The "Oldest" Film Actresses

by CurioserAndCurioser | created - 11 months ago | updated - 9 months ago | Public

(born by 1910 -- not particularly ranked whatsoever)

1. Greta Schröder

Actress | Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

Greta Schröder was a German actress. She is best known for the role of Thomas Hutter's wife in the 1922 silent film Nosferatu. In the fictionalized 2000 film, Shadow of the Vampire, she is portrayed as having been a famous actress during the making of Nosferatu, but in fact she was little known.

The...

FILM ACTRESS: 1913-1954; Nosferatu; Paganini; Victoria the Great; Queen of Destiny

2. Brigitte Helm

Actress | Metropolis

After her role in Metropolis (1927) she made a string of movies in which she almost always had the starring role, easily making the transition to sound films. Her last film was An Ideal Spouse (1935) (An Ideal Spouse) in 1935.

FILM ACTRESS: 1927-1978; Metropolis; L'Argent

3. Elsa Lanchester

Actress | Witness for the Prosecution

Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was born into an unconventional a family at the turn of the 20th century. Her parents, James "Shamus" Sullivan and Edith "Biddy" Lanchester, were socialists - very active members of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in a rather broad sense - and did not believe in the ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1925-1980; The Bride of Frankenstein; Witness For the Prosecution; Bell Book and Candle; Mary Poppins (1964); Murder by Death; That Darn Cat!; Miss Bracegirdle Does Her Duty (short); The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

4. Clara Bow

Actress | Wings

Clara Gordon Bow, destined to become "The It Girl", was born on July 29, 1905 in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in poverty and violence. Her often absentee and brutish father could not or did not provide and her schizophrenic mother tried to slit Clara's throat when the girl spoke of becoming ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1922-1949; Wings; "It"; Call Her Savage; The Wild Party; Mantrap; The Ancient Mariner; Grit

5. Mary Pickford

Actress | Coquette

Mary Pickford was born Gladys Marie 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS/DIRECTOR: 1909-1933; Coquette; Secrets; The Hoodlum; The Little American; A Little Princess (1917); Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921); Hollywood; The Taming of the Shrew (1929)

6. 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, was rarely at home., and left the family to, more or less, fend for themselves. To help make ends meet, Lillian, her sister Dorothy Gish, and their mother, Mary Gish, ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1912-1987; The Night of the Hunter; The Wind; The Whales of August; Duel in the Sun; The Scarlet Letter (1926); Portrait of Jenny

7. Mae West

Actress | She Done Him Wrong

Mae West was born August 17, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York, to "Battling Jack" West and Matilda Doelger. She began her career as a child star in vaudeville, and later went on to write her own plays, including "SEX", for which she was arrested. Though her first movie role, at age 40, was a small part ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1932-1977; She Done Him Wrong; I'm No Angel; Goin' to Town; My Little Chickadee; Go West Young Man

8. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1914-1952; Gone With the Wing; The Great Lie; Show Boat (1936); Judge Priest; Beulah (TV Series, 1952); They Died With Their Boots On

9. 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...

FILM ACTRESS: 1914-1974; Sunset Blvd; Sadie Thompson; The Trespasser; Indiscreet

10. Tallulah Bankhead

Actress | Lifeboat

Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was born on January 31, 1902 in Huntsville, Alabama. Her father was a mover and shaker in the Democratic Party who served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from June 4, 1936, to September 16, 1940. Tallulah had been interested in acting and, at age ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1918-1967; Lifeboat; Die! Die! My Darling!; A Royal Scandal; The Trap; Bat Man (TV Series, 1967)

11. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1920-1941; Ninotchka; Camille; Queen Christina; Anna Christie; Anna Karenina (1935); The Painted Veil (1934); Grand Hotel (1932); Mata Hari; Flesh and the Devil; The Temptress

12. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1914-1942; The Divorcee; Marie Antoinette (1938); A Free Soul; The Barretts of Wimpole Street; The Women (1939); Romeo and Juliet (1936)

13. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1919-1964; Witness For the Prosecution; Judgement at Nuremberg (1961); Touch of Evil; Morocco; Stage Fright; Kismet

14. Myrna Loy

Actress | The Thin Man

Myrna Williams, later to become Myrna Loy, was born on August 2, 1905 in Helena, Montana. Her father was the youngest person ever elected to the Montana State legislature. Later on her family moved to Radersburg where she spent her youth on a cattle ranch. At the age of 13, Myrna's father died of ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1925-1982; The Thin Man; The Best Years of Our Lives; Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House; Libeled Lady; From the Terrace; Lonelyhearts; Cheaper By the Dozen (1950); Shadow of the Thin Man; Another Thin Man; The Great Ziegfeld; Vanity Fair (1932); A Connecticut Yankee (1931); Transatlantic

15. Mary Astor

Actress | The Maltese Falcon

Mary Astor was born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke, on May 3, 1906 in Quincy, Illinois to a German immigrant father, Otto Ludwig Langhanke, and an American mother from Illinois, Helen Marie Vasconcellos, of Portuguese and Irish ancestry. Her parents were very ambitious for her as they recognized ...

FilM ACTRESS: 1921-1964; The Maltese Falcon; The Great Lie; Across the Pacific; The Palm Beach Story; Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte; A Kiss Before Dying; Little Women (1949); Meet Me In St Louis; Brigham Young; The Prisoner of Zenda; Beau Brummel; Hollywood

16. Marion Mack

Actress | The General

Many recognise Marion Mack as the beautiful but brainless heroine Annabelle Lee, of Buster Keaton's classic 'The General'. However, few realise that Marion was also a talented screenwriter who, with her husband, formed a successful production team. Born Joey Marion McReery, she began her career as ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1921-1940; The General; Mary of the Movies; One of the Bravest; The Carnival Girl

17. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS 1927-1987; It Happened One Night; So Proudly We Hail!; Bluebeard's Eighth Wife; Three Came Home; Imitation of Life; Cleopatra (1934)

18. Mabel Normand

Actress | Mickey

Mabel Normand was one of the comedy greats of early film. In an era when women are deemed 'not funny enough' it seems film history has forgotten her contributions. Her films debuted the Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin's tramp and the pie in the face gag. She co-starred with both Chaplin and Roscoe "...

FILM ACTRESS/DIRECTOR 1910-1927; Mickey; The Extra Girl; The Jinx; The Venus Model

19. 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...

FILM ACTRESS: 1915-1952; A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate; The Immigrant; The Kid; A Woman of the Sea; Limelight

20. Carole Lombard

Actress | To Be or Not to Be

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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1921-1942; My Man Godfrey; To Be or Not to Be; Nothing Sacred; Virtue; Mr and Mrs Smith (1941); The Swim Princess

21. 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...

FILM ACTRESS: 1931-1976; It's a Wonderful Life; Mr Smith Goes to Washington; Make Way For Tomorrow; Street Scene; A Summer Place; The Snake Pit; Penny Serenade; Our Town (1940); Remember the Night

22. Louise Brooks

Actress | Die Büchse der Pandora

Mary Louise Brooks, also known by her childhood name of Brooksie, was born in the Midwestern town of Cherryvale, Kansas, on November 14, 1906. She began dancing at an early age with the Denishawn Dancers (which was how she left Kansas and went to New York) and then with George White's Scandals ...

FILM ACTRESS 1925-1938; Pandora's Box; Diary of a Lost Girl; The Show-Off; God's Gift to Women

23. Charlotte Greenwood

Actress | Oklahoma!

Charlotte Greenwood was born Frances Charlotte Greenwood on June 25, 1890, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a sickly child and her father left the family when she was very young. Charlotte grew into a healthy, six foot tall woman. She started her career dancing in vaudeville where she became ...

FILM ACTRESS 1915-1961; Oklahoma!; Flying High; The Man in Possession; So Long Letty; Star Dust; Jane

24. Lucile Watson

Actress | Watch on the Rhine

Unsmiling character player Lucile Watson was one of Hollywood's most indomitable mothers of the 1930s and 1940s...and you can take that both ways. The archetypal matriarch who enhanced scores of plush, soapy, Victorian-styled drama, her prickly pears could be insufferable indeed and heaven help ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1916-1954; Watch on the Rhine; The Razor's Edge; The Thin Man Goes Home; The Women (1939); Little Women (1949); The Great Lie

25. Edna May Oliver

Actress | Penguin Pool Murder

She was born Edna May Nutter, a child of solid New England stock, on 9th November 1883 in Malden, Massachusetts. The daughter of Ida May and Charles Edward Nutter, Edna was a descendant of the 2nd American president John Adams and his son, the 6th American president John Quincy Adams. In addition, ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1923-1941; David Copperfield (1935); Drums Along the Mohawk; The Penguin Pool Murder; A Tale of Two Cities (1935); Pride and Prejudice (1940); Lydia; Romeo and Juliet (1936); Alice in Wonderland (1933); Little Women (1933); Little Miss Broadway

26. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1915-1987; Rosemary's Baby; Harold and Maude; Every Which Way But Loose; Inside Daisy Clover; Abe Lincoln in Illinois

27. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1930-1968; You Can't Take it With You; Heaven Can Wait; Little Women (1933); Dragonwyck; Louisa; Laramie (TV Series); In the Good Old Summertime; Laddie; Jezebel; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938); Ah, Wilderness! (1935)

28. Nora Gregor

Actress | La règle du jeu

Nora Gregor was an operetta diva, stage and film actress. She made her debut in Graz, Austria, and from there went to the Volksbühne an das Raimund-Theater in Vienna. She also worked at the Reinhardt Bühne in Berlin. From 1930 to 1933 she lived in Hollywood and also in Berlin. She made her first ...

FILM ACTRESS 1920-1945; The Rules of the Game; But the Flesh is Weak

29. Rosalind Russell

Actress | Auntie Mame

The middle of seven children, she was named, not for the heroine of "As You Like It" but for the S.S. Rosalind on which her parents had sailed, at the suggestion of her father, a successful lawyer.

After receiving a Catholic school education, she went to the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1934-1972; Auntie Mame; His Girl Friday; Gypsy (1962); My Sister Eileen; The Trouble With Angels; The Women (1939)

30. Katharine Hepburn

Actress | The Lion in Winter

Katharine Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut to a suffragist and a doctor who both 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 very close to her brother Tom; at 14 she was ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1932-1994; Bringing Up Baby; The Philadelphia Story; The Desk Set; The African Queen; The Lion in Winter; On Golden Pond; Little Women (1933); Alice Adams; Adam's Rib; Woman of the Year; Suddenly Last Summer; Long Day's Journey Into Night; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; Rooster Cogburn; The Glass Menagerie (TV Movie); Grace Quigley; Love Affair

31. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1927-1986; Double Indemnity; Union Pacific; Ball of Fire; The Big Valley; Mexicali Rose; Annie Oakley; Remember the Night; The Lady Eve; Meet John Doe; Christmas in Connecticut; No Man of Her Own; The Bride Wore Boots; Titanic (1953); The Thorn Birds (TV Mini-Series); Dynasty (TV Series); The Colbys (TV Series)

32. Marie Dressler

Actress | Dinner at Eight

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...

FILM ACTRESS: 1914-1933; Min and Bill; Dinner at Eight; Emma; Politics; Tugboat Annie; Anna Christie; Tillie's Tomato Surprise; Tillie's Punctured Romance; The Christmas Party

33. Kathryn McGuire

Actress | The Navigator

Kathryn McGuire was born on December 6, 1903 in Peoria, Illinois, USA. She was an actress, known for The Navigator (1924), Sherlock Jr. (1924) and Midnight Faces (1926). She was married to George Landy. She died on October 10, 1978 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

FILM ACTRESS: 1919-1959; The Navigator; Sherlock, Jr.; Midnight Faces; Two-Fisted Jones

34. May Whitty

Actress | The Lady Vanishes

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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1914-1948; The Lady Vanishes (1938); Night Must Fall; Gaslight (1944); Suspicion; Madame Curie (1943); Lassie Come Home; Mrs Miniver

35. Madeleine Carroll

Actress | The 39 Steps

The original ash-blonde "iceberg maiden", Madeleine Carroll was a knowing beauty with a confident air, the epitome of poise and "breeding". Not only did she have looks and allure in abundance, but she had intellectual heft to go with them, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Birmingham ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1928-1955; The 39 Steps (1935); The Prisoner of Zenda; My Favorite Blonde; The Fan (1949); I Was a Spy; Madame Guillotine; School For Scandal (1930)

36. 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 ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1930-1987; Rebecca (1940); Laura; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Star Trek III: The Search For Spock; Santa Barbara (TV Soap Series)

37. Florence Bates

Actress | Rebecca

The American character actress, Florence Rabe, was the daughter of an antique store owner. She gained a degree in Mathematics from the University of Texas in 1906 and went on to a career in teaching and social work. She changed course after being persuaded by a friend to study law, and, passing her...

FILM ACTRESS: 1937-1956; Rebecca (1940); The Moon and Sixpence; A Letter to Three Wives; On the Town; Les Miserables (1952); Portrait of Jennie; Kismet; Winter Meeting; Love Crazy; The Son of Monte Cristo

38. Ann Todd

Actress | The Sound Barrier

Ann Todd was a beautiful English actress best known as Gregory Peck's wife in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947). Her third husband was the legendary director David Lean, for whom she appeared in three films, The Passionate Friends (1949), Madeleine (1950), and The Sound Barrier (1952).

FILM ACTRESS: 1931-1992; The Sound Barrier; The Paradine Case; The Seventh Veil; The Passionate Friends; Maelstrom (TV Mini-Series);

39. Thelma Ritter

Actress | Rear Window

Thelma Ritter appeared in high school plays and was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In the 1940s she worked in radio. Her movie career was started with a bit part in the 1946 Miracle on 34th Street (1947). In the movie she played a weary Xmas shopper. Her performance in the short ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1947-1968; All About Eve; Rear Window; The Mating Season; Pickup On South Street; How the West Was Won; The Misfits; Titanic (1953); Daddy Long Legs; Boeing, Boeing; A Letter to Three Wives; Pillow Talk; With a Song in My Heart; Miracle on 34th Street

40. 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...

FILM ACTRESS: 1930-1962; The Awful Truth; Love Affair; My Favorite Wife; Theodora Goes Wild; Anna and the King of Siam (1946); Penny Serenade; Show Boat (1936); Roberta; The Age of Innocence (1934); Sweet Adeline; Life With Father; Cimarron

41. Madge Evans

Actress | Dinner at Eight

Lovely Madge Evans was the perennial nice girl in films of the 1930's. By then, she had been in front of the camera for many years, starting with Fairy Soap commercials at the age of two (she sat on a bar of soap holding a bunch of violets with the tag line reading "have you a little fairy in your ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1914-1958; Dinner at Eight; Picadilly Jim; Sinners in Paradise; The Seven Sisters; Pennies From Heaven; David Copperfield (1935); Heidi (1920); Army Girl; Stand Up and Cheer!

42. Gwen Ffrangcon Davies

Actress | Tudor Rose

Gwen Ffrangcon Davies was born on January 25, 1891 in Hampstead, London, England. She was an actress, known for Nine Days a Queen (1936), The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1991) and Paul Krüger (1956). She died on January 27, 1992 in Stambourne, Essex, England.

FILM ACTRESS: 1936-1992; Gas Light (1939); Nine Days a Queen; Paul Kruger; The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes; The Witches (1966); Richard of Bordeaux

43. Joan Bennett

Actress | Suspiria

Joan Geraldine Bennett was born on February 27, 1910, in Palisades, New Jersey. Her parents were both successful stage actors, especially her father, Richard Bennett, and often toured the country for weeks at a time. In fact, Joan came from a long line of actors, dating back to the 18th century. ...

FILM ACTRESS: 1916-1982; Suspiria; Man Hunt; The Woman in the Window (1944); Dark Shadows (TV Series); Father of the Bride (1950); Father's Little Dividend; The Son of Monte Cristo; The Man in the Iron Mask (1939); Little Women (1933); The Pursuit of Happiness (1934); Secret Beyond the Door



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