List: Top 30 Favorite Classic Actresses


To recap from the Classic Actors post, I’ve been doing lists like this nearly my whole life or at least as far back as I can remember. I redo my ‘Classic’ and ‘Modern’ Actors and Actresses lists every couple of years and I felt like posting my latest versions of them. They vary a lot throughout the years; I found the Actors in this case to be more difficult. While there were certainly actresses who regrettably did not make the list because there wasn’t room (Myrna Loy, Claudette Colbert, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman and Olivia De Havilland to name a few) or because there were actresses who gave one single performance I cannot get enough of but could not justify picking them over others (Anna Massey, Kathleen Byron, Sue Lyon). Like I said in the ‘Classic Actors’ post, I will not be posting reasons; simply a picture and a list of films I have seen with them. This list is a lot less varied than the previous one; it is almost entirely focused on the studio era in Hollywood.


30. Joan Fontaine
Seen in 5 Films: The Women, Gunga Din, Rebecca, Suspicion, Letter from an Unknown Woman


29. Celeste Holm
Seen in 4 films: Gentleman’s Agreement, A Letter to Three Wives (narrator), All About Eve, Three Men and a Baby


28. Tippi Hedren
Seen in 3 films: The Birds, Marnie, I Heart Huckabees


27. Jean Harlow
Seen in 8 Films: The Public Enemy, Platinum Blonde, Red-Headed Woman, Red Dust, Dinner at Eight, Bombshell, Wife vs. Secretary, Libeled Lady


26. Olga Baclanova
Seen in 4 films: The Docks of New York, The Man Who Laughs, Freaks, Downstairs


25. Lauren Bacall
Seen in 12 films: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Dark Passage, How to Marry a Millionaire, Written on the Wind, Murder on the Orient Express, Misery, All I Want for Christmas, Dogville, Howl’s Moving Castle (voice), Birth

24. Judy Garland
Seen in 11 films: Love Finds Andy Hardy, The Wizard of Oz, Babes in Arms, Ziegfeld Girl, Girl Crazy, Meet Me in St. Louis, Ziegfeld Follies, The Pirate, A Star is Born, Judgment at Nuremberg, I Could Go On Singing


23. Audrey Hepburn
Seen in 8 films: Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Funny Face, The Nun’s Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Children’s Hour, My Fair Lady, Wait Until Dark


22. Miriam Hopkins
Seen in 7 films: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Smiling Lieutenant, Trouble in Paradise, The Story of Temple Drake, Design for Living, The Heiress, The Children’s Hour


21. Greer Garson
Seen in 3 films: Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mrs. Miniver, Random Harvest


20. Norma Shearer
Seen in 4 films: He Who Gets Slapped, The Divorcee, A Free Soul, The Women


19. Lillian Gish
Seen in 10 Films: The Musketeers of Pig Alley, The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East, Orphans of the Storm, La Boheme, The Wind, Portrait of Jennie, The Night of the Hunter


18. Greta Garbo
Seen in 8 films: Flesh and the Devil, Anna Christie, Mata Hari, Grand Hotel, Queen Christina, Camille, Ninotchka, Two-Faced Woman


17. Joan Crawford
Seen in 10 films: The Unknown, Grand Hotel, Dancing Lady, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The Women, Mildred Pierce, Possessed, Johnny Guitar, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, I Saw What You Did


16. Simone Simon
Seen in 4 films: La Bete Humaine, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Cat People, La Ronde


15. Shelley Winters
Seen in 10 films: A Place in the Sun, The Big Knife, The Night of the Hunter, The Diary of Anne Frank, Lolita, A Patch of Blue, Alfie, The Poseidon Adventure, The Tenant, Pete’s Dragon


14. Ginger Rogers
Seen in 9 Films: 42nd Street, The Gold Diggers of 1933, Finishing School, The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Swing Time, Stage Door, Kitty Foyle, Tales of Manhattan


13. Joan Blondell
Seen in 8 Films: The Public Enemy, Night Nurse, Three on a Match, Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, Nightmare Alley, Opening Night, Grease


12. Marilyn Monroe
Seen in 9 films: The Asphalt Jungle, All About Eve, Clash by Night, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, Some Like it Hot, Let’s Make Love, The Misfits


11. Vivian Vance
Seen in: “I Love Lucy”, 180 episodes and “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour”


10. Jeanne Moreau
Seen in 7 films: La Notte, Jules and Jim, The Fire Within, Diary of a Chambermaid, Mademoiselle, The Bride Wore Black, Ever After


9. Anna Karina
Seen in 5 films: A Woman is a Woman, Cleo from 5 to 7, Vivre se vie, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville


8. Marlene Dietrich
Seen in 10 films: The Blue Angel, Morocco, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil is a Woman, Destry Rides Again, Witness for the Prosecution, Touch of Evil, Judgment at Nuremberg


7. Katherine Hepburn
Seen in 13 films: Little Women, Mary of Scotland, Stage Door, Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, Woman of the Year, Without Love, Adam’s Rib, The African Queen, Suddenly Last Summer, The Lion in Winter, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


6. Barbara Stanwyck
Seen in 12 films: Night Nurse, Baby Face, Ladies They Talk About, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Stella Dallas, The Lady Eve, Ball of Fire, Double Indemnity,  The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Sorry, Wrong Number, Clash by Night


5. Monica Vitti
Seen in 3 films: L’Avventura, La Notte, L’Eclisse

4. Ann Dvorak
Seen in 4 films: Scarface, Three on a Match, ‘G’ Men, Girls of the Road


3. Bette Davis
Seen in 14 films: Three on a Match, The Petrified Forest, Jezebel, Dark Victory, The Letter, The Little Foxes, Now, Voyager, Mr. Skeffington, A Stolen Life, Deception, All About Eve, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, Return to Witch Mountain


2. Lucille Ball
Seen in 9 films, 2 TV shows: Stage Door, Five Came Back, Dance, Girl, Dance, Du Barry was a Lady, Without Love, The Dark Corner, The Long Long Trailer, “I Love Lucy”, 180 episodes, “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour”, Yours, Mine and Ours, Forever Darling


1. Louise Brooks
Seen in 7 films: The Show Off, Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl, Beggars of Life, A Girl in Every Port, Prix de Beaute, Windy Riley Goes Hollywood

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16 thoughts on “List: Top 30 Favorite Classic Actresses

    1. Thanks! I am definitely a Myrna Loy fan. Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven is just fascinating. With Vitti, it’s more about her presence, beauty and the way Antonioni uses her as opposed to her talent. I just love watching her more than most other actresses.

  1. Great list,My top 3 classic actress are:
    #1 Ingrid Bergman
    #2 Greta Garbo
    #3 Barbara Stanwyck

    I’m surprised to see Luis Brooks tops this list,she is gorgeous in Pandora’s Box,but her later career was just a disaster

    1. Nice top 3! Yeah, I have an all-out obsession with Louise Brooks. Her later career was a disaster for sure but in her heyday she brought something to the screen that has never been equaled in my opinion. Her really incredible and refreshing autobiography Lulu in Hollywood talks about the choice she made to leave the business; it’s fascinating stuff.

  2. Al says:

    Partially surprised at this list, especially the number one choice, but I am more surprised that Vivien Leigh wasn’t on it. Aside from Gone with the Wind, she had a lot of revered parts in Waterloo Bridge, A Streetcar Named Desire, along with several theatre performances. I think Lucille Ball should have been number one. Even if she is mostly famous for Lucy, I cannot and will never get over the talent she conveyed on that show. Wow. 😛

    1. My Louise obsession knows no bounds. I like Leigh a lot but I simply prefer other actresses, even if she has give several powerhouse performances. I’ve seen every episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ hundreds of times. I just had a DVD disc of the show on today. I’ve even made a favorite to least favorite episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ list! There is no denying Ball was more talented than Brooks, but for me Brooks and her presence are unparalleled.

  3. Jessie says:

    My grandparents were good friends with Lucille ball, Vivian Vance (who my mom told me was stunning in real life, but they frumped her up for the show ) , desi arnaz, And Celeste holm (I found out yesterday that my aunt Vicki which is her middle name . Her first name is Celeste and she said as named after their friend Celeste holm ) . I guess they would come over for cocktail parties to the house all the time. So my mom remembers her tucking her into bed. One of my aunts has some pictures. I guess there are only a few pictures, and I asked why they wouldn’t have more pictures of Lucille ball stuff and she said because it wasn’t a big deal because they were friends. My grandparents were president of some actors association but my grandmother was approached by MGM with a contract and she turned it down but she was stunning. I just googled Celeste Holmes because I didn’t know who she was and I saw this site. Nice list. I like Betty Davis, a lot and u forgot tallulah bankhead. …:-)

  4. Rich Bono says:

    Jean Arthur created a very convincing female persona in the 30s and 40s. Perhaps she was the queen of the screwball comedy. And Claudette Colbert too should not be forgotten. I’m very glad you included the talented Ginger Rogers for her acting as well as unforgettable dancing, but Myra Loy also deserves to be on the list. In fact I think there should be at least 40 on your top 30 list….but I can’t do the math very well! 🙂

  5. Dawn R. says:

    LOVE your list! Hope you can help me… been stumped trying to remember name of a classic movie actress’ name for days now!! … Blonde known for side part of hair covering half of her face to give an “alluring, sexy pose” of that time. I can see the black & white portfolio picture, but can’t remember her name or film(s). HELP!!

  6. I’m obviously late to this but just stumbled across it and couldn’t resist. I’m big on lists too. Interesting mix of actresses, love that Ann Dvorak is on your list such a fascinating and unique performer. I’m anxious to read the new bio of her. it’s great that you listed the films of each you’ve seen, I’m just going to state the number of films (theatrical films only) I’ve seen for each or we’ll be here all day.

    My 30:
    1. Linda Darnell-35 films
    2. Susan Hayward-52 films
    3. Ida Lupino-36 films
    4. Thelma Ritter-27 films
    5. Gloria Grahame-28 films
    6. Judy Garland-35 films (entire filmography)
    7. Margaret Sullavan-8 films
    8. Bette Davis-74 films
    9. Joan Crawford-62 films
    10. Priscilla Lane-16 films
    11. Eve Arden-38 films
    12. Barbara Stanwyck-63 films
    13. Doris Day-39 films (entire filmography)
    14. Veronica Lake-12 films
    15. Ingrid Bergman-25 films
    16. Marilyn Monroe-26 films
    17. Judy Holliday-10 films
    18. Jean Simmons-38 films
    19. Rosalind Russell-44 films
    20. Claire Trevor-36 films
    21. Anne Baxter-34 films
    22. Agnes Moorehead-49 films
    23. Katharine Hepburn-43 films
    24. Natalie Wood-41 films
    25. Joan Bennett-28 films
    26. Viven Leigh-13 films
    27. Alexis Smith-35 films
    28. Debbie Reynolds-41 films (entire filmography)
    29. Glynis Johns-27 films
    30. Eleanor Parker-34 films

    With apologies to Ann Sheridan, Lucile Watson, Mary Wickes, Spring Byington, Lee Remick, Ann Dvorak, Myrna Loy, Angela Lansbury, Julie Adams, Ann Sothern, Deanna Durbin, Gene Tierney, Audrey Hepburn, Gladys Cooper, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Gladys George, Kay Kendall, Connie Gilchrist, Joan Blondell, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Betty Grable, Ruth Roman, Edna May Oliver, Ava Gardner, Olivia de Havilland, Jane Wyman, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Gail Russell, Ruth Hussey, Simone Signoret, Lana Turner, Deborah Kerr, June Allyson, Lauren Bacall, Shelley Winters, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy McGuire, Jane Russell, Dorothy Malone, Alice Faye, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Kay Francis and Greta Garbo all of whom I love but as you said choices are have to be made no matter how tough.

    1. Wow! What an incredible list! Thank you for sharing. So many amazing people on there. That list was posted a while ago and I’d definitely make a few changes (even though I updated the post last year). Particularly adding Ida Lupino and Eleanor Parker is a must.

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