Contemporary Actors
Past Actors

Top Five Period Actors and Actresses From the Past

From the beginning of the golden era of movies, filmmakers have brought to the screen stories set in the past. There has always been something especially delightful about traveling through time via the silver screen. Many of Hollywood's glamourous stars of the past anchored their careers in costume dramas and wonderful historical pieces. We have noted our Top Ten Period Actors and Actresses from today, but thought it would only be fair to remember those actors and actresses from the last century of film who have also given us wonderful portrayals of characters from history. Without further adieu, we present our top five list of actors and actresses from the past who have graced the silver screen with their presence in period films:


AUDREY HEPBURN: Audrey Hepburn was born in 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. Her father was a wealthy English banker and her mother was a Dutch baroness. While vacationing with her mother in Holland, the Second World War broke out and Audrey spent the next few years under Nazi occupation where she suffered from depression and malnutrition. After the liberation, Audrey went to a ballet school in London and later began her career as a model, but was soon discovered as an actress. Audrey's style and elegance seem timeless. She was nominated for an Academy Award for "Roman Holiday" which she won, and also received nominations for "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Sabrina" and "The Nun's Story." She proved to be more than just a symbol of grace and beauty. She was named a Special Ambassador for UNICEF and devoted much of her free time to charity. She died in 1992 from colon cancer. Audrey Hepburn's period filmography includes:

Robin and Marian (1976)
My Fair Lady (1964)
The Unforgiven (1960)
War and Peace (1956)


KATHARINE HEPBURN: Katherine Hepburn was born in 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut. Her father was a physician and her mother had been a suffragette. As a young girl, she was a tomboy and loved spending time with her brother, until a tragic accident in 1921 took his life. After the tragedy, Katherine's parents continued to encourage her to develop and express her mind and she soon became attracted to theater. She began acting in plays on Broadway and eventually broke into movies. She is remembered for such films as "Morning Glory" for which she won an Academy Award, "Little Women," "The African Queen" and "On Golden Pond." Katharine Hepburn's period filmography includes:

Rooster Cogburn (1975)
The Trojan Women (1971)
The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)
The Lion in Winter (1968)
The African Queen (1951)
Song of Love (1947)
The Sea of Grass (1947)
Mary of Scotland (1936)
A Woman Rebels (1936)
The Little Minister (1936)
Little Women (1933)


VIVIEN LEIGH: Vivien Leigh was born in 1913 in Darjeeling, India. Her family stayed in India until the end of the First World War, when they moved back to England so that Vivien could obtain a proper education. While seeing a play in London, Vivien decided that she wanted to become an actress. She later met and married Herbert Leigh in 1932 and together had a child named Suzanne in 1933. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last and in 1937, she left her husband and soon became romantically attached to Laurence Olivier. While visiting Olivier on the set of "Wuthering Heights," Vivien met the famed Selznick brothers, who had begun filming "Gone with the Wind." The part of Scarlett O'Hara had not yet been cast, and she was invited to audition. Her role in the film catapulted her acting career. Not only was the film a huge success, but she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. She and Olivier married in 1941, but the glamourous actress' happiness was short-lived. She suffered two miscarriages and battled tuberculosis and depression throughout her life. Vivien died in 1967 after a severe bout of tuberculosis. Vivien Leigh's period filmography includes:

Ship of Fools (1965)
Anna Karenina (1948)
Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)
That Hamilton Woman (1941)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Fire Over England (1937)


LAURENCE OLIVIER: Laurence Olivier was born in 1907 in Surrey, England. He became popular as a Shakespearean actor and starred in several period films. In 1937, Laurence starred opposite Vivien Leigh in a special performance of "Hamlet" and the two wed in 1940. The pair also starred together in "Fire Over England,", "21 Days Together," and "That Hamilton Woman." They performed on stage alongside one another several times during their marriage of two decades. Laurence Olivier has been considered by many as the greatest actor of the twentieth century, and is remembered for such films as "Wuthering Heights," "Rebecca," "Hamlet" and "Richard III." He died in 1989 due to complications from a muscle disorder. Laurence Olivier's period filmography includes:


Lost Empires (1986)
Peter the Great (1986)
Last Days of Pompeii, The (1984)
Bounty, The (1982)
King Lear (1984)
Brideshead Revisited (1982)
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
Merchant of Venice, The (1973)
Lady Caroline Lamb (1972)
Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
David Copperfield (1969)
Khartoum (1966)
Othello (1965)
Spartacus (1960)
Devil's Disciple, The (1959)
Richard III (1955)
Queen is Crowned, A (1953)
Beggar's Opera, The (1953)
Hamlet (1948)
Henry V (1944)
That Hamilton Woman (1941)
Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Wuthering Heights (1939)
Conquest of the Air (1936)
As You Like It (1936)


ELIZABETH TAYLOR: Elizabeth Taylor was born in 1932 in London, England. Her parents were art dealers and her mother had been an actress. Upon the break of the Second World War, the family moved to Los Angeles where Elizabeth was encouraged by a family friend to take a screen test to become an actress. She was only ten years old when she appeared in her first film short, "There's One Born Every Minute." She has starred in such notable films as "National Velvet," "Life with Father," "Giant" with James Dean, and "Cleopatra." Her personal life has sadly been characterized by a number of unsuccessful marriages, high profile affairs and multiple medical problems. Elizabeth's period filmography includes:

Doctor Faustus (1967)
Cleopatra (1963)
Beau Brummel (1954)
Ivanhoe (1952)
Quo Vadis (1951)
Little Women (1949)
Life with Father (1947)