Hundreds of full-length films were produced during the decade of the 1940s. Needless to say, it was a star-studded decade.
We’ve gathered a list of the best and the greatest movie icons of the 1940s.
Check it out.
In 1935 Tracy joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, at the time Hollywood’s most prestigious studio. His career flourished with a series of hit films, and in 1937 and 1938 he won consecutive Oscars forCaptains Courageous and Boys Town. By the 1940s, Tracy was one of the studio’s top stars. In 1942 he appeared with Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year, beginning a popular partnership that produced nine movies over 25 years. Tracy left MGM in 1955 and continued to work regularly as a freelance star, despite an increasing weariness as he aged. His personal life was troubled, with a lifelong struggle against alcoholism and guilt over his son’s deafness. Tracy became estranged from his wife in the 1930s, but never divorced, conducting a long-term relationship with Katharine Hepburn in private. Towards the end of his life, Tracy worked almost exclusively for director Stanley Kramer. It was for Kramer that he made his last film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967, completed just 17 days before Tracy’s death.
9. James Stewart
Also known as Jimmy Stewart (although he seldom used that name in formal credits), was an American actor, known for his distinctive drawl and down-to-earth persona. He starred in many films that are considered to be classics, and is known for portraying an American middle-class man struggling with a crisis.
Stewart was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one in competition for The Philadelphia Story (1940) and receiving an Academy Lifetime Achievement award. Stewart was named the third greatest male screen legend of the Golden Age Hollywood by the American Film Institute. He was a major Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract star. He also had a noted military career and was a World War II and Vietnam War veteran, who rose to the rank of brigadier general in the United States Air Force Reserve.
8. Bing Crosby
The first multimedia star, from 1931 to 1954 Crosby was a leader in record sales, radio ratings, and motion picture grosses. His early career coincided with technical recording innovations such as the microphone. This allowed him to develop a laid-back, intimate singing style that influenced many of the popular male singers who followed him, including Perry Como,Frank Sinatra, andDean Martin. Yank magazine recognized Crosby as the person who had done the most for American G.I. morale during World War II and, during his peak years, around 1948, American polls declared him the “most admired man alive”, ahead of Jackie Robinson and Pope Pius XII.Also in 1948, the Music Digest estimated that Crosby recordings filled more than half of the 80,000 weekly hours allocated to recorded radio music.
Crosby won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Father Chuck O’Malley in the 1944 motion picture Going My Way, and was nominated for his reprise of the role in The Bells of St. Mary’s opposite Ingrid Bergman the next year, becoming the first of four actors to be nominated twice for playing the same character. In 1963, Crosby received the first Grammy Global Achievement Award. He is one of the 22 people to have three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (a star for motion pictures, radio, and audio recording).
His family had no theatrical connections, but Olivier’s father, a clergyman, decided that his son should become an actor. After attending a drama school in London, Olivier learned his craft in a succession of acting jobs during the late 1920s. In 1930 he had his first important West End success in Noël Coward’s Private Lives, and he appeared in his first film. In 1935 he played in a celebrated production of Romeo and Juliet alongside Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft, and by the end of the decade he was an established star. In the 1940s, together with Richardson and John Burrell, Olivier was the co-director of the Old Vic, building it into a highly respected company. There his most celebrated roles included Shakespeare’s Richard III and Sophocles’s Oedipus. In the 1950s Olivier was an independent actor-manager, but his stage career was in the doldrums until he joined the avant garde English Stage Company in 1957 to play the title role in The Entertainer, a part he later played on film. From 1963 to 1973 he was the founding director of Britain’s National Theatre, running a resident company that fostered many future stars. His own parts there included the title role in Othello(1964) and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (1970).
Gary Cooper was an American film actor known for his natural, authentic, and understated acting style and screen performances. His career spanned thirty-five years, from 1925 to 1960, and included leading roles in eighty-four feature films. He was a major movie star from the end of the silent film era through the end of the golden age of Classical Hollywood. His screen persona appealed strongly to both men and women, and his range of performances included roles in most major movie genres. Cooper’s ability to project his own personality onto the characters he played contributed to his appearing natural and authentic on screen. The screen persona he sustained throughout his career represented the ideal American hero.
Cary Grant was an English 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.
In 1999, the American Film Institute named Grant the second greatest male star of Golden Age Hollywood cinema (after Humphrey Bogart). Grant was known for comedic and dramatic roles; his best-known films include Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Notorious (1946), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963).
He was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor (Penny Serenade (1941) and None but the Lonely Heart (1944)) and five times for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. After his retirement from film in 1966, Grant was presented with an Honorary Oscar by Frank Sinatra at the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970.
Peck was one of the most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s. Peck continued to play major film roles until the late 1970s. His performance as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. He had also been nominated for an Oscar for the same category for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) and Twelve O’Clock High (1949). Other notable films he appeared in include Spellbound(1945), The Paradine Case (1947), Roman Holiday (1953), Moby Dick (1956, and its 1998 miniseries), The Guns of Navarone (1961), Cape Fear (1962, and its 1991 remake), How the West Was Won (1962), The Omen (1976) and The Boys from Brazil (1978).
Fonda made his mark early as a Broadway actor. He also appeared in 1938 in plays performed in White Plains, New York, with Joan Tompkins.He made his Hollywood debut in 1935, and his career gained momentum after his Academy Award-nominated performance as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, a 1940 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel about anOklahoma family who moved west during the Dust Bowl. Throughout six decades in Hollywood, Fonda cultivated a strong, appealing screen image in such classics as The Ox-Bow Incident, Mister Roberts and 12 Angry Men. Later, Fonda moved both toward darker epics such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West and lighter roles in family comedies such as Yours, Mine and Ours with Lucille Ball, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 54th Academy Awards for the movie On Golden Pond, his final film role.
Fonda was the patriarch of a family of famous actors, including daughter Jane Fonda, son Peter Fonda, granddaughter Bridget Fonda, and grandson Troy Garity. His family and close friends called him “Hank”. In 1999, he was named the sixth-Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute.
2. John Wayne
Wayne’s career took off in 1939, with John Ford’s Stagecoach making him an instant mainstream star. Wayne went on to star in 142 pictures. Biographer Ronald Davis says: “John Wayne personified for millions the nation’s frontier heritage. Eighty-three of his movies were Westerns, and in them he played cowboys, cavalrymen, and unconquerable loners extracted from the Republic’s central creation myth.”
Wayne’s other well-known Western roles include: as a cattleman driving his herd north on the Chisholm Trail in Red River (1948); as a Civil War veteran whose young niece is abducted by a tribe of Comanches in The Searchers (1956); and as a troubled rancher competing with an Eastern lawyer for a woman’s hand in marriage in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). He is also remembered for his roles in The Quiet Man (1952), Rio Bravo (1959), and The Longest Day (1962). In his final screen performance, he starred as an aging gunfighter battling cancer in The Shootist (1976). He appeared with many important Hollywood stars of his era, including Maureen O’Hara, James Stewart, Dean Martin, and Natalie Wood. His last public appearance was at the Academy Awards ceremony on April 9, 1979.
Bogart’s breakthrough as a leading man came in 1941 with High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. The next year, his performance in Casablanca (1943; Oscar nomination) raised him to the peak of his profession and, at the same time, cemented his trademark film persona, that of the hard-boiled cynic who ultimately shows his noble side. Other successes followed, including To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), all four with his wife Lauren Bacall; The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948); In a Lonely Place (1950); The African Queen (1951; Oscar winner); Sabrina (1954); and The Caine Mutiny (1954; Oscar nomination). His last film was The Harder They Fall (1956).
During a film career of almost 30 years, Bogart appeared in more than 75 feature films. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star of Classic American cinema. Over his career, he received three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, winning one (for The African Queen).