Classic Movie Actors from Wisconsin, Will Your State Be Next?

Do you have any “rituals” that you like to do before or after you watch an old movie? One of the first things I like to do after watching an old movie is go to (Internet Movie Database) and look up information about the actors and actresses that appeared in the movie.  For some reason I am fascinated by finding out things like when they were born, when and how old they were when they died (or if they are still alive, which always makes me happy to see), how they died, and how many times they were married.

One thing that has really been standing out to me lately is that several well known classic movie stars were either born in my home state of Wisconsin or had a very close association with the state at one time.  I know that may not mean much to anyone that doesn’t live here, but I guess it just stuck out to me because when I think of glamorous movies stars, being from Wisconsin is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. :-) No offense to the wonderful state that I love.

Following is a list of a few of the actors and actresses that were born in Wisconsin along with a few interesting facts about them:

Orson Welles

Born:  May 16, 1915 in Kenosha, WI

Died:  October 10, 1985 (aged 70)

Was married three times including once to the beautiful actress Rita Hayworth, with whom he starred in the movie The Lady from Shanghai

Known for the Movies: Citizen Kane, The Lady from Shanghai, The Third Man, Touch of Evil

Interesting Facts About Orson Welles:

  • The son of a successful inventor (father) and a concert pianist (mother), Welles was gifted in art and music as a child
  • Surprisingly given how popular and well regarded the movie is today, Citizen Kane was a commercial failure that lost RKO $150,000
  • Died only two hours after being interviewed on “The Merv Griffin Show” and on the same day as Yul Brenner


Spencer Tracy

Born:  April 5, 1900 in Milwaukee, WI

Died:  June 10, 1967 (aged 67)

Married only once and never divorced, although it was well known that he had a long time relationship with his frequent co-star Katharine Hepburn

Known for the Movies: Boys Town, Woman of the Year (his first movie with Katharine Hepburn), Inherit the Wind, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Interesting Facts About Spencer Tracy:

  • Was the first actor to win back-to-back Academy Awards, which he won for his roles in Captains Courageous and Boys Town, a movie he originally did not want to appear in
  • Along with Katharine Hepburn, visited an ailing Humphrey Bogart almost daily as he was dying of cancer
  • Turned down Cary Grant’s role in The Philadelphia Story in order to make Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


Fredric March

Born:  August 31, 1897 in Racine, WI

Died:  April 14, 1975 (aged 77)

Married twice with his second marriage lasting almost 48 years until the time of his death in 1975

Known for the Movies: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Star is Born, The Best Years of Our Lives, Inherit the Wind

Interesting Facts About Fredric March:

  • He was Marlon Brando’s favorite actor when Brando was young
  • His wife, Florence Eldridge, appeared with him in six movies including Inherit the Wind
  • Won two Academy Awards for Best Actor (for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Best Years of our Lives) and two Tony Awards for Best Actor (for the plays Years Ago and Long Days Journey Into Night)


Don Ameche

Born:  May 31, 1908 in Kenosha, WI

Died:  December 6, 1993 (aged 85)

Married only once with the marriage producing 6 children and lasting almost 54 years until the time of his wife’s death in 1986

Known for the Movies: Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Down Argentine Way, Heaven Can Wait, Cocoon

Interesting Facts About Don Ameche:

  • He was a popular radio master of ceremonies early in his career and was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1992
  • His last name was actually spelled Amici, but he changed it to Ameche so people would pronounce it correctly


Carole Landis

Born:  January 1, 1919 in Fairchild, WI

Died:  July 5, 1948 (aged 29)

Was married five times although two of those marriages were to the same man

Known for the Movies: Topper Returns, Moon Over Miami, I Wake Up Screaming

Interesting Facts About Carole Landis:

  • Sadly Carole Landis died by committing suicide when she was only 29 years old. Her body was discovered by the actor Rex Harrison.
  • Spent more time visiting troops during World War II than any other Hollywood star


I had a lot of fun doing the research for this blog post, and it has given me the idea to do a series highlighting the birth states of other well known classic movie stars. With 49 other states to cover and 50 weeks left in the year, it seemed like the perfect series to do over the course of 2011.  So check back every week to see if your state is being featured and feel free to leave me a comment when it is your home state. I’d love to hear from you! :-)

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  1. Desirae says:

    I enjoyed this. I look forward to more.

  2. Ginny says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog Desirae! Hopefully I’ll be covering your state soon. :)

  3. Scott says:

    So what state are you going to do next?

  4. Ginny says:

    Hi Scott, I published a new post about Texas tonight, which I realized just happens to be the state where my beloved Packers are right now. :-) Looking at my list, your state should be coming in a few months.

  5. […] week’s actors by state post features a state that much like Wisconsin, which started the idea for this series, is not a state that I would typically think of when I think of Hollywood actors. But when I looked […]

  6. […] of the first posts I did last year was the start of my only series, which I eventually started calling “Saturday […]

  7. John says:

    My favorite Don Ameche movies include Heaven Can Wait, The Story Of Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander’s Ragtime Band and of course Trading Places.

  8. John says:

    Spencer Tracy is one of my favorite actors. He made so many great films. I love his great quote about acting ” less is more.” No better advice can be given to anybody aspiring to be an actor. Being natural is definitely the key.

    My essential Tracy films are:
    Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? 1967
    It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World 1963
    How the West Was Won 1962
    The Devil at 4 O’Clock 1961
    Judgment at Nuremburg 1961
    Inherit the Wind 1960
    The Old Man and the Sea 1958
    Bad Day at Black Rock 1954
    Father’s Little Dividend 1951
    Father of the Bride 1950
    Boom Town 1946
    The Seventh Cross 1944
    Thirty Seconds over Tokyo 1944
    A Guy Named Joe 1943
    Keeper of the Flame 1942
    Tortilla Flat 1942
    Woman of the Year 1942
    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941
    Men of Boys Town 1941
    Edison, the Man 1940
    Northwest Passage 1940
    Stanley and Livingstone 1939
    Boys Town 1938
    Test Pilot 1938
    Captains Courageous 1937
    Fury 1936
    Libeled Lady 1936
    San Francisco 1936

    I maybe in the minority here but wasn’t a huge fan of all those Tracy/Hepburn films. I did enjoy Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner though very much and a couple of others.

  9. John says:

    I really enjoyed Orson Welles in The Stranger but I am not a huge fan of Citizen Kane. I just don’t get all the hoopla, must be me.

    One Orson Welles film I would highly recommend and consider a wonderful film is: Tomorrow Is Forever. This a moving film about unselfish love that takes place place during WWI and WWII. Easily Welles and Colbert’s best film in my humble opinion. The ending will tear your heart out. A very young Natalie Wood also appears as Welles’ daughter. A great film and I don’t use the word great lightly when describing a film.

  10. […] my Saturday State Post series. I was excited when I found out that she was born in my home state of Wisconsin, but unfortunately I had covered that already. I decided just to do it in the form of a mini-state […]