1930’s Hollywood introduced us to many of the greatest actresses of all time. There was a wealth of female film talent during this decade and they have all earned the right to be remembered as a permanent part of Hollywood history.
The following actresses, in no particular order, represent just a sampling of the talent that women brought to the silver screen during the 1930’s. For film fans of any generation, you would be doing yourself a huge favor by viewing as many of their pictures as possible. Take the time to view not only the 1930’s film suggestions for these great actresses, but those film’s made throughout their career’s.
Jean Harlow – Considered by the American Film Institute to be one of the greatest movie stars of all time. Harlow’s first major role was in Howard Hughes’ 1930 World War I epic Hell’s Angels. Her early films capitalized on her charismatic sex appeal and “laughing vamp” image.
In her early films, Harlow was severely criticized by the critics as having little acting talent, but none would deny her immense screen presence and appeal. The audiences loved her.
In 1932 Hughes would sell the rights to the beauty with the “platinum blonde” hair to MGM Studio’s for $30,000. It was at MGM where she learned to develop her acting skill, was cast in more substantial roles, and became a major star.
Sadly, Jean Harlow’s star would shine for far too short a time as she died from apparent kidney failure in Los Angeles at the age of 26. She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the gown she wore in the film Libeled Lady. Her co-star in the picture, William Powell, was the love of her life who in her hands placed a farewell note that read, “Goodnight, my dearest darling.”
Jean Harlow quotes:
“No one ever expects a great lay to pay all the bills.”
“Underwear makes me uncomfortable and besides my parts have to breathe.”
Greta Garbo – This Swedish born actress is an absolute icon of film with her popularity traversing both the silent era and classical period. The American Film Institute has declared Greta Garbo as one of the greatest female stars in history. She was one of the few silent screen actresses to successfully make the transition to talking pictures. Her first speaking role was in 1930’s Anna Christie for which she received her first of four Academy Award nominations.
1931’s Mata Hari, and 1932’s Grand Hotel would create a phenomenon known as “Garbomania.” Her immense popularity was, in part, due to her personal desire to lead a very private life. A desire that would only increase the public’s interest in the great actress. Greta Garbo’s somber and melancholic image would dampen the stars popularity for a period during the mid-1930’s, but this would soon disappear with her 1939 comeback comedy Ninotchka.
While romantically linked to a number of men and women, Garbo never married, had no children and lived most of her life alone. Greta Garbo died in 1990, at the age of 84, in a New York hospital of pneumonia and renal failure.
Greta Garbo quotes:
“I never said ‘I want to be alone,’ I only said ‘I want to be let alone.’ This is all the difference.”
“There are many things in your heart you can never tell to another person. They are you, your private joys and sorrows, and you can never tell them. You cheapen yourself, the inside of yourself, when you tell them.”
“Life would be so wonderful if we only knew what to do with it.”
Carole Lombard – Also found on the American Film Institutes list of the greatest stars of all time. She is most frequently remembered for her comedic talent having starred in numerous screwball comedies during the 1930’s.
By the end of the decade, Lombard was the highest-paid star in Hollywood earning nearly $500,000 per year. Tragically, Lombard would also die at far too young an age. A plane crash claimed her life at the age of 33.
English author, playwright, and literary critic Graham Greene described Carole Lombard as the, “Platinum blonde, with a heart-shaped face, delicate, impish features and a figure made to be swathed in silver lamé, she wriggled expressively through such classics of hysteria as Twentieth Century and My Man Godfrey.”
Carole Lombard was loved off-screen every bit as much as on-screen due to her warm personality and earthy sense of humor. At the time of her death, Lombard was married to Clark Gable, living a happy life with the two stars raising chickens and horses on their California ranch.
Carole Lombard quotes:
“I can’t imagine a duller fate than being the best dressed woman in reality. When I want to do something I don’t pause to contemplate whether I’m exquisitely gowned. I want to live, not pose!”
“Bill Powell is the only intelligent actor I’ve ever met.”