celebrity facts 36 Famous Movie Stars of the 1940s  

Ranker Film
245.8k views 37 items

These black and white photos of 1940s movie stars prove it: the 40s was a great decade for film. Famous 1940s actors, such as Jimmy Stewart and Liz Taylor, lit up the silver screen. Alfred Hitchcock was really coming into his own as the master of suspense, and Frank Capra gave movie-goers a holiday film that would be loved even decades after its initial release. The movie stars of the 1940s had versatile talents, and were able to thrive in the captivating roles of the day.

Who is the most popular movie star of the 1940s? John Wayne tops our list. Known for his calm confidence in the face of great obstacles, John Wayne is one of the best Western actors to ever hit the silver screen. In the 1940s, he appeared in such films as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Red River. Other great 1940s actors include James Stewart, Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart.

The 1940s also featured great actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman, who starred in one of the most popular films of the 1940s and beyond when she appeared alongside Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca in 1942. Later, she appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's movies Notorious and Spellbound. Rita Hayworth was also one of the 1940s biggest stars. She appeared in Gilda in 1946 and Cover Girl in 1944.

Which 1940s movie star is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

John Wayne is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 36 Famous Movie Stars of the 1940s
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Known for his calm confidence in the face of great obstacles, John Wayne is one of the best Western actors to ever hit the silver screen. In the 1940s, he appeared in such films as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Red River.

Marion Mitchell Morrison, better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director, and producer. An Academy Award-winner, Wayne was among the top box office draws for three decades. An enduring American icon, he epitomized rugged masculinity and is famous for his demeanor, including his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height. Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, but his family relocated to the greater Los Angeles area when he was nine years old. He graduated from Glendale High School. He found work at local film studios when he lost his football scholarship to USC as a result of a bodysurfing accident. Initially working for the Fox Film Corporation, he mostly appeared ...more

Credits (Film): The Searchers, The Longest Day, Stagecoach, True Grit, Rio Bravo, + more

Birthplace: Winterset, Iowa, United States of America

Age: Died at 72 (1907-1979)

Also Ranked

#19 on The Coolest Actors Ever

#1 on The Greatest Western Movie Stars

#76 on The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

#61 on The Best Actors in Film History

see more on John Wayne

Ingrid Bergman is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 36 Famous Movie Stars of the 1940s
Photo: MGM/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Ingrid Bergman starred in one of the most popular films of the 1940s and beyond when she appeared alongside Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca in 1942. Later, she appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's movies Notorious and Spellbound.

Ingrid Bergman was a Swedish actress who starred in a variety of European and American films. She won three Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards and the Tony Award for Best Actress. She is ranked as the fourth greatest female star of American cinema of all time by the American Film Institute. She is best remembered for her roles as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca, and as Alicia Huberman in Notorious, an Alfred Hitchcock thriller co-starring Cary Grant. Before becoming a star in American films, she had been a leading actress in Swedish films. Her first introduction to U.S. audiences came with her starring role in the English-language remake of Intermezzo in 1939. In the United ...more

Credits (Film): Casablanca, Notorious, Cinema Paradiso, Murder on the Orient Express, Spellbound, + more

Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden

Age: Died at 67 (1915-1982)

Also Ranked

#37 on The Most Beautiful Women of All Time

#21 on The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

#10 on The Best Actresses in Film History

#26 on The Best Actors with More Than One Oscar

see more on Ingrid Bergman

Cary Grant is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 36 Famous Movie Stars of the 1940s
Photo: kate gabrielle/flickr/CC-BY 2.0
Notorious and His Girl Friday are just two of the great 1940s films that featured Cary Grant. He was named the second Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute, losing the top spot to fellow 1930s movie star Humphrey Bogart.

Cary Grant was an English stage and Hollywood film actor who became an American citizen in 1942. Known for his transatlantic accent, debonair demeanor and "dashing good looks", Grant is considered one of classic Hollywood's definitive leading men. Grant was named the second Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute. He was known for comedic and dramatic roles; his best-known films include Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, Arsenic and Old Lace, Notorious, An Affair to Remember, North by Northwest, and Charade. He was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor and five times for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. In 1970, he was ...more

Credits (Film): North by Northwest, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, Arsenic and Old Lace, + more

Birthplace: Horfield, United Kingdom

Age: Died at 82 (1904-1986)

Also Ranked

#13 on The Coolest Actors Ever

#15 on The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

#22 on The Greatest British Actors of All Time

#86 on Actors You Would Watch Read the Phone Book

see more on Cary Grant

Katharine Hepburn is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 36 Famous Movie Stars of the 1940s
Photo:  skeeze/Pixabay/CC0 1.0
Katharine Hepburn was one of Hollywood's most beloved actresses for over 60 years and she did a ton of great movies in the 1940s, including The Philadelphia Story and The Sea of Grass. She appeared in nine films with her longtime love Spencer Tracy.

Katharine Houghton Hepburn was an American actress. Known for her fierce independence and spirited personality, Hepburn was a leading lady in Hollywood for more than 60 years. She appeared in a range of genres, from screwball comedy to literary drama, and received four Academy Awards for Best Actress—a record for any performer. In 1999, Hepburn was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in Hollywood history. Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn began to act while studying at Bryn Mawr College. After four years in the theatre, favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Her early years in the film ...more

Credits (Film): Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, On Golden Pond, + more

Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States of America

Age: Died at 96 (1907-2003)

Also Ranked

#6 on The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

#3 on The Best Actresses in Film History

#13 on Who's The Best Actor From Every State?

#43 on Oscar Winning Performances from the Past 50 Years, Ranked

see more on Katharine Hepburn