International Women's Day 2017

Classic Actresses Who Helped Shape Hollywood
Wed March 08, 2017 at 6:04 AM PST

We join the world today in celebrating International Women's Day (IWD) and are spotlighting some of Hollywood's greatest classic actresses who reflected this year's IWD message #BeBoldForChange. This rare set of images captures some of the best-known women of the day from the 1920s through the 1950s, in moments both candid and staged. 

Bessie Love

Bessie Love examining a part of a 35mm motion picture camera on a tripod

The Broadway Melody of 1929 actress and Oscar winner Bessie Love took an active role in the management of her career, including silent pictures, and worked up through the 1980s.

Anita Page

Full shot composite of  six Anita Pages' standing in front of a backing with an airplane, modeling the latest in various sportswear, circa 1928.

Born Anita Evelyn Pomares, silent film great Anita Page (The Flying Fleet) chose to retire from acting at the age of 23. Legend has it that at the height of her fame she received more fan mail than any other star in Hollywood. This composite image shows Page modeling six various sportswear looks in 1928.

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer, 1929, holding over sized "Sound on Disk" album.

Norma Shearer (The Last of Mrs. Cheyney) was at the forefront of technology in 1929 as she showed off this over-sized "Sound on Disk" album.

Jean Harlow

Full publicity shot of Jean Harlow on golf course holding club.

Jean Harlow (Red Dust) was an avid outdoorswoman who loved golfing, tennis, fishing and swimming.

Virginia Grey

Virginia Grey during her first days at MGM, circa 1937.  Photographed on location by Clarence Bull, she wears her sun suit, heels and appears to be learning about bow and arrow.

Virginia Grey worked steadily throughout her career and worked opposite such greats such as Joan Crawford in The Women, appeared in The Great Ziegfeld and had a long-term romance with Clark Gable.  But more importantly, upon her passing, Ann Rutherford (These Glamour Girls), who appeared with Grey in Whistling in the Dark remembered her a "nifty lady [who was] blonde and lovely."

Lena Horne

Portrait of Lena Horne in 1942

Lena Horne was just beginning her Hollywood screen career when she appeared in a small, uncredited role in Red Skelton's Panama HattieThe jazz great would go on to become a household name not only for her silky vocals, but also her passionate civil rights activism.

Lana Turner

Full shot of Lana Turner serving drinks from punch bowl to  World War II Service men in uniform, 1942.

Lana Tuner (Green Dolphin Street) began her acting career at 16 and graduated from high school in between filming obligations. Here, in 1942, she serves punch to World War II members of the armed forces. 

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters in Cairo

Legendary vocalist Ethel Waters performed the number "Buds Won't Bud" with famed musical star Jeanette MacDonald in 1942's Cairo.

Susan Peters and Lucille Ball

Susan Peters, seated in wheelchair, holding camera towards Lucille Ball, making funny face.

Good friends Susan Peters and Lucille Ball (Mame) spend the day fishing, with Lucy being ever the comedian. 

Elizabeth Taylor

Full shot of Elizabeth Taylor, swinging upside down from tree branch, aprox. 1944.

Who knew Elizabeth Taylor (National Velvet) would become a screen legend and outspoken HIV/AIDS activist when this snapshot was taken in 1944?

Denise Darcel

Denise Darcel in a behind-the-scenes photo with horse on the set of Westward the Women

Denise Darcel played former-showgirl-turned-pioneer Fifi Danon in the 1951 female-centric Western, Westward the Women.

Dorothy Dandridge

Dorothy Dandridge looks down from a staircase

Dorothy Dandridge broke ground as the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for the 1954 film Carmen Jones. She was also the first black woman to be featured on the cover of LIFE Magazine.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly hangs a star on her dressing room with Esther Williams

Princess-to-be Grace Kelly gets the star treatment from friend Esther Williams. Kelly was a Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee before she retired from acting to become Princess of Monaco at the age of 26.

Audrey Hepburn

Behind-the-scenes shot of Audrey Hepburn as Susy Hendrix pouring tea for Julie Herrod as Gloria.

Forever described as humble and kind, here Audrey Hepburn, one of the world's top A-list stars, pours tea for her co-star Julie Herrod behind-the-scenes on the set of Wait Until Dark. Hepburn, of course, always cared for the welfare of children as she would go on to become an ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). 

Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn wearing a large garden hat sitting outdoors

Coming in at #1 on the American Film Institute's Greatest American Screen Legends list, Katharine Hepburn was a force to be reckoned with. From Bringing Up Baby to Out of Africa, no one commanded a screen like Hepburn. Her career spanned 60+ years and included not only the silver screen but the stage and television. Her body of work will forever remain one of the great Hollywood legacies.