The greatest actresses of the pre-60's, Hollywood's Golden Age. Here are all the actresses worth mentioning from this era. (The first 25 are ranked after AFI's 25 greatest actresses of all time, the rest are not ranked in order!)
There were some I had to exclude because they did not have a picture here on IMDB and there were also those who begun their career in the fifties but who made it big after 1960.
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...
“ Academy Award winner: First and only actor two win four Acting Academy Awards within a lifetime. First 1933 and last in 1981.
Notable movies: Bringing Up Baby (1938), The African Queen (1951) , The Philadelphia Story (1940), Morning Glory (1933) (Best Actress in a Leading Role-winner)
Post-1960's: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (1967) (Best Actress-win), The Lion in Winter (1968) (Best Actress-win), On Golden Pond (1981) (Best Actress-win)
Notes: Romantically involved with famous actor Spencer Tracy (whom she worked with in nine films) from 1943 to his death in 1967.
One of the winners in the only tie in the best actress cathegory in Oscar history in 1969. She won for her performance in The Lion in Winter (1968), the other winner was Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl (1968).
Often listed as the Greatest Actress of all time. ” - PrudenceHill
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...
“ Academy Award winner: Winner of two Best Actress Academy Awards. In 1936 for Dangerous (1935) and in 1939 for Jezebel (1938). Another nine Academy Award nominations.
Notable movies: All About Eve (1950), Now Voyager (1942), The Little Foxes (1941), Jezebel (1939) (Best Actress-win)
Post-1960's: Whatever happend to Baby Jane? (1962), Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Notes: Ranked #15 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
Nominated for an Academy Award 5 years in a row, in 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1943. She shares the record for most consecutive nominations with Greer Garson.
Sworn enemy of actress and her co-star in Whatever happend to Baby Jane? (1962) Joan Crawford. ” - PrudenceHill
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...
“ Academy Award winner: Best Actress in a Leading role for Roman Holiday (1953). Another 4 Oscar nominations and one Humanitarian Academy Award win 1993.
Notable movies: Sabrina (1954), The Nun (1959), Funny Face (1957), Roman Holiday (1953) (Best Actress-win)
Post-1960's: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), My Fair Lady (1961)
Notes: Born in Belgium
She is one of only nine performers to win an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy Award.
Was named #3 on The American Film Institute's 50 Greatest Screen Legends ” - PrudenceHill
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
“ Academy Award Winner: Second actress in Oscar history to win 3 Academy Awards. Best Actress in a Leading Role for Gaslight (1944), Best Actress in a Leading Role for Anastasia (1956) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Another 4 Academy Award nominations.
Notable movies: Casablanca (1942), Spellbound (1945), Notorious! (1946), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
Post-1960’s: Autumn Sonata (1978), Cactus Flower (1969)
Notes: Born in Sweden
In 1960 she became the third performer to win the Triple Crown of Acting: Oscars for Gasljus (1944), Anastasia (1956), Mordet på Orientexpressen (1974), a Tony for "Joan of Lorraine" (1947) and Emmys in 1960 and 1982.
She was ranked #5 in the Premiere's list of "The 50 Greatest Movie Stars of All Time" ” - PrudenceHill
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...
“ Academy Award Nominee: Nominated 4* Academy Awards. Recieved an Honory Academy Award in 1955.
*In 1930 she was nominated for 2 seperate movies; Anna Christie (1930) and Romance (1930).
Notable movies: Ninotchka (1939), Camille (1936), Grand Hotel (1932), Mata Hari (1931)
Retired from acting in 1941.
Notes: Born in Sweden
Once voted by The Guinness Book of World Records as the most beautiful woman who ever lived.
Was named #5 Actress on The American Film Institute's 50 Greatest Screen Legends ” - PrudenceHill
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson. A frequently overlooked detail is that although born June 1, 1926, she was not born in Los Angeles, California but actually in Lemmon, South Dakota. Her mother was an alcoholic and in a custody battle over Norma Jean with her father when she was about 4-5 years old...
“ Notable movies: Some Like It Hot (1959), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How To Get a Millionaire (1953), The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Post-1960’s: Let's Make Love (1960), The Misfits (1961)
Notes: Voted 'Sexiest Woman of the Century' by People Magazine.
Ranked #8 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
One of many legends to die young. She died of an drug overdose in 1962 at the age of 36. ” - PrudenceHill
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...
“ Academy Award Winner: Won 2 Best Actress Academy Awards. In 1961 for BUtterfield 8 (1960) and in 1967 for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Another 3 Academy Award nominations and one Humanitarian Academy Award win in 1993.
Notable movies: Giant (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), A Place in the Sun (1951), Suddenly Last Summer (1959)
Post-1960’s: Cleopatra (1963), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) (Best Actress-win)
Notes: Married 8 times, twice to famous actor and co-star in 11 seperate movies Richard Burton.
Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#16).
Was named a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on the Millenium New Year's Honours List, December 31, 1999. ” - PrudenceHill
One of the brightest, most tragic movie stars of Hollywood's Golden Era, Judy Garland
was a much-loved character whose warmth and spirit, along with her rich and exuberant voice, kept theatre-goers entertained with an array of delightful musicals. She was born Frances Ethel Gumm on 10 June 1922 in Minnesota...
“ Academy Award Nominee: Nominated for 2 Academy Awards.*
*In 1955 she lost the Best Actress-Academy Award to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl (1954), reportedly this was the closest Oscar vote up till that time that didn't end in a tie. Many poeple has/had the opinion that Judy should've won over Grace.
Notable movies: The Wizard of Oz (1939), A Star is Born (1954), Meet me in St. Louis (1944), Easter Parade (1948)
Post-1960’s: Judgment at Nürnberg (1961), I Could Go on Singing (1963)
Notes: Mother of Liza Minnelli
Was named #8 Actress on The AFI 50 Greatest Screen Legends
Suffered from a severe depression, hallucinations and drug abuse during most of her adult life which eventually led her to accidentally overdosing barbiturate drugs which killed her in 1969 at the age of 47. ” - PrudenceHill
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...
“ Academy Award Nominee: Nominated for 1 Academy Award.
Notable movies: Blue Angel (1930), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Marocco (1930) (Best Actress-Nominee), Shanghai Express (1932)
Post-1960’s: Judgment at Nürnberg (1961)
Notes: Born in Germany
Was named #9 Actress on The AFI 50 Greatest Screen Legends
First German actress to be Oscar-nominated. ” - PrudenceHill
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...
“ Academy Award Winner: Won 1 Academy Award. Best Actress in a Leading Role for Mildred Pierce (1945). Another 2 Academy Award nominations.
Notable movies: Mildred Pierce (1945) (Best Actress-win), Grand Hotel (1932), Johnny Guitar (1954), The Women (1939)
Post-1960’s: Whatever Happend to Baby Jane? (1962), The Caretakers (1963)
Notes: Joan was dancing in a chorus line in 1925 when she was spotted by MGM and offered a screen test. Joan, who wanted more than anything to continue dancing, turned down the offer at first. But another chorus girl persuaded Joan to try the test, and a few weeks later she was put under contract.
Sworn enemy of actress and her co-star in Whatever happend to Baby Jane? (1962) Bette Davis.
Her popularity grew so quickly after her name was changed to Joan Crawford that two films in which she was still billed as Lucille Le Sueur: Old Clothes (1925) and The Only Thing (1925) were recalled, and the billings were altered. ” - PrudenceHill
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...
“ Academy Award Nominee: Nominated for 4 Academy Awards. Won a Honory Academy Award in 1982.
Notable movies:Double Indemnity (1944), The Lady Eve (1941), Meet John Doe (1941), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
Post-1960’s:The Big Valley (1965), Thornbirds (1983)
Notes: One of the bunch of Hollywood legends that has never won an Oscar. Examples of others are Greta Garbo, Lillian Gish and Cary Grant.
Her wicked turn as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944) was ranked #8 on the American Film Institute's "100 Greatest Screen Heroes and Villains" list.
Was listed #11 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years of The Greatest Screen Legends." ” - PrudenceHill
Claudette Colbert was born in Paris and brought to the United States as a child three years later. Born Lily Claudette Chauchoin, she went to high school in New York. She was studying at the Art Students League when, in 1923, she took the name Claudette Colbert for her first Broadway role in "The Wild Westcotts"...
“ Academy Award Winner: Best Actress in a Leading Role for It Happend one Night (1932). Another 2 Academy Award nominations.
Notable movies: It Happend One Night (1932) (Best Actress-win), The Palm Beach Story (1942), Since You Went Away (1944), Cleopatra (1934)
Post-1960’s: Parrish (1961), The Two Mrs. Greenvilles (1987)
Notes: Born in France
Was named #12 Actress on The American Film Institute's 50 Greatest Screen Legends
She was so convinced that she would lose the Oscar competition in 1935 to write-in nominee Bette Davis, that she decided not to attend the awards ceremony. When she, contrary to her belief, won that year for her performance in It Happend One Night (1934) she was summoned from a train station to pick up her Oscar. ” - PrudenceHill
Grace Kelly was an American actress who, after marrying Prince Rainier III in April 1956, became Princess of Monaco. After embarking on an acting career in 1950, at the age of 20, Kelly appeared in New York City theatrical productions and more than 40 episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television...
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...
Mary Jane West was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 17, 1893, to parents involved in prizefighting and vaudeville. Mae herself worked on the stage and in vaudeville from the time she was five years old. She never was academically inclined because she was too busy performing. She studied dance as a child...
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...
was born into a broken family where her restless father James Lee Gish was frequently absent. Mary Robinson McConnell a.k.a. Mary Gish
, her mother, had entered into acting to make money to support the family. As soon as Lillian and her sister Dorothy were old enough, they became part of the act...
Shirley Temple was easily the most popular and famous child star of all time. She got her start in the movies at the age of three and soon progressed to super stardom. Shirley could do it all: act, sing and dance and all at the age of five! Fans loved her as she was bright, bouncy and cheerful in her...
Margarita Carmen Cansino was born on October 17, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York, into a family of dancers. Her father, Eduardo was a dancer as was his father before him. He emigrated from Spain in 1913. Rita's mother met Eduardo in 1916 and were married the following year. Rita, herself, studied as a dancer in order to follow in her family's footsteps...
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in New York City. She is the daughter of Natalie Weinstein-Bacal, a Romanian Jewish immigrant, and William Perske, who was born in New Jersey, to Polish Jewish parents. Her family was middle-class, with her father working as a salesman and her mother as a secretary...
Sophia Loren was born as Sofia Scicolone at the Clinica Regina Margherita in Rome, Italy, on September 20, 1934. Her father, Riccardo Scicolone, was married to another woman and refused to marry her mother, Romilda Villani, despite the fact that she was the mother of his two children (Sophia and her younger sister Maria Scicolone
Harlean Carpenter, who later became Jean Harlow, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1911. She was the daughter of a successful dentist and his wife. In 1927, at the age of 16, she ran away from home to marry a young businessman named Charles McGrew, who was 23. The couple pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles...
Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on October 6, 1908. Her parents divorced in 1916 and her mother took the family on a trip out West. While there they decided to settle down in the Los Angeles area. After being spotted playing baseball in the street with the neighborhood boys by a film director...
Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Elsie Charlotte (Hennessy) and John Charles Smith. She was of English and Irish descent. Pickford began in the theater at age seven. Then known as "Baby Gladys Smith", she toured with her family in a number of theater companies...
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...
Myrna Williams, later to become Myrna Loy, was born on August 2, 1905 in Radersburg, Montana. Her father was the youngest person ever elected to the Montana State legislature. Later on her family moved to Helena where she spent her youth. At the age of 13, Myrna's father died of influenza and the rest of the family moved to Los Angeles...
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...
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...
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...
Deborah Kerr was born on 30 September 1921 in Helensburgh, Scotland, the daughter of Captain Arthur Kerr-Trimmer. She was educated at Northumberland House, Clifton, Bristol. She first performed at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, London. She subsequently performed with the Oxford Repertory Company 1939-40...
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Vienna, Austria, to a banker and his wife. Hedwig, who obviously became Hedy, had a rather calm childhood, but it was cinema that fascinated her. By the time she was a teenager she decided to drop out of school and seek fame as an actress. Her first role was a bit part in the German film Geld auf der Straße
(aka "Money on the Street") in 1930...
Jane's first interest was in dress designing but on leaving high school she enrolled for a term at Max Reinhardt's Theatrical Workshop which changed her mind about being a dress designer. Later she signed for 6 months with Madame Ouspenskaya (an actress and coach) who fired her dramatic ambition. Although...
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...
Clara Gordon Bow, destined to become THE flapper of the 1920's, was born and raised in poverty in Brooklyn, New York, on July 29, 1905. Her family was also beset with violence. Her mother tried to slit Clara's throat when she attempted to enter the film industry. She won a photo beauty contest which launched her movie career that would eventually number 58 films...
With prominent cheekbones and the most appealing overbite of her day, her striking good looks helped propel her to stardom. Her best known role is the enigmatic murder victim in Laura
. She was also Oscar-nominated for Leave Her to Heaven
. Her acting performances were few in the 1950s as she battled a troubled emotional life that included hospitalization and shock treatment for depression.
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...
The woman who will always be remembered as the crazy, accident-prone, lovable Lucy Ricardo was born Lucille Desiree Ball on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York. Her father died before she was four, and her mother worked several jobs, so she and her younger brother were raised by their grandparents...
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...
Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was born on January 31, 1902 in Huntsville, Alabama. Her father was a mover and shaker in the Democratic Party who served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from June 4, 1936, to September 16, 1940. Tallulah had been interested in acting and, at age 15...
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...
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...
Louise Brooks was one of the most fascinating personalities of Hollywood, always being compared with her most important characterization as protagonist: Lulu in Georg Wilhelm Pabst
's Pandora's Box
. Along with her beauty and talent she had an independent streak and refused to accept the restrictive role that women had in American society...
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...
Debbie Reynolds was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas, the second child of Maxine N. (Harmon) and Raymond Francis Reynolds, a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Her film career began at MGM after she won a beauty contest at age 16 impersonating Betty Hutton
. Reynolds wasn't a dancer until she was selected to be Gene Kelly
's partner in Singin' in the Rain
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...
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...
Marion Cecelia Douras was born in the borough of Brooklyn, New York on January 3, 1897. She had been bitten by the show biz bug early as she watched her sisters perform in local stage productions. She wanted to do the same. As Marion got older, she tried out for various school plays and did fairly well...
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...
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...
Mary Astor was born, Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke, on May 3, 1906 in Quincy, Illinois to a German immigrant father, Otto Ludwig Langhanke, and an American mother from Illinois, Helen Marie Vasconcellos, of Portuguese and Irish ancestry. Her parents were very ambitious for her as they recognized Mary's beauty and knowing if they played their cards right...
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...
Natalie Wood was born on July 20, 1938, in San Francisco, California, as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Her parents, Maria Stepanovna (Zudilova) and Nikolai Stepanovich Zakharenko, were Russian-born émigrés, of Ukrainian and Russian descent, who spoke barely comprehensible English; they changed the family name to Gurdin after becoming US citizens...
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...
Ethel Barrymore was the second of three children seemingly destined for the actor's life of their parents Maurice and Georgiana. Maurice Barrymore had emigrated from England in 1875, and after graduating from Cambridge in law had shocked his family by becoming an actor. Georgiana Drew of Philadelphia acted in her parents' stage company...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
Brigitte Bardot was born on September 28, 1934 in Paris, France. Her father had an engineering degree and worked with his father in the family business. Brigitte's mother encouraged her daughter to take up music and dance, and she proved to be very adept at it. By the time she was 15, Brigitte was trying a modeling career...
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...
Oliva R. Duffy was born on October 20, 1894, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. Ollie, as she was known to family and friends, did not have much of a childhood. Life in industrial Pittsburgh was depressing and grim, with its smoky factories and hard living. Olive's father died while she was still young, forcing her to leave school to help earn her keep...
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...
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...
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Ruby Dandridge
(née Ruby Jean Butler), an entertainer, and Cyril H. Dandridge, a cabinet maker and minister. Under the prodding of her mother, Dorothy and her sister Vivian Dandridge
began performing publicly, usually in black Baptist churches throughout the country...
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...
Shelley Winters was born Shirley Schrift of very humble beginnings on August 18, 1920 (some sources list 1922) in East St. Louis, Illinois. Her mother, Rose (Winter), was born in Missouri, to Austrian Jewish parents, and her father, Jonas Schrift, was an Austrian Jewish immigrant. Her father moved the family to Brooklyn when she was still young so that he...
Demure British beauty Jean Simmons was born January 31, 1929 in Crouch End, London. As a 14-year-old dance student, she was plucked from her school to play Margaret Lockwood
's precocious sister in Give Us the Moon
, and she went on to make a name for herself in such major British productions as Caesar and Cleopatra
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...
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
Maureen Paula O'Sullivan was born on May 17, 1911 in County Roscommon, Ireland, to Evangeline "Mary Eva" Lovatt (Frazer) and Charles Joseph O'Sullivan, an officer in the Connaught Rangers. She was of Irish, English, and Scottish descent. The future mother of Mia Farrow was educated in private Catholic girls schools in London...
Janet Leigh was the only child of a couple who often moved from town to town. Living in apartments, Janet was a bright child who skipped several grades and finished high school when she was 15. A lonely child, she would spend much of her time at movie theaters. She was a student, studying music and psychology...
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...
Pola Negri was born in Lipno, Poland, and moved to Warsaw as a child. Living in poverty with her mother, a teenage Pola auditioned and was accepted to the Imperial Ballet. Due to an illness that ended her dancing career, she soon switched to the Warsaw Imperial Academy of Dramatic Arts and became an actress...
Mae Marsh's father was an auditor for the railroad who died when she was four. Her family moved to San Francisco, where her stepfather was killed in the 1906 earthquake. Her great-aunt then took Mae and her sister to Los Angeles. With her show business background, Mae's aunt took them to the various movie studios for work as extras...
Geraldine Fitzgerald was the only actress to appear as both Laurence Olivier
's wife and Rodney Dangerfield
's mother-in-law, which surely qualifies her as running the gamut (if not the gauntlet, in the latter case) of A to Z for co-starring with cinema immortals. The Irish lass appeared in many masterpieces of Hollywood's Golden Age...
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...
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...
Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint is an American actress and producer. She is known for starring in Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959). Her film career also includes roles in Raintree County (1957), Exodus (1960)...
Gina Lollobrigida was born on July 4, 1927 in Subiaco, Italy. Destined to be called "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World", Gina possibly had St. Brigid as part of her surname. She was the daughter of a furniture manufacturer, and grew up in the pictorial mountain village. The young Gina did some modeling and...
Ann Rutherford was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The daughter of a former Metropolitan Opera singer, John Rutherford, and her actress mother, Lillian Mansfield, was destined for show business. Not long after her birth, her family moved to California, where she made her stage debut in 1925...
Of Irish/English ancestry, Agnes was born near Boston, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister (her mother was a mezzo-soprano) who encouraged her to perform in church pageants. Aged three, she sang 'The Lord is my Shepherd' on a public stage and seven years later joined the St. Louis Municipal Opera as a dancer and singer for four years...
Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was born into an unconventional a family at the turn of the 20th century. Her parents, James "Shamus" Sullivan and Edith "Biddy" Lanchester, were socialists - very active members of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in a rather broad sense and did not believe in the institution of marriage and being tied to any conventions of legality for that matter...
Judy Holliday was born Judith Tuvim in New York City on June 21, 1921. Her mother, a piano teacher, was attending a play when she went into labor and made it to the hospital just in time. Judy was an only child. By the age of four, her mother had her enrolled in ballet school which fostered a life-long interest in show business...
American leading lady whose sweet smile and sunny disposition made her the prototypical girl-next-door of American movies of the 1940s. Raised in semi-poverty in Bronx neighborhoods by her divorced mother, Allyson (nee Ella Geisman) was injured in a fall at age eight and spent four years confined within a steel brace...
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...
Gloria Hallward, an acting pupil of her mother (stage actress and teacher Jean Grahame), acted professionally while still in high school. In 1944 Louis B. Mayer
saw her on Broadway and gave her an MGM contract under the name Gloria Grahame. Her debut in the title role of Blonde Fever
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...
Betty Hutton was born Elizabeth June Thornburg on February 26, 1921, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Two years later Betty's father decided that the family way of life wasn't for him, so he left (he committed suicide 16 years later). Having to fend for themselves, Mrs. Thornburg moved the family to Detroit to find work in the numerous auto factories there...
Dame Judith Anderson was born Frances Margaret Anderson on February 10, 1897 in Adelaide, South Australia. She began her acting career in Australia before moving to New York in 1918. There she established herself as one of the greatest theatrical actresses and was a major star on Broadway throughout the 1930s...
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...
Mercedes McCambridge is a highly-talented radio performer who won a best supporting Actress Oscar for her film debut. Mercedes McCambridge was born in Joliet, Illinois, to Marie (Mahaffry) and John Patrick McCambridge, a farmer. She was of mostly Irish (with a small amount of English and German) ancestry...
Ann Sothern's film career started as an extra in 1927. Originally a redhead, for the comedy roles she began to get she bleached her hair blond. After working at MGM and on Broadway, Ann was signed by Columbia Pictures for Let's Fall in Love
. The next year she would work with Eddie Cantor
in his hit Kid Millions
Jeanne Crain was born in Barstow, California, on May 25, 1925. The daughter of a high school English teacher and his wife, Jeanne was moved to Los Angeles not long after her birth after her father got another teaching position in that city. While in junior high school, Jeanne played the lead in a school production which set her on the path to acting...
Mabel Normand was one of the comedy greats of early film. In an era when women are deemed 'not funny enough' it seems film history has forgotten her contributions. Her films debuted the Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin's tramp and the pie in the face gag. She co-starred with both Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in a series of shorts...
Theda Bara was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, as Theodosia Goodman, on July 29, 1885. She was the daughter of a local tailor and his wife. As a teenager Theda was interested in the theatrical arts and once she finished high school, she dyed her blond hair black and went in pursuit of her dream. By 1908 she was in New York in search of roles...
Norma Talmadge was born on May 26, 1895, in Jersey City, New Jersey. The daughter of an unemployed alcoholic and his wife, Norma did not have the idyllic childhood that most of us yearn for. Her father left the family on Christmas Day and his wife and three daughters had to fend for themselves. Her mother...