Great Female Character/Supporting Actresses

by galileo57 | created - 06 Feb 2011 | updated - 06 Apr 2017 | Public

1. Shelley Winters

Actress | The Poseidon Adventure

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 ...

2. Agnes Moorehead

Actress | Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte

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 ...

3. Kathy Bates

Actress | Misery

Multi-talented Kathleen Doyle Bates was born on June 28, 1948, and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the youngest of three girls born to Bertye Kathleen (Talbot), a homemaker, and Langdon Doyle Bates, a mechanical engineer. Her grandfather was author Finis L. Bates. Kathy has English, as well as...

4. Ann Miller

Actress | Mulholland Dr.

Ann Miller was born Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier on April 12, 1923 in Chireno, Texas. She lived there until she was nine, when her mother left her philandering father and moved with Ann to Los Angeles, California. Even at that young age, she had to support her mother, who was hearing-impaired and ...

5. Ruth Gordon

Actress | Rosemary's Baby

When Ruth Gordon convinced her father, a sea captain, to let her pursue acting she came to New York and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She acted in a few silents made at Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1915. She made her Broadway debut in "Peter Pan" as Nibs the same year. The next 20 ...

6. Beulah Bondi

Actress | It's a Wonderful Life

Character actress Beulah Bondi was a favorite of directors and audiences and is one of the reasons so many films from the 1930s and 1940s remain so enjoyable, as she was an integral part of many of the ensemble casts (a hallmark of the studio system) of major and/or great films, including The Trail...

7. Angela Lansbury

Actress | The Manchurian Candidate

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 ...

8. Marisa Tomei

Actress | My Cousin Vinny

Marisa Tomei was born on December 4, 1964, in Brooklyn, New York, to Patricia "Addie" (Bianchi), a teacher of English, and Gary Tomei, a lawyer, both of Italian descent. Marisa has a brother, actor Adam Tomei. As a child, Marisa's mother frequently corrected her speech as to eliminate her heavy ...

9. Sissy Spacek

Actress | In the Bedroom

As a kid, Sissy Spacek climbed trees, rode horses, swam, and played in the woods. She was born Mary Elizabeth Spacek on December 25, 1949, in Quitman, Texas, to Virginia Frances (Spilman) and Edwin Arnold Spacek, Sr., a county agricultural agent. Her father's family was of Czech and German origin.

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10. Jane Darwell

Actress | The Grapes of Wrath

Missouri-born Jane Darwell was born Patti Woodard, the daughter of William Robert Woodard, president of the Louisville Southern Railroad, and Ellen (Booth) Woodard, in Palmyra, Missouri, where she grew up on a ranch . She nursed ambitions to be an opera singer, but put it off because of her ...

11. Thelma Ritter

Actress | Rear Window

Thelma Ritter appeared in high school plays and was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In the 1940s she worked in radio. Her movie career was started with a bit part in the 1946 Miracle on 34th Street (1947). In the movie she played a weary Xmas shopper. Her performance in the short ...

12. Laura Linney

Actress | The Big C

Laura Leggett Linney was born in New York City on February 5, 1964, into a theatre family. Her father was prominent playwright Romulus Linney, whose own great-grandfather was a congressman from North Carolina. Her mother, Miriam Anderson (Leggett), is a nurse. Although she did not live in her ...

13. Joan Cusack

Actress | Grosse Pointe Blank

Actress Joan Cusack was born in New York City, New York, and is the daughter of Nancy (née Carolan) and Dick Cusack. Her father was an advertising executive, writer and actor, and her mother was a math teacher. Her siblings - Susie Cusack, John Cusack, Ann Cusack and Bill Cusack also act. Her ...

14. Amy Madigan

Actress | Field of Dreams

In the 1960s, Amy attended St. Philip Neri grammar school and Aquinas High School, both in Chicago, where she performed in school plays and was known as the school tomboy. In the early 1970s, Amy was featured in Playboy Magazine wearing only jelly, to promote her music band, Jelly. Amy is the ...

15. Marjorie Main

Actress | The Egg and I

Her father was a minister, and when she joined a local stock company as a youngster she changed her name to avoid embarrassing her family. She worked in vaudeville and debuted on Broadway in 1916. Her film debut was in A House Divided (1931). She repeated her stage role in Dead End (1937) as Baby ...