1940's

 

Lauren Bacall, whose real name was Betty Joan Perske, was born in New York City, on September 16, 1924. Her first film in "To Have and Have Not" in 1944, was one of the most astonishing of Hollywood film debuts. She was only 19 years old and had done virtually not acting before. She had worked mainly as a model in New York City and her photograph had been spotted by the wife of producer- director Howard Hawks. She had about four months of the toughest kind of training before starring in the movie with Humphrey Bogart. After the success of the film they starred together in "The Big Sleep", which began filming in 1944 and was completed before they married
in 1945.


Best known films:

  • To Have and Have Not (1944)
  • The Big Sleep (1945)
  • How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
  • Written in the Wind (1956)
  • Designing Women (1957)
  • The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), Academy Award nomination

 

Ingrid Bergman was born in Stockholm Sweden, on August 29, 1915 and died in 1982. She had already established herself as a leading star of stage and screen in Sweden, when David Selznick wanted to change her appearance, (eyebrows plucked, teeth capped, etc), but she refused and was ready to go back to Sweden, when he proceeded to promote her as a new kind of natural, unspoiled and unglamourised type of star. He cast her in the remake "Intermezzo, A Love Story" in 1939. She played a couple of minor roles and then made her Broadway debut in 'Liliom'. She then starred in the remake "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" with Spencer Tracy in 1941. She was then cast in "Casablanca" in 1942.

Best known films:

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Academy Award nomination
  • Gaslight (1944), Academy Awards winner for Best Actress
  • The Bells of St. Mary (1945), Academy Award nomimation
  • Spellbound (1945)
  • Notorious (1946)
  • Joan of Arc (1948), Academy Award nomimation
  • Anastasia (1956), Academy Awards winner for Best Actress
  • Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress

 

Joan Fontaine, whose real name is Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland, was born in Tokyo, Japan, on October 22, 1917. The younger sister of Olivia de Havilland, she had begun her acting career on the stage on the West Coast before being signed up for films. After her first and only film with RKO in "Damsel in Distress" in 1937, she starred in a supporting role in "The Women" in 1939. Later that year, she received her big break, when she was cast in "Rebecca" in 1939.

Best known films:

  • Rebecca (1939), Academy Award nomination
  • Suspicion (1941), Academy Awards winner for Best Actress
  • The Constant Nymph (1943), Academy Award nomination
  • Jane Eyre (1944)
  • Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948)

 

Judy Garland, whose real name was Frances Gumm, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on June 10, 1922 and died in 1969. Billed as 'the little girl with the great big voice', Judy joined her two older sisters in the 'Gumm Sisters Kiddie Act', later changed to the Garland sisters. When the act broke up, Judy went solo, pushed by her zealous mother, a woman once described by her daughter as 'the real life wicked witch of the west'. At 13, she gained an MGM contract and was put into a two reel short called "Every Sunday", in 1936. At the start of her long career at MGM, she virtually stole the show in "Broadway Melody of 1938", when she sang "Dear Mr. Gable, You Made Me Love You' to a photograph of the star. Louis B. Mayor wanted Shirley Temple for the role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz", but Fox wouldn't release her, he reluctantly gave the 16 year old Garland the role.

Best known films:

  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Strike Up the Band (1940)
  • Babes on Broadway (1941)
  • Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
  • Ziegfield Follies (1946)
  • Easter Parade (1948)
  • A Star is Born (1954), Academy Award nomimation
  • Judgement At Nuremberg (1961), Academy Award nomimation

 

Greer Garson, whose real name is Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson was born in County Down, Ireland on September 29, 1908 and died in 1996. She was discovered by MGM boss Louis B. Mayer, who spotted her on the London stage while on a trip to Europe in 1938, in which she had already established herself in the theatre. Her film career got off to a slow, but memorable start, when she was cast in a relatively small part in "Goodbye Mr. Chips" in 1939, yet she was nominated for best actress. Her record of six Oscar nominations within 7 years has never been matched.

Best known films:

  • Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939), Academy Award nomination
  • Pride and Prejudice (1940)
  • Blossoms in the Dust (1941)
  • Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Academy Award nomination
  • Random Harvest (1942)
  • Mrs. Miniver (1942), Academy Awards winner for Best Actress
  • Madame Curie (1943), Academy Award nomination
  • Mrs. Parkington (1944), Academy Award nomination
  • Valley of Decision (1945), Academy Award nomination
  • Sunrise at Campobello 1960), Academy Award nomination

 

Rita Hayworth, whose real name is Margarita Carmen Cansino, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 17, 1918 and died in 1987. The daughter of Spanish dancers, dark haired Rita began dancing in her parents' act at the age of twelve. In her teens under the name of Rita Cansino, she danced with her father in nightclubs at Californian resorts and in Tijuana, Mexico, before being spotted by a Fox production boss. In 1935, she made her screen debut in "Under the Pampas Moon", followed by other bit parts, usually appearing as an exotic dancer.

In 1937, she married a man 22 years her senior, who concentrated on her career and gained a seven year contract with Columbia, who set to work on her glorious hair, they raised the hairline on her forehead with electrolysis and turned her into a redhead. She continued to star in B movies, before being cast in "Only Angels Have Wings" in 1939.

Best known films:

  • Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
  • Strawberry Blonde (1941)
  • Affectionately Yours (1941)
  • Blood and Sand (1941)
  • My Gal Sal (1942)
  • Cover Girl (1944)
  • Gilda (1946)
  • The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

 

Deborah Kerr was born in Helensburgh, Scotland, on September 30, 1921. She had originally studied to be a dancer, but switched to the theatre during the late 30's and made her film debut in "Major Barbara" in 1940. She was excellent in a relatively small role as a Salvation Army girl,
and appeared in a number of other pictures before she received in big break in "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" in 1943.

Best known films:

  • I See a Dark Stranger (1946)
  • Black Narcissus (1947)
  • Edward My Son (1949), Academy Award nomination
  • Quo Vadis? (1952)
  • From Here to Eternity (1953), Academy Award nomination
  • Julius Caesar (1953)
  • The King and I (1956), Academy Award nomination
  • Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957), Academy Award nomination
  • Separate Tables (1958), Academy Award nomination
  • The Sundowners (1960), Academy Award nomination

 

Vivien Leigh, whose real name is Vivien Mary Hartley was born in Darjeeling, India, on November 5, 1913 and died in 1967. She enjoyed dressing up so much as a youngchild, that by the age of seven, she wanted to be an actress.Her first role as Mustart Seed in a school production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', but she didn't get her first break until fifteen years later. During 1934-35, she appeared in her first films and landed a number of good stage roles. She starred with Laurence Olivier in "Fire Over England" and "21 Days", both in 1937 and soon became involved with him and eventually married him. She was chosen to play Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With The Wind", after an extensive search was made for the perfect heroine.

Best known films:

  • A Yank at Oxford (1938)
  • Gone With The Wind (1939), Academy Awards winner for Best Actress
  • Waterloo Bridge (1940)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Academy Awards winner for Best Actress
  • The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

 

Lana Turner was born in Wallace, Idaho, on February 8, 1921 and died in 1995. She was only sixteen years old when she was discovered sitting on a stool at the soda fountain of a Hollywood drugstore. A shapely, attractive blonde with no previous acting experience of any sort. Initially put into bit parts at Warner Bros., she ended up being groomed for stardom at the biggest studio of all, MGM.

First introduced as a juvenile, she was soon upgraded to more mature and sexy roles and found herself promoted as a pin-up and 'the sweater girl' during the war. Her acting limitations were apparent but she developed a strong screen presence. She was always the rumors of affairs with a large number of Hollywood leading men.

Best known films:

  • Johnny Eager (1942)
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
  • Green Dolphin Street (1947)
  • Cass Timberlane (1947)
  • The Three Muskateers (1948)
  • The Merry Widow (1952)
  • The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
  • Peyton Place (1958)
  • Imitation of Life (1959)
  • Portrait in Black (1960)
  • Madame X (1966)
1950's

 

Ava Gardner was born in Smithfield, North Carolina on January 24, 1922 and died in 1990. She was one of six children of a poor farmer and had an unhappy and deprived childhood. At 18, set to become a secretary, she visited her married sister in New York. Her brother-in-law, a photographer, took some pictures of her and sent them to MGM's casting department. Not long afterwards, she was given a screen test in New York and offered a seven year contract.

On arrival in Hollywood in 1940, she found that she was one of may starlets hired by MGM to be groomed for possible stardom. She was given lessons in drama, diction, make-up and fashion, and posed for publicity pictures long before they appeared in a film.

She was barely noticeable in her first movies "We Were Dancing" (1942), "Hitler's Madman" (1943), "Du Barry Was A Lady" (1943), and "Music for Millions" (1944). However in 1942, her name became known because of her rather unlikely marriage to America's most popular star, the diminutive Mickey Rooney, which lasted only 17 months. After appearing as George Raft's moll in "Whistle Stop" in 1946, the 24 year old beauty made the breakthrough from starlet to star in "The Killers" (1946).

Best known films:

  • My Forbidden Past (1951)
  • Mogambo (1953), Academy Award nomination
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
  • The Barefoot Contessa (1954)
  • The Sun Also Rises (1957)
  • 55 Days At Peking (1963)
  • The Night of the Iguana (1964)
  • The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)
  • Earthquake (1974)

 

Susan Hayward, whose real name is Edythe Marrener, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 30, 1918 and died in 1975. She came from a modest family who put her through commercial high school. She began earning a living as a photographer's model, which led to her being one of the many candidates chosen to test for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" in 1939.

After a few bit parts at Warners, she moved to Paramount and better things, such as the sweet Southern belle in "Reap the Wild Wind" and starred in "I Married a Witch", both in 1942.

Best known films:

  • Smash-up: The Story of a Woman (1947), Academy Award nomination
  • My Foolish Heart (1949), Academy Award nomination
  • David and Bathsheba (1951)
  • With A Song In My Heart (1952), Academy Award nomination
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
  • Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)
  • The Garden of Evil (1954)
  • I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), Academy Award nomination
  • I Want To Live! (1958), Academy Awards winner for Best Actress

 

Audrey Hepburn, whose real name is Edda Hepburn van Heemstra, was born in Brussels, Belgium, on May 4, 1929 and died in 1993. Her father was an English broker and her mother was a Dutch baroness. When her parents divorced, she was sent to boarding school in England. While visiting her mother in Holland during the school holidays, war broke out. She spent World War II in Nazi-occupied Arnhem, where she attended the local school and took ballet classes at the Conservatory.

After the war, she took up a ballet scholar- ship in London, where she also modelled and took drama classes, which led her to the cinema. She had minute parts in "One Wild Oat" (1951), "The Lavender Hill Mob" (1951), In the same year, she played a cigarette girl in "Laughter in Paradise" and had leading roles in "Young Wives' Tale" and the French film "Monte Carlo Baby", filmed on the Riviera.

It was while shooting the latter, that she met French novelist Colette who insisted she play the title role in 'Gigi' on Broadway. She did, and was a success. (She was later offered the role in the MGM film version in 1958, but turned it down.) The play led to her being cast opposite Gregory Peck in William Wyler's enchanting light comedy, "Roman Holiday" (1953). For her first appearance in an American film, she won an Oscar for Best Actress.

Best known films:

  • Roman Holiday (1953), Academy Awards winner for Best Actress
  • Sabrina (1954)
  • War and Peace (1956)
  • Funny Face (1957)
  • The Nun's Story (1959)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
  • Charade (1963)
  • My Fair Lady (1964)
  • Wait Until Dark (1967)

 

Grace Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 12, 1928 and died in 1982. She was brought up in a wealthy Catholic Irish-American family in Philadelphia. She attended good schools in her home town, before going to New York to study at the American Academy of
Dramatic Arts. Determined to prove that she could earn her own way, did did modelling on the side, as well as TV commercials. After appearing in a few plays on Broadway, she was invited to Hollywood where she soon became a famous film star. She made 11 movies. While attending the
Cannes Film Festival in 1955, she met Prince Rainier III of Monaco at a reception given at his palace. A year later she left Hollywood to become Princess Grace of Monaco.

Best know films:

  • High Noon (1951)
  • Mogambo (1953), Academy Award nomination
  • Dial M For Murder (1954)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • The Country Girl (1954), Academy Awardswinner for Best Actress
  • To Catch a Thief (1955)
  • High Society (1956)

 

Sophia Loren, whose real name is Sofia Scicolone, was born in Rome, Italy on September 20, 1934. Little skinny Sofia grew up in poverty in the Neapolitan slums, the illegitimate child of a frustrated actress. As she grew, her mother pushed her into beauty contests, which she came in second once, wearing a dress made of curtains.

When she was fifteen, her mother took her to the Cinecitta studios in Rome where they both got jobs as extras in "Quo Vadis" in 1951. The now well developed Sophia exposed her breasts in "Era Lui, Si, Si" in 1951, and came to the attention of a film producer Carlo Ponti, who gave her a contract and groomed her for stardom.

Best known films:

  • Boy On A Dolphin (1957)
  • Houseboat (1958)
  • Two Women (1961), Academy Award winner for Best Actress
  • Arabeque (1966)
  • A Special Day (1977)

 

Marilyn Monroe, whose real name is Norma Jean Baker, was born Los Angeles, on June 1, 1926 and died in 1962. Her mother worked as a cutter at various Hollywood studios. At the age of sixteen, Marilyn discovered that the father's name on her birth certificate was that of Edward Mortenson, a baker who had died in a road accident in 1929. She also discovered her illegitimacy. Because of her mother's mental instability, her childhood was a very unhappy and loveless one, spent in a series of foster homes while her mother was confined in psychiatric hospitals.

At sixteen, she married a young worker at a local aircraft factory. During the war, with her husband serving overseas in the merchant marines, she took a job as a paint sprayer in an armaments factory, where she was spotted by a Army photographer and invited her to pose for morale-boosting pin-ups.

The success of the pictures, led to a modelling agency contract. Her hair was bleached blonde and as a cover girl, was signed by 20th Century-Fox to a year's contract. During that year, she made two walk-on appearances in "Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay!" and "Dangerous Years" both in 1948. She was signed by Columbia and given a leading role as a daughter of a burlesque queen in "Ladies of the Chorus", also in 1948. In 1950, she had small roles in "Love Happy", "The Asphalt Jungle" and "All About Eve" and soon became a star.

Best known films:

  • Don't Bother to Knock (1952)
  • Niagara (1953)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
  • The Seven Year Itch (1955)
  • Bus Stop (1955)
  • The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • The Misfits (1961)

 

Elizabeth Taylor was born in London, on February 27, 1932. Though she was born in London, her parents were Americans. Her mother was a former stage actress, her father an art dealer. She took ballet as a child and barely three years old, performed before the Royal Family. In 1939, a few months prior to war breaking out, her parents decided to return to the US. Her father opened a gallery, much patronised by the film industry in Hollywood.

It was here that syndicated columnist Hedda Hopper, wrote a newspaper article, not only about the beauty of the art gallery but about the beauty of the owners daughter. Universal decided to cast the 10 year old in "There's One Born Every Minute" in 1942, a low budget comedy. She appealed to MGM who signed her to a 20 year contract. Her first film for that studio was "Lassie, Come Home" in 1943, which was a huge box office success.

Best known films:

  • Lassie Come Home (1943)
  • National Velvet (1944)
  • Life with Father (1947)
  • Little Women (1949)
  • Father of the Bride (1950)
  • A Place in the Sun (1951)
  • Giant (1956)
  • Raintree County (1957), Academy Award nomination
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Academy Award nomination
  • Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Academy Award nomination
  • Butterfield 8 (1960), Academy Award winner for Best Actress
  • Cleopatra (1963)
  • Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? (1966), Academy Award winner for Best Actress
  • The Taming of the Shrew (1967)