Famous Film & Theater Personalities Of The 19th Century

The 19th century, especially the later part, saw the development of several exciting aspects in the theater industry. A wide range of movements—Romanticism, melodrama, Naturalism, and Realism, among others—swept across Europe and the US. Playwright Alexandre Dumas and dramatist Augustin Eugène Scribe were among the pioneers who greatly influenced theatrical productions in the 19th century. English stage actor Henry Irving was a prominent figure in European theater and became the first actor to be awarded a knighthood, indicating full acceptance into the higher circles of British society. Several innovations were introduced in theatrical productions during this era, and William Charles Macready was one of the main innovators. The later part of the 19th century saw the development of photography and films, with the inventor Thomas Edison playing a major role in the progress of early cinema. An associate of Edison, Alfred Clark was the first to make moving pictures with innovations like continuity, plot, trained actors and special effects in the later years of the century. Another film pioneer, William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson—also associated with Edison—devised an early motion picture camera. This section provides you information about the life and works of Famous Film & Theater Personalities of the 19th Century.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin.
Famous As: Comic Actor
Birthdate: April 16, 1889
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Walworth, London, England
Died: December 25, 1977

Cinema lovers around the world hold Charlie Chaplin in high esteem. One of the biggest stars of the silent film era and an icon, he left the audience in splits with his comedic performances. Even today, his performances in movies like Modern Times and The Gold Rush are considered classic. The legendary actor was also a writer, director and producer.

 2 Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton.
Famous As: Actor, Director
Birthdate: October 4, 1895
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Piqua, Kansas, United States
Died: February 1, 1966

Buster Keaton was an American comedian, filmmaker, actor, and stunt performer. Regarded as one of the greatest actor-directors of all time, Keaton was renowned for his physical comedy. Counted among the greatest stars of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute, Buster Keaton's films remain highly regarded. His 1926 film The General was admired by actors like Orson Welles.

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 3 James Cagney

James Cagney.
Famous As: Actor, Dancer
Birthdate: July 17, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City
Died: March 30, 1986

James Cagney was an American dancer and actor who won the Academy Award for his performance in the 1942 musical, Yankee Doodle Dandy. In 1984, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the entertainment industry. In 1999, he was named in the American Film Institute's Greatest Male Stars of the Classical Hollywood Cinema list.

 4 Mae West

Mae West.
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 17, 1893
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bushwick
Died: November 22, 1980
Mae West began her career as a child actor in vaudeville. She later appeared in films such as You Done Me Wrong and Go West, Young Man. She became famous for her signature double entendres and sexual liberty she projected on screen. She also wrote books and plays later.
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 5 Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel.
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 10, 1895
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wichita
Died: October 26, 1952

Hattie McDaniel was an American actress, comedian, and singer-songwriter. She became the first African-American to be honored with an Academy Award when her portrayal of Mammy earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Also a radio performer, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American woman to express her skills as a singer on the radio in the US.

 6 Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford.
Famous As: Actress, Producer, Screenwriter
Birthdate: April 8, 1892
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Toronto
Died: May 29, 1979

Academy Award-winning Canadian-American actor Gladys Marie Smith, better known by her pseudonym, Mary Pickford, was also one of the co-founders of Pickford–Fairbanks Studios and United Artists. She and 35 others co-founded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was also known as "America's Sweetheart" of silent films.

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 7 Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire.
Famous As: Dancer
Birthdate: May 10, 1899
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Omaha
Died: June 22, 1987

Fred Astaire was an American actor, television presenter, dancer, choreographer, and singer. Widely regarded as the most influential dancer in film history, Astaire was known for his innovation, perfectionism, and an uncanny sense of rhythm. Also known for his fashion sense, Fred Astaire remained a male fashion icon throughout his career, which spanned more than seven decades.

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 8 Gloria Swanson

Gloria Swanson.
Birthdate: March 27, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died: April 4, 1983

Actress and producer, Gloria Swanson, appeared in dozens of silent films in the 1920s and became a prominent Hollywood figure. As a teenager, she ventured into acting by chance and became a popular face soon after. After establishing herself as an actress, she became a filmmaker as well and is considered one of the film industry's pioneering women filmmakers.

 9 John Ford

John Ford.
Famous As: Film Director & Producer
Birthdate: February 1, 1894
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cape Elizabeth
Died: August 31, 1973

John Ford was an American naval officer and film director. The recipient of five Oscars, Ford is renowned for directing films like The Searchers and Stagecoach. He also holds the record for winning the most number of Academy Awards (four) under the Best Director category.John Ford is widely considered one of the most influential and important filmmakers of his generation.

 10 Charles Laughton

Charles Laughton.
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 1, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Died: December 15, 1962
Charles Laughton is best known for his Academy Award-winning performance in The Private Life of Henry VIII and his Academy Award-nominated roles in Mutiny on the Bounty and Witness for the Prosecution. He played Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was also a skilled Shakespearean theater actor.

 11 Frank Capra

Frank Capra.
Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: May 18, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy
Died: September 3, 1991
Frank Capra was a filmmaker and writer responsible for making several American award-winning films of the 1930s and 1940s. After being born into a poor Italian family, Capra went on to become one of Hollywood's most influential directors of the 1930s; his rags-to-riches story continues to inspire many, with historians labeling him the American Dream personified.

 12 Buffalo Bill

Buffalo Bill.
Famous As: Hunter
Birthdate: February 26, 1846
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Scott County
Died: January 10, 1917
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was a legendary showman and bison hunter who had also been a Union soldier. He began working as a freight carrier at 11 and later performed in Wild West-themed shows. He later formed Buffalo Bill's Wild West and toured across the U.S. and Europe.

 13 D. W. Griffith

D. W. Griffith.
Famous As: American director
Birthdate: January 22, 1875
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Crestwood, Kentucky, United States
Died: July 23, 1948

 14 George Burns

George Burns.
Birthdate: January 20, 1896
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: March 9, 1996

George Burns was an American actor, comedian, singer, and writer. Characterized by his cigar-smoke punctuation and arched eyebrow, which remained relevant for more than 75 years, Burns was one of the few entertainers to have achieved an equal amount of success in film, television, vaudeville, and radio. He has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 15 John Barrymore

John Barrymore.
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 15, 1882
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: May 29, 1942
John Barrymore, father of actor Drew Barrymore, began his career as a stage actor, appearing in plays such as Hamlet. He was nicknamed “the Great Profile” and starred in films such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Sherlock Holmes. He struggled with alcoholism throughout his life.

 16 Will Rogers

Will Rogers.
Famous As: Vaudeville Performer, Humorist
Birthdate: November 4, 1879
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oologah, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma)
Died: August 15, 1935

 17 Jack Benny

Jack Benny.
Famous As: Comedian, Vaudevillian
Birthdate: February 14, 1894
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S
Died: December 26, 1974
Benjamin Kubelsky, better known as Jack Benny, was an American vaudeville violinist who later soared to fame with the radio/TV comedy show The Jack Benny Program. He became famous for his signature expression “Well!” He also appeared in films such as The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Mr. Broadway.

 18 Lionel Barrymore

Lionel Barrymore.
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 28, 1878
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: November 15, 1954

One of the earliest members of the famous Barrymore family of actors, Lionel Barrymore remains best known for his portrayal of Mr. Potter in the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life. Unlike many of his descendants, Barrymore also composed music. For his contribution to motion picture and radio, Barrymore was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 19 Cecil B. DeMille

Cecil B. DeMille.
Famous As: Film Director, Producer
Birthdate: August 12, 1881
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ashfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died: January 21, 1959

Cecil B. DeMille was an American filmmaker. DeMille is widely regarded as a founding father of the cinema of the United States. He is also considered the most successful filmmaker in the history of American cinema. The recipient of several prestigious awards, DeMille's work has influenced several filmmakers. The Cecil B. DeMille Award is named in his honor. 

 20 Al Jolson

Al Jolson.
Famous As: Actor, Singer
Birthdate: May 26, 1886
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Seredžius
Died: October 23, 1950

Singer, comedian, and actor Al Jolson was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer" at the peak of his career. Known for his brash and extroverted performances, he is credited to have played a major role in defining the modern musical. He was the first star to entertain troops overseas during World War II and was posthumously awarded the Medal for Merit.

 21 Ethel Barrymore

Ethel Barrymore.
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 15, 1879
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Philadelphia
Died: June 18, 1959

 22 George Cukor

George Cukor.
Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: July 7, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Died: January 24, 1983

 23 Jimmy Durante

Jimmy Durante.
Famous As: Actor, Comedian, Singer, Pianist
Birthdate: February 10, 1893
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, United States
Died: January 29, 1980

Jimmy Durante was an American comedian, actor, singer, and pianist. Widely regarded as one of America's most popular and familiar personalities of all time, Durante was often characterized by his Lower East Side accent, gravelly speech, and a prominent nose. Also known for his charitable work, Durante worked closely with Fraternal Order of Eagles, which raises money for abused children.

 24 Samuel Goldwyn

Samuel Goldwyn.
Famous As: Film Producer
Birthdate: August 17, 1879
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Warsaw
Died: January 31, 1974

 25 Billie Burke

Billie Burke
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 7, 1884
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Died: May 14, 1970

 26 Josephine Earp

Josephine Earp
Famous As: actor
Birthdate: 1861 AD
Birthplace: Brooklyn
Died: December 19, 1944

 27 Duke Kahanamoku

Duke Kahanamoku
Famous As: Swimmer, Surfer, Actor, Water polo player
Birthdate: August 24, 1890
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Honolulu
Died: January 22, 1968

 28 Jean Renoir

Jean Renoir.
Famous As: Film Director, Actor, Producer
Birthdate: September 15, 1894
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 12, 1979

Jean Renoir was a French film director, screenwriter, and producer. The son of the prominent painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jean was one of the first filmmakers to be known as an auteur. He started working during the silent film era and made more than 40 silent films. In 1975, he received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award.

 29 Dadasaheb Phalke

Dadasaheb Phalke.
Famous As: Father of Indian Cinema
Birthdate: April 30, 1870
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tryambakeshwar, Bombay Presidency
Died: February 16, 1944

 30 Harpo Marx

Harpo Marx.
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: November 23, 1888
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City, United States
Died: September 28, 1964
Harpo Marx was the second-oldest of the Marx Brothers, namely Groucho and Chico Marx. Opposed to the verbal comedy of his brothers, Harpo focused on physical comedy and gained fame for his signature curly-haired wig. He used props such as canes and harps, and was always silent in his appearances.

 31 Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 13, 1892
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: July 21, 1967

Basil Rathbone was an English actor best remembered for playing private detective Sherlock Holmes in 14 movies made between 1939 and 1946. Renowned for playing morally ambiguous characters, Rathbone won the prestigious Tony Award for his portrayal of Dr. Austin Sloper in The Heiress. Basil Rathbone has been honored with three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 32 Douglas Fairbanks

Douglas Fairbanks
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 23, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado, United States
Died: December 12, 1939

 33 Michael Curtiz

Michael Curtiz.
Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: December 24, 1886
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary)
Died: April 10, 1962

 34 F. W. Murnau

F. W. Murnau
Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: December 28, 1888
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bielefeld, Germany
Died: March 11, 1931

 35 W. C. Fields

W. C. Fields.
Birthdate: January 29, 1880
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Darby
Died: December 25, 1946

 36 Ernst Lubitsch

Ernst Lubitsch
Famous As: Film director, Actor, Screenwriter, Film producer, Writer, Film editor
Birthdate: January 29, 1892
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Berlin
Died: November 30, 1947

 37 Irene Dunne

Irene Dunne.
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 20, 1898
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Died: December 4, 1990

Irene Dunne was a prominent actor of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She is best known for her comedy roles and was nominated for the Academy Award five times. Some of her best-known films were Theodora Goes Wild and I Remember Mama. A devout Catholic, she received the papal knighthood.

 38 Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt.
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 22, 1844
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 26, 1923

Sarah Bernhardt was a French actress known for playing important roles in popular French plays of the early-20th century.  Her decision to play Hamlet inspired Theresa Rebeck's play Bernhardt/Hamlet, in which Janet McTeer portrayed Sarah Bernhardt. In 1960, Bernhardt became the earliest born person to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 39 Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges
Famous As: Playwright, Director
Birthdate: August 29, 1898
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: August 6, 1959

 40 Fredric March

Fredric March.
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 31, 1897
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Racine
Died: April 14, 1975

 41 Frank Morgan

Frank Morgan
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 1, 1890
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Died: September 18, 1949

 42 James Wong Howe

James Wong Howe.
Famous As: Cinematographer
Birthdate: August 28, 1899
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Taishan, Guangdong, China
Died: July 12, 1976
Chinese-American James Wong Howe Known, known as The Poet of the Camera, had aspired to be a boxer but then earned his living as a bellboy and a cleaner, before stepping into cinematography. The Oscar-winning cinematographer used innovative techniques with the camera, such as roller-skating to film fighting scenes.

 43 Philip John Schuyler

Philip John Schuyler
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: November 20, 1733
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Albany, New York, United States
Died: November 18, 1804

 44 Shirley Booth

Shirley Booth.
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 30, 1898
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Died: October 16, 1992

Shirley Booth is best remembered for her Academy Award-winning role in Come Back, Little Sheba and was one of only 24 people to earn the Triple Crown of Acting, namely the Academy, the Primetime Emmy, and the Tony awards. She also appeared in a TV production of The Glass Menagerie.

 45 George M. Cohan

George M. Cohan.
Famous As: American playwright
Birthdate: July 3, 1878
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Died: November 5, 1942

 46 Walter Pidgeon

Walter Pidgeon
Famous As: Actor, Singer, Stage actor, Television actor, Trade unionist
Birthdate: September 23, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Saint John
Died: September 25, 1984

 47 Chico Marx

Chico Marx.
Famous As: American comedian
Birthdate: March 22, 1887
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: October 11, 1961

 48 Charles Boyer

Charles Boyer.
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 28, 1899
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Figeac, France
Died: August 26, 1978

French-American actor Charles Boyer appeared in more than 80 films in a career that spanned over half a century. He pursued a theatrical career as a young man and eventually moved into films. He achieved extreme popularity with his roles in romantic movies like The Garden of Allah and Love Affair in the 1930s. He received four Academy Award nominations.

 49 Maria Goretti

Maria Goretti
Birthdate: October 16, 1890
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Corinaldo
Died: July 6, 1902

 50 Kathrine Narducci

Kathrine Narducci.
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 22, 1965
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: East Harlem, New York City, New York, USA