Best Actress Academy Award Nominees of the 1930's

by HarlowMGM | created - 03 Apr 2012 | updated - 03 Apr 2012 | Public

1. Norma Shearer

Actress | The Divorcee

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 ...

Six nominations Their Own Desire (1929-30), The Divorcee (1930), A Free Soul (1930-31), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), Romeo and Juliet (1936), Marie Antoinette (1938)

2. Irene Dunne

Actress | The Awful Truth

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...

Four nominations: Cimarron (1930), Theodora Goes Wild (1936), The Awful Truth (1937), Love Affair (1939)

3. Greta Garbo

Actress | Ninotchka

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 ...

Four nominations: Romance (1929-30), Anna Christie (1930), Camille (1937), Ninotchka (1939)

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...

Three nominations: Dangerous (1935), Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939)

5. Luise Rainer

Actress | The Great Ziegfeld

Luise Rainer, the first thespian to win back-to-back Oscars, was born on January 12, 1910 in Dusseldorf, Germany, into a prosperous Jewish family. Her parents were Emilie (Königsberger) and Heinrich Rainer, a businessman. She took to the stage, and plied her craft on the boards in Germany. As a ...

Two nominations: The Great Ziegfield (1936), The Good Earth (1937)

6. Claudette Colbert

Actress | It Happened One Night

One of the brightest film stars to grace the screen was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin on September 13, 1903, in Saint Mandé, France where her father owned a bakery at 57, rue de la République (now Avenue Général de Gaulle). The family moved to the United States when she was three. As Claudette ...

Two nominations: It Happened One Night (1934), Private Worlds (1935)

7. Katharine Hepburn

Actress | The Lion in Winter

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 ...

Two nominations: Morning Glory (1933), Alice Adams (1935)

8. Marie Dressler

Actress | Min and Bill

Once you saw her, you would not forget her. Despite her age and weight, she became one of the top box office draws of the sound era. She was 14 when she joined a theater group and she went on to work on stage and in light opera. By 1892, she was on Broadway and she later became a star comedienne on...

Two nominations: Min and Bill (1931), Emma (1932)

9. Helen Hayes

Actress | Airport

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,...

One nomination: The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)

10. Vivien Leigh

Actress | A Streetcar Named Desire

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 ...

One nomination: Gone With The Wind (1939)

11. Nancy Carroll

Actress | There Goes My Heart

Nancy Carroll made her film debut in 1927 after several years on the musical stage and later and Broadway. She became very popular upon the advent of sound because of her musical background. This red-haired, cupid-bow-mouthed star entertained movie audiences during the 1930s mouthed star gained a ...

One nomination: The Devil's Holiday (1930)

12. Ruth Chatterton

Actress | Dodsworth

Beginning as a chorus girl at age 14, Ruth Chatterton became a Broadway star with "Daddy Long Legs" in 1914. She appeared in such shows as "Mary Rose" and "Come Out of the Kitchen" before moving to Hollywood in 1925. As her film career faded in the late 1930s, she returned to the stage in revivals,...

One nomination: Sarah and Son (1930)

13. Gloria Swanson

Actress | Sunset Blvd.

Gloria Swanson went to public schools in Chicago; Key West, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her film debut was as an extra in The Fable of Elvira and Farina and the Meal Ticket (1915). From the following year on, she had leading roles in pictures for Keystone, then a year with Triangle, and, in...

One nomination: The Trepasser (1929-30)

14. Marlene Dietrich

Soundtrack | Witness for the Prosecution

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 ...

One nomination: Morocco ( 1930)

15. Ann Harding

Actress | Love from a Stranger

Ann, born Dorothy Gatley, spent most of her childhood as an "army brat" constantly moving around before the family finally settled in New York. Ann first appeared on the stage while she spent a year attending Bryn Mawr College. She became a clerk and freelance script reader with a film company ...

One nomination: Holiday (1930)

16. Lynn Fontanne

Actress | The Magnificent Yankee

Lynn Fontanne was born on December 6, 1887 in Woodford, Essex, England as Lillie Louise Fontanne. She was an actress, known for The Magnificent Yankee (1965), The Guardsman (1931) and Stage Door Canteen (1943). She was married to Alfred Lunt. She died on July 30, 1983 in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, ...

One nomination: The Guardsman (1931)

17. May Robson

Actress | Bringing Up Baby

Born Mary Jeanette Robison. She was the youngest daughter of Henry Robison of Penrith, Cumberland, England and Julia Schelesinger of Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Her father died in 1860 and her mother remarried. In 1866/67 they were living in St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and moved ...

One nomination: Lady for a Day (1933)

18. Diana Wynyard

Actress | Cavalcade

One of the outstanding stage actresses of her time, Diana Wynyard will always be remembered for her unforgettable performance in the British version of the thriller Gaslight (1940) (re-made in Hollywood in 1944 with Ingrid Bergman). Starring opposite the great Anton Walbrook, she played the part of...

One nomination: Calvalcade (1933)

19. Grace Moore

Actress | One Night of Love

Grace Moore, the internationally famous star of the Metropolitan Opera, Broadway, motion pictures, radio and recordings, was born December 5, 1898, in Del Río near Newport, Tennessee. Her family moved to Jellico when she was a young girl. She attended Jellico High School where she was captain of ...

One nomination: One Night of Love (1934)

20. Elisabeth Bergner

Actress | Paris Calling

Elisabeth Bergner was the daughter of the merchant Emil Ettel and his wife Anna Rosa Wagner. She grew up in Vienna, and she made her theatre debut in Innsbruck in 1915. In 1916 she obtained a contract in Zürich, where she played Ophelia next to the famous Alexander Moissi, who fell in love with her...

One nomination: Escape Me Never (1935)

21. Miriam Hopkins

Actress | The Heiress

Born into wealth in Savannah,Georgia on October 18, 1902, Ellen Miriam Hopkins was able to attend the finest educational institutions including Goddard Seminary in Plainfield, Vermont and Syracuse University in New York State. Studying dance in New York , she received her first taste of show ...

One nomination: Becky Sharp (1935)

22. Merle Oberon

Actress | That Uncertain Feeling

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 (1930), a ...

One nomination: The Dark Angel (1935)

23. Gladys George

Actress | The Roaring Twenties

One of the fine if relatively short-lived character actresses of Hollywood heydays of the 1930s and 1940s, Gladys George came into an acting family while literally on the road. Her parents were actually English and touring with a Shakespearean theater company in Patten, Maine when she was born (...

One nomination: Valiant is the Word for Carrie (1936)

24. Carole Lombard

Actress | My Man Godfrey

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 ...

One nomination: My Man Godfrey (1936)

25. Janet Gaynor

Actress | Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

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 ...

One nomination: A Star is Born (1937)

26. Barbara Stanwyck

Actress | Double Indemnity

Today Barbara Stanwyck is remembered primarily as the matriarch of the family known as the Barkleys on the TV western The Big Valley (1965), wherein she played Victoria, and from the hit drama The Colbys (1985). But she was known to millions of other fans for her movie career, which spanned the ...

One nomination: Stella Dallas (1937)

27. Fay Bainter

Actress | Jezebel

Fay Bainter's career began as a child performer in 1898. For some time, she was a member of the traveling cast of the Morosco Stock Company in Los Angeles. In 1912, she made her Broadway debut in 'The Rose of Panama', but this and her subsequent play 'The Bridal Path' (1913), were conspicuous ...

One nomination: White Banners (1938)

28. Wendy Hiller

Actress | Murder on the Orient Express

Wendy Hiller, daughter of Frank and Marie Hiller, was born on 15th August 1912 in Bramhall, near Stockport, Cheshire, England. She was educated at Winceby House School, Bexhill then moved on to Manchester Repertory Theatre. She appeared on stage in Sir John Barry's tour of Evensong, then as Sally ...

One nomination: Pygmalion (1938)

29. Margaret Sullavan

Actress | The Shop Around the Corner

Born in Norfolk, Virginia to wealthy stockbroker Cornelius Hancock Sullavan and heiress Garland Council Sullavan, Margaret Brooke overcame a muscle weakness in her childhood to go on to become a rebellious teenager at posh private schools. She went on to perform with the University Players at ...

One nomination: Three Comrades (1938)

30. 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 ...

One nomination: Goodbye Mr Chips (1939)



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