The 1940s were a dark decade dominated by war in Europe and Asia. While the US didn’t enter World War II until the end of 1941, it was not immune from the prevailing mood of angst.
As the Nazis threatened to eradicate jews, gypsies and other minorities, Europe’s loss was the US’s gain. Hollywood benefited hugely from an influx of talent – the exiles included actors and actresses, directors, producers, art directors and photographers, composers and musicians.
Not only did they help to reinvigorate the studios, they played a vital role in the development of film noir, a defining genre of the decade – a decade that produced, among other movies, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Mildred Pierce, The Third Man, Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, The Killers, Gilda, The Lady from Shanghai and To Have and Have Not.
This page is dedicated to the actresses – those who went on to become household names such as Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall, Lana Turner, Veronica Lake and Bette Davis. But also a host of others who never made it big or whose fame has since faded, like so many of the surviving stills that the studios circulated in their thousands. See which actresses you recognise. Then mouseover the photos and click on Read more to find out about them.
Just for fun, I’ve allocated each actress to one of three categories. The choice is entirely subjective:
- The good. The good include movie heroines and comediennes. Some actresses were just incredibly brave women either professionally or in their private lives or both.
- The bad. Badness can reflect the parts for which a star was typically cast or the role with which she is most closely associated. Or perhaps she couldn’t act or had a murky private life.
- The gorgeous. Almost all the actresses here were pretty stunning. Some though were so drop-dead-gorgeous they deserve a category all of their own. The bar is set pretty high.
Guess which actress I’ve allocated to each category and then click on the filter buttons to find out.
Most of the stills are in portrait format – well, they are portraits in one form or another. But here, to go with them, are a few landscape shots, and what landscapes they feature!