Stars of the '30s and '40s who are still with us

by 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.

1. Olivia de Havilland

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

3. 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 ...

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

7. Margaret O'Brien

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!)

8. Sally Ann Howes

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 ...

19. Terry Kilburn

Actor | Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Terry Kilburn was born on November 25, 1926 in West Ham, London, England as Terence E. Kilburn. He is an actor, known for Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), Lolita (1962) and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1947).

20. Claude Jarman Jr.

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

22. Valentina Cortese

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 (...

23. Michael Medwin

Actor | Never Say Never Again

Michael Medwin was born on July 18, 1923 in London, England as Michael Hugh Medwin. He is an actor and producer, known for Never Say Never Again (1983), The Duchess (2008) and Scrooge (1970). He was previously married to Sunny Sheila Back.

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.

29. Richard Erdman

Actor | Stalag 17

Richard Erdman was born on June 1, 1925 in Enid, Oklahoma, USA as John Richard Erdmann. He is an actor and director, known for Stalag 17 (1953), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Cry Danger (1951). He was previously married to Sharon Randall and Leza Holland.

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 ...

42. Christopher Severn

Actor | Mrs. Miniver

Christopher Severn was born on August 21, 1935 in Los Angeles County, California, USA as Christopher Aubrey Reginald Severn. He is an actor, known for Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Man from Down Under (1943) and The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943).

43. Ted Donaldson

Actor | A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Ted Donaldson was born on August 20, 1933 in New York City, New York, USA. He is an actor, known for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), The Return of Rusty (1946) and Rusty Saves a Life (1949).

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 ...

46. Rex Downing

Actor | Wuthering Heights

Rex Downing was born on April 21, 1925 in San Francisco, California, USA. He is an actor, known for Wuthering Heights (1939), The Escape (1939) and Blood and Sand (1941).

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..

49. Yoshiko Kuga

Actress | Kono hiroi sora no dokoka ni

Yoshiko Kuga was born on January 21, 1931 in Tokyo, Japan. She is an actress, known for Somewhere Under the Broad Sky (1954), Yûyake-gumo (1956) and Jôshû to tomo ni (1956). She was previously married to Akihiko Hirata.

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.

53. Jean Ames

Actress | All Through the Night

Jean Ames was born on August 24, 1919 in New York City, New York, USA. She is an actress, known for All Through the Night (1942), Larceny, Inc. (1942) and The Powers Girl (1943).

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.

59. Casey Johnson

Actor | Little Men

Casey Johnson was born on August 12, 1935 in San Diego, California, USA. He is an actor, known for Little Men (1940), Five Came Back (1939) and Boom Town (1940).



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