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22 Famous Actresses of the 1930s

Updated June 14, 2019 141.2k views24 items

As a distraction from the stock market crash and the rise of the Great Depression, Americans began turning their attention to movies and television. The 1930s were part of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when actors were movie stars and films were genre-based masterpieces. This era contains some of the best actresses of all time, many of whom are Academy Award winners, as well as classic film stars.

Who is the most famous actress of the 1930s? Katharine Hepburn tops our list. Hepburn was one of Hollywood's most beloved actresses for over 60 years, but she got her start in the 1930s. Holiday, Bringing Up Baby, and Alice Adams are just a few of the films in which Hepburn starred during the golden age of cinema. She appeared in nine films with her longtime love, Spencer Tracy.

Vivien Leigh starred in one of the most popular films of the 1930s--and beyond--when she appeared alongside Clark Gable in the 1939 Oscar-winner Gone with the Wind. She was married to the accomplished actor Laurence Olivier from 1940 – 1960. Claudette Colbert appeared in some of the most memorable films of the 1930s including It Happened One Night and Drums Along the Mohawk. She skipped the 1935 Oscars because she didn't think she would win against Bette Davis. She was wrong, and was honored with the award for Best Actress.

Which 1930s actress is your favorite? Take a look at this list and share your thoughts in the comments section.
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  • Katharine Hepburn
    Photo: skeeze / Pixabay / CC0 1.0
    Katharine Hepburn was one of Hollywood's most beloved actresses for over 60 years, but she got her start in the 1930s. Holiday, Bringing Up Baby and Alice Adams are just a few of the films in which Hepburn starred during the golden age of cinema. She appeared in nine films with her longtime love Spencer Tracy.
    • Age: Dec. at 96 (1907-2003)
    • Credits (Film): Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, On Golden Pond
    • Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States of America

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  • Bette Davis, known for her bewitching eyes and cynical characters, started her career appearing in the 1931 film The Bad Sister. She went on to win two Academy Awards in her over 50-year career.
    • Age: Dec. at 81 (1908-1989)
    • Credits (Film): All About Eve, P.S. I Love You, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, The Watcher in the Woods, Burnt Offerings
    • Birthplace: Lowell, Massachusetts, United States of America

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  • Vivien Leigh
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
    Vivien Leigh starred in one of the most popular films of the 1930s and beyond when she appeared alongside Clark Gable in the 1939 Oscar-winner Gone with the Wind. She was married to the accomplished actor Laurence Olivier from 1940 - 1960.
    • Age: Dec. at 54 (1913-1967)
    • Credits (Film): Gone with the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire, Ship of Fools, Waterloo Bridge, Fire Over England
    • Birthplace: Darjeeling, India

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  • Barbara Stanwyck
    Photo: Antonio Marín Segovia / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    In her later years, Barbara Stanwyck was known for her roles on popular TV series like Dynasty and The Colbys, but she appeared in over a dozen feature films in the 1930s. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the 1938 picture Stella Dallas and she won an Honorary Oscar for her contribution to film in 1982.
    • Age: Dec. at 83 (1907-1990)
    • Credits (Film): Double Indemnity, The Lady Eve, Forty Guns, Titanic, Ball of Fire
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA

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