List of Famous Silent Film Actresses

List of famous silent film actresses, with photos, bios, and other information when available. Who are the top silent film actresses in the world? This includes the most prominent silent film actresses, living and dead, both in America and abroad. Silent film buffs will also enjoy the best silent films available for online streaming and the best horror films from the 1920s silent era. This list of notable silent film actresses is ordered by their level of prominence, and can be sorted for various bits of information, such as where these historic silent film actresses were born and what their nationality is. The people on this list are from different countries, but what they all have in common is that they're all renowned silent film actresses.

With silent movie stars ranging from Olive Thomas to Lillian Gish, this is a great starting point for a list of your favorite female silent film actors.

From reputable, prominent, and well known silent film actresses to the lesser known silent film actresses of today, these are some of the best professionals in the silent film actress field. If you want to answer the questions, "Who are the most famous silent film actresses ever?" and "What are the names of famous silent film actresses?" then you're in the right place. 

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  • Gladys Louise Smith (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979), known professionally as Mary Pickford, was a Canadian-born American film actress and producer. With a career spanning 50 years, she was a co-founder of both the Pickford–Fairbanks Studio (along with Douglas Fairbanks) and, later, the United Artists film studio (with Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith), and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who present the yearly "Oscar" award ceremony.Pickford was known in her prime as "America's Sweetheart" and the "girl with the curls". She was one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting. Pickford was one of the earliest stars to be billed under her own name, and was one of the most popular actresses of the 1910s and 1920s, earning the nickname "Queen of the Movies". She is credited as having defined the ingénue archetype in cinema.She was awarded the second ever Academy Award for Best Actress for her first sound-film role in Coquette (1929) and also received an honorary Academy Award in 1976. In consideration of her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute ranked Pickford as 24th in its 1999 list of greatest female stars of classic Hollywood Cinema.
  • Mary Louise Brooks (November 14, 1906 – August 8, 1985), known professionally as Louise Brooks, was an American film actress and dancer during the 1920s and 1930s. She is noted as a flapper icon and sex symbol, and is famous for her bob hairstyle that she helped popularize during the prime of her career. Brooks is best known as the lead in three feature films made in Europe: Pandora's Box (1929), Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), and Miss Europe (1930); the first two were made by G. W. Pabst. She starred in seventeen silent films and eight sound films before retiring in 1938. Brooks published her memoir, Lulu in Hollywood, in 1982; three years later she died of a heart attack at age 78.
  • Lillian Diana Gish (October 14, 1893 – February 27, 1993) was an American pioneering actress of the screen and stage, as well as a director and writer. Her film acting career spanned 75 years, from 1912, in silent film shorts, to 1987. Gish was called the First Lady of American Cinema, and is credited with pioneering fundamental film performing techniques.Gish was a prominent film star from 1912 into the 1920s, particularly associated with the films of director D. W. Griffith, including her leading role in the highest-grossing film of the silent era, Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915). At the dawn of the sound era, she returned to the stage and appeared in film infrequently, including well-known roles in the controversial western Duel in the Sun (1946) and the offbeat thriller The Night of the Hunter (1955). She also did considerable television work from the early 1950s into the 1980s and closed her career playing opposite Bette Davis in the 1987 film The Whales of August. In her later years, Gish became a dedicated advocate for the appreciation and preservation of silent film. Despite being better known for her film work, Gish was also an accomplished stage actress, and she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1972.
  • Norma Marie Talmadge (May 2, 1894 – December 24, 1957) was an American actress and film producer of the silent era. A major box-office draw for more than a decade, her career reached a peak in the early 1920s, when she ranked among the most popular idols of the American screen.A specialist in melodrama, her most famous film was Smilin’ Through (1922), but she also scored artistic triumphs teamed with director Frank Borzage in Secrets (1924) and The Lady (1925). Her younger sister Constance Talmadge was also a movie star. Talmadge married millionaire film producer Joseph M. Schenck and they successfully created their own production company. After reaching fame in the film studios on the East Coast, she moved to Hollywood in 1922. Talmadge was one of the most elegant and glamorous film stars of the Roaring '20s. However, by the end of the silent film era, her popularity with audiences had waned. After her two talkies proved disappointing at the box office, she retired a very wealthy woman.
  • Olive Thomas (born Oliva R. Duffy; October 20, 1894 – September 10, 1920) was an American silent-film actress and model. Thomas began her career as an illustrator's model in 1914, and moved on to the Ziegfeld Follies the following year. During her time as a Ziegfeld girl, she also appeared in the more risqué show The Midnight Frolic. In 1916, she began a successful career in silent films and would appear in more than 20 features over the course of her four-year film career. That year she also married actor Jack Pickford, the younger brother of fellow silent-film star Mary Pickford. On September 10, 1920, Thomas died in Paris five days after ingesting her husband's syphillis medication, mercury bichloride, that brought on acute nephritis. Although her death was ruled accidental, news of her hospitalization and subsequent death were the subject of speculation in the press. Thomas' death has been cited as one of the first heavily publicized Hollywood scandals.
  • Mabel Ethelreid Normand (November 10, 1892 – February 23, 1930) was an American silent-film actress, screenwriter, director, and producer. She was a popular star and collaborator of Mack Sennett in his Keystone Studios films, and at the height of her career in the late 1910s and early 1920s, had her own movie studio and production company. Onscreen, she appeared in 12 successful films with Charlie Chaplin and 17 with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, sometimes writing and directing (or co-writing/directing) movies featuring Chaplin as her leading man.Throughout the 1920s, her name was linked with widely publicized scandals, including the 1922 murder of William Desmond Taylor and the 1924 shooting of Courtland S. Dines, who was shot by Normand's chauffeur using her pistol. She was not a suspect in either crime. Her film career declined, and she suffered a recurrence of tuberculosis in 1923, which led to a decline in her health, retirement from films, and her death in 1930 at age 37.