Top 25 Actresses of 1860-1899

by comeonfcdaniel | created - 3 months ago | updated - 3 months ago | Public

1. Ruth Gordon

Actress | Rosemary's Baby

When Ruth Gordon convinced her father, a sea captain, to let her pursue acting she came to New York and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She acted in a few silents made at Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1915. She made her Broadway debut in "Peter Pan" as Nibs the same year. The next 20 ...

2. Lillian Gish

Actress | The Night of the Hunter

Lillian Diana Gish was born on October 14, 1893 in Springfield, Ohio. Her father, James Lee Gish, was an alcoholic who caroused around, was rarely at home and left the family to more or less to fend for themselves. To help make ends meet, Lillian, her sister Dorothy Gish and their mother Mary Gish ...

3. 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...

4. Gladys Cooper

Actress | My Fair Lady

Gladys Cooper was the daughter of journalist William Frederick Cooper and his wife Mabel Barnett. As a child she was very striking and was used as a photographic model beginning at six years old. She wanted to become an actress and started on that road in 1905 after being discovered by Seymour ...

5. Hattie McDaniel

Actress | Gone with the Wind

After working as early as the 1910s as a band vocalist, Hattie McDaniel debuted as a maid in The Golden West (1932). Her maid-mammy characters became steadily more assertive, showing up first in Judge Priest (1934) and becoming pronounced in Alice Adams (1935). In this one, directed by George ...

6. Judith Anderson

Actress | Rebecca

Dame Judith Anderson was born Frances Margaret Anderson on February 10, 1897 in Adelaide, South Australia. She began her acting career in Australia before moving to New York in 1918. There she established herself as one of the greatest theatrical actresses and was a major star on Broadway ...

7. Verna Felton

Actress | Sleeping Beauty

Verna Felton had extensive experience on the stage and in radio before she broke into film and television. Her trademarks was her distinctive husky voice and her no-nonsense attitude. She was quite in demand for voiceover work, as evidenced by her roles in Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (...

8. Edna Purviance

Actress | A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate

Edna Purviance began working as a stenographer in San Francisco. Charles Chaplin invited her to join him at Essanay Studio in 1915, the year of her film debut in Chaplin's His Night Out. Over the next seven years she appeared as his leading lady in over 20 Chaplin films made by Essanay, Mutual, and...

9. Maria Falconetti

Actress | La passion de Jeanne d'Arc

Renée Jeanne or Maria Falconetti, born in Pantin (not in Sermano, Corsica, as many film dictionaries wrongly attest) on July 21, 1892 and died in Buenos Aires on December 12, 1946, is a French actress of theater and cinema. Joining the troupe of the Odeon theater in 1916, she made her debut in "...

10. Ethel Waters

Actress | Cabin in the Sky

The child of a teenage rape victim, Ethel Waters grew up in the slums of Philadelphia and neighboring cities, seldom living anywhere for more than a few weeks at a time. "No one raised me, " she recollected, "I just ran wild." She excelled not only at looking after herself, but also at singing and ...

11. Asta Nielsen

Actress | Hamlet

Danish leading woman of German films who became one of the greatest stars of the silent era. A native of the Copenhagen suburb of Vesterbro, Nielsen was the daughter of a coppersmith and a washerwoman, both of whom died before Nielsen was fifteen. Her stage debut came as a child in the chorus of ...

12. Norma Varden

Actress | Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

The daughter of a retired sea captain and his much-younger wife, actress Norma Varden was born and raised in turn-of-the-century London. A piano prodigy, she studied in Paris and appeared in concert in England during her teenage years. Acting, however, became her career of choice, studying at the ...

13. Marion Davies

Actress | Going Hollywood

Marion Cecelia Douras was born in the borough of Brooklyn, New York on January 3, 1897. She had been bitten by the show biz bug early as she watched her sisters perform in local stage productions. She wanted to do the same. As Marion got older, she tried out for various school plays and did fairly ...

14. Jane Darwell

Actress | The Grapes of Wrath

Missouri-born Jane Darwell was born Patti Woodard, the daughter of William Robert Woodard, president of the Louisville Southern Railroad, and Ellen (Booth) Woodard, in Palmyra, Missouri, where she grew up on a ranch . She nursed ambitions to be an opera singer, but put it off because of her ...

15. Beulah Bondi

Actress | It's a Wonderful Life

Character actress Beulah Bondi was a favorite of directors and audiences and is one of the reasons so many films from the 1930s and 1940s remain so enjoyable, as she was an integral part of many of the ensemble casts (a hallmark of the studio system) of major and/or great films, including The Trail...

16. Una O'Connor

Actress | Bride of Frankenstein

Delightful character actress who held her own against such acting heavyweights as Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Tyrone Power, Barbara Stanwyck, and Sydney Greenstreet. Often cast by studio heads as comic relief thanks to her thick Irish accent and rubber-faced expressions, most notably in ...

17. Margaret Dumont

Actress | Duck Soup

Margaret Dumont would probably consider it a tragedy that she is best-known for her performances as the ultimate straight woman in seven of the Marx Brothers' films (including most of their best). By all accounts she never understood their jokes (offscreen and on), which is of course a major reason...

18. Peggy Wood

Actress | The Sound of Music

Above all else, singer/actress Peggy Wood has endeared herself to both TV and film audiences with one single role in each medium. She made warm, lasting impressions as the benevolent, strong-willed Scandinanvian matriarch Marta Hansen in the series drama Mama (1949), and as the knowing Mother ...

19. Marjorie Bennett

Actress | What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Marjorie Bennett was an Australian actress, who spend most of her career working in the United Kingdom and the United States. She was born in York, Western Australia, a town that was an important stop for miners and travelers during the Australian gold rushes of the late 19th century. York is ...

20. May Whitty

Actress | Night Must Fall

Born Mary Whitty on June 19, 1865 to a Liverpool newspaper editor and his wife, she became known as May Whitty to the world.

She first stepped on the London stage in 1882. She worked as an understudy at the St. James Theatre, and then, began playing leading roles when she joined a traveling stock ...

21. 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...

22. Martha Wentworth

Actress | One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Martha Wentworth was born on June 2, 1889 in New York City, New York, USA as Verna Martha Wentworth. She was an actress, known for One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963) and The Stranger (1946). She was married to Albert Stuart Otto. She died on March 8, 1974 in ...

23. Mary Pickford

Actress | Coquette

Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Elsie Charlotte (Hennessy) and John Charles Smith. She was of English and Irish descent. Pickford began in the theater at age seven. Then known as "Baby Gladys Smith", she toured with her family in a number of theater ...

24. Spring Byington

Actress | You Can't Take It with You

The possessor of one of Hollywood's gentlest faces and warmest voices, and about as sweet as Tupelo honey both on-and-off camera, character actress Spring Byington was seldom called upon to play callous or unsympathetic (she did once play a half-crazed housekeeper in Dragonwyck (1946)). Although ...

25. 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 ...



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