Great Actresses of the 20th Century

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Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo[a] (born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson;[b] 18 September 1905 – 15 April 1990) was a Swedish film actress during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Garbo fifth on their list of the greatest female stars of classic Hollywood cinema.

Garbo launched her career with a secondary role in the 1924 Swedish film The Saga of Gösta Berling. Her performance caught the attention of Louis B. Mayer, chief executive of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), who brought her to Hollywood in 1925. She stirred interest with her first American silent film, Torrent (1926). Garbo’s performance in Flesh and the Devil (1927), her third movie, made her an international star.[1]

Garbo’s first talking film was Anna Christie (1930). MGM marketers enticed the public with the tagline “Garbo talks!” That same year, she starred in Romance. For her performances in these films, she received her first of the three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress.[2] In 1932, her success allowed her to dictate the terms of her contract, and she became increasingly selective about her roles. She continued in films such as Mata Hari (1931), Inspiration (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), Queen Christina (1933), and Anna Karenina (1935).

Many critics and film historians consider her performance as the doomed courtesan Marguerite Gautier in Camille (1936) to be her finest. The role gained her a second Academy Award nomination. However, Garbo’s career soon declined and she was one of the many stars labeled box office poison in 1938. Her career revived upon her turn to comedy in Ninotchka (1939) which earned her a third Academy Award nomination, but after the failure of Two-Faced Woman (1941), she retired from the screen, at the age of 35, after acting in 28 films.

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Grace Kelly

Grace Patricia Kelly (November 12, 1929 – September 14, 1982) was an American film actress who, after starring in several significant films in the early to mid-1950s, became Princess of Monaco by marrying Prince Rainier III in April 1956.

After embarking on an acting career in 1950 when she was 20, Kelly appeared in New York City theatrical productions and more than 40 episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television. From 1952 to 1956 she starred in several critically and commercially successful films, usually opposite male romantic leads 25 to 30 years older than she. In October 1953, she gained stardom from her performance in director John Ford‘s African-filmed adventure-romance Mogambo, starring Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, which won her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 1954 she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her deglamorized performance in the drama The Country Girl with Bing Crosby.[1] Other noteworthy films in which she starred include the western High Noon (1952), with Gary Cooper; the romance-comedy musical High Society (1956), with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra; and three Alfred Hitchcock suspense thrillers in rapid succession: Dial M for Murder (1954), with Ray Milland; Rear Window (1954), with James Stewart; and To Catch a Thief (1955), with Cary Grant.

Kelly retired from acting at the age of 26 to marry Rainier, and began her duties as Princess of Monaco. It is well known that Hitchcock was hoping she would appear in more of his films which required an “icy blonde” lead actress, but he was unable to coax her out of retirement. Kelly and Rainier had three children: Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie. Kelly retained her link to America by her dual U.S. and Monégasque citizenship.[2] Princess Grace died at Monaco Hospital on September 14, 1982, succumbing to injuries sustained in a traffic collision the previous day.[3] At the time of her death she was 52.

She is listed 13th among the American Film Institute‘s 25 Greatest Female Stars of Classical Hollywood Cinema.[4]

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Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall (/bəˈkɔːl/; born Betty Joan Perske; September 16, 1924 – August 12, 2014) was an American actress known for her distinctive voice and sultry looks. She was named the 20th-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute and received an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009 “in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures”.[1]

Bacall began her career as a model[2] before making her film debut as a leading lady in To Have and Have Not (1944) at the age of 19. She continued in the film noir genre with appearances with Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), and she starred in the romantic comedies How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, and Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. She co-starred with John Wayne in his final film The Shootist (1976) by Wayne’s personal request. She also worked on Broadway in musicals, earning Tony Awards for Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). She won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996).

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Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn (born Audrey Kathleen Ruston; 4 May 1929 – 20 January 1993) was a British[a] actress and humanitarian. Recognised as a film and fashion icon, she was ranked by the American Film Institute as the third-greatest female screen legend in Golden Age Hollywood, and was inducted into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.

Born in Ixelles, Brussels, Hepburn spent parts of her childhood in Belgium, England, and the Netherlands. She studied ballet with Sonia Gaskell in Amsterdam beginning in 1945 and with Marie Rambert in London starting in 1948. She began performing as a chorus girl in West End musical theatre productions and then had minor appearances in several films. Hepburn starred in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi after being spotted by French novelist Colette, on whose work the play was based.[3]

She rose to stardom in the romantic comedy Roman Holiday (1953), alongside Gregory Peck, for which she was the first actress to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA Award for a single performance. That same year, Hepburn won a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play for her performance in Ondine. She went on to star in a number of successful films, such as: Sabrina (1954), in which Humphrey Bogart and William Holden compete for her affection; Funny Face (1957) a musical in which she sang her own song parts; the drama The Nun’s Story (1959); the romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961); the thriller-romance Charade (1963), opposite Cary Grant; and the musical My Fair Lady (1964), which won the Academy Award and BAFTA for Best Picture. In 1967 she starred in the thriller Wait Until Dark receiving Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

After that she only occasionally appeared in films, one being Robin and Marian (1976) with Sean Connery, and her last recorded performances were the 1990 documentary television series Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn. She won three BAFTA Awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role. In recognition of her film career, she received BAFTA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and the Special Tony Award. She remains one of only 15 people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.

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