Take a sojourn back in time to Hollywood’s Golden Age and remember some of the world’s most beautiful actresses that graced movie screens across the globe during that period.
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992)
German actress Marlene Dietrich began her career in 1920s Berlin, working mainly on stage and in silent films, gaining international fame after her outstanding performance as Lola-Lola in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel in 1930. Dietrich was also a much sought-after muse and fashion model, who designers loved for androgynous look and open defiance of the sexual norms of the time.
Films: The Blue Angel (1930); Shanghai Express (1932); Desire (1936)
Interesting Facts: After becoming a US citizen in 1939, she worked as an entertainer on the Allied frontline, becoming a controversial figure in her native Germany.
Greta Garbo (1905-1990)
Swedish actress Greta Garbo became a Hollywood icon from the silent age to the onset of sound in cinema, making waves in her first few performances, the third of which (Flesh and the Devil, 1926) launched her internationally.
Films: Flesh and the Devil, (1926); Anna Christie and Romance (both 1930) – Oscar-winning performances; Ninotchka (1939); Two-Faced Woman (1941)
Interesting Facts: The actress never married nor had any children. After her death, many letters were discovered that had been written by her and seemed to suggest that she may have been a lesbian.
Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982)
Best known for her part as the heroine in the 1942 classic Casablanca, as well as the star and muse of Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946), Swedish Ingrid Bergman rocketed to stardom in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1941 and never looked back.
Films: Whom the Bell Tolls (1943); Gaslight (1944); Spellbound (1945); Under Capricorn (1949). She won Oscars for her performances in Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1957) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Interesting Facts: Not only was she a talented actress, but was a multi-lingual as well, and acted in five different languages – Swedish, English, French, German and Italian.
Ava Gardner (1922-1990)
Considered to be one of the most beautiful women to have worked in cinema, Ava Gardner was born in Brogden, North Carolina to tobacco farmers and was one of seven children. Her first great success came in 1953 in Mogambo, but many critics believed she should also have been nominated for her performance in Night of the Iguana.
Films: The Killers (1946); The Hucksters (1947); Show Boat (1951); The Snows of Killimanjaro (1952); and an Oscar-nominated role in Mogambo (1953)
Interesting Facts: Ava Gardner did her own stunt work in the 1974 disaster film Earthquake.
Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)
Born Norma-Jean Mortenson, Marilyn Monroe remains the quintessential sex symbol of her era, not to mention one of the most famous actresses of all time. She developed a ‘dumb blonde’ persona after some of her films required her to play the role, however she was actually extremely intelligent with an IQ of 168, and hated the image that she had.
Films: The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (1950); Don’t Bother to Knock (1952); Niagara (1953); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire (both 1953); Some Like It Hot (1959) – Golden Globe winner; The Misfits (1961)
Interesting Facts: Marilyn Monroe was born with a stutter, which she battled with throughout her childhood. It disappeared later on in her life, however returned during the filming of her final movie, Something’s Got to Give, due to the amount of stress she was under at the time.
Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)
An icon of her time, and an unrivalled beauty, Audrey Hepburn was a darling of the British film scene, starring in a number of films, as well as 1951 Broadway performance of Gigi. Hepburn rewrote the history books with her phenomenal performance in Roman Holiday (1953), when she became the first actress to win an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA for a single performance.
Films: Roman Holiday (1953); Sabrina (1954); The Nun’s Story (1959); Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961); Charade (1963); My Fair Lady (1964).
Interesting Facts: Audrey spoke English, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Italian.
Grace Kelly (1929-1982)
Arguably, one of the most beautiful women of all time, Grace Kelly launched her successful, albeit short-lived film career at the age of 20 to become a huge star of the Golden Age of Television during the early 50s. She went on to win a Golden Globe for Mogambo in 1953, followed by an Oscar for The Country Girl (1954) before famously retiring from acting to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco when she was 26.
Films: Mogambo (1953); High Noon (1952); Dial M for Murder, Rear Window (1954); To Catch a Thief (1955); High Society (1956)
Interesting Facts: Grace Kelly was the first actress to ever be honored on a United States stamp, which premiered in 1993.
Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)
After beginning her career as a child actress for MGM, Elizabeth Taylor went on to become one of the most prolific actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Famed for her violet eyes, numerous marriages (eight of them!) and scandalous love affair with Richard Burton, she is one of the all-time greats when it comes to beautiful actresses our time.
Films: National Velvet (1944); Father of the Bride (1950); A Place in the Sun (1951); Giant (1956); Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958); Butterfield 8 (1960) – Oscar winning performance; Cleopatra (1963); Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1967) – Second Oscar-winning performance
Interesting Facts: When asked why she married so often, she replied, “I was taught by my parents that if you fall in love, if you want to have a love affair, you get married. I guess I’m very old-fashioned.”