Forty "All-Time Great" Golden Age of Hollywood Actors

by arcturus6 | created - 2 months ago | updated - 2 months ago | Public

These actors are my considered picks. There is no significance in the numerical order. For me they were and always will be the greatest.

1. John Wayne

Actor | True Grit

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Iowa, to Mary Alberta (Brown) and Clyde Leonard Morrison, a pharmacist. He was of English, Ulster-Scots, and Irish ancestry.

Clyde developed a lung condition that required him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of southern California, ...

2. Gary Cooper

Actor | High Noon

Born to Alice Cooper and Charles Cooper (not in film business). Gary attended school at Dunstable school England, Helena Montana and Iowa College, Grinnell, Iowa. His first stage experience was during high school and college. Afterwards, he worked as an extra for one year before getting a part in a...

3. Clark Gable

Actor | It Happened One Night

William Clark Gable was born on February 1, 1901 in Cadiz, Ohio, to Adeline (Hershelman) and William Henry Gable, an oil-well driller. He was of German, Irish, and Swiss-German descent. When he was seven months old, his mother died, and his father sent him to live with his maternal aunt and uncle ...

4. Basil Rathbone

Actor | The Adventures of Robin Hood

Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1892, but three years later his family was forced to flee the country because his father was accused by the Boers of being a British spy at a time when Dutch-British conflicts were leading to the Boer War. The Rathbones escaped to England, ...

5. Victor Mature

Actor | Samson and Delilah

American leading man Victor John Mature was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Clara P. (Ackley) and Marcellus George Mature, a cutler and knife sharpener. His father, born Marcello Gelindo Maturi in Pinzolo, Trentino, was Italian, and his mother was of Swiss-German and German descent. Mature worked ...

6. Sydney Greenstreet

Actor | The Maltese Falcon

Sydney Greenstreet's father was a leather merchant with eight children. Sydney left home at age 18 to make his fortune as a Ceylon tea planter, but drought forced him out of business and back to England. He managed a brewery and, to escape boredom, took acting lessons. His stage debut was as a ...

7. Humphrey Bogart

Actor | Casablanca

Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in New York City, New York, to Maud Humphrey, a famed magazine illustrator and suffragette, and Belmont DeForest Bogart, a moderately wealthy surgeon (who was secretly addicted to opium). Bogart was educated at Trinity School, NYC, and was sent to Phillips Academy ...

8. Robert Taylor

Actor | Quo Vadis

Born Spangler Arlington Brugh, Robert Taylor began displaying a diversity of talents in his youth on the plains of Nebraska. At Beatrice High School, he was a standout track athlete, but also showed a talent for using his voice, winning several oratory awards. He was a musician and played the cello...

9. Walter Brennan

Actor | Red River

In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and ...

10. Stewart Granger

Actor | Scaramouche

Stewart Granger was born James Leblanche Stewart in London, the grandson of the actor "Luigi Lablache". He attended Epsom College but left after deciding not to pursue a medical degree. He decided to try acting and attended Webber-Douglas School of Dramatic Art, London. By 1935, he made his stage ...

11. James Stewart

Actor | Anatomy of a Murder

James Maitland Stewart was born on May 20, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth Ruth (Johnson) and Alexander Maitland Stewart, who owned a hardware store. He was of Scottish, Ulster-Scots, and some English, descent. Stewart was educated at a local prep school, Mercersburg Academy, where he ...

12. Rex Harrison

Actor | My Fair Lady

Rex Harrison was born Reginald Carey Harrison in Huyton, Lancashire, England, to Edith Mary (Carey) and William Reginald Harrison, a cotton broker. He changed his name to Rex as a young boy, knowing it was the Latin word for "King". Starting out on his theater career at age 18, his first job at the ...

13. Thomas Mitchell

Actor | Stagecoach

Thomas Mitchell was one of the great American character actors, whose credits read like a list of the greatest films of the 20th century: Lost Horizon (1937); Stagecoach (1939); The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939); Gone with the Wind (1939); It's a Wonderful Life...

14. James Cagney

Actor | The Roaring Twenties

One of Hollywood's preeminent male stars of all time, James Cagney was also an accomplished dancer and easily played light comedy. James Francis Cagney was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, to Carolyn (Nelson) and James Francis Cagney, Sr., who was a bartender and amateur ...

15. Spencer Tracy

Actor | Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Spencer Tracy was born four years after his brother Carroll to truck salesman John Edward and Caroline Brown Tracy. He attended Marquette Academy along with Pat O'Brien and the two left school to enlist in the Navy at the start of World War I. He was still at Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia at the ...

16. Edward G. Robinson

Actor | Key Largo

Emanuel Goldenberg arrived in the United States from Romania at age ten, and his family moved into New York's Lower East Side. He took up acting while attending City College, abandoning plans to become a rabbi or lawyer. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts awarded him a scholarship, and he began ...

17. Walter Pidgeon

Actor | Forbidden Planet

Walter Pidgeon, a handsome, tall and dark-haired man, began his career studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He then did theater, mainly stage musicals. He went to Hollywood in the early 1920s, where he made silent films, including Mannequin (1926) and Sumuru (1927). ...

18. Charles Laughton

Actor | Witness for the Prosecution

Charles Laughton was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England, to Eliza (Conlon) and Robert Laughton, hotel keepers of Irish and English descent, respectively. He was educated at Stonyhurst (a highly esteemed Jesuit college in England) and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (received gold medal). ...

20. Glenn Ford

Actor | Superman

Legendary actor Glenn Ford was born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford in Sainte-Christine-d'Auvergne, Quebec, Canada, to Hannah Wood (Mitchell) and Newton Ford, a railroad executive. His family moved to Santa Monica, California when he was eight years old. His acting career began with plays at high school...

21. Orson Welles

Actor | Citizen Kane

His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was six) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr. ...

22. Paul Scofield

Actor | A Man for All Seasons

Though his number of film roles amount to a bit over 30, Paul Scofield has cast a giant shadow in the world of stage and film acting. He grew up in West Sussex, the son of a schoolmaster. He attended the Varndean School for Boys in Brighton. The love of acting came early. While still high school ...

23. Robert Preston

Actor | The Music Man

American leading man of vast charisma, Robert Preston was the son of a garment worker and a record store clerk and grew up in Los Angeles. He was a trained musician, playing several instruments, and in high school became interested in theatre. He joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse, taking ...

24. Peter O'Toole

Actor | Lawrence of Arabia

A leading man of prodigious talents, Peter O'Toole was raised in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, the son of Constance Jane Eliot (Ferguson), a Scottish nurse, and Patrick Joseph O'Toole, an Irish metal plater, football player and racecourse bookmaker. Upon leaving school, he decided to become a ...

25. Ernest Borgnine

Actor | Marty

Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut. His parents were Anna (Boselli), who had emigrated from Carpi (MO), Italy, and Camillo Borgnino, who had emigrated from Ottiglio (AL), Italy. As an only child, Ernest enjoyed most sports, especially boxing, ...

26. Charles Coburn

Actor | The More the Merrier

A cigar-smoking, monocled, swag-bellied character actor known for his Old South manners and charm. In 1918 he and his first wife formed the Coburn Players and appeared on Broadway in many plays. With her death in 1937, he accepted a Hollywood contract and began making films at the age of sixty.

27. Michael Rennie

Actor | The Day the Earth Stood Still

The British actor Michael Rennie worked as a car salesman and factory manager before he turned to acting. A meeting with a Gaumont-British Studios casting director led to Rennie's first acting job - that of stand-in for Robert Young in Secret Agent (1936) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. He put his ...

28. Burl Ives

Actor | The Big Country

Burl Ives was one of six children born to a Scottish-Irish farming family. He first sang in public for a soldiers' reunion when he was age 4. In high school, he learned the banjo and played fullback, intending to become a football coach when he enrolled at Eastern Illinois State Teacher's College ...

29. Charles Bickford

Actor | The Song of Bernadette

American character actor of gruff voice and appearance who was a fixture in Hollywood pictures from the earliest days of the talkies. The fifth of seven children, he was born in the first minute of 1891. He was a boisterous child, and at nine was tried and acquitted for attempted murder in the ...

30. James Mason

Actor | Lolita

James Mason was a great English actor of British and American films. He was born in Yorkshire, and attended Marlborough and Cambridge, where he discovered acting on a lark, and abandoned a planned career as an architect. Following work in stock companies, he joined the Old Vic under the guidance of...

31. George Brent

Actor | The Rains Came

The favorite leading man of star actress Bette Davis, was born George Brendan Nolan, near Dublin, and became an orphan at the tender age of eleven. For a while, he stayed with an aunt in New York, but returned to Ireland to study at the University of Dublin. After leaving university in 1919, George...

32. Jack Hawkins

Actor | Zulu

In Britain, special Christmas plays called pantomimes are produced for children. Jack Hawkins made his London theatrical debut at age 12, playing the elf king in "Where The Rainbow Ends". At 17, he got the lead role of St. George in the same play. At 18, he made his debut on Broadway in "Journey's ...

33. Claude Rains

Actor | Casablanca

William Claude Rains, born in the Clapham area of London, was the son of the British stage actor Frederick Rains. The younger Rains followed, making his stage debut at the age of eleven in "Nell of Old Drury." Growing up in the world of theater, he saw not only acting up close but the down-to-earth...

34. Charlton Heston

Actor | Ben-Hur

With features chiseled in stone, and renowned for playing a long list of historical figures, particularly in Biblical epics, the tall, well built and ruggedly handsome Charlton Heston was one of Hollywood's greatest leading men and remained active in front of movie cameras for over sixty years. As ...

35. Finlay Currie

Actor | Ben-Hur

Scottish-born Finlay Currie was a former church organist and choirmaster, who made his stage debut at 20 years of age. It took him 34 more years before making his first film, but he worked steadily for another 30 years after that. Although he was a large, imposing figure, with a rich, deep voice ...

36. Edmund Gwenn

Actor | Miracle on 34th Street

There are very few character actors from the 1930s, '40s or '50s who rose to the rank of stardom. Only a rare man or woman reached the level of renown and admiration, and had enough audience appeal, to be the first name in a cast's billing, a name that got marquee posting. Charles Coburn comes to ...

37. Donald Crisp

Actor | How Green Was My Valley

Donald Crisp was born George William Crisp at the family home in Bow, London. Donald's parents were James Crisp and Elizabeth Crisp, his birth was registered by his mother on 4th September 1882. Donald's sisters were Elizabeth, Ann, Alice (known as Louisa) and Eliza and his brothers were James, ...

38. Victor Jory

Actor | Gone with the Wind

Victor Jory was born in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. His burly physique made him a wrestling and boxing champion during his military service in the United States Coast Guard. After a few appearances on Broadway, he made his way into Hollywood in the early 1930s. His acting career spanned exactly 50 ...

39. Robert Young

Actor | Marcus Welby, M.D.

Quiet, soft-spoken Robert grew up in California and had some stage experience with the Pasadena Playhouse before entering films in 1931. His movie career consisted of playing characters who were charming, good-looking--and bland. In fact, his screen image was such that he usually never got the girl...

40. Robert Mitchum

Actor | Out of the Past

Robert Mitchum was an underrated American leading man of enormous ability, who sublimated his talents beneath an air of disinterest. He was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Ann Harriet (Gunderson), a Norwegian immigrant, and James Thomas Mitchum, a shipyard/railroad worker. His father died in a ...



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