Best Actress Academy Award Nominees of the 1930's

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1.
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
 
2.
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
 
3.
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
 
4.
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
 
5.
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...
“ Two nominations: The Great Ziegfield (1936), The Good Earth (1937) ” - HarlowMGM
 
6.
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...
“ Two nominations: It Happened One Night (1934), Private Worlds (1935) ” - HarlowMGM
 
7.
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
 
8.
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
 
9.
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
 
10.
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
 
11.
Nancy Carroll
Actress, Laughter
Making her film debut in 1927 after several years on the musical stage and later on Broadway. She became very popular during the advent of sound because of her musical background. This red headed cupid-bow mouthed star entertained movie audiences during the 1930s where her singing and dancing abilities gained her a large following of fans...
“ One nomination: The Devil's Holiday (1930) ” - HarlowMGM
 
12.
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
 
13.
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
 
14.
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...
“ One nomination: Morocco ( 1930) ” - HarlowMGM
 
15.
Ann Harding
Ann Harding was born Dorothy Walton Gatley on August 7, 1901, in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The daughter of an Army captain and his wife, Ann spent a lot of time traveling around the US whenever her West Point-educated father was transferred. Moving to such places as Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, Cuba and Pennsylvania made it very hard to put down roots...
“ One nomination: Holiday (1930) ” - HarlowMGM
 
16.
“ One nomination: The Guardsman (1931) ” - HarlowMGM
 
17.
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
 
18.
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
 
19.
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
 
20.
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
 
21.
Miriam Hopkins
Born in Savannah, Georgia and brought up in nearby Bainbridge, Miriam Hopkins spent most of her formative years with her maternal grandmother. She received her secondary education in Barre, Vermont and then Syracuse University. Upon graduation, she went to New York to become a ballet dancer, but instead gravitated towards Broadway revues and vaudeville instead...
“ One nomination: Becky Sharp (1935) ” - HarlowMGM
 
22.
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...
“ One nomination: The Dark Angel (1935) ” - HarlowMGM
 
23.
Gladys George
One of the fine if relatively short-lived character actresses of Hollywood heydays of the 1930s and 1940s, Gladys George came into an acting family while literally on the road. Her parents were actually English and touring with a Shakespearean theater company in Patten, Maine when she was born (although usually noted as 1900...
“ One nomination: Valiant is the Word for Carrie (1936) ” - HarlowMGM
 
24.
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...
“ One nomination: My Man Godfrey (1936) ” - HarlowMGM
 
25.
Janet Gaynor
Actress, Sunrise
After graduating from high school in San Francisco, Janet moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at a Hollywood secretarial college. Eager to get into movies, she started working as an extra in comedy shorts. In 1925, she was hired by Fox and was cast in The Johnstown Flood. In 1927 she appeared in 7th Heaven as Diane and Sunrise as the wife in danger...
“ One nomination: A Star is Born (1937) ” - HarlowMGM
 
26.
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
 
27.
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
 
28.
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
 
29.
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
 
30.
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