Ten Classic Movie Actresses to Know and Love
By Nathania L Johnson
They were the earliest stars of the silver screen. Classic movie actresses stole the hearts of movie-goers everywhere and the admiration lives on through modern times. Here are ten actresses that have made a mark on Hollywood and our hearts.
Katharine Hepburn often marched to the beat of a different drummer, and that drummer was Hepburn herself. She dared to wear pants when it wasn’t ladylike to do so, and she took on her male counterparts with an unmatched tenacity. At one time, she was labeled “box office poison,” but she bounced back with the hit film The Philadelphia Story and her career never looked back after that.
Lauren Bacall made it big after co-starring in To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart. The on-screen romance eventually made its way off-screen to develop one of the most famed couplings in Hollywood history. Bacall made four movies with Bogart, and devoted much of her time to him as a wife and mother to their children.
Audrey Hepburn was not related to Katharine, but there are similarities. They both held unique accents and were quite distinguishable from other actresses. While Kate was a tomboy, Audrey was very feminine. Her impressive filmography includes Breakfast at Tiffany’s, My Fair Lady, Sabrina, and Charade.
Barbara Stanwyck defined the role of femme fatale when she played a woman who killed her husband in the film Double Indemnity. But it didn’t typecast her. She was a versatile actress with impeccable emotional depth. Stanwyck was considered gracious and agreeable on set. Her success as an actress can also be seen in Executive Suite, Forbidden, and Christmas in Connecticut.
Bette Davis was a demanding actress who knew what she wanted. The same qualities were also reflected in many of her characters. She was a force to be reckoned with, and her perseverance eventually achieved roles that later garnered two Oscars. Her must-see films include Jezebel, Dangerous, What Happened to Baby Jane? and All About Eve.
Joan Crawford is generally remembered for her dark roles, but she should be remembered for a career that tackled many a varied character. She is reported to have been very generous to her fans, though not as successful with her family. Both may have resulted from her tough work ethic. Her most famous films include Mildred Pierce, Humoresque, What Happened to Baby Jane? and Possessed.
Jean Arthur is another classic movie actress with a distinct voice. Bernadette Peters’ voice is very reminiscent of it. Arthur was a cute blond who worked often with famed director Frank Capra. She also played along some of Old Hollywood’s most famous leading men. She was paired with Cary Grant in Only Angels Have Wings, with James Stewart in the political drama, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as well as You Can’t Take It With You, and Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
Ginger Rogers was best known as Fred Astaire’s dancing partner. But she held her own when not paired with the top hat. She was a menacing roommate in an actress boarding house in Stage Door. And she was the bride her new husband, played by James Stewart, was embarrassed to introduce to his parents in Vivacious Lady.
Ingrid Bergman starred in one of the most celebrated films of all time, Casablanca. While many of her movies were European films, she had a nice set of films in American cinema. The other film she is known for is Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, a spy movie co-starring Cary Grant.
Lucille Ball is the original favorite redhead made a superstar by her starring role in the television series, I Love Lucy. Unfortunately, her film work is often underrated. She starred in four films with Bob Hope and had an impressive supporting role in Stage Door. In her pre-Lucy films, it is hard to recognize her. But that’s not a bad thing. Her acting is simply un-Lucy like and showcases Ball’s incredible ability to perform a variety of characters.
These actresses paved the way for modern women in Hollywood. Their tenacity during a time when women were not considered equal is to be remembered and respected.