Year of the Centenary: Classic Movie Actors from Missouri

In honor of Jean Harlow’s 100th birthday, which was celebrated by her many fans earlier this month, this week’s actors by state post features classic movies actors from Missouri, Jean’s home state.  Coincidentally, a few of the other stars on this list were also born in the same year as Jean, so there are more centennial birthday celebrations to come in 2011.

Jean Harlow

Born:  March 3, 1911 in Kansas City, MO

Died:  June 7, 1937 (age 26)

Married three times

Known for the Movies: Hell’s Angels, Platinum Blonde, Red Dust, Bombshell, Libeled Lady

My Favorite Jean Harlow Movie:  Platinum Blonde

Interesting Facts About Jean Harlow:

  • In May 1937, she became the first actress to appear on the cover of Life Magazine.
  • She was the godmother of famous mobster Bugsy Siegel’s daughter Millicent.
  • She was one of the inspirations for Batman creator Bob Kane’s character of Catwoman.

Robert Cummings

Born:  June 10, 1910 in Joplin, MO

Died:  December 2, 1990 (age 80)

Married five times

Known for the Movies:  Kings Row, Saboteur, Moon Over Miami, Dial M for Murder

My Favorite Robert Cummings Movie:  Dial M for Murder

Interesting Facts About Robert Cummings:

  • He was taught how to fly by his godfather Orville Wright and eventually became a licensed pilot and flight instructor.
  • He was a very vocal advocate of eating a healthy diet and authored a book called Stay Young and Vital.
  • He received a role on Broadway by faking a British accent and using the name Blade Stanhope. When he got to Hollywood, he received a film role while faking a Southern accent and posing as a wealthy Texan named Bruce Hutchens.

Ginger Rogers

Born:  July 16, 1911 in Independence, MO

Died:  April 25, 1995 (age 83)

Married five times

Known for the Movies:  The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Swing Time, Stage Door, Kitty Foyle

My Favorite Ginger Rogers Movie:  Top Hat


Interesting Facts About Ginger Rogers:

  • Her photo was one of many that Anne Frank placed on her bedroom wall while hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam.
  • She had both a street (Ginger Rogers Road) and a theater (the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater) named after her.
  • She was Hollywood’s highest paid movie star in 1942.

Vincent Price

Born:  May 27, 1911 in St. Louis, MO

Died:  October 25, 1993 (age 82)

Married three times

Known for the Movies: Laura, House of Wax, House on Haunted Hill

My Favorite Vincent Price Movie:  Laura


Interesting Facts About Vincent Price:

  • He once won $32,000 on the game show The $64,000 Question.
  • He was an avid art collector and founded the Vincent Price Gallery at East Los Angeles College.
  • His role in the movie Edward Scissorhands was intended to be much larger than the two scenes he appeared in, but his ill health due to emphysema and Parkinson’s disease prevented it.
  • In addition to his more well known speaking part in Michael Jackson’s song “Thriller”, he made a short speech on Alice Cooper’s “Welcome To My Nightmare” album.

Jane Wyman

Born:  January 5, 1917 in St. Joseph, MO

Died:  September 10, 2007 (age 90)

Married four times, once to the future President of the United States, Ronald Reagan

Known for the Movies: The Lost Weekend, Johnny Belinda, The Yearling, Magnificent Obsession

My Favorite Jane Wyman Move:  Magnificent Obsession


Interesting Facts About Jane Wyman:

  • She was encouraged to audition for the tv show Falcon Crest by her ex-husband Ronald Reagan. She would go on to star in the series as for nine seasons.
  • Although she declined to talk about Ronald Reagan in interviews, she did attend his funeral upon his death in 2004.
  • She was the first person in a non silent film to win an Academy Award without having spoken a single word of dialogue.  She won the award for her role as a deaf and mute rape victim in the movie Johnny Belinda (1948).

There were several other well known classic movie actors from the state of Missouri including Wallace Beery, Betty Grable, Betty Garrett, Shelley Winters, and Virginia Mayo.

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  1. Jessica P. says:

    I love these state profiles that you do! It’s funny how it seems like most of the actors are from the west/midwest. I’ve thought about doing “Actors from South Carolina and North Carolina” on my blog (because I live in SC) but there really aren’t many people from here…haha. Interestingly enough though, one of Robert Cummings wives (Mary Elliot) is from a small town where I live called Gaffney.

    I love your blog lay out! Did you do your domain through wordpress or go daddy? I’ve been meaning to make a domain, but not sure who to use :)

    I really enjoy your blog!

  2. Ginny says:

    Thanks Jessica! It’s funny, I just noticed the same thing when I was getting a head start on compiling lists for a few other states. I was surprised at how few names I was finding for some of them, especially Florida which I thought for sure would have quite a few. I never would have guessed that my state, which most people associate with producing cheese would have produced more big name movie stars than certain other states. :-)

    I registered my domain name through Go Daddy, but my blog itself is set up through (which is a little different than the .com version) using a custom theme. I can’t take credit for the design though. I found it over at :-)

  3. John says:

    Robert Cummings is just wonderful in Kings Row. Cummings and Reagan display what true friendship is all about here. As I seem to recall, this movie started out real slow for me. I was about to hit the stop button but hung with it. Wow, the last hour blew me away. What a great film and ending. Sort of made you get teary eyed.

    Jane Wyman was always great in anything to me. Johnny Belinda is my favorite of hers. But she is really good in Larceny Inc. with EG Robinson and Jack Carson. Bonus in here is Jackie Gleason as a soda jerk. Definitely one of my favorite EG Robinson films and an essential.

    I also love the actor Jack Carson very much and enjoyed Make Your Own Bed, a Carson/Wyman pairing. She was sure sassy in the Cole Porter Night and Day. Any film with Cary Grant and Monty Woolley is well worth the time.

  4. John says:

    Vincent Price is always a welcome edition to any film. His unique voice and persona always seem to exude authority. I have seen him in many films with The Song Of Bernadette, Leave Her To Heaven, Laura and The Keys of The Kingdom being among my favorites.

    The Keys of The Kingdom is definitely on my top 50 movie list of all time. Price appears with Gregory Peck in a story about a man(Peck) who struggles with his decisions in life and who finally becomes a priest. Here, Peck portrays the most humble and caring priest one could ever be. Father Chisholm(Peck) has a very rocky and fragile relationship with one nun he oversees in Manderin China. Their reconciliation and the ending of The Keys Of The Kingdom is definitely one to touch your heart. Vincent Price maybe a supporting actor in this film but he adds to it greatly even with his periodical screen time. Thomas Mitchell as the atheist doctor is an additional bonus. I could not recommend a better film to any classic film fan.

    Price is also great with Karloff and Lorre Lorre in The Raven. I am not much a fan of this genre but this movie held my attention pretty much throughout. The beautiful Hazel Court adds to this gothic delight. The Raven blends comedy, drama and horror all in one fantstic film. The wonderful castle and costumes definitely add to the atmosphere. We also get a peak at a young Jack Nicholson in this film.

    Vincent Price even appeared in the campy 1960’s Batman series. He portayed the villain: Egg Head. One of my favorite epsisodes is when he teams with Olga(Anne Baxter). It would be fun to make a list of classic film stars who have appeared in this fun series. I think there are a great number of them.