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Top 10 Leading Men of the 1940s

There were some great movie actors around in the 1940s, it truly was the golden age of cinema! Here are my top 10 leading men of that decade – have I missed anyone crucial out?

1. Humphrey Bogart

Bogart was ranked the greatest male movie star in history by the American Film Institute, and he made the majority of his movies during the 1940s. Major movies from this decade include the Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946).

Below: Bogart and Bergman from Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart

2. Orson Welles

Citizen Cane (1941) is widely regarded as one of the best movies of all time so I have to include Orson Welles in this list!

Orson Welles

3. Gene Kelly

Kelly was perhaps the biggest musical star of the late 1940s and early 50s. Combining dancing with sex appeal he starred in some real blockbusters including: Anchors Aweigh (1945) – the movie where he famously danced with Jerry Mouse, Ziegfeld Follies (1946) and Easter Parade (1948)

Gene Kelly in uniform

4. Cary Grant

Archibald Alexander Leach was one of the most charismatic leading men of the 1940s. He was named the second greatest male star of all time behind Humphrey Bogart. When asked about his success he famously quipped: “Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” Some of the movies he made during the 40s include Hitchcock’s Suspicion (1941), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Notorious (1946), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and I Was A Male War Bride (1949).

Cary Grant

5. James Stewart

Active and successful in the movie industry across 6 decades Jimmy Stewart made some of his best known movies in the 1940s, including It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and Philadelphia Story (1940).

James Stewart

6. Gregory Peck

Peck was one of Hollywood’s most popular actor in the 40s, 50s and 60s. During the 1940s he was nominated for Oscars for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) and Twelve O’Clock High (1949). Other notable films he appeared in include Spellbound (1945), The Paradine Case (1947)

Below: Gregory Peck and Ann Todd in The Paradine Case

Gregory Peck getting steamy with Ann Todd

7. Bing Crosby

As well as being a popular singer, Bing Crosby was a huge musical star during the 30s and 40s. He made 25 movies during the 1940s including the ‘Road To’ movies with Bob Hope (Road to Morocco, Road to Singapore etc.)

Bing Crosby

8. Robert Mitchum

Number 23 on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest male American screen legends of all time Mitchum made lots of movies in the 1940s mostly in Film Noir.

Robert Mitchum

9. Henry Fonda

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in 1940’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and he frequently appeared in war movies and Westerns.

Henry Fonda

10. Spencer Tracy

Tracy was one of the top stars of the MGM studios in the 1940s and had a popular partnership with Katharine Hepburn.

Spencer Tracy

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5 thoughts on “Top 10 Leading Men of the 1940s

  1. Missy

    My favorite, 2 time Academy Award Winner Gary Cooper … Not only a great actor, was quite the Fashionista (or Fashinoisto?)

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  2. Missy

    I was a Cary Grant girl for 30 years … Gary kind of was in the corner of my eye for a long time … He did a lot of Westerns and actually was born in Montana and grew up on a ranch … He also had a lot of non Western movies … Unlike the other 10 men on the list, he started in silent movies … Clara Bow to Audrey Hepburn … For a lot of eye candy I suggest Morroco with Marlene Dietrich …

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