Saturday State Post: Classic Movie Actors from Illinois

In this week’s Saturday State Post, I will be highlighting actors from my neighbor to the south, the state of Illinois, simply because there are so many great names to choose from.

And . . . I kind of like it that most of them were born in my favorite city in the whole world, Chicago, and one is from a city with the same name as one of my cats, Quincy. :-)

A few of the actors and actresses from the state of Illinois are:

Beulah Bondi

Born: May 3, 1888 in Chicago, IL

Died: January 11, 1981 (age 92)

Never Married

Known for the Movies: The Gorgeous Hussy, Of Human Hearts, Make Way for Tomorrow, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Penny Serenade, It’s a Wonderful Life

My Favorite Beulah Bondi Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life
Interesting Facts About Beulah Bondi:

  • She played Jimmy Stewart’s mother in four different movies including the beloved classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Even though she played many other mothers and grandmothers in movies, she never married or had children of her own.
  • She guest starred in a couple episodes of the tv show The Waltons in the mid-1970’s and won an Emmy Award for her performance.
  • Sadly, she died from complications due to injuries she received after tripping over her cat.

***After completing this information on Beulah Bondi, I noticed that Wikipedia lists her birthplace as Valparaiso, Indiana although all other sources that I’ve seen list her birthplace as Chicago. If anyone has any insight into the actual location, please let me know.

Jesse Royce Landis

Born: November 25, 1896 in Chicago, IL

Died: February 2, 1972 (age 75)

Married three times

Known for the Movies: My Foolish Heart, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest, Goodbye Again

My Favorite Jessie Royce Landis Movie: North by Northwest


Interesting Facts About Jessie Royce Landis :

  • She played Cary Grant’s mother in North by Northwest despite the fact that she was only 7 years older than him.
  • I couldn’t really find much additional information about her, so instead I thought I’d share a couple of posts written by two of my fellow classic movie bloggers, Millie at Classic Forever and Bette from Bette’s Classic Movie Blog. They both pay tribute to her in their posts, so please check them out. :-)

Robert Young

Born: February 22, 1907 in Chicago, IL

Died: July 21, 1998 (age 91)

Married once for over 60 years to his wife Elizabeth until her death in 1994

Known for the Movies: Secret Agent, Northwest Passage, The Mortal Storm, H.M. Pulham Esq., Crossfire, The Enchanted Cottage

My Favorite Robert Young Movie: The Enchanted Cottage
Interesting Facts About Robert Young:

  • He is probably best known for his work on television, having starred in two very popular shows, Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, MD along with having appeared in commercials for Sanka Coffee for 5 years. You can view one of those commercials from 1981 here.
  • He named his house in Westlake Village, California “The Enchanted Cottage”, after the film of the same name that he starred in with Dorothy McGuire.
  • He suffered from depression and alcoholism for several decades and once attempted suicide in the early 1990’s.

Mary Astor

          Born: May 3, 1906 in Quincy, IL

Died: September 25, 1987 (age 81)

Married four times

Known for the Movies: Beau Brummel, Red Dust, Dodsworth, The Great Lie, The Maltese Falcon, The Palm Beach Story, Meet Me in St. Louis

My Favorite Mary Astor Movie: The Palm Beach Story


Interesting Facts About Mary Astor:

  • Her father taught her how to play piano while she was being home schooled, and she later went on to star as a pianist in two movies, The Great Lie (1941) and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Great Lie.
  • After her husband Kenneth Hawks (brother of director Howard Hawks) died in a plane crash in 1930, she lived for a while with her good friend Florence Eldridge, wife of actor Fredric March.
  • She was the author of five books including her best selling autobiography, “My Story” and a book about her career called “Life on Film”.

Rock Hudson

Born: November 17, 1925 in Winnetka, IL

Died: October 2, 1985 (age 59)

Married once

Known for the Movies: Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, Giant, Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, Send Me No Flowers, Ice Station Zebra

My Favorite Rock Hudson Movie: All That Heaven Allows


Interesting Facts About Rock Hudson:

  • His given name was Roy Scherer. Some claim that he was given the name Rock Hudson by talent scout Henry Willson, who combined the Rock of Gibraltar with the Hudson River to come up with a more masculine sounding name.
  • He considered making the movie A Farewell to Arms (1957) the biggest mistake of his career. He apparently turned down roles in the successful movies Sayonara, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Ben-Hur in order to star in the movie, which turned out to be a box office failure.
  • He made nine movies with director Douglas Sirk, who he considered a father figure. He was quoted as saying, “He was like ol’ Dad to me, and I was like a son to him, I think. When you’re scared and new and you’re trying to figure out this thing, and suddenly an older man will reach out and say, ‘There, there, it’s okay,’ that was Douglas Sirk.”

Fred MacMurray

Born: August 30, 1908 in Kankakee, IL

Died: November 5, 1991 (age 83)

Married twice, including once for over 37 years to actress June Haver. Sadly both of his marriages ended with the death of his wives.

Known for the Movies: Remember the Night, Above Suspicion, Double Indemnity, The Egg and I, The Caine Mutiny, The Shaggy Dog, The Apartment, The Absent Minded Professor

My Favorite Fred MacMurray Movie: Double Indemnity

Interesting Facts About Fred MacMurray:

  • In addition to acting, he was also a talented athlete and musician. He was a three sport athlete in high school where he played football, baseball, and basketball, and he also played numerous instruments including the saxophone, piano, guitar, and violin.
  • He was initially reluctant to play Walter Neff in Double Indemnity for fear that his fans would not accept him in such a dark role. Fortunately for us (in my opinion anyway!) :-) Billy Wilder talked him into playing what would turn out to be one of his most critically acclaimed roles.
  • He starred in four movies with actress Barbara Stanwyck and he comically described his relationship with her character in each, “In the first I turned her in, in the second I killed her, in the third I left her for another woman, and in the fourth I pushed her over a waterfall.”

A few of the other very talented actors and actresses from the state of Illinois include Robert Ryan, Karl Malden, Jack Benny, Marsha Hunt, Howard Keel, Charlton Heston, Gloria Swanson, Ralph Bellamy, Buddy Ebsen, and Donald O’Connor.

Another thing I decided to add to this and all future posts in this series is to name my favorite actor or actress from the state I am covering. For Illinois, my favorite is Fred MacMurray.

Who is your favorite actor or actress from the state of Illinois?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Karen says:

    Loved your post, Ginny, as always! I did not know that Mary Astor was from Quincy — so is Henry Kolker! I didn’t know about Jessie Royce Landis or Beulah Bondi, either. Really enjoyed seeing that clip from Robert Young’s Sanka commercial. Can’t wait to see your next “state” installment!

  2. John says:

    Ralph Bellamy was a great character actor. He always seemed to play the naive boyfriend. I enjoyed him in The Awful Truth, His Girl Friday and especially in one of my favorite films of all time: Brother Orchid with EG Robinson. We also can never forget the film Trading Places where he teamed up with another screen legend, Don Ameche in what was a fine 80’s movie. Bellamy also appeared in a forgettable comedy called Boy Meets Girl with James Cagney, Pat O’Brien and Ronald Reagan but that film was sub par. One of the few Cagney films I have only seen once.

    Ginny, Thank you for mentioning Ralph Bellamy. Would love to see a post on your favorite character actors and actresses in the future if you get the time.