A long-time fan of classic films is what fires Glory's passion for writing at Hubpages.
Born in Pennsylvania: Ten Iconic Hollywood Stars
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been the birthplace of many famous people from all walks of life. Being a fan of old time Hollywood, I decided to put together a list of 10 classic Hollywood actors and actresses who were born in Pennsylvania.
1. Ethel Barrymore
Ethel Barrymore was an Academy Award-winning actress that was born in Philadelphia on August 15, 1879. Her parents were actors Maurice and Georgiana Drew. Her brothers were actors Lionel and John Barrymore.
She was known as the "First Lady of American Theater," and while the stage was her first home, she did venture into films beginning in 1915 with The Nightingale. Her last film was 1957's Johnny Trouble.
She died of cardiovascular disease on June 18, 1959, just two months short of her 80th birthday.
2. John Barrymore
John Barrymore was born in Philadelphia on February 14, 1892, to Maurice and Georgiana Drew.
He had no intention of becoming an actor. He actually wanted to be an artist. But acting ran in the blood and he found himself on stage doing light comedy as well as Shakespearean roles.
He began making movies in 1913 with the silent comedy An American Citizen. He would alternate between stage and film roles as the years went on. Sadly, alcohol abuse, which he was said to suffer from since age 14, was taking its toll on his memory and looks. By 1936, he often had to rely on cue cards to get through his lines. Toward the end of his career, as his box office draw was fading, he would star in more "B" movies.
He died penniless on May 29, 1942, at age 60.
3. Lionel Barrymore
Born Lionel Herbert Blythe on April 28, 1878, in Philadelphia into the famous Barrymore acting dynasty, Lionel was a popular character actor and brother to Ethel and John.
He became involved in films in 1909 when he started to work for Biograph Studio and starred in a number of D.W. Griffith's films, such as The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) and Judith of Bethulia (1914).
In 1931, he won the Best Actor Oscar for his work in A Free Soul. By 1938, he was confined to a wheel chair because of arthritis. However, he still worked on making a series of films as Dr. Kildare. While he did well with roles that required him to be the nice guy, he did a fine turn in the classic 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life as nasty old Mr. Potter.
His last appearance was in Main Street to Broadway in 1953. He would die at age 76 on November, 15 1954.
4. W.C. Fields
William Claude Dunkenfield, better know to the world of films as W. C. Fields, was born on January 28, 1880, in Philadelphia. He ran away from home at an early age and taught himself how to juggle, which is how he ended up in vaudeville. He first signed with Paramount Studio in 1925 where he made one of his most well known films, The Gift, which pitted him against one of his greatest comedic foils, 16-month old Baby LeRoy.
He left Paramount to sign with Universal in 1938. It was there that he made four films that are considered his best: You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), My Little Chickadee (1940) with Mae West, The Bank Dick (1940), and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), which turned out to be the last great movie of his career. Failing health slowed his career and he died on December 25, 1946.
W.C Fields With Baby LeRoy
5. Janet Gaynor
Janet Gaynor was born Laura Augusta Gainor on October 6, 1906, in Philadelphia. A popular actress in the 1930s, her most memorable film was the classic A Star is Born. She retired in 1939 at the age of 33 so she could marry and start a family. She was coaxed out of retirement in the 1950s, doing a few appearances on television and one feature film, Bernadine (1957).
In the 1980s, she made her Broadway debut in the play Maude, which received good reviews but failed to perform at the ticket office. Her last appearance before the camera was in an episode of the popular television series The Love Boat that aired on January 3, 1981.
In 1982, she, along with long-time friend and actress Mary Martin, were involved in a car accident which nearly took her life. She sustained broken ribs, pelvic fractures, and injuries to her bladder and kidney. She was hospitalized for four months and eventually was released. Sadly, she would never fully recover from her injuries and she died at age 77 on September 14, 1984.
6. Grace Kelly
The actress who became a princess, Grace Patricia Kelly was born in Philadelphia on November 12, 1929. She made her film debut in Fourteen Hours (1951). In 1952, she played Gary Cooper's Quaker wife in the classic Western High Noon.
In 1953, she received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role in Mogambo. She would do four films in 1954; Green Fire, Dial M For Murder, Rear Window, and the film for which she won an Oscar, The Country Girl. She would work in just four more films; The Bridges at Toko Ri (1955), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Swan (1956), and her only musical, High Society (1956).
On May 6, 1955, she met Prince Rainier at his palace in Monaco, which started a year-long courtship. The couple married on April 18, 1956. Grace would die at age 52, in the Monaco Hospital on September 14, 1982, from injuries sustained in a car crash the day before.
7. Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jane Palmer on April 29, 1933, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Wanting to be a movie star since childhood, her dream came true, for a short while, in 1955 when she had small roles in three films: Hell on Frisco Bay, Illegal, and Pete Kelly's Blues.
She became a Broadway star in 1955, starring as Rita Marlow in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. In 1956, she would star in The Girl Can't Help It. The film is considered to be one of the first rock-n-roll films of its kind. In 1957, she reprised her role of Rita Marlow in the feature film version of the play.
Sadly, her career that had once seemed so promising began to fade, particularly after the death of her rival, Marilyn Monroe. Although she kept busy in the 1960s, making a series of low quality films, she survived mainly on making public appearances in night clubs.
She died in a horrific car crash near New Orleans on June 29, 1967.
Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It
8. William Powell
Academy Award-winning actor born William Horatio Powell was born on July 29, 1892, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
His film career began in 1922 when he was cast in the silent film Sherlock Holmes (starring another Pennsylvanian, John Barrymore).
He transitioned into sound with ease. In 1929, he was cast as detective Philo Vance in The Canary Murder Case and he would star in four more Vance movies. In 1934, he would be cast in the role of Nick Charles in The Thin Man with Myrna Loy. The movie brought him his first Academy Award nomination.
In 1936, he starred in the screwball comedy, My Man Godfrey (which brought him his second Academy Award nomination), with his former wife, Carole Lombard. The couple had divorced three years prior, but remained on good terms. In that same year, he starred with Jean Harlow in Reckless and a romantic relationship developed. Sadly, Harlow died June 7, 1937, before they could marry.
In 1947, he would receive his third Academy Award nomination for his role in Life with Father. His last film role was in the classic comedy drama Mister Roberts, alongside Henry Fonda, James Cagney, and Jack Lemmon.
Powell would pass away March 5, 1984, at age 91, nearly 30 years after his retirement from films.
9. Lizabeth Scott
Lizabeth Scott was born Emma Matz on September 29, 1922, in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
After graduating from school and with the help of her father, in 1939, 17-year-old Emma went to New York City where she sought roles in plays. When she read Maxwell Anderson's play Mary of Scotland, about Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, she created her stage name, Elizabeth Scott. Eventually, she would drop the "E."
In 1940, she won a role in the play Hellzapoppin, written by the comedy team of John "Ole" Olsen and Harold "Chic" Johnson. It was a musical revue and she stayed with it for 18 months, touring 63 cities. She then returned to New York City where she got her first lead in the off Broadway play Rain. Broadway producer Michael Myerberg saw her performance and hired her to be the understudy to Tallulah Bankhead, who was starring in The Skin of Our Teeth, a play by Thornton Wilder.
In 1944, she signed a contract with Paramount whose publicity machine created an interesting background for her, claiming she was a debutante and that her father was a rich New York banker and her mother a Russian aristocrat.
Between 1945 and 1957, she starred in 21 films, with her last big screen appearance being in Elvis Presley's second film Loving You. She did make a few television appearances in the 1960s, but by then she had spent most of her time involved in the real estate business.
She died January 31, 2015, at age 92.
10. James Stewart
James Maitland Stewart was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, on May 20, 1908. He never intended to make acting a career. Instead, he figured he would lead a quiet and uneventful life as an architect. He acted in college, but never took it seriously, until fellow classmate Joshua Logan convinced him to give theater a try after graduation.
Stewart was discovered by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who used her connections to get him a screen test at MGM. They liked what they saw and gave him a small role in the The Murder Man (1935). They then loaned him out to do two films in 1938 at RKO, Vivacious Lady with Ginger Rogers and The Shopworn Angel with Margaret Sullivan.
Director Frank Capra turned Stewart into a leading man when he was cast in You Can’t Take It With You (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), which brought Stewart his first Oscar nomination for best actor.
He made the comedy western Destry Rides Again (1939), and in 1940, he starred in The Philadelphia Story, which gave him his first and only Oscar win for best actor.
He served in World War II and when he returned home, his next two films, Its a Wonderful Life (1946), for which he received an Oscar nomination, and Magic Town, (1947) performed poorly at the box office.
A change of direction in his career turned him from a soft spoken and shy character to one more hard boiled in the drama Call Northside 777 as well as a string of Westerns as the reluctant hero. He made three films with Alfred Hitchcock, which many consider to be some of his best work; Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958).
A new generation of movie goers were introduced to Stewart when he voiced the cartoon character Wylie Burp, the elderly sheriff in the 1991 animated film An American Tale: Fivel Goes West.
He died at age 89 on July 2, 1987.
Wylie Burp Teaches Tiger to Be A Dog
This lists just 10 of the classic Hollywood stars who were born in the Commonwealth. There are others who fit this list and were not included simply because of the space allowed for this article; no offence intended if your favorite is not listed. Instead, feel free to tell us about them in the guest book. Comments must be approved before appearing.
Thank you for your visit, it is appreciated.
© 2020 Glory Miller
Classic Hollywood Stars Born in Pennsylvania
Jacqueline G Rozell on July 29, 2020:
At one time or another I have been privileged to watch all of them on the silver screen. They were all magnificent. True Hollywood, worthy of their names and stars being placed in honor on that special walkway. Those being added now have turned it into a farce.
Ernest Festus Awudey from Ho, Ghana. on July 28, 2020:
Interesting write up... Have come to know a few of these people.. thanks for sharing