The celebrities from Hollywood’s Golden Age are more than just actors and musicians. They are symbols of our culture, uniting generations with their works as their movies and songs are passed down from old to young to create a legacy that endures for generations. It should come as no surprise then that these very stars that fill our hearts have been rewarded with a life of opulence. So relax as we review the list of Hollywood’s most iconic Golden Age celebrities.
When imagining the determined and fierce cowboy of the Wild West riding into town there’s usually one actor we picture on top of that horse. Clint Eastwood has practically become an American folk hero with his infamous drawl combined with his ability to steal a scene as he struck fear into the lawless villain’s heart.
Oddly enough, that clenched jaw way he has of speaking was actually initially criticised by studio heads when he first got into the movie business.
Barbara Walters didn’t break the glass ceiling when she got into journalism, she shattered it, leaving behind a legacy and changing the way Americans viewed media. In 1974 Walters became the first woman to anchor a prime time evening news program, using her powerful presence in front of the camera to secure numerous jobs on the most prestigious networks.
Her talent and determination resulted in her earning a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy Of Television Arts And Sciences.
Angie Dickinson first appeared on screen in the 1950s, and although she was relegated to smaller supporter roles at first, it was clear to many audiences that she would soon become a leading lady.
Sure enough, in 1959, Dickinson got her first big role in the 1959 film Rio Bravo, playing the one named character of Feathers. Afterwards she became one of the 1960s leading ladies, most recognizable for her work in Gun The Man Down and Dressed to Kill.
Many Americans likely haven’t heard of her, but Anne Robinson is a famous television personality in Great Britain. There, she is lovingly referred to as “The Queen of Mean,” for the way she brutally dismissed contestants while hosting The Weakest Link.
Since then she has continued to host television shows, where UK audiences tune in to see what clever line the Queen of Mean has up her sleeve. Currently she’s the host of a quiz show called Test The Nation.
When thinking of the carefree blonde, both eccentric in her wild and energetic personality while carrying a magnetism that attracts everyone, Arlene Golanka fits that image. More than just fitting it though, Golanka is credited as epitomizing it in a career that included roles on some of the most successful television shows of the Hollywood Golden Age.
Although her career began in the late ’60s it continued on for 30 years before Golanka retired to teach aspiring young actors instead.
It’s possible that someone who has spent their whole lives living under a rock might not have heard of Axl Rose or his titular band, Guns N’ Roses, but just hearing that name likely gives one the impression of a hard rocker who does it for the love of the music.
Indeed that does apply to Rose, who has been considered to be the support that kept this hard rock band aloft throughout their many years of rock n’ roll.
Many in America haven’t heard about him, even during his peak throughout much of the 1960s, but if those Americans had taken a trip across the Atlantic Ocean they would’ve likely seen Alain Delon’s name across billboards from France to Japan.
This French actor was very much a sex symbol of the era, whose critical acclaim earned him popularity across Europe and, oddly enough, a massive following in Japan. But even with all that Delon never made it in Hollywood.
Betty Lynn was a fairly active actress who took her roles seriously, often portraying a dark and brooding woman in the midst of a crisis. Only joking of course!
Betty Lynn was arguably one of the funniest actresses of her era, appearing in various television series, films, and Broadway shows where she was also considered to be a talented singer. Her most popular roles were on great shows like The Andy Griffith Show, The Egg and I, and Where’s Raymond?
Betty White is a name that continues to resonate strongly with people of all generations. Ask anyone under thirty years old and it might be surprising to discover that many people still recognize this talented centennial.
But it’s no secret as to why, White’s career has stretched an impressive eighty years, after she landed her first role in the 1939 TV operetta called The Merry Widow. Since then her talent, charm, and humor has been recognized throughout the United States.
Arguably one of the most recognizable hosts in television history, Bob Barker broke through the mold to become one of the most celebrated television personalities with his work as the host of Truth Or Consequences.
This job lasted an astounding 12 years, between 1956 and 1974, before Barker moved on to the role that most remember him from, The Price Is Right. There he hosted an incredible 7,000 episodes over the course of 35 years. A truly remarkable career feat!
Even as a little girl, Cassandra Peterson refused to be pigeonholed into what was considered “girly” at the time. She refused to play with Barbie dolls, preferring the mystery and thrill of horror shows instead.
During her 20s, she took her talents to the stage where she was the lead singer to several rock bands from Italy. But that didn’t last forever, as the 1980s came steaming in so did Peterson’s career after she landed her most iconic role, Elvira.
We would challenge anyone to find an actress who has been more beloved in France than Catherine Deneuve. Since 1957 Deneuve has been consistently seen on screen both in France, the UK, Hollywood and, of course, the globe.
The people of France even loved her so much that her face became that of Marianne’s, the national symbol of French liberty – a distinct and unusual honor. Speaking of honors, Deneuve has several including a BAFTA and a nomination for an Oscar.
On screen and on stage Cicely Tyson has been a powerful presence that has been impossible for audiences and critics to ignore. During her career, lasting the course of seven remarkable decades, Tyson would consistently play powerful African American women, not letting the politics or stereotypes of the era stop her from playing the part with passion and devotion.
Her work was considered so important that she was the recipient of America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Another actress with a career that just would not quit, Cloris Leachman has had a career which has spanned the course of seven decades. Throughout her lifetime Leachman originally could often be found on stage, first appearing as a beauty pageant contestant.
Even there she found success, she became Miss Chicago and even competed for the title of Miss America. In addition to her pageantry, Leachman has also been awarded an Academy Award and a record eight Primetime Emmy Awards.
Both as a solo artist and as part of some very recognizable and noteworthy groups, David Crosby has been a music icon. His career truly began in 1964, as one of the founding members of the band the Byrds, the very same Byrds that put Bob Dylan on the map with his hit single, “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
Later he went on to found a new band, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, a band that won the Grammy for Best New Artist.
Dick Van Dyke
Doesn’t matter how serious the audience is, if they’re watching a movie or show starring Dick Van Dyke there’s a good change they’ll be rolling on the floor in hysterics with tears cascading down their faces in no time.
A talented funny man who is best known for two unforgettable characters, Caractacus Potts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and who could forget Dick Van Dyke as Bert the chimney sweep in one of Disney’s most well known films, Mary Poppins?
At 90 years old Ed Asner is showing no signs of slowing down soon. His remarkable and well recognized career began in the 1950s – that means Asner has been hard at work for nearly 70 years!
For Asner, his big break came while performing on the Lou Grant Show as the titular character, Lou Grant. That show was so successful that it eventually spawned the Mary Tyler Moore Show which Asner was also part of. His work continues even today.
Audiences know her as Eileen Atkins, but her official name according to the Royal Court is actually Dame Eileen June Atkins DBE. The DBE reflects the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire who awarded her for her many accomplishments in acting.
Accomplishments which, aside from being named Dame, also awarded her with an Emmy, a BAFTA, and three Olivier awards as well. Additionally, she is also a writer and co-creator of several of Britain’s most critically acclaimed TV dramas.
First appearing on screen in 1950 Hollywood Golden Age actor Gavin MacLeod has seen success after success with little to no sign of ever stopping. In addition to appearing in Hollywood classic films like The Thousand Plane Raid, The Sword Of Ali Baba, and A Man Called Gannon he also starred in television series like The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
But his most recognizable work was as Captain Merrill Stubing on the popular and critically acclaimed series, The Love Boat.
It didn’t take long for George Hamilton to gain positive acclaim and recognition when he first began acting. In fact, in a feat which is rarely seen in the competitive field of Hollywood films, Hamilton won his first Golden Globe for his first ever role!
It didn’t take long for critics to realize that they needed to keep an eye on this shining Hollywood star. Before long Hamilton was starring in role after role, a trend that continues to today.
Michael Jackson might be the King of Pop, and James Brown has been called the Godfather of Soul, but these titles pale in comparison to that of the talented Gladys Knight who is known to her fans as the Empress of Soul. It’s no surprise why when looking at her legacy.
As an artist she was constantly at the top of the charts for 3 long decades, the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Additionally, Knight herself has won seven Grammy Awards.
Harry Belafonte first stepped into the recording studio over 60 years ago to record his first album, Calypso. Since that fateful day, and the release of his 1956 album, Belafonte has been a musical sensation and national icon, lasting from the early days of the mid 1950s album up until today.
As a result his awards are many. The critically acclaimed artist has 3 Grammys, an Emmy, a Tony, and, to top it all off, a National Medal of Arts.
When Henry Winkler first appeared on Happy Days it was thought of as just another television sitcom. But Winkler’s performance as the unforgettable Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli brought that series to critical acclaim and made it the most watched show on television during its time.
For Winkler himself, that meant that he had made it, and he was subsequently honored with two Golden Globes. This is on top of giving us a TV character that will likely never be forgotten.
There’s not a lot of other ways to say this, but Jack Nicholson is a living legend. The man has often walked down the red carpet, both for some of Hollywood’s most famous productions and again to accept the awards given to him to honor his performance.
He was a frequent attendee of the Academy Awards where he won 3 Oscars and was nominated an additional 12 times! Unfortunately for Nicholson fans, the acclaimed actor hasn’t acted in 10 years.
Jane Fonda is certainly an American icon, and a controversial figure depending on one’s politics. But as an actress and businesswoman it’s clear that she has been deserving of the recognition that’s been awarded to her.
In addition to film, television and theater (the last of the three got her a Tony nomination) she has also been a fashion model and prolific writer. Many of her works can be read in book form or simply as articles and blog posts.
If there’s one company who Jane Powell owes her success to that company would likely be the Hollywood studio giant, MGM. Not only did Powell sign with them as a teenager in the 1940s, but the company loved her so much that they actually made her their poster girl back in the day.
She originally appeared in musicals, dazzling the crowd with her voice and dancers poise. Since then she has moved on to everything from theater to television shows.
In the 1980s it was Coca Cola, yes the same Coca Cola of all the fizzy soft drinks, that declared Jayne Kennedy to be “the most admired black woman in America.” It’s not hard for us to see why the company thought that. Kennedy was starting out winning beauty pageants, even the coveted title of Miss Ohio.
After that her diverse career spoke to her many talents. Throughout her career Kennedy worked at everything, from TV personality, to sports broadcaster.
Jerry Mathers began his career in Hollywood as a child star (if one can call landing their first role at age 2 as being a “child” star) as the titular Beaver Cleaver in the popular series Leave It To Beaver.
Although the series ended its run in 1963, Mathers didn’t go back to acting until the late 1970s. In between he served first in the Air Force Reserve Command before moving on to banking and, finally, working in real estate.
With a voice and musical talent that has been honed from nearly 60 years of work, Joan Baez has more than earned her place as one of Hollywood’s Golden Age greatest. During her time singing into the microphone she has been releasing albums with genres as wide and diverse as folk, folk-rock, country, pop, and even delving into gospel.
Not only has Baez released 30 albums, she has done so in an astounding eight different languages popularizing her music worldwide.
It’s unlikely anyone seeing nine-year-old Joan Collins take on her first acting role imagined that she would be remembered as a Hollywood Golden Age icon. That being said here she is and here we are and it’s all because of her incredible on screen performances.
Her Hollywood movie list is impressive, but her crowning accomplishment is arguably as the character Alexis Colby in the television drama Dynasty. That series ended the long-running reign of TV champion Dallas.
Throughout the 1950s, Joanne Woodward acted in a number of small television roles before quickly making the leap into film in 1955. That leap as the catalyst to Woodward’s success, after she made it on to the big screen her career would be destined to last for over 60 years.
During that time Woodward was no stranger at award shows, taking home some of the most prestigious honors for acting. These include an Oscar, Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy, and BAFTA.
Joan Plowright is more than just a star when it comes to numerous mediums including film, television, and stage, she is literally British royalty. Her full title is The Right Honorable Baroness Olivier, DBE.
As jaw dropping as that title is apparently her rank as the wife of Laurence Olivier outranks even her own title of Baroness. Titles aside, she’s an accomplished actress, being only one of four in history to have one two Golden Globes in one single year.
Joan Van Ark
From 1966 onwards Joan Van Ark has been a relatively familiar appearance in both television and theater. Her talent was recognizable from the start when, after only 5 years of acting professionally, she won her first major award nomination – for a Tony.
Afterwards she joined the cast of Dallas, one of the most high rated shows on television, playing the role of Valene Ewing. She then was in numerous soaps and popular TV shows including The Young and the Restless.
John Amos has been a familiar face on television since the 1970s when he appeared on the groundbreaking show, Good Times. In addition to being popular during its era, Good Times was significant in that it was the first show that centered on an African American two-parent family.
Due to Amos’ work on the show, his career was propelled to even greater heights, and he starred in shows like The West Wing, Roots, and The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.
Even though Jon Voight has only won one Academy Award, he’s been nominated for the honor (3 times for Best Actor even) on four separate occasions, speaking to his talent as a Hollywood movie star. His biggest films which resulted in these impressive accolades were Midnight Cowboy, Coming Home, Deliverance, and The Champ.
Although he took a short break as the 1980s turned into the 1990s, he came back with roles in numerous acclaimed biographical dramas during the early 2000s.
Joyce Randolph might be her real name, but there’s another name that most would probably recognize her as first. That name belongs to her incredibly popular character; the one, the only, Trixie Norton from the Honeymooners series.
Trixie Norton was so beloved by audiences and critics alike, that when Randolph was approached to continue her character in the Jackie Gleason Show she immediately accepted. Unfortunately for all those Trixie Norton fans out there, Randolph hasn’t appeared on screen since 2000.
This is another acclaimed actress who, through her remarkable talent and successful career, was also given the second highest honor of the British Empire permanently changing her title to the respectable Dame Judi Dench.
Since 1950 Dame Judi Dench has been involved in numerous projects, both film and television, which have garnered respectable reviews from critics and been beloved by fans. Even though Dench is no longer involved in the popular James Bond series, it doesn’t look like she’s retiring.
Based on the best selling Little House book series, Little House on the Prairie is a classic American show that starred Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Melissa Sue Anderson, and of course, Karen Grassle.
She starred as Caroline Ingalls throughout the entirety of the series’ run. During those 10 years she, along with the show, became American cultural icons. Unfortunately, after her time on the show she hasn’t starred in much else, which leaves any future opportunities very open to her.
Katharine Ross has had the privilege to star in some of the biggest films in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Or perhaps these films have had the privilege of having Katherine Ross in them, depends on one’s perspective.
Either way Ross rose to fame and prominence after she starred in the 1967 classic, The Graduate, acting next to none other than Dustin Hoffman. For her subsequent works she was awarded both a Golden Globe and a BAFTA showcasing how talented she is.
Arguably one of the most talented musicians alive, Keith Richards’ guitar skills are the things of myths and folklore. For the past 60 years, especially during the 1960s, Richards was on stage slamming at his guitar and entertaining audiences who came to hear the new and brilliant sound of the Rolling Stones.
Not only did Richards play in one of the most famous groups, he’s also been a music producer since the rock n’ roll hay days of the 1960s.
Even though his name is likely to remind audiences of legendary guitarist Keith Richards, Richard Keith didn’t become a star from his music but rather from his role as Little Ricky in the incredibly popular I Love Lucy series.
The irony is that Richard Keith actually was a musician before becoming an actor, and was performing with his band until 2017. His real name though? Keith Thibodeaux, he changed it after finding it was too hard for others to pronounce.
Quite possibly the best-loved country singer in the United States, Kenny Rogers’ name is synonymous with that slow, soulful, country music. Going as far back as the early 1970s, Rogers began releasing his incredibly well-received music, and eventually sold as many as 100 million records worldwide.
Not to be stuck as a musician, Rogers was a man who seems to have done it all. He was an actor, writer and even an entrepreneur. Sadly, Kenny Rogers passed away in March 2020.
In the beginning it seemed as though Kim Novak was destined to be ranked among the Hollywood acting legends. By age 30 this talented woman already had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with her name on it along with several Golden Globes.
But then something happened that surprised even her closest fans. She abruptly retired, saying that her heart just wasn’t into her movies anymore. Since then she’s moved on to other forms of art, namely photography.
During the 1980s Kirstie Alley was the talk of the town. She landed her first major role in 1982 when she was chosen to play the character Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The character was so beloved by Star Trek fans that from then on she continued to play Saavik in other Star Trek films as well. But it wasn’t her only project, 1987 saw her come on board in the legendary show Cheers, where she played Rebecca Howe.
Known best for his role as Colonel Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors could conceivably star in a movie about himself, but this movie would have to be called The Fifteen Million Dollar Man.
But the Colonel wasn’t Majors’ only major role. Others have included Heath Barkley in The Big Valley and his role as Colt Seavers in The Fall Guy. Reportadly, Majors has even another film, Spring Break ’83, which has yet to be released.
Starting back in 1955, Lee Merriwether was already earning accolades and showcasing her talent, but not on television or the silver screen just yet. Merriwether actually won the very prestigious Miss America pageant, a win which launched her into the envelopment of fame and stardom.
But Merriwether wasn’t just a pretty face, her well known sci-fi characters throughout the 1960s earned her wide fan base and resulted in her getting several Golden Globe awards. Her career subsequently lasted 50 years.
Long before the mighty wrestler and acting legend Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, there was one man who was consistently stealing the show. That man was Lex Luger, record breaker and in the ring trendsetter.
A man whose fame within professional wrestling is so well known that even after retirement he agreed to return to the WWE to work behind the scenes. In addition to his wrestling career, Luger was also a football player and was even a professional bodybuilder.
It’s hard to categorize Linda Ronstadt as just one type of professional singer. Ronstadt was such a talented singer and performer, that she released albums which fit under categories such as rock, country, opera, and even Latin.
Not only was this multi talented star releasing these kinds of music, she was being consistently praised for it. Ronstadt was the recipient of not just one, but an astounding ten Grammy Awards. Additionally, Ronstadt also received a Golden Globe and a Tony.
For those unfamiliar with our Scandinavian brethren and their contributions to the arts, this is actress Liv Ullman. Ullman is unique in that she is an accomplished actress both in her home country of Norway, but also in the United States where she won an Academy Award in 1972.
Ullman is considered to be the muse of one of the most famous Swedish directors, a man who goes by the name, Ingmar Bergman. Today Ullman is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Starting at the age of eight, Luke Halpin jumped into the limelight and began entertaining the masses from the glow of the big screen. Even though Halpin’s career lasted a full 30 years, there’s one role that he will always be remembered for.
That role is, of course, Sandy Ricks in the extremely popular Flipper movies. Not only was Halpin lucky enough to be an actor all his life, but most of his acting career involved him playing with dolphins.
Max Baer Jr.
There’s something that most actors, even some of the best, fear. That something is of course, typecasting, or when an actor is so good at playing a particular role or a particular character that his or her career revolves around them recreating that character for other roles.
While Max Baer Jr. had praise heaped upon him for his role as the dim-witted Jethro Bodine in the incredibly popular television series, The Beverly Hillbillies, he was typecast into that role.
When going over the comedy legends who have helped make Hollywood what it is today there is one name that shall not be forgotten! That name is of course the one, the only, the legendary Mel Brooks.
Starting in the 1950s Mel Brooks began working as not only an actor, but also as a writer, producer, director, and even a composer. His first big success was writing the comedy Get Smart, which became a huge sensation throughout the United States.
Michael Caine (or, as we should be saying, Sir Michael Caine) has been a beloved movie and television staple since he was only 20. As a result, people of all generations can point to a film starring Michael Caine whether that film be Alfie, Zulu, The Italian Job, or any of the Batman movies starring Christian Bale.
Caine’s talent is so obvious that he has made the list of actors who have been nominated for Academy Awards five consecutive decades.
Michael York seemed as though he was born to perform. In 1967, York stepped onto the stage for a Shakespeare play, and that seemed to settle any doubt in anyone’s mind. Michael York was going to be an actor.
He continued performing in plays and other on stage performances, before taking on the role of Logan in the incredibly popular Logan’s Run. Even today, York is involved with numerous projects, and regularly guest stars on popular shows like The Simpsons.
Known for his deep commanding voice on film, Morgan Freeman has become one of the most recognizable actors in Hollywood today. But for a long time it seemed that Freeman wasn’t going to make it in show business.
Even though he had been acting since 1964, Freeman didn’t catch his big break until 1987 when he was given his first Oscar nomination. Even then, it arguably wasn’t until his role in The Shawshank Redemption that he became a real star.