Best Actress Academy Award Nominees of the 1930's

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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...
“ Six nominations Their Own Desire (1929-30), The Divorcee (1930), A Free Soul (1930-31), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), Romeo and Juliet (1936), Marie Antoinette (1938) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ Four nominations: Cimarron (1930), Theodora Goes Wild (1936), The Awful Truth (1937), Love Affair (1939) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ Four nominations: Romance (1929-30), Anna Christie (1930), Camille (1937), Ninotchka (1939) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ Three nominations: Dangerous (1935), Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939) ” - HarlowMGM
Luise Rainer
Rainer returned to Holywood in the 1998 and 2013 Academy Awards ceremony honoring previous Oscar winners and in 2010 for the TCM Classic Film Festival. She was all smiles for the cameras, but her wounds had not healed. "I hated Hollywood," Rainer said in an interview in 2001. "That's why I turned my back on it." She had wanted to be Madame Currie...
“ Two nominations: The Great Ziegfield (1936), The Good Earth (1937) ” - HarlowMGM
Claudette Colbert
One of the brightest film stars to grace the screen was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin on September 13, 1903, in Saint Mandé, France where her father owned a bakery at 57, rue de la République (now Avenue Général de Gaulle). The family moved to the United States when she was three. As Claudette grew up...
“ Two nominations: It Happened One Night (1934), Private Worlds (1935) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ Two nominations: Morning Glory (1933), Alice Adams (1935) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ Two nominations: Min and Bill (1931), Emma (1932) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ One nomination: The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ One nomination: Gone With The Wind (1939) ” - HarlowMGM
Nancy Carroll
Actress, Laughter
Born Ann Veronica LaHiff in New York on November 19, 1904, Nancy Carroll was to be one of the finest actresses ever to grace the silver screen. She was smitten, early, by the acting bug when she appeared as Fay Larkin in 1918's RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE a film that went absolutely no where. Prior to that she had limited experience on the stages surrounding NYC...
“ One nomination: The Devil's Holiday (1930) ” - HarlowMGM
Ruth Chatterton
Actress, Dodsworth
Beginning as a chorus girl at age 14, Ruth Chatterton became a Broadway star with "Daddy Long Legs" in 1914. She appeared in such shows as "Mary Rose" and "Come Out of the Kitchen" before moving to Hollywood in 1925. As her film career faded in the late 1930s, she returned to the stage in revivals, and radio and TV performances...
“ One nomination: Sarah and Son (1930) ” - HarlowMGM
Gloria Swanson
Actress, Sunset Blvd.
Gloria Swanson was born Gloria May Josephine Svensson in Chicago, Illinois. She was destined to be perhaps one of the biggest stars of the silent movie era. Her personality and antics in private definitely made her a favorite with America's movie-going public. Gloria certainly didn't intend on going into show business...
“ One nomination: The Trepasser (1929-30) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ One nomination: Morocco ( 1930) ” - HarlowMGM
Ann Harding
Ann, born Dorothy Gatley, spent most of her childhood as an "army brat" constantly moving around before the family finally settled in New York. Ann first appeared on the stage while she spent a year attending Bryn Mawr College. She became a clerk and freelance script reader with a film company before she made her stage debut in Greenwich Village...
“ One nomination: Holiday (1930) ” - HarlowMGM
“ One nomination: The Guardsman (1931) ” - HarlowMGM
May Robson
Born Mary Jeanette Robison. She was the youngest daughter of Henry Robison of Penrith, Cumberland, England and Julia Schelesinger of Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Her father died in 1860 and her mother remarried. In 1866/67 they were living in St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and moved back to London...
“ One nomination: Lady for a Day (1933) ” - HarlowMGM
Diana Wynyard
Actress, Cavalcade
One of the outstanding stage actresses of her time, Diana Wynyard will always be remembered for her unforgettable performance in the British version of the thriller The Murder in Thornton Square (re-made in Hollywood in 1944 with Ingrid Bergman). Starring opposite the great Anton Walbrook, she played the part of terrorized Bella Mallen (driven to the point of insanity by her evil husband) with an ethereal...
“ One nomination: Calvalcade (1933) ” - HarlowMGM
Grace Moore
Grace Moore, the internationally famous star of the Metropolitan Opera, Broadway, motion pictures, radio and recordings, was born December 5, 1898, in Del Río near Newport, Tennessee. Her family moved to Jellico when she was a young girl. She attended Jellico High School where she was captain of the girls basketball team in 19l6...
“ One nomination: One Night of Love (1934) ” - HarlowMGM
Elisabeth Bergner
Elisabeth Bergner was the daughter of the merchant Emil Ettel and his wife Anna Rosa Wagner. She grew up in Vienna, and she made her theatre debut in Innsbruck in 1915. In 1916 she obtained a contract in Zürich, where she played Ophelia next to the famous Alexander Moissi, who fell in love with her. The next stage in her career was Vienna...
“ One nomination: Escape Me Never (1935) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ One nomination: Becky Sharp (1935) ” - HarlowMGM
Merle Oberon
Estelle Merle O'Brien Thompson was born in India on February 19, 1911. She was educated in that country until the age of 17, when she left for London. Merle began her career in British films with mostly forgettable roles or bit parts. She appeared in an uncredited role in Alf's Button, a pattern that would unfortunately repeat itself regularly over the next three years...
“ One nomination: The Dark Angel (1935) ” - HarlowMGM
Gladys George
Hollywood character actress probably best known for her role as Miles Archer's wife in 'The Maltese Falcon'.
“ One nomination: Valiant is the Word for Carrie (1936) ” - HarlowMGM
Carole Lombard
Born in Indiana, she was eight years old when her parents divorced, and her mother took her and her two older brothers to L.A. to start a new life. At age twelve she was spotted playing baseball in the street by director Allan Dwan who cast her as a tom-boy in "A Perfect Crime". Bitten by the movie bug...
“ One nomination: My Man Godfrey (1936) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ One nomination: A Star is Born (1937) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ One nomination: Stella Dallas (1937) ” - HarlowMGM
Fay Bainter
Fay Bainter's career began as a child performer in 1898. For some time, she was a member of the traveling cast of the Morosco Stock Company in Los Angeles. In 1912, she made her Broadway debut in 'The Rose of Panama', but this and her subsequent play 'The Bridal Path' (1913), were conspicuous failures...
“ One nomination: White Banners (1938) ” - HarlowMGM
Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller, daughter of Frank and Marie Hiller, was born on 15th August 1912 in Bramhall, near Stockport, Cheshire, England. She was educated at Winceby House School, Bexhill then moved on to Manchester Repertory Theatre. She appeared on stage in Sir John Barry's tour of Evensong, then as Sally Hardcastle in Love on the Dole...
“ One nomination: Pygmalion (1938) ” - HarlowMGM
Margaret Sullavan
Born in Norfolk, Virginia to wealthy stockbroker Cornelius Hancock Sullavan and heiress Garland Council Sullavan, Margaret Brooke overcame a muscle weakness in her childhood to go on to become a rebellious teenager at posh private schools. She went on to perform with the University Players at Harvard and made her Broadway debut in Hello...
“ One nomination: Three Comrades (1938) ” - HarlowMGM
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...
“ One nomination: Goodbye Mr Chips (1939) ” - HarlowMGM