Saturday State Post: Classic Movie Actors from Massachusetts

In this week’s actors by state post, I looked to the eastern United States for the first time by the choosing the state of Massachusetts. Today’s list contains two co-stars of the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses along with two actresses who achieved notable firsts for women in the film industry.

Bette Davis

Born:  April 15, 1908 in Lowell, MA

Died:  October 6, 1989 (age 81)

Married four times including once to her All About Eve co-star Gary Merrill

Known for the Movies:  Of Human Bondage, Jezebel, Now Voyager, All About Eve


Interesting Facts About Bette Davis:

  • She was nominated for an Academy Award five years in a row from 1939-1943, a record she shares with Greer Garson.
  • She was the first female president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as the first female to be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
  • Along with John Garfield and Jules Stein, she was instrumental in creating the Hollywood Canteen, a club that offered food and entertainment to U.S. service men and women. In later years Bette commented, “There are few accomplishments in my life that I am sincerely proud of. The Hollywood Canteen is one of them.”

Jack Lemmon

Born:  February 8, 1925 in Newton, MA

Died:  June 27, 2001 (age 76)

Married twice

Known for the movies:  Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, Days of Wine and Roses, The Odd Couple



Interesting Facts About Jack Lemmon:

  • He was a self-taught piano player. He recorded a jazz album in 1958 on which he sang versions of two of Marilyn Monroe’s signature songs, I Wanna Be Loved By You and I’m Through With Love.
  • He was a favorite of director Billy Wilder and appeared in seven of his films including Some Like it Hot and The Apartment.
  • He directed his good friend Walter Matthau in the movie Kotch (1971). Matthau was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role. It was the only movie that Lemmon would direct.

Agnes Moorehead

Born:  December 6, 1900 in Clinton, MA

Died:  April 30, 1974 (age 73)

Married twice

Known for the Movies:  The Magnificent Ambersons, Citizen Kane, Johnny Belinda


Interesting Facts About Agnes Moorehead:

  • Before becoming an actress, she taught high school English and drama for five years and also studied pantomime in Paris with Marcel Marceau.
  • She was the first woman to co-host the Academy Awards, which she did with Dick Powell in 1948.
  • She was one of about 90 members of the cast and crew of the movie The Conqueror (1956) to contract cancer. Some attribute this to the fact that the movie was filmed near a nuclear test site. Her co-stars in the movie included John Wayne, Dick Powell, and Susan Hayward.

Lee Remick

Born:  December 14, 1935 in Quincy, MA

Died:  July 2, 1991 (age 55)

Married twice

Known for the Movies: A Face in the Crowd, The Long, Hot Summer, Anatomy of a Murder, Days of Wine and Roses
Interesting Facts About Lee Remick:

  • There were plans for her to replace a recently fired Marilyn Monroe in the movie Something’s Got to Give, but Marilyn’s co-star Dean Martin refused to work with anyone but her.
  • She was the subject of two different songs called “Lee Remick”, one by the Australian band The Go-Betweens and the other by the British band Hefner.
  • She died only 2 months after receiving her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Other notable classic movie actors from Massachusetts include Josephine Hull, Walter Brennan, Wizard of Oz co-stars Jack Haley and Ray Bolger, and Eleanor Powell.

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  1. Just Audrey says:

    What a great idea for a series!!

    I never knew that Agnes Moorehead was a teacher. That would’ve been pretty awesome to have said she was your teacher after she became a big star!

  2. Tom says:

    I love Jack Lemmon; he’s one of my favorite actors. I never saw Kotch but it’s on my list to see.

  3. moira says:

    Hi Ginny!
    I love your snapshot of various states and their movie makers. Massachusetts produced some great talent. One Mass native I’d add to any list would be the indispensable character actor, Charles Bickford (1891-1967), who was born in Cambridge, MA. While one of the more colorful episodes in the actor’s early life included being charged, tried and acquitted of attempted murder after he reportedly shot a trolley car motorman who had run over his dog! The actor toured for years when every decent town had a stock company, and he was cast as a leading man in movies at the beginning of the talkies. His temper, run-ins with studio bigwigs, and an attack by a lion on the set of a movie in 1935 put a crimp in Bickford’s career, though in the ’40s he re-emerged as a rock solid character man who virtually stole every scene he was in just by breathing and looking the other actors in the eye with his steely (but sometimes warm) blue eyes. Some of the pictures he is best remembered for: The Song of Bernadette, Fallen Angel, The Farmer’s Daughter, Brute Force, Johnny Belinda, A Star Is Born, and The Days of Wine and Roses (I wonder if Jack Lemmon and he compared notes on the Bay State?).

    Bickford was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Award three times, for Song of Bernadette, Johnny Belinda and The Farmer’s Daughter.

    I hope you do more of these lists. They are great.

  4. Ginny says:

    Thanks Audrey! It’s a fun way to get to know more about the movie stars I may not have paid much attention to otherwise. Yes, it would be awesome to say you had a movie star as a former teacher. Her teaching job just happened to be in my home state of Wisconsin, which I also thought was cool. I was very surprised that she was one of the more interesting actresses I’ve read about since I started this series. Much to her own chagrin, many people best remember her as Endora on the tv show “Bewitched”, but she wanted to be remembered more for all the other things she accomplished, which were many.

    Tom, I wasn’t all that familiar with Jack Lemmon’s work before, which I definitely plan on changing! I just moved Days of Wine and Roses to the top of my Netflix queue. I’m anxious to see it now that I know more about it. It looks very interesting.

    Wow Moira, I’m not sure how I missed him! He definitely has a very interesting and accomplished history. I just realized that he also would have worked with Agnes Moorehead in Johnny Belinda. Looks like there were a lot of connections between Massachusetts born actors and actresses. I plan on doing all 50 states and have already done a few others; Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, and Missouri. I also plan on doing a few other countries like Canada, England, and Sweden so I don’t leave out great stars like Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, and Greta Garbo among others.

  5. […] pace, waaayyy off my pace. I only ended up covering ten states overall; Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Colorado, Georgia, Connecticut, Nebraska, Utah, and Montana. So it will continue to be on ongoing […]