Great Women of the Silver Screen

....to list them all would be difficult
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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...
 
2.
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...
 
3.
Myrna Loy
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...
 
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...
 
5.
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...
 
6.
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...
 
7.
Mary Astor
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...
 
8.
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...
 
9.
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...
 
10.
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 second only to Katharine Hepburn...
 
11.
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...
 
12.
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...
 
13.
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...
 
14.
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...
 
15.
Hedy Lamarr
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...
 
16.
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...
 
17.
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...
 
18.
Lauren Bacall
Actress, The Big Sleep
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...
 
19.
Kay Francis
Kay Francis is possibly the biggest of the 'forgotten stars' from Hollywood's Golden Era, yet, for a while in the 1930s, she ranked as one of the most popular actresses, tagged the 'Queen of Warner Brothers', by 1935 earning a yearly salary of $115,000 (compared to Bette Davis with $18,000). The daughter of actress Katherine Clinton and businessman Joseph Gibbs...
 
20.
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...
 
21.
Joan Bennett
Actress, Dark Shadows
Joan Geraldine Bennett was born on February 27, 1910, in Palisades, New Jersey. Her parents were both successful stage actors, especially her father, Richard Bennett, and often toured the country for weeks at a time. In fact, Joan came from a long line of actors, dating back to the 18th century. Often...
 
22.
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...
 
23.
Margaret Lindsay
Actress, Jezebel
Picture-pretty brunette Margaret Lindsay was one of a number of pleasant, sweet-natured ingénues who could do no wrong in a score of 1930s stylish Hollywood pictures. Such altruistic love interests were often overlooked in pictures that were carried by the flashy histrionics of a jaunty James Cagney or temperamental Bette Davis...
 
24.
Ann Sothern
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...
 
25.
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...
 
26.
Angela Lansbury
British character actress, long in the United States. The daughter of an actress and the granddaughter of a high-ranking politician, Lansbury studied acting from her youth, departing for the United States as the Second World War began. She was contracted by MGM while still a teenager and nominated for an Academy Award for her first film...
 
27.
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...
 
28.
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...
 
29.
Constance Bennett
Actress, Topper
Often described as the most beautiful of the Bennett sisters with her blonde hair and blue eyes, Constance Bennett was the daughter of actor Richard Bennett and actress Adrienne Morrison. Her sisters were Joan Bennett and Barbara Bennett. She was educated at Miss Shandor's school, Mrs. Merrill's school and Mme...
 
30.
Ann Sheridan
Actress, Another World
Ann Sheridan won the "Search for Beauty" contest which carried with it a Paramount screen test. Signed to a contract at 18, she was put into a number of small roles under her real name of Clara Lou Sheridan. As she got better, her name was changed to Ann. In 1936, after two dozen films, she went to Warner Brothers...
 
31.
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...
 
32.
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...
 
33.
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...
 
34.
Jean Harlow
The dentist's daughter eloped at age 16 with a young businessman and wound up in Los Angeles where she found work as an extra and bit player (examples: Moran of the Marines and Liberty) and somewhat more prominently in Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy shorts (Double Whoopee, Bacon Grabbers)...
 
35.
Thelma Todd
Thelma Todd was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, an industrial city near the New Hampshire state line. She was a lovely child with good academic tendencies, so much so that she decided early on to become a schoolteacher. After high school she went on to college but at her mother's insistence entered several beauty contests (apparently her mother wanted her to be more than just a "schoolmarm")...
 
36.
Mae West
Actress, I'm No Angel
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...
 
37.
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...
 
38.
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...
 
39.
Marie Prevost
Popular star in Hollywood for two decades through 1936. Began as a Mack Sennett "Bathing Beauty" in 1917, later starring in dozens of light comedies. But not long into the sound era, she would have encountered problems with her burgeoning weight, to the jeopardy of her career. Her self-remedy resulted ultimately in her starving to death. (See also Laird Cregar.)