father walked out, leaving Carole, her mother and an older brother and sister to fend for themselves. After graduating from high school...