Oscar Actors: Best Actress–Training, Debut (Stage, Screen)

Research in Progress (May 7, 2021)

Best Actress Winners: 77 (in chronological order)

Janet Gaynor

Mary Pickford

Norma Shearer

Marie Dressler

Helen Hayes

Katharine Hepburn

Claudette Colbert

Bette Davis

Luise Rainer

Luise Rainer

Bette Davis

Vivien Leigh

Ginger Rogers

Joan Fontaine

Greer Garson

Jennifer Jones

Ingrid Bergman

Joan Crawford

Olivia De Havilland

Loretta Young, ND; child actress; parents separated

Jane Wyman

Olivia De Havilland

Judy Holliday

Vivien Leigh

Shirley Booth, No Data

Detailed

Audrey Hepburn

Grace Kelly

Anna Magnani

Joanne Woodward

Susan Hayward

Simone Signoret

Elizabeth Taylor

Sophia Loren

Anne Bancroft

Patricia Neal

Julie Andrews

Julie Christie

Elizabeth Taylor

Barbra Streisand

Maggie Smith

Glenda Jackson

Jane Fonda

Liza Minnelli

Glenda Jackson

Ellen Burstyn

Louise Fletcher

Faye Dunnaway

Diane Keaton

Jane Fonda

Sally Field

Sissy Spacek

Meryl Streep

Shirley MacLaine

Sally Field

Geraldine Page

Mary Matlin

Cher

Jodie Foster

Jessica Tandy

Kathy Bates

Jodie Foster

Emma Thompson

Holly Hunter

Jessica Lange

Susan Sarandon

Frances McDormand

Helen Hunt

Gwyneth Paltrow

Hilary Swank

Julia Roberts

Hallie Berry

Nicole Kidman

Charlize Theron

Hilary Swank

Reese Witherspoon

Helen Mirren

Marion Cottillard

Kate Winslet

Sandra Bullock

Natalie Portman

Meryl Streep

Jennifer Lawrence

Cate Blanchette

Julianne Moore

Brie Larson

Emma Stone

Frances McDormand

Olivia Colman

2019: Renee Zellweger

2020: Frances McDormand

Best Actress Winners: 77 (in alphabetical order)

Andrews, Julie

Bancroft, Anne

Bates, Kathy

Bergman, Ingrid

Berry, Hallie

Blanchette, Cate

Booth, Shirley

Bullock, Sandra

Burstyn, Ellen

Cher

Christie, Julie

Colbert, Claudette

Colman, Olivia

Cottillard, Marion

Crawford, Joan

Davis, Bette

De Havilland, Olivia

Dressler, Marie

Dunnaway, Faye

Field, Sally

Fletcher, Louise

Fonda, Jane

Fontaine, Joan

Foster, Jodie

Garson, Greer

Gaynor, Janet

Hayes, Helen

Hayward, Susan

Hepburn, Audrey

Hepburn, Katharine

Holliday, Judy

Hunt, Helen

Hunter, Holly

Jackson, Glenda

Jones, Jennifer

Keaton, Diane

Kelly, Grace

Kidman, Nicole

Lange, Jessica

Larson, Brie

Lawrence, Jennifer

Leigh, Vivien

Loren, Sophia

MacLaine, Shirley

Magnani, Anna

Matlin, Marlee

McDormand Frances

Minnelli, Liza

Mirren, Helen

Moore, Julianne

Neal, Patricia

Page, Geraldine

Paltrow, Gwyneth

Pickford, Mary

Portman, Natalie

Rainer, Luise

Roberts, Julia

Rogers, Ginger

Sarandon, Susan

Shearer, Norma

Signoret, Simone

Smith, Maggie

Spacek, Sissy

Stone, Emma

Streep, Meryl

Streisand, Barbra

Swank, Hilary

Tandy, Jessica

Taylor, Elizabeth

Theron, Charlize

Thompson, Emma

Winslet, Kate

Witherspoon, Reese

Woodward, Joanne

Wyman, Jane

Young, Loretta

Zellweger, Rene


Booth, Shirley

Booth’s debut on Broadway was in Hell’s Bells, opposite Humphrey Bogart on January 26, 1925. Booth first attracted notice as the female lead in the comedy hit Three Men on a Horse, which ran two years from 1935 to 1937. During the 1930s and 1940s, she achieved popularity in dramas, comedies and musicals. She acted with Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story (1939), originated the role of Ruth Sherwood in the 1940 Broadway production of My Sister Eileen, and performed with Ralph Bellamy in Tomorrow the World (1943).

Cotillard

Cotillard’s career as a film actress began in the mid-1990s, with minor roles in Philippe Harel’s The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to Be Kissed (1994), which was her feature film debut at the age of 18, and in Arnaud Desplechin’s My Sex Life… or How I Got into an Argument, and Coline Serreau’s La Belle Verte (both 1996). Also in 1996, Cotillard had her first leading role in the television film Chloé, directed by Dennis Berry, with Cotillard starring as a teenage runaway who is forced into prostitution, opposite Anna Karina.

In 1998, she appeared in Gérard Pirès’ action comedy Taxi, playing Lilly Bertineau, the girlfriend of delivery boy Daniel, played by Samy Naceri. The film was a hit in France and Cotillard was nominated for a César Award for Most Promising Actress.[14] She reprised the role in Taxi 2 (2000) and Taxi 3 (2003).

Cotillard ventured into science fiction with Alexandre Aja’s post-apocalyptic romantic drama, Furia, released in 1999, a year in which she also starred in the Swiss war drama War in the Highlands (La Guerre dans le Haut Pays), for which she won the Best Actress Award at the Autrans Film Festival in 1999.

In 2001, she appeared in Pierre Grimblat’s film Lisa, playing the title role and younger version of Jeanne Moreau’s character, alongside Benoît Magimel and Sagamore Stévenin. She also starred in Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s film Pretty Things (Les Jolies Choses), adapted from the work of feminist writer Virginie Despentes, portraying twins of completely opposite characters, Lucie and Marie; for that role, she was again nominated for a César Award for Most Promising Actress. In 2002, Cotillard starred in Guillaume Nicloux’s thriller A Private Affair (Une Affaire Privée), in which she portrayed the mysterious Clarisse.

Cotillard started the transition into Hollywood when she obtained a supporting role in Tim Burton’s film Big Fish playing Joséphine, the French wife of Billy Crudup’s character, William Bloom. The production was her first American film and gave her the chance to work with well-established actors such as Helena Bonham Carter, Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, Jessica Lange and Allison Lohman.[1] Big Fish was a critical and commercial success.[17] She also starred in 2003 the French romantic comedy film Love Me If You Dare (Jeux d’enfants), as Sophie Kowalsky, the daughter of Polish immigrants. The film was directed by Yann Samuel and was a box office hit in France.

In 2004, she won the Chopard Trophy of Female Revelation at the Cannes Film Festival, and appeared in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement, as the vengeful Tina Lombardi, for which she won César Award for Best Supporting Actress, and the mystery thriller Innocence, as Mademoiselle Éva; both films were acclaimed by critics.

In 2005, Cotillard starred in 6 films: Steve Suissa’s Cavalcade, Abel Ferrara’s Mary, Richard Berry’s The Black Box (La Boîte Noire); Love Is in the Air (Ma vie en l’air), Burnt Out (Sauf le respect que je vous dois), and Stéphan Guérin-Tillié’s Edy.

In 2006, she played significant roles in 4 features, including Ridley Scott’s romantic dramedy A Good Year, in which she portrayed Fanny Chenal, a French café owner in a small Provençal town, opposite Russell Crowe as a Londoner who inherits a local property. She played Nadine in the Belgian comedy Dikkenek, alongside Mélanie Laurent, and the role of Nicole in Fair Play.

Gaynor, Janet

After graduating from San Francisco Polytechnic High School in 1923, Gaynor spent the winter vacationing in Melbourne, Florida, where she did stage work. Upon returning to San Francisco, Gaynor, her mother, and stepfather moved to Los Angeles, to pursue an acting career.

She enrolled at Hollywood Secretarial School, supporting herself by working in a shoe store and later as a theatre usher. Her mother and stepfather continued to encourage her to become an actress and she began making the rounds to the studios (with her stepfather) to find film work.

Gaynor won her first professional acting job on December 26, 1924, aged 18, as an extra in a Hal Roach comedy short. This led to more extra work in feature films and shorts for Film Booking Offices of America and Universal.

Universal eventually hired her as a stock player for $50 a week. Six weeks after being hired by Universal, an executive at Fox Film Corporation offered her screen test for a supporting role in the The Johnstown Flood (1926). Her performance caught the attention of Fox executives, who signed her to a five-year contract and began to cast her in leading roles.  Gaynor was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars (along with Joan Crawford, Dolores del Río, Mary Astor, and others),

 

Hepburn, Audrey

Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston or, later, Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1929 at number 48 Rue Keyenveld in Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium. She was known to her family as Adriaantje.

Hepburn’s grandfather, Aarnoud van Heemstra, was the Governor of the Dutch colony of Dutch Guiana.

Hepburn’s mother, Baroness Ella van Heemstra (12 June 1900 – 26 August 1984), was a Dutch noblewoman. She was the daughter of Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra, who served as Mayor of Arnhem from 1910 to 1920 and as Governor of Dutch Suriname from 1921 to 1928, and Baroness Elbrig Willemine Henriette van Asbeck (1873–1939). At the age of 19, Ella had married Jonkheer Hendrik Gustaaf Adolf Quarles van Ufford, an oil executive based in Batavia, Dutch East Indies, where they subsequently lived. They had two sons, Jonkheer Arnoud Robert Alexander Quarles van Ufford (1920–1979) and Jonkheer Ian Edgar Bruce Quarles van Ufford (1924–2010), before divorcing in 1925.

Her father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston (21 November 1889 – 16 October 1980), was a British subject born in Auschitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. He was the son of Victor John George Ruston, of British and Austrian background and Anna Wels, who was of Austrian origin and born in Kovarce. In 1923–1924, Joseph had been an Honorary British Consul in Semarang in the Dutch East Indies, and prior to his marriage to Hepburn’s mother, he had been married to Cornelia Bisschop, a Dutch heiress. Although born with the surname Ruston, he later double-barrelled his name to the more “aristocratic” Hepburn-Ruston, perhaps at Ella’s insistence,mas he mistakenly believed himself descended from James Hepburn, third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Hepburn’s parents were married in Batavia, Dutch East Indies, in September 1926. Ruston worked for a trading company, but after the marriage, the couple moved to Europe, where he began working for a loan company; reportedly tin merchants MacLaine, Watson and Company in London and then Brussels.  After a year in London, they moved to Brussels, where he had been assigned to open a branch office. After three years spent travelling between Brussels, Arnhem, The Hague and London, the family settled in the suburban Brussels municipality of Linkebeek in 1932.

Hepburn’s early childhood was sheltered and privileged. As a result of her multinational background and travelling due to her father’s job, she learned 6 languages: Dutch and English from her parents, and later French, German, Spanish, and Italian.

In the mid-1930s, Hepburn’s parents recruited and collected donations for the British Union of Fascists. Joseph left the family abruptly in 1935 after a “scene” in Brussels when Adriaantje (as she was known in the family) was 6; later she often spoke of the effect on a child of being “dumped” as “children need two parents.” Joseph moved to London, where he became more deeply involved in Fascist activity and never visited his daughter abroad. Hepburn later said that her father’s departure was “the most traumatic event of my life.

Her mother moved with Hepburn to her family’s estate in Arnhem; her half-brothers Alex and Ian (then 15 and 11) were sent to The Hague to live with relatives. Joseph wanted her to be educated in England, so in 1937, Hepburn was sent to live in Kent, England, where she, known as Audrey Ruston or “Little Audrey”, was educated at a small independent school in Elham.

Hepburn’s parents officially divorced in 1938, when she was 9.  In the 1960s, Hepburn renewed contact with her father after locating him in Dublin through the Red Cross; although he remained emotionally detached, Hepburn supported him financially until his death.

After Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, Hepburn’s mother moved her daughter back to Arnhem in the hope that, as during the First World War, the Netherlands would remain neutral and be spared a German attack. While there, Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945. She had begun taking ballet lessons during her last years at boarding school, and continued training in Arnhem under the tutelage of Winja Marova, becoming her “star pupil”. After the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Hepburn used the name Edda van Heemstra, because an “English-sounding” name was considered dangerous during the German occupation. Her family was profoundly affected by the occupation: “had we known that we were going to be occupied for five years, we might have all shot ourselves. We thought it might be over next week… six months… next year… that’s how we got through.”

In 1942, her uncle, Otto van Limburg Stirum (husband of her mother’s older sister, Miesje), was executed in retaliation for an act of sabotage by the resistance movement; while he had not been involved in the act, he was targeted due to his family’s prominence in Dutch society. Hepburn’s half-brother Ian was deported to Berlin to work in a German labor camp, and her other half-brother Alex went into hiding to avoid the same fate.

Around that time Hepburn performed silent dance performances to raise money for the Dutch resistance effort. It was long believed that she participated in the Dutch resistance itself,[8] but in 2016 the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ reported that after extensive research it had not found any evidence of such activities.[29] However, a 2019 book by author Robert Matzen provided evidence that she had supported the resistance by giving “underground concerts” to raise money, delivering the underground newspaper, and taking messages and food to downed Allied flyers hiding in the woodlands north of Velp. She also volunteered at hospital that was the centre of resistance activities in Velp, and her family temporarily hid a paratrooper in their home during the Battle of Arnhem. In addition to other traumatic events, she witnessed the transportation of Dutch Jews to concentration camps, later stating that “more than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on the train. I was a child observing a child.”

After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse, and Arnhem was damaged during Operation Market Garden. During the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, the Germans blocked the resupply routes of the Dutch people’s already limited food and fuel supplies as retaliation for railway strikes that were held to hinder German occupation. Hepburn’s family resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits; she developed acute anemia, respiratory problems and oedema as a result of malnutrition. The Van Heemstra family was financially affected by the occupation, during which many of their properties, including their principal estate in Arnhem, were badly damaged or destroyed.

MacLaine, Shirley

As a toddler, she had weak ankles and would fall over with the slightest misstep, so her mother decided to enroll her in ballet class at the Washington School of Ballet at the age of 3. This was the beginning of her interest in performing. Strongly motivated by ballet, she never missed a class. In classical romantic pieces like Romeo and Juliet and The Sleeping Beauty, she played the boys’ roles due to being the tallest and the absence of males in the class. Eventually, she had a substantial female role as the fairy godmother in Cinderella; while warming up backstage, she broke her ankle, but then tightened the ribbons on her toe shoes and proceeded to dance the role all the way through before calling for an ambulance. Ultimately she decided against making a career of professional ballet because she had grown too tall and was unable to acquire perfect technique. She didn’t have the ideal body type, lacking the requisite “beautifully constructed feet” of high arches, high insteps and a flexible ankle. Also slowly realizing ballet’s propensity to be too all-consuming, and ultimately limiting, she moved on to other forms of dancing, acting and musical theater.

She attended Washington-Lee High School, where she was on the cheerleading squad and acted in school theatrical productions.

The summer before senior year of high school, MacLaine went to New York City to try acting on Broadway, having minor success in the chorus of Oklahoma! After she graduated, she returned and was in the dancing ensemble of the Broadway production of Me and Juliet (1953–1954). She became an understudy to actress Carol Haney in The Pajama Game; in May 1954 Haney injured her ankle during a matinee, and MacLaine replaced her. A few months later, with Haney still injured, film producer Hal B. Wallis saw MacLaine’s performance, and signed her to work for Paramount Pictures.

MacLaine made her film debut in Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955), for which she won the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year. This was followed by her role in the Martin and Lewis film Artists and Models (also 1955). Soon afterwards, she had a role in Around the World in 80 Days (1956). This was followed by Hot Spell and leading role in Some Came Running (both 1958), for which she gained her first Oscar nomination and Golden Globe nomination.

Mirren, Helen

Aged 18, Mirren auditioned for the National Youth Theatre (NYT) and was accepted. Aged 20, she played Cleopatra in the NYT production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Old Vic, a role which Mirren says “launched my career,” and led to her signing with the agent Al Parker.

After the National Youth Theatre, Mirren was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), where she played Castiza in Trevor Nunn’s 1966 staging of The Revenger’s Tragedy, Diana in All’s Well That Ends Well (1967), Cressida in Troilus and Cressida (1968), Rosalind in As You Like It (1968), Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1970), Tatiana in Gorky’s Enemies at the Aldwych (1971), and the title role in Miss Julie at The Other Place (1971). In 1972 and 1973, Mirren worked with Peter Brook’s International Centre for Theatre Research, and joined the group’s tour in North Africa and the US, during which they created The Conference of the Birds. She then rejoined the RSC, playing Lady Macbeth at Stratford in 1974 and at the Aldwych Theatre in 1975.

 

Page, Geraldine

At age 5, Page relocated with her family to Chicago, Illinois. Raised a Methodist, Page and her family were active parishioners of the Englewood Methodist Church in Chicago, where she had her first foray into acting within the church’s theatre group, playing Jo March in a 1941 production of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

After graduating from Chicago’s Englewood Technical Prep Academy, she attended the Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago (now at DePaul University), with the intention of becoming a visual artist or pianist.  After graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1945, Page studied acting at the Herbert Berghof School and the American Theatre Wing in New York City, studying with Uta Hagen for seven years, and then at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg.

During this time, Page would return to Chicago in the summers to perform in repertory theatre in Lake Zurich, Illinois, where she and fellow actors had established their own theater company. While attempting to establish her career, she worked various odd jobs, including as a hat-check girl, theater usher, lingerie model, and  factory laborer.

Pickford, Mary

On April 19, 1909, the Biograph Company director D. W. Griffith screen-tested her at the company’s New York studio for a role in the nickelodeon film Pippa Passes. The role went to someone else but Griffith was immediately taken with Pickford. She quickly grasped that movie acting was simpler than the stylized stage acting of the day. Most Biograph actors earned $5 a day but, after Pickford’s single day in the studio, Griffith agreed to pay her $10 a day against a guarantee of $40 a week.

Pickford, like all actors at Biograph, played both bit parts and leading roles, including mothers, ingenues, charwomen, spitfires, slaves, Native Americans, spurned women, and a prostitute. As Pickford said of her success at Biograph: I played scrubwomen and secretaries and women of all nationalities … I decided that if I could get into as many pictures as possible, I’d become known, and there would be a demand for my work.

She appeared in 51 films in 1909 – almost one a week – with her first starring role being in The Violin Maker of Cremona opposite future husband Owen Moore. While at Biograph, she suggested to Florence La Badie to “try pictures,” invited her to the studio and later introduced her to D. W. Griffith, who launched La Badie’s career.

In January 1910, Pickford traveled with a Biograph crew to Los Angeles. Other film companies wintered on the West Coast, escaping the weak light and short days that hampered winter shooting in the East. Pickford added to her 1909 Biographs (Sweet and Twenty, They Would Elope, and To Save Her Soul) with films made in California.

Movie Stardom Beginning: Actors were not listed in the credits in Griffith’s company. Audiences noticed and identified Pickford within weeks of her first film appearance. Exhibitors, in turn, capitalized on her popularity by advertising on sandwich boards that a film featuring “The Girl with the Golden Curls,” “Blondilocks,” or “The Biograph Girl” was inside.

Roberts. Julia

Roberts made her first big screen appearance at age 21 in the film Satisfaction (1988), alongside Liam Neeson and Justine Bateman, as a band member looking for a summer gig. She had previously performed a small role opposite her brother Eric, in Blood Red (she has two words of dialogue), filmed in 1987, although it was not released until 1989.

Her first TV appearance was as a juvenile rape victim in the initial season of the series Crime Story with Dennis Farina, in the episode titled “The Survivor,” broadcast on February 13, 1987.

Her first critical success with moviegoers was her performance in the independent film Mystic Pizza in 1988; that same year, she had a role in the fourth-season finale of Miami Vice. In 1989, she was featured in Steel Magnolias, as a young bride with diabetes, and received both her first Oscar nomination (as Best Supporting Actress) and first Golden Globe Award win for her performance.

Luck: Roberts became known to worldwide audiences when she starred with Richard Gere in the Cinderella–Pygmalionesque story, Pretty Woman, in 1990, playing an assertive freelance hooker with a heart of gold. Roberts won the role after Michelle Pfeiffer, Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Karen Allen, and Daryl Hannah (co-star in Steel Magnolias) turned it down.

The role also earned her a second Oscar nomination, this time as Best Actress, and second Golden Globe Award win, as Motion Picture Best Actress. Pretty Woman saw the highest number of ticket sales in the U.S. ever for a romantic comedy, and made $463.4 million worldwide.

Winslet, Kate

Winslet attended St Mary and All Saints’ Church of England primary school. Living in a family of actors inspired her to pursue acting from young age. She and her sisters participated in amateur stage shows at school and at local youth theatre named Foundations.

When she was 5, Winslet made her first stage appearance as Mary in her school’s production of the Nativity. She was as an overweight child; nicknamed “blubber” by her schoolmates and bullied for her looks; she did not let this defeat her. At 11, Winslet was accepted into the Redroofs Theatre School in Maidenhead. The school also functioned as agency and took students to London to audition for acting jobs.

She appeared in a Sugar Puffs commercial and dubbed for foreign films. At school, she was made head girl, took part in productions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and played the lead role of Wendy Darling in Peter Pan. She worked simultaneously with the Starmaker Theatre Company in Reading. She participated in over 20 stage productions, but was rarely the lead due to her weight. She played key roles as Miss Agatha Hannigan in Annie, the Mother Wolf in The Jungle Book, and Lena Marelli in Bugsy Malone.

In 1991, within two weeks of finishing her GCSE examinations, Winslet made her screen debut, age 16, as one of cast members of the BBC science fiction TV series Dark Season. Her part was that of Reet, a schoolgirl who helps her classmates fight against a sinister man distributing free computers to school. She did not earn much from the job, and a lack of funds forced Winslet to leave Redroofs. To support herself, she worked at a delicatessen. In 1992, she had small part in the TV film Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, an adaptation of Angus Wilson’s satirical novel. Winslet, who weighed 84 kg; 185 lb at the time, played the daughter of an obese woman. While filming, an off-hand comment from the director Diarmuid Lawrence about the likeness between her and the actress who played her mother prompted Winslet to lose weight.

She next played the young daughter of a bankrupt self-made man (played by Ray Winstone) in the TV sitcom Get Back (1992–93). She also had guest role in 1993 episode of the medical drama series Casualty.

Hunt, Helen

Hunt appeared as a marijuana-smoking classmate on an episode of The Facts of Life. In 1982, Hunt played a young woman who, while on PCP, jumps out of a second-story window, in a made-for-TV film called Desperate Lives (a scene which she mocked during a Saturday Night Live monologue in 1994), and she was cast on the ABC sitcom It Takes Two, which lasted only one season. In 1983, she starred in Bill: On His Own, with Mickey Rooney and played Tami Maida in the fact-based production Quarterback Princess; both were made-for television films. She also had a recurring role on St. Elsewhere as Colleen Williams, the girlfriend of Jack “Boomer” Morrison, and had a notable guest appearance as a cancer-stricken mother-to-be in a two-part episode of Highway to Heaven.

By the late 1980s, Hunt had begun appearing in studio films for teenage audience. Her first major film role was that of a punk rock girl in the sci-fi film Trancers (1984). She played the friend of an army brat in the comedy Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985), with Sarah Jessica Parker and Shannen Doherty, and appeared as the daughter of a woman on the verge of divorce in Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), alongside Kathleen Turner. In 1987, Hunt starred with Matthew Broderick in Project X, as a graduate student assigned to care for chimpanzees used in a secret Air Force project. In 1988, she appeared in Stealing Home, as Hope Wyatt, the sister of Billy Wyatt, played by Mark Harmon and a cast featuring Jodie Foster and Harold Ramis. Next of Kin (1989) featured her as the pregnant wife of a respectable lawman, opposite Patrick Swayze and Liam Neeson.

 

Sarandon, Susan

In 1969, Sarandon went to a casting call for the picture Joe (1970) with her then-husband Chris Sarandon. Although he did not get a part, she was cast in a major role of a disaffected teen who disappears into the seedy underworld.

Between 1970 and 1972, she appeared in the soap operas A World Apart and Search for Tomorrow, playing Patrice Kahlman and Sarah Fairbanks, respectively. She appeared in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and played the female lead in The Great Waldo Pepper (also 1975), opposite Robert Redford. She was twice directed by Louis Malle, in Pretty Baby (1978) and Atlantic City (1981), for which she earned her first Oscar Award nomination

 

Shearer, Norma

In 1918, when her father’s company collapsed, her older sister, Athole, suffered her first mental breakdown. Forced to move into a small, dreary house in a “modest” Montreal suburb, the sudden plunge into poverty strengthened Shearer’s determined attitude: “At an early age, I formed a philosophy about failure. Perhaps an endeavor, like my father’s business, could fail, but that didn’t mean Father had failed.”

Within weeks, Edith had left her husband and moved into a cheap boarding house with her two daughters. A few months later, encouraged by her brother, who believed his niece should try her luck in “the picture business” then operating largely on the East Coast, Edith sold her daughter’s piano and bought three train tickets for New York City.  There was letter of introduction for Norma from a local theatre owner, to Florenz Ziegfeld, who was preparing new season of his famous Ziegfeld Follies.

In January 1920, the three Shearers arrived in New York, each dressed up for the occasion. “I had my hair in little curls”, Shearer remembered, “and I felt very ambitious and proud.” Her heart sank, however, when she saw their rented apartment: “There was one double bed, a cot with no mattress and a stove with one gas jet. The communal bathroom was at the end of a long, dimly lit hallway. Athole and I took turns sleeping with mother in the bed, but sleep was impossible anyway—the elevated trains rattled right past our window every few minutes.”

The introduction to Ziegfeld proved disastrous. He turned Shearer down flat, reportedly calling her a “dog”, and criticized her crossed eyes and stubby legs. She continued doing the rounds with her determination undimmed: “I learned that Universal Pictures was looking for 8 pretty girls to serve as extras. Athole and I showed up and found 50 girls ahead of us. An assistant casting director walked up and down looking us over. He passed up the first three and picked the fourth. The fifth and sixth were unattractive, but the seventh would do, and so on, down the line until seven had been selected—and he was still some ten feet ahead of us. I did some quick thinking. I coughed loudly, and when the man looked in the direction of the cough, I stood on my tiptoes and smiled right at him. Recognizing the awkward ruse to which I’d resorted, he laughed openly and walked over to me and said, ‘You win, Sis. You’re Number Eight.'”

Other extra parts followed, including one in Way Down East, directed by D. W. Griffith. Taking advantage of a break in filming and standing shrewdly near a powerful arc light, Shearer introduced herself to Griffith and began to confide her hopes for stardom. “The Master looked down at me, studied my upturned face in the glare of the arc, and shook his eagle head. Eyes no good, he said. A cast in one and far too blue; blue eyes always looked blank in close-up. You’ll never make it, he declared, and turned solemnly away.”

Undeterred, Shearer risked some of her savings on a consultation with Dr. William Bates, a pioneer in the treatment of strabismus. He wrote out a series of muscle-strengthening exercises that after many years of daily practice would successfully conceal Shearer’s cast for long periods of time on the screen. She spent hours in front of the mirror, exercising her eyes and striking poses that concealed or improved the physical flaws noted by Ziegfeld or Griffith. At night, she sat in the galleries of Broadway theatres, studying the entrances of Ina Claire, Lynn Fontanne, and Katharine Cornell.

Desperate for money, Shearer resorted to modeling, which proved successful. On her modeling career, she commented: “I could smile at a cake of laundry soap as if it were dinner at the Ritz. I posed with a strand of imitation pearls. I posed in dust-cap and house dress with a famous mop, for dental paste and for soft drink, holding my mouth in a whistling pose until it all but froze that way.” She became the new model for Kelly-Springfield Tires, was bestowed with the title “Miss Lotta Miles” and depicted seated inside the rim of a tire, smiling down at traffic from a large floodlit billboard.

A year after her arrival in New York, she received a break in film: fourth billing in a B-movie titled The Stealers (1921). In January 1923, Shearer received an offer from Louis B. Mayer Pictures, a studio in Northeast Los Angeles. Irving Thalberg had moved to Louis B. Mayer Pictures as vice president on February 15, 1923, and sent a telegram to Shearer’s agent, inviting her to come to the studio. After 3 years of hardship, she signed a contract, $250 a week for six months, with options for renewal and a test for a leading role in a major film called The Wanters.

Shearer left New York around February 17. Accompanied by her mother, she felt “dangerously sure of herself”[20] as her train neared Los Angeles. When she was not welcomed, even an hour after her arrival, she realized that there would be no star treatment from her new studio. Dispirited, she allowed Edith to hail a taxi.

Shearer went to the Mayer Company on Mission Road to meet with Thalberg. Shearer was momentarily thrown by their confused introduction, but soon found herself “impressed by his air of dispassionate strength, his calm self-possession and the almost black, impenetrable eyes set in a pale olive face”.

Shearer was less impressed, however, with her first screen test: “The custom then was to use flat lighting, to throw a great deal of light from all directions, in order to kill all shadows that might be caused by wrinkles or blemishes. But the strong lights placed on either side of my face made my blue eyes look almost white, and by nearly eliminating my nose, made me seem cross-eyed. The result was hideous.”

The day after the test had been screened for Mayer and Thalberg, cameraman Ernest Palmer found Shearer frantic and trembling in the hallway. Speaking with her, he was struck by her “fierce, almost raging disappointment”, and after viewing the test himself, agreed that she had been “poorly handled”. Under Palmer’s own supervision, a second test was made and judged a success by the studio brass. The lead in The Wanters seemed hers, until the film’s director objected, finding her “unphotogenic.” Again, Shearer was to be disappointed, relegated to a minor role.

She accepted her next role in Pleasure Mad, knowing “it was well understood that if I didn’t deliver in this picture, I was through”. After only a few days of shooting, things were not looking good. Shearer was struggling. Finally, the film’s director complained to Mayer that he could get nothing out of the young actress, and when summoned to Mayer’s office, she fully expected the axe to fall: “But to my surprise, Mr. Mayer’s manner was paternal. ‘There seems to be a problem,’ he said, ‘tell me about it.’ I told him that the director had shouted at me and frightened me. Nobody had warned me that Mayer was a better actor than any of us, and I was unprepared for what happened next. He staged an alarming outburst, screaming at me, calling me a fool and a coward, accusing me of throwing away my career because I couldn’t get on with a director. It worked. I became tearful, but obstinate. ‘I’ll show you!’ I said to him. ‘You’ll see!’ Delighted, Mayer resumed the paternal act. ‘That’s what I wanted to hear’, he said, smiling.”

Turning Point: The apprenticeship served Shearer well. On April 26, 1924, Louis B. Mayer Pictures was merged with Metro Pictures and the Samuel Goldwyn Company to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Shearer was cast with Lon Chaney and John Gilbert in the studio’s first official production, He Who Gets Slapped. The film was a success and contributed to the meteoric rise of the new company, and to Shearer’s visibility. By late 1925, she was carrying her own films, and was one of MGM’s biggest attractions, a bona fide star. She signed a new contract, which paid $1,000 a week and would rise to $5,000 over the next 5 years.