Stars of the '30s and '40s who are still with usby crisso | created - 26 Mar 2011 | updated - 1 month ago | Public
Some were big and some small - but they all noticeably appeared in at least two films at some point during the 1930s and/or 1940s. Note: TV work or extra work does not count.
Actress | The Heiress
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 ...
My vote for number one living screen legend goes to this lady. There's several reasons why: her hugely memorable screen partnership with Errol Flynn, which included some of the greatest and most memorable adventure epics of all time, the greatest of them being The Adventures of Robin Hood. She starred in possibly the best loved Hollywood film of all time - a film so well known I need not mention it by name. And possibly her greatest achievement of all was winning the landmark legal battle against Warner Bros, following which she did her best work, including her two Oscar winning performances in To Each His Own and The Heiress, as well as her highly acclaimed role in the groundbreaking The Snake Pit. Her career seemed to go into decline somewhat afterwards but it semed to be based on her own choices. After all what else did she need to prove?
UPDATE: As of 2018, and at 102 years of age, de Havilland is the oldest living Oscar winner and the last surviving name-above the title adult stars of 1930s Hollywood.
2. Glynis Johns
Actress | Mary Poppins
Husky voiced Glynis is the daughter of actor Mervyn Johns. Best known for her light comedy roles and often playful flirtation, Glynis was born in South Africa while her parents were on tour there (her mother was a concert pianist) but was always proud of her Welsh roots and took delight in playing ...
Film debut: 1938
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 ...
Film debut: 1944
4. Kirk Douglas
Actor | Spartacus
Cleft-chinned, steely-eyed and virile star of international cinema who rose from being "the ragman's son" (the name of his best-selling 1988 autobiography) to become a bona fide superstar, Kirk Douglas, also known as Issur Danielovitch Demsky, was born on December 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, New York. ...
Film debut: 1946
5. Doris Day
Soundtrack | Love Me or Leave Me
One of America's most prolific actresses was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Alma Sophia (Welz), a housewife, and William Joseph Kappelhoff, a music teacher and choir master. Her grandparents were all German immigrants. She had two brothers, Richard, who ...
Film debut: 1948
6. Marsha Hunt
Actress | Pride and Prejudice
Stardom somehow eluded this vastly gifted actress. Had it not perhaps been for her low-level profile compounded by her McCarthy-era blacklisting in the early 1950s, there is no telling what higher tier Marsha Hunt might have attained. Perhaps her work was not flashy enough, or too subdued, or ...
Film debut: 1935
Actress | Meet Me in St. Louis
Born Angela Maxine O'Brien on January 15, 1937 in San Diego, California. Her film debut was one-minute shot in MGM's Babes on Broadway (1941). Her big moment came when she was cast in Journey for Margaret (1942). This film shot her into instant stardom and also resulted in Angela changing her name ...
Film debut: 1941 (and still working!)
Actress | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Sally Ann Howes grew up in a show business family led by her father, famous English comedian/actor Bobby Howes, her mother Patricia Malone and grandfather, Broadway director Capt. J.A.E. Malone. She had her first screen test offer on her 12th birthday and went on to star in several films before she...
Film debut: 1943
9. Ann Blyth
Actress | Mildred Pierce
The dark, petulant beauty of this petite American film and musical star worked to her advantage, especially in her early dramatic career. Ann Marie Blyth was born of Irish stock to Harry and Nan Blyth on August 16, 1928, in Mt. Kisco, New York. Her parents split while she was young and she, her ...
Film debut: 1944
10. Jane Withers
Actress | Giant
During the early times of the Depression when life was more famine than feast, child stars became the blue plate special of the day, served up by Hollywood to help nourish a nation besieged with troubles. Following 20th Century-Fox monumental success with Shirley Temple in the early 1930s, every ...
Film debut: 1932
11. Rhonda Fleming
Actress | Out of the Past
A native-born Californian, Rhonda Fleming attended Beverly Hills public and private schools. Her father was Harold Cheverton Louis (1896-1951). Her mother, Effie Olivia Graham (1891-1985), was a famous model and actress in New York. She has a son (Kent Lane), two granddaughters (Kimberly and Kelly)...
Film debut: 1943
12. Muriel Pavlow
Actress | Murder She Said
Lovely, delicate-looking actress Muriel Pavlow belongs firmly to the British cinema of the 1950s and often provided a nice counterbalance to the hectic goings-on in many comedies. Born in 1921 in Leigh, Kent, England, she was a dominant stage actress despite her petite frame and made her theatrical...
13. Norman Lloyd
Actor | Dead Poets Society
Norman Lloyd was born Norman Perlmutter in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Sadie (Horowitz), a housewife and singer, and Max Perlmutter, a furniture store manager. His family was Jewish (from Hungary and Russia). He began his acting career in the theater, first "treading the boards" at Eva Le Gallienne...
Film debut: 1942
14. Arlene Dahl
Actress | Journey to the Center of the Earth
Elegance and femininity are fitting descriptions for Arlene Dahl. She is considered to be one of the most beautiful actresses to have graced the screen during the postwar period. Audiences were captivated by her breathtaking beauty and the way she used to it to her advantage, progressing from ...
15. Darryl Hickman
Actor | Network
Although younger brother Dwayne Hickman is probably the better-remembered sibling today with his still-huge cult following as TV's Dobie Gillis, Darryl Hickman was certainly the more popular actor and deemed more talented when they were children. During his years at MGM in the wartime 40s, Darryl ...
16. Baby Peggy
Actress | Captain January
Silent moppet star Jackie Coogan, immortalized as Charles Chaplin's The Kid (1921), had only one screen rival during the early 1920s, and that was none other than Baby Peggy. She was "discovered" while visiting the Century Studios lot on Sunset Boulevard with her mother when she was a mere 19-...
Film debut: 1921
17. Jane Powell
Actress | A Date with Judy
Jane Powell was singing and dancing at an early age. She sang on the radio and performed in theaters before her screen debut in 1944. Through the 1940s and 1950s, she had a successful career in movie musicals. However, in 1957, her career in films ended, as she had outgrown her innocent ...
18. Mickey Kuhn
Actor | A Streetcar Named Desire
One of Hollywood's staple child actors during the 30s and 40s, Mickey Kuhn played alongside many a top Hollywood star from Leslie Howard and Conrad Nagel's son to playing Dick Tracy's ward. Once he reached the "awkward teens" stage, however, he found himself primarily unemployed or in unbilled ...
Actor | Rio Grande
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Claude was the son of a railroad accountant. With no intentions of becoming a screen actor at the time, 12-year-old Claude Jarman, Jr. was discovered during an MGM nationwide talent search for their upcoming film, The Yearling (1946), and won the coveted role of Jody ...
21. Honor Blackman
Actress | Goldfinger
Comparing this sultry-eyed blonde to Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich may seem a bit overzealous, but Honor Blackman's stylish allure over the years cannot be denied.
One of four children, Blackman was born in London's East End to a statistician father employed with the civil service and a homemaker ...
Film debut: 1947
Actress | La nuit américaine
Valentina Cortese was born in Milan, Lombardy, Italy, in 1923. She made her movie debut in 1940 and played many "ingenue" parts in Italian films of that period, before making a real sensation in Caccia all'uomo (1948) and Tempesta su Parigi (1948), playing both female leads, Fantine and Cosette (...
24. Micheline Presle
Actress | If a Man Answers
Dark-haired, Paris-born Micheline Presle (better known in the States as Micheline Prelle) was the daughter of a businessman and took acting classes as a teen. She was discovered by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and cast in Jeunes filles en détresse (1939) (Young Girls in Distress) and Four Flights to ...
25. Peggy Stewart
Actress | The Runaways
Florida-born Peggy O'Rourke's parents divorced when she was very young. Peggy's mother eventually married a wealthy attorney named Stewart, and Peggy took his name. She grew up in Atlanta (where she developed the athletic skills she would later demonstrate in her many westerns for Republic Pictures...
Film debut: 1937
26. June Lockhart
Actress | She-Wolf of London
Born in New York City on June 25, 1925, the daughter of actors Gene Lockhart and Kathleen Lockhart, June Lockhart made her professional debut at age eight in a Metropolitan Opera production of "Peter Ibbetson", playing Mimsey in the dream sequence. In the mid-1930s, the Lockharts relocated to ...
27. Marge Champion
Actress | The Party
One of the great dancer and choreographers in both movies and stage, Marge Champion is best known today as the former wife of Gower Champion, when they worked together as a highly successfully dancing team in the MGM musical years. After retiring from movies, Champion now works as a dance teacher ...
28. Margaret Barton
Actress | Brief Encounter
Margaret Barton was born on May 27, 1926 in Finsbury Park, London, England as Margaret Ann Barton. She is an actress, known for Brief Encounter (1945), Fly Away Peter (1948) and The Gay Dog (1954). She has been married to Rob Cave since August 31, 2018. She was previously married to Raymond James.
30. Gigi Perreau
Actress | Shadow on the Wall
A major little talent, this French-American moppet star of the late '40s and early '50s was not able to parlay her precocious popularity into a sizeable adult career, but has nevertheless maintained on the fringe for decades. Gigi Perreau was born in Los Angeles to a French father, who fled his ...
31. Petula Clark
Soundtrack | Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Petula Clark was a star at the age of 11. She starred in British concert halls and on BBC radio singing for the troops during WWII. She was a child star in a series of British films from the end of WWII through to the early 1950s,and by 1954 was having hit records. After a move to France in 1960, ...
32. Cora Sue Collins
Actress | Black Moon
Cora Sue Collins was born April 19, 1927, in Beckley, West Virginia. She was a beautiful child actress who was in very much demand during the '30s. Her first film, at the age of five, was The Strange Case of Clara Deane (1932). She appeared in small roles throughout the early part of the decade. ...
33. Robert Blake
Actor | Lost Highway
American actor who began as a child in Our Gang comedies and reappeared as a powerful adult performer of leading and character roles. Born in New Jersey, the young Mickey Gubitosi won a role in MGM's Our Gang series at the age of 5. As one of the more prominent children in the Gang, he gained ...
34. Marilyn Knowlden
Actress | Show Boat
In 1931, a one-day effort by Marilyn Knowlden's attorney father led to an interview, a next-day screen test and a large part for four-year-old Marilyn in one of the early "talkies", Women Love Once (1931). A ten-year movie career followed, where she played the daughter of such stars as Claudette ...
35. Janis Paige
Actress | Silk Stockings
Joyous scene-stealer Janis Paige started out playing rather bland film ingénues, but never seemed to be comfortable in those roles--she had too much snap, crackle and pop to be confined in such a formulaic way.
Born Donna Mae Tjaden in 1922 in Tacoma, Washington, she was singing in public from age 5...
36. Nancy Gates
Actress | World Without End
Nancy Gates was born February 1, 1926 in Dallas, Texas. She entered show business, at an early age, when she was signed to a contract with RKO Studios when she was 15. Her first production with that studio was in 1942's Hitler's Children (1943). Nancy was also in two more films that year, those ...
37. Dwayne Hickman
Actor | How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
Boyishly handsome Dwayne Hickman, the younger brother of Darryl Hickman, followed in his sibling's tiny footsteps as a moppet film actor himself, appearing in such features as Captain Eddie (1945) (with Darryl) and as "Nip Worden" in The Return of Rusty (1946) and the rest of that dog adventure ...
38. Suzy Delair
Actress | L'assassin habite... au 21
Prototype of the sexy cheeky French lady, Suzy Delair was discovered by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who became her companion and gave her two memorable roles : Mila Malou, inspector Wens' unbearable girlfriend in two films, Le dernier des six (1941), which he wrote, and The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (...
39. Jacqueline White
Actress | The Narrow Margin
Warm, charming leading lady of 1940s films, Jacqueline White was under contract to both MGM (which wasted her in mostly unbilled bits) and then RKO, where she appeared in two classics--Crossfire (1947) and The Narrow Margin (1952). RKO used her as a second lead in A pictures and leading roles in Bs.
40. Donnie Dunagan
Actor | Son of Frankenstein
Born in Depression-era Texas, Donnie Dunagan moved with his parents to Memphis as a young child. There, as a three-year-old, he was taught to tap dance by a neighbor and entered in a talent contest at the Orpheum Theatre. Donnie won the $100 prize and caught the attention of a movie talent scout in...
41. Terry Moore
Actress | Come Back, Little Sheba
Born Helen Luella Koford on January 7, 1929, the Los Angeles, California, native worked as a model before she made her film debut at age 11 in 20th Century-Fox's Maryland (1940). Throughout the 1940s she worked under a variety of names (her own, Judy Ford and January Ford) before settling on Terry ...
44. Russ Tamblyn
Actor | West Side Story
Russ Tamblyn might as well face it...he will be a Jet "till his last dying day." Indelibly linked to the "womb to tomb" role of Riff, the knife-wielding, rocket-tempered, Edward Villella-styled gang leader of the streetwise Jets in the musical film masterpiece West Side Story (1961), it's not a bad...
45. Jimmy Lydon
Actor | Strange Illusion
Born to a large Irish Catholic family (the fifth of nine children) and raised in New York City, Lydon overcame a birth defect and alcoholic father to begin a Broadway career in 1937, acting opposite Van Heflin, Sidney Lumet and Uta Hagen in separate productions. After a number of films with ...
47. Marcy McGuire
Actress | Sing Your Way Home
This Kansas redhead, only 16 when she was cast in Seven Days' Leave (1942), was already working as a nightclub entertainer. When her first role received excellent notices, stressing her singing and wide-eyed appeal, she was signed to an RKO contract. RKO made little use of her comedy talent, ...
48. Julie Gibson
Actress | The Contender
Julie Gibson was born on September 6, 1913 in Grant County, Washington, USA as Gladys Camille Sorey. She is known for her work on The Contender (1944), Bowery Buckaroos (1947) and Chick Carter, Detective (1946). She was previously married to Charles Barton and Dean Dillman Jr..
50. Karolyn Grimes
Actress | It's a Wonderful Life
At age 6, Karolyn Grimes played the role of Zuzu Bailey in the holiday film It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Her childhood film career spanned 16 movies, but she is best remembered for playing the daughter of George and Mary Bailey (James Stewart and Donna Reed). The petals from her rose symbolize the...
51. Fay McKenzie
Actress | The Party
Fay McKenzie was born into a show business family where she was the youngest of two sisters and an actress cousin, and made her screen debut at only ten weeks old in Station Content (1918) in which she was carried in the arms of Gloria Swanson. Her parents, Bob and Eva were already veteran ...
52. Margaret Marquis
Actress | A Family Affair
Margaret Marquis was born on August 19, 1919 in North Bay, Nipissing District, Ontario, Canada as Margaret Alice Marquis. She was an actress, known for A Family Affair (1937), Penrod and Sam (1931) and Brand of the Outlaws (1936). She died on January 19, 1993 in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
54. Richard Nichols
Actor | A Woman's Face
Richard Franklin Nichols was born on December 14, 1935 in Hollywood, California. He worked in movies from 6-months-old until about 12 years. He was the youngest of seven children, most of whom worked in movies. Older brothers worked in "Our Gang" comedies and in "The East Side Kids". Both Ray ...
55. Tommy Cook
Writer | Rollercoaster
Spry, curly-haired, dark-complexioned child actor Tommy Cook's most famous roles happened during his nascent career in serial adventures. He came on the feature film scene auspiciously in the role of young Indian boy Little Beaver alongside western good guy 'Don 'Red' Barry' in the Adventures of ...
56. Martha Stewart
Actress | In a Lonely Place
Born in rural Kentucky she and her family relocated to Brooklyn where her father worked as a businessman. Following her high school graduation she was recommended to partake in a singing contest held by a local radio station from friends and was so successful that she worked professionally as a ...
57. Cara Williams
Actress | The Defiant Ones
This perky, talented, blue-eyed redhead had acting aspirations from the get-go. She was born in Brooklyn on June 29, 1925, as Bernice Kamiat, to an Austrian Jewish father and a Russian Jewish mother. Cara began performing as a child and continued into her teens. After her parents' divorce, she ...
58. Gene Reynolds
Producer | Lou Grant
Gene Reynolds was born on April 4, 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA as Eugene Reynolds Blumenthal. He is a producer and director, known for Lou Grant (1977), M*A*S*H (1972) and Room 222 (1969). He has been married to Ann Sweeny since 1979. They have one child. He was previously married to Bonnie Jones.