One of the first black starlets of the '50s and '60s, Eartha Kitt was a singer, dancer, actress and activist, born in 1927 in South Carolina to a poor family. By 1943, she exhibited enough talent to become a part of the Katherine Dunham Company and she worked with the company for five years. In 1950, she had her big Hollywood break and starred in several hit movies, including "St. Louis Blues" and "Anna Lucasta."
Kitt was not just one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood during the Golden Era; she also had a friendship with the iconic James Dean. The two shared an interracial friendship in a time in which segregation still reigned. In addition to acting and dancing, Kitt released "Santa Baby," which entered the US Top 10 at its peak. Eartha Kitt paved the way for female actresses of all races to succeed and be seen as equals in the talent industry regardless of skin color.
Born in 1907 to an average East Coast upbringing, Katharine Hepburn was the tomboy of Hollywood. She refused to conform to societal standards set by both Hollywood and America at the time, and she constantly challenged the definition of femininity and beauty. Starring in roles in films such as "The Philadelphia Story," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "The African Queen," Hepburn is the second most prolific Academy Award nominee, with twelve in total.
Even though she only married briefly before becoming a serious actress, she maintained a relationship with fellow actor and co-star Spencer Tracy for over two decades. Hepburn rose to the top, even when that proved difficult due to early trauma caused by family tragedy. Hepburn often took the role of a strong heroine lead in her films and created a new archetype for Hollywood: an independent woman who could hold her own but still wanted romance due to personal desire, not weakness.
Olivia de Havilland
Starring in both "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "Gone with the Wind" as the sweet, humble love interest, Olivia de Havilland still portrays this image with her classic, rosy smile. De Havilland is one of the few actresses from the Golden Age who is still alive, keeping her iconic legacy going. She has won two Academy Awards, one for "To Each His Own," the first of many post-war melodramas, and another for "The Heiress," where she portrayed a plain Jane spinster who is preyed on by a handsome fortune hunter. Although she has had a lengthy career spanning several decades, de Havilland is most known for portraying Melanie in "Gone with the Wind," alongside star Vivien Leigh. Even though her movies may be seen as outdated, her performances shine through as timeless.
Bleach blonde Lana Turner made her first appearance in film in 1937, and continued to remain a fixture on the big screen for the next thirty years. Born in 1921, Turner starred in many movies including "Imitation of Life," "The Bad and the Beautiful," and "The Postman Always Rings Twice." Despite having a tumultuous life – including an incident where her daughter murdered Lana's lover in a dispute – Turner still presented the image of beauty and grace even when life was bad. True to her glamour, the Academy of Contemporary Arts deemed her "the most glamorous woman in the history of international art." In addition to acting and radio work, Turner was also a pin-up girl, along the lines of Betty Grable and other icons. Throughout her entire life, Turner remained the epitome of class and beauty.