Women with Character to Spare

by peterdi315 | created - 20 Apr 2012 | updated - 28 Feb 2014 | Public

Some all-time great character actresses (many of whom double as leading ladies). Alphabetically.

1. Jean Adair

Actress | Arsenic and Old Lace

Slight, birdlike Jean Adair came to the screen after playing a succession of crotchety or maternal roles on the stage. She was born Violet McNaughton in Ontario, Canada, and absolved her acting studies in Chicago. After extensive touring with local stock companies and a few seasons on the ...

2. Khandi Alexander

Actress | CSI: Miami

Khandi Alexander was born on September 4, 1957 in New York City, New York, USA. She is an actress, known for CSI: Miami (2002), Treme (2010) and Patriots Day (2016).

3. Sara Allgood

Actress | How Green Was My Valley

Dublin-born Sara Allgood started her acting career in her native country with the famed Abbey Theatre. From there she traveled to the English stage, where she played for many years before making her film debut in 1918. Her warm, open Irish face meant that she spent a lot of time playing Irish ...

4. Judith Anderson

Actress | Rebecca

Dame Judith Anderson was born Frances Margaret Anderson on February 10, 1897 in Adelaide, South Australia. She began her acting career in Australia before moving to New York in 1918. There she established herself as one of the greatest theatrical actresses and was a major star on Broadway ...

5. Eve Arden

Actress | Our Miss Brooks

Eve was born just north of San Francisco in Mill Valley and was interested in show business from an early age. At 16, she made her stage debut after quitting school to joined a stock company. After appearing in minor roles in two films under her real name, Eunice Quedens, she found that the stage ...

6. Peggy Ashcroft

Actress | A Passage to India

Academy Award-winning, legendary English actress - who maintained her status in the British acting elite for decades. Made a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956. Almost always on stage, she appeared rarely in film, her first being The Wandering Jew (1933). On stage she was cast...

7. Mary Astor

Actress | The Maltese Falcon

Mary Astor was born, Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke, on May 3, 1906 in Quincy, Illinois to a German immigrant father, Otto Ludwig Langhanke, and an American mother from Illinois, Helen Marie Vasconcellos, of Portuguese and Irish ancestry. Her parents were very ambitious for her as they recognized ...

8. Angela Baddeley

Actress | Upstairs, Downstairs

Angela Baddeley was born on July 4, 1904 in West Ham, London, England as Madeline Angela Clinton-Baddeley. She was an actress, known for Upstairs, Downstairs (1971), The Speckled Band (1931) and Tom Jones (1963). She was married to Glen Byam Shaw and Stephen Thomas. She died on February 22, 1976 in...

9. Hermione Baddeley

Actress | The Secret of NIMH

A brash character actress who specialized in cinema, television, and theater, Hermione Youlanda Ruby Clinton-Baddeley was born on November 13, 1906 in Broseley, Shropshire. She was the youngest of four sisters - including Angela Baddeley, also an actress - and her half-brother, Very Rev William ...

10. Fay Bainter

Actress | Jezebel

Fay Bainter's career began as a child performer in 1898. For some time, she was a member of the traveling cast of the Morosco Stock Company in Los Angeles. In 1912, she made her Broadway debut in 'The Rose of Panama', but this and her subsequent play 'The Bridal Path' (1913), were conspicuous ...

11. Kathy Baker

Actress | Picket Fences

For someone who has made an award-winning impact in all three mediums (stage, film and TV), actress Kathy Baker has been strangely denied all-out stardom, yet continues to demonstrate her versatility in whatever material comes her way.

The comely blonde was born Katherine Whitton Baker in Midland, ...

12. Christine Baranski

Actress | Chicago

Christine Baranski was born on May 2, 1952 in Buffalo, New York, USA as Christine Jane Baranski. She is an actress, known for Chicago (2002), Mamma Mia! (2008) and Into the Woods (2014). She was previously married to Matthew Cowles.

13. Ethel Barrymore

Actress | None But the Lonely Heart

Ethel Barrymore was the second of three children seemingly destined for the actor's life of their parents Maurice and Georgiana. Maurice Barrymore had emigrated from England in 1875, and after graduating from Cambridge in law had shocked his family by becoming an actor. Georgiana Drew of ...

14. Kathy Bates

Actress | Misery

Multi-talented Kathleen Doyle Bates was born on June 28, 1948, and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the youngest of three girls born to Bertye Kathleen (Talbot), a homemaker, and Langdon Doyle Bates, a mechanical engineer. Her grandfather was author Finis L. Bates. Kathy has English, as well as...

15. Allyce Beasley

Actress | Moonlighting

Allyce Beasley was born on July 6, 1951 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA as Allyce Tannenberg. She is an actress, known for Moonlighting (1985), Legally Blonde (2001) and Loaded Weapon 1 (1993). She has been married to Jim Bosche since January 15, 1999. She was previously married to ...

16. Cate Blanchett

Actress | Carol

Cate Blanchett was born on May 14, 1969 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, to June (Gamble), an Australian teacher and property developer, and Robert DeWitt Blanchett, Jr., an American advertising executive, originally from Texas. She has an older brother and a younger sister. When she was ten ...

17. Joan Blondell

Actress | Grease

With blonde hair, big blue eyes and a big smile, Joan was usually cast as the wisecracking working girl who was the lead's best friend. Born into vaudeville to a comic named Eddie, Joan was on the stage when she was three years old. For years, she toured the circuit with her parents and joined a ...

18. Mary Boland

Actress | The Women

Lively, buxom character actress Mary Boland made a name for herself playing vacuous or pixillated motherly types during the 1930's. One of her most memorable performances was as the addle-brained Mrs. Rimplegar of Three Cornered Moon (1933), who gives away her family fortune to a swindler because ...

19. Beulah Bondi

Actress | It's a Wonderful Life

Character actress Beulah Bondi was a favorite of directors and audiences and is one of the reasons so many films from the 1930s and 1940s remain so enjoyable, as she was an integral part of many of the ensemble casts (a hallmark of the studio system) of major and/or great films, including The Trail...

20. Shirley Booth

Actress | Come Back, Little Sheba

Character actress Shirley Booth could play everything in all facets of show business, whether it was a smart-mouthed cashier on radio's "Duffy's Tavern", the sassy maid on TV's Hazel (1961) or the pathetic woman in Come Back, Little Sheba (1952). For those who only know her through her sitcom, it ...

21. Pamela Britton

Actress | D.O.A.

Pamela Britton was born Armilda Jane Owen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her mother was Ethel Owen, a prominent stage, radio and early television actress. Pam first used Gloria Jane Owen as her stage name, but not wanting to trade on her mother's reputation, chose Pamela from a British book, and then ...

22. Billie Burke

Actress | The Wizard of Oz

Billie Burke was born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke on August 7, 1885 in Washington, D.C. Her father was a circus clown, and as a child she toured the United States and Europe with the circus (before motion pictures and after the stage, circuses were the biggest form of entertainment in the...

23. Spring Byington

Actress | You Can't Take It with You

The possessor of one of Hollywood's gentlest faces and warmest voices, and about as sweet as Tupelo honey both on-and-off camera, character actress Spring Byington was seldom called upon to play callous or unsympathetic (she did once play a half-crazed housekeeper in Dragonwyck (1946)). Although ...

24. Joyce Carey

Actress | Brief Encounter

Genteel London-born actress Joyce Carey came from a distinguished theatrical family. Her own lengthy career on the stage began in 1916 when she played Princess Katherine in an all-female ensemble of "Henry V". She made her debut on the legitimate stage in a small part in the West End production of ...

25. Helena Bonham Carter

Actress | Les Misérables

Helena Bonham Carter is an actress of great versatility, one of the UK's finest and most successful.

Bonham Carter was born May 26, 1966 in Golders Green, London, England, the youngest of three children of Elena (née Propper de Callejón), a psychotherapist, and Raymond Bonham Carter, a merchant ...

26. Mary Carver

Actress | Arachnophobia

Mary Carver was born on May 3, 1924 in Los Angeles, California, USA as Mary Carvellas. She was an actress, known for Arachnophobia (1990), Simon & Simon (1981) and The Rockford Files (1974). She was married to Joseph Sargent. She died on October 18, 2013 in Woodland Hills, California.

27. Mary Clare

Actress | The Lady Vanishes

Mary Clare was a versatile British character actress of redoubtable presence. On the London stage from 1910 (some sources say 1912), she later alternated her theatrical appearances with acting on screen. During the 1920's and 30's, she specialised in stately characters and villainesses in period ...

28. Toni Collette

Actress | Little Miss Sunshine

Toni Collette is an Academy Award-nominated Australian actress, best known for her roles in The Sixth Sense (1999) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

Collette was born Toni Collett (she later added an "e") on November 1, 1972, in Blacktown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. She is the first of three...

29. Constance Collier

Actress | Rope

In a career that covered six decades, Constance Collier evolved into one of Broadway and London's finest tragediennes during the first half of the 1900s. While the regal, dark-featured beauty who bore classic Romanesque features enjoyed a transcontinental career like a number of her contemporaries,...

30. Frances Conroy

Actress | Six Feet Under

Veteran stage actress Frances Conroy was introduced and encouraged by her parents to explore the elements of theater. Born in 1953 in Monroe, Georgia, she attended high school in Long Island and experienced classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse as a teenager. The pale, blue-eyed redhead also ...

31. Jennifer Coolidge

Actress | A Cinderella Story

Jennifer Coolidge is a versatile character actress and experimental comedienne, best known for playing Stifler's mom in American Pie (1999).

She was born on August 28, 1961, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, to Gretchen (Knauff) and Paul Constant Coolidge, a plastics manufacturer. Young Coolidge was ...

32. Gladys Cooper

Actress | My Fair Lady

Gladys Cooper was the daughter of journalist William Frederick Cooper and his wife Mabel Barnett. As a child she was very striking and was used as a photographic model beginning at six years old. She wanted to become an actress and started on that road in 1905 after being discovered by Seymour ...

33. Ellen Corby

Actress | The Waltons

Ellen Corby was born Ellen Hansen on June 3, 1911, in Racine, Wisconsin. She began her career as a bit player in the film Speed Limited (1935) in 1940. Ellen would not be seen on the big screen again until 1945 in Cornered (1945). In 1946, she appeared in 14 films, although mostly in small, minor ...

34. Joan Cusack

Actress | Grosse Pointe Blank

Actress Joan Cusack was born in New York City, New York, and is the daughter of Nancy (née Carolan) and Dick Cusack. Her father was an advertising executive, writer and actor, and her mother was a math teacher. Her siblings - Susie Cusack, John Cusack, Ann Cusack and Bill Cusack also act. Her ...

35. Jane Darwell

Actress | The Grapes of Wrath

Missouri-born Jane Darwell was the daughter of a railroad president and grew up on a ranch in Missouri. She nursed ambitions to be an opera singer, but put it off because of her father's disapproval (she eventually changed her name to Darwell from the family name of Woodward so as not to "sully" ...

36. Judy Davis

Actress | The Dressmaker

Judy Davis was born April 23, 1955 in Perth, Western Australia. She was educated at Loreto Convent and the Western Institute of Technology, and graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 1977. She came to prominence as Sybylla Melvyn in the film adaptation of Miles Franklin's ...

37. Rosemary DeCamp

Actress | The Bob Cummings Show

RoseMary De Camp was the quintessential small-town American mother, a calming and steadying presence in scores of films in the 1940s and 1950s. She came to Hollywood after a successful career on the stage and in radio, making her film debut in 1941. Though she worked for many studios, she was most ...

38. Ruth Donnelly

Actress | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Feisty, ebullient character comedienne who, for three decades, enlivened Hollywood films with her drollery and quick-fire repartee. The daughter of a newspaper editor and music critic, Ruth made her stage debut in the chorus of the touring production 'The Quaker Girl' in 1913. Four years later, she...

39. Marie Dressler

Actress | Min and Bill

Once you saw her, you would not forget her. Despite her age and weight, she became one of the top box office draws of the sound era. She was 14 when she joined a theater group and she went on to work on stage and in light opera. By 1892, she was on Broadway and she later became a star comedienne on...

40. Margaret Dumont

Actress | Duck Soup

Margaret Dumont would probably consider it a tragedy that she is best-known for her performances as the ultimate straight woman in seven of the Marx Brothers' films (including most of their best). By all accounts she never understood their jokes (offscreen and on), which is of course a major reason...

41. Mildred Dunnock

Actress | The Trouble with Harry

Petite American character actress who was celebrated for her definitive portrayal of long-suffering Linda Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", a part she played opposite Lee J. Cobb at the Morosco Theatre for 742 consecutive performances between 1949 and 1950. Mildred recreated her role ...

42. Hope Emerson

Actress | Caged

Although there may have been "bigger" actresses in Hollywood's history, there were few "larger" than Hope Emerson. At 6' 2" and 230 pounds, she towered over many of her male co-stars, and her size, brusque voice and stern demeanor typed her for a career in villainous roles, such as her star turn as...

43. Georgia Engel

Actress | Mary Tyler Moore

Georgia Engel was born on July 28, 1948 in Washington, District of Columbia, USA as Georgia Bright Engel. She is an actress, known for Mary Tyler Moore (1970), Everybody Loves Raymond (1996) and Open Season (2006).

44. Mary Field

Actress | Ball of Fire

Mary Field was born on June 10, 1909 in New York City, New York, USA. She was an actress, known for Ball of Fire (1941), The Prince and the Pauper (1937) and A Lady Takes a Chance (1943). She was married to James Madison Walters II. She died on June 12, 1996 in Fairfax, Virginia, USA.

45. Geraldine Fitzgerald

Actress | Wuthering Heights

Geraldine Fitzgerald was the only actress to appear as both Laurence Olivier's wife and Rodney Dangerfield's mother-in-law, which surely qualifies her as running the gamut (if not the gauntlet, in the latter case) of A to Z for co-starring with cinema immortals. The Irish lass appeared in many ...

46. Nina Foch

Actress | The Ten Commandments

A leading lady of the 1940s, the tall and blonde Foch usually played cool, aloof and often foreign, women of sophistication. As film roles became harder to find, Foch proved to be versatile in many areas. She was a panelist on several TV quiz shows, worked as George Stevens' assistant director for ...

47. Constance Ford

Actress | A Summer Place

Constance Ford began her career in television in the 1950s, performing in live television dramas on Studio One in Hollywood (1948), Armstrong Circle Theatre (1950), Goodyear Playhouse (1951), and other acclaimed series, and playing recurring characters in four afternoon serials; "Rose Peabody" in ...

48. Alice Ghostley

Actress | To Kill a Mockingbird

Whether portraying a glum, withering wallflower, a drab and dowdy housewife, a klutzy maid or a cynical gossip, eccentric character comedienne Alice Ghostley had the ability to draw laughs from the skimpiest of material with a simple fret or whine. Making a name for herself on the Tony-winning ...

49. Hermione Gingold

Actress | Gigi

One of stage, screen, radio and TV's most delightful, inimitable eccentrics, Hermione Ferdinanda Gingold was born the daughter of an upscale Austrian financier and English homemaker. She made her stage debut in 1908, thus beginning a long, commanding presence in London playing everything from ...

50. Lillian Gish

Actress | The Night of the Hunter

Lillian Diana Gish was born on October 14, 1893 in Springfield, Ohio. Her father James Lee Gish was an alcoholic who caroused around, was rarely at home and left the family to more or less to fend for themselves. To help make ends meet, Lillian, her sister Dorothy Gish and their mother Mary Gish ...

51. Whoopi Goldberg

Actress | Ghost

Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in the Chelsea section of Manhattan on November 13, 1955. Her mother, Emma (Harris), was a teacher and a nurse, and her father, Robert James Johnson, Jr., was a clergyman. Whoopi's recent ancestors were from Georgia, Florida, and Virginia. She worked in...

52. Dody Goodman

Actress | Grease

Her quivery, high-pitched, Southern-cracked tones were once described as sounding like "a Tweetie Pie cartoon bird strangling on peanut butter." Just the absurdity of that description fits comedienne Dody Goodman to a tee. One did not know what to make of her, but she could certainly induce ...

53. Ruth Gordon

Actress | Rosemary's Baby

When Ruth Gordon convinced her father, a sea captain, to let her pursue acting she came to New York and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She acted in a few silents made at Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1915. She made her Broadway debut in "Peter Pan" as Nibs the same year. The next 20 ...

54. Gloria Grahame

Actress | The Bad and the Beautiful

Gloria Hallward, an acting pupil of her mother (stage actress and teacher Jean Grahame), acted professionally while still in high school. In 1944 Louis B. Mayer saw her on Broadway and gave her an MGM contract under the name Gloria Grahame. Her debut in the title role of Blonde Fever (1944) was ...

55. Rachel Griffiths

Actress | Muriel's Wedding

Her mother, Anna Griffiths, is an art consultant. Her uncle is a Jesuit priest. Has two older brothers. One brother, Ben, is a ski instructor. Lived on the Gold Coast, Queensland until age five, then moved to Melbourne. Attended Star of the Sea Catholic Girls' College, did well at school and ...

56. Margaret Hamilton

Actress | The Wizard of Oz

Margaret Hamilton was born December 9, 1902 in Cleveland, Ohio to Jennie and Walter Hamilton. She later attended Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and practiced acting doing children's theater while a Junior League of Cleveland member. Margaret had already built her resume with several...

57. Marcia Gay Harden

Actress | Mystic River

Marcia Gay Harden was born on August 14, 1959, in La Jolla, California, the third of five children. Her mother, Beverly (Bushfield), was a homemaker, and her father, Thad Harold Harden, was in the military. The family relocated often -- she first became interested in the theater when the family was...

58. Valerie Harper

Actress | Mary Tyler Moore

Making people laugh is only one facet of Valerie Harper's career, which extends from the stage to television and feature films. A native of Suffern, New York -- "I was born to suffer" -- Harper began her career as a dancer with the corps de ballet at Radio City Hall during its spectacular heyday. ...

59. Eileen Heckart

Actress | The Bad Seed

Versatile, award-winning character actress Eileen Heckart, with the lean, horsey face and assured, fervent gait, was born Anna Eileen Stark on March 29, 1919, in Columbus, Ohio. An only child, she lived with her mother after her parents separated at age 2. Her childhood was an acutely unhappy one. ...

60. Wendy Hiller

Actress | Murder on the Orient Express

Wendy Hiller, daughter of Frank and Marie Hiller, was born on 15th August 1912 in Bramhall, near Stockport, Cheshire, England. She was educated at Winceby House School, Bexhill then moved on to Manchester Repertory Theatre. She appeared on stage in Sir John Barry's tour of Evensong, then as Sally ...

61. Celeste Holm

Actress | All About Eve

Celeste Holm was an only child, born into a home where her mother was a painter and her father worked in insurance. She would study acting at the University of Chicago and make her stage debut in 1936. Her Broadway debut came when she was 19. She appeared in many successful plays, including "The ...

62. Josephine Hull

Actress | Harvey

Josephine Sherwood changed her name after marrying stage actor Shelly Hull in 1910. She studied drama at Radcliffe College -- much to the dismay of her parents -- and first worked on the stage in a stock company in Boston. Her husband died in 1919, aged 35, of Spanish influenza. Josephine left the ...

63. Linda Hunt

Actress | The Year of Living Dangerously

Veteran character actress Linda Hunt was Born April 2, 1945 in Morristown, New Jersey to Raymond Davy Hunter and Elsie Doying Hunter. She attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, and the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago (now part of DePaul University). Her film debut was in Robert Altman's Popeye (...

64. Marsha Hunt

Actress | Pride and Prejudice

Stardom somehow eluded this vastly gifted actress. Had it not perhaps been for her low-level profile compounded by her McCarthy-era blacklisting in the early 1950s, there is no telling what higher tier Marsha Hunt might have attained. Perhaps her work was not flashy enough, or too subdued, or ...

65. Martita Hunt

Actress | Great Expectations

Popular British character actress known for her rich cluster of queens, dowagers, shrews and evildoers, Martita Hunt was born on a ranch in Argentina to British parents, but moved with her family to England at age 10 for her formal education. On stage at age 21 with the Liverpool Repertory Theatre,...

66. Kim Hunter

Actress | A Streetcar Named Desire

Her father, Donald Cole, was a consulting engineer, and died in 1926 when Kim was only 3 years old. Her mother, Grace Lind, once performed as a concert pianist. She had one brother who was eight years older than she, and she was educated at Miami Beach High.

According to an in-depth article on Kim ...

67. Ruth Hussey

Actress | The Philadelphia Story

A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Drama, Ruth Hussey's first show-business job was as a fashion commentator on a local radio station. She journeyed to New York City, where she was signed as a model by the world-famous Powers agency. She obtained some stage roles with touring ...

68. Anjelica Huston

Actress | The Witches

Anjelica Huston was born on July 8, 1951 in Santa Monica, California, to prima ballerina Enrica "Ricki" (Soma) and director and actor John Huston. Her mother, who was from New York, was of Italian descent, and her father had English, Scottish, and Scots-Irish ancestry. Huston spent most of her ...

69. Glenda Jackson

Actress | Women in Love

Few in modern British history have come as far or achieved as much from humble beginnings as Glenda Jackson has. From acclaimed actress to respected MP (Member of Parliament), she is known for her high intelligence and meticulous approach to her work. She was born to a working-class household in ...

70. Glynis Johns

Actress | Mary Poppins

Husky voiced Glynis is the daughter of actor Mervyn Johns. Best known for her light comedy roles and often playful flirtation, Glynis was born in South Africa while her parents were on tour there (her mother was a concert pianist) but was always proud of her Welsh roots and took delight in playing ...

71. Cherry Jones

Actress | Signs

Cherry Jones was born on November 21, 1956 in Paris, Tennessee, USA. She is an actress, known for Signs (2002), The Village (2004) and The Perfect Storm (2000). She has been married to Sophie Huber since 2015.

72. Gemma Jones

Actress | Sense and Sensibility

Gemma Jones was born on December 4, 1942 in Marylebone, London, England as Jennifer R. Jones. She is an actress, known for Sense and Sensibility (1995), You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) and Bridget Jones's Diary (2001).

73. Katy Jurado

Actress | High Noon

Katy Jurado was born María Cristina Estela Marcela Jurado García into a wealthy family on January 16, 1924, in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her early years were spent amid luxury until her family's lands were confiscated by the federal government for redistribution to the landless peasantry. Despite the ...

74. Julie Kavner

Actress | The Simpsons

Julie Kavner was born on September 7, 1950 in Los Angeles, California, USA as Julie Deborah Kavner. She is an actress, known for The Simpsons (1989), The Simpsons Movie (2007) and Click (2006).

75. Lila Kedrova

Actress | Alexis Zorbas

Lila Kedrova was born on October 9, 1918 in Petrograd, Russia. She was an actress, known for Zorba the Greek (1964), Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1984) and The Tenant (1976). She was married to Richard Howard. She died on February 16, 2000 in Sault Ste. Marie...

76. Eartha Kitt

Actress | The Emperor's New Groove

An out-of-wedlock child, Eartha Kitt was born in the cotton fields of South Carolina. Kitt's mother was a sharecropper of African-American and Cherokee Native American descent. Her father's identity is unknown. Given away by her mother, she arrived in Harlem at age nine. At 15, she quit high school...

77. Nancy Kulp

Actress | The Beverly Hillbillies

Nancy Kulp wore many hats: Publicity person, actress, linguist, would-be politician and teacher. Originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Kulp attended college in Florida, then headed for Hollywood to work in publicity for the movies, not star in them. Soon after arriving in Hollywood, Kulp was ...

78. Swoosie Kurtz

Actress | Bubble Boy

Swoosie is the only child of author Margo and Frank Kurtz. As her father was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, she moved often during her school years, living in eight different states. At the University of Southern California she majored in drama; later she attended the London Academy of Music and ...

79. Diane Ladd

Actress | Wild at Heart

Southern belle Diane Ladd was born Rose Diane Ladner in Meridian, Mississippi. Her mother, Mary Bernadette (Anderson), was a former actress, from a Norwegian and German immigrant family, and her father, Preston Paul Ladner, was a veterinarian, from a family with deep roots in the American South. ...

80. Elsa Lanchester

Actress | Witness for the Prosecution

Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was born into an unconventional a family at the turn of the 20th century. Her parents, James "Shamus" Sullivan and Edith "Biddy" Lanchester, were socialists - very active members of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in a rather broad sense and did not believe in the ...

81. Angela Lansbury

Actress | The Manchurian Candidate

British character actress, long in the United States. The daughter of an actress and the granddaughter of a high-ranking politician, Lansbury studied acting from her youth, departing for the United States as the Second World War began. She was contracted by MGM while still a teenager and nominated ...

82. Queen Latifah

Actress | Chicago

Often considered hip-hop's first lady (though some would attribute that to Roxanne Shanté), the woman behind the moniker Queen Latifah was born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970, in East Orange, New Jersey. She is the daughter of Rita (Bray), a teacher, and Lancelot Owens, Sr. She came from a ...

83. Melissa Leo

Actress | The Fighter

Melissa Leo was born on September 14, 1960 in New York City, New York, USA as Melissa Chessington Leo. She is an actress and producer, known for The Fighter (2010), 21 Grams (2003) and Oblivion (2013).

84. Piper Laurie

Actress | Carrie

Piper Laurie was born Rosetta Jacobs in Detroit, Michigan, on January 22, 1932, to Charlotte Sadie (Alperin) and Alfred Jacobs, a furniture dealer. Her father was a Polish Jewish immigrant and her mother was of Russian Jewish descent. Her father moved the family to Los Angeles, California, when she...

85. Cloris Leachman

Actress | The Last Picture Show

The record-breaking actress set a record when at age 82, she appeared on Dancing with the Stars (2005). Cloris Leachman was born on April 30, 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa to Berkeley Claiborne "Buck" Leachman and the former Cloris Wallace. Her father's family owned a lumber company, Leachman Lumber Co....

86. Viveca Lindfors

Actress | Stargate

Ms. Lindfors was a Swedish-born actress whose stage and screen career in the U.S. and Sweden spanned more than half a century. She was brought to Hollywood in 1946 by Warner Brothers in the hope that she would be a new Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman. She appeared with Ronald Reagan in her first ...

87. Marion Lorne

Actress | Strangers on a Train

Forever embraced as the mumbling, bumbling Aunt Clara on the Bewitched (1964) television series, endearing character actress Marion Lorne had a five-decade-long career on the stage before ever becoming a familiar TV household name.

Born Marion Lorne MacDougall on August 12, 1883 (other sources list ...

88. Jane Lynch

Actress | Glee

Jane Lynch was born on July 14, 1960 in Dolton, Illinois, USA as Jane Marie Lynch. She is an actress, known for Glee (2009), Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006). She was previously married to Lara Embry.

89. Amy Madigan

Actress | Field of Dreams

In the 1960s, Amy attended St. Philip Neri grammar school and Aquinas High School, both in Chicago, where she performed in school plays and was known as the school tomboy. In the early 1970s, Amy was featured in Playboy Magazine wearing only jelly, to promote her music band, Jelly. Amy is the ...

90. Marjorie Main

Actress | The Egg and I

Her father was a minister, and when she joined a local stock company as a youngster she changed her name to avoid embarrassing her family. She worked in vaudeville and debuted on Broadway in 1916. Her film debut was in A House Divided (1931). She repeated her stage role in Dead End (1937) as Baby ...

91. Nancy Marchand

Actress | The Sopranos

Nancy Marchand's mother, a pianist, sent her shy daughter to acting classes in hopes of breaking her out of her shell. As a student at Carnegie Tech (Carnegie Mellon University), she studied the works of William Shakespeare and the other great playwrights and, upon graduation, set off to New York ...

92. Penny Marshall

Actress | Laverne & Shirley

Penny Marshall was born Carole Penny Marshall in the Bronx, New York, on October 15, 1943. The Libra is 5' 6 1/2", with brown hair and green eyes. She is the daughter of Marjorie (Ward), a tap dance teacher, and Anthony "Tony" Marshall, an industrial film director. She is the younger sister of ...

93. Elaine May

Actress | Small Time Crooks

Elaine May was born on April 21, 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA as Elaine Iva Berlin. She is an actress and writer, known for Small Time Crooks (2000), A New Leaf (1971) and Ishtar (1987). She was previously married to David L. Rubinfine, Sheldon Harnick and Marvin May.

94. Mercedes McCambridge

Actress | All the King's Men

Mercedes McCambridge is a highly-talented radio performer who won a best supporting Actress Oscar for her film debut.

Mercedes McCambridge was born in Joliet, Illinois, to Marie (Mahaffry) and John Patrick McCambridge, a farmer. She was of mostly Irish (with a small amount of English and German) ...

95. Hattie McDaniel

Actress | Gone with the Wind

After working as early as the 1910s as a band vocalist, Hattie McDaniel debuted as a maid in The Golden West (1932). Her maid-mammy characters became steadily more assertive, showing up first in Judge Priest (1934) and becoming pronounced in Alice Adams (1935). In this one, directed by George ...

96. Butterfly McQueen

Actress | Gone with the Wind

Thelma McQueen attended public school in Augusta, Georgia and graduated from high school in Long Island, New York. She studied dance with Katherine Dunham, Geoffrey Holder, and Janet Collins. She danced with the Venezuela Jones Negro Youth Group. The "Butterfly" stage name, which does describe her ...

97. Una Merkel

Actress | 42nd Street

Una Merkel began her movie career as stand-in for Lillian Gish in the movie The Wind (1928). After that, she performed on Broadway before she returned to movies for the D.W. Griffith film Abraham Lincoln (1930). In her early years, before gaining a few pounds, she looked like Lillian Gish, but ...

98. Ethel Merman

Actress | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Born in the Astoria section of Queens, New York City, Ethel Merman surely is the pre-eminent star of 'Broadway' musical comedy. Though untrained in singing, she could belt out a song like quite no one else, and was sought after by major songwriters such as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. Having ...

99. Laurie Metcalf

Actress | Lady Bird

Laurie Metcalf was born June 16, 1955 in Carbondale, Illinois, the oldest of three children of Libby (Mars), a librarian, and James Metcalf, a budget director. She was raised in Edwardsville, Illinois. Laurie attended Illinois State University, where she obtained her bachelor of arts in theater in ...

100. Mo'Nique

Actress | Precious

Monique received a standing ovation when she stepped on stage for the first time in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, giving her confidence to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. After numerous stand-up performances, she took a leap forward with one of the starring roles in The Parkers (1999)...