Top Movie Stars of the 1950s


Many people are not aware that the 50s was a golden era for production houses like Disney. Movies like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Peter Pan were liked by almost every age group. Infact, these movies still remain popular today and played a huge role in popularizing movie stars at the time. 

Although the movie stars were mostly behind the screen rather than acting in the movie, their voicing talents gave birth to some of the most iconic characters of all time. So let’s revisit history and check out the top movie stars of the 50s that became a part of our childhood.

Illene Woods


Jacqueline Ruth “Illene” Woods was an American singer and actress. She was the original voice behind Walt Disney’s animated feature Cinderella. In 2003, she was named a Disney Legend. Woods jumped into the spotlight when two of her songwriter friends, Jerry Livingston and Mack David called her to record a song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “So This is Love”. 

Soon, the songs were presented to Walt Disney to be used in the English version of Cinderella. Upon listening to her voice, Walt Disney two days later asked her to voice the character Cinderella. She gladly accepted the role. What Woods did not realize at the time was that she had won against more than 300 others who had auditioned. Although, Woods retired in 1972 but continued to attend occasional autograph shows. 

Helene Stanley


Helene Stanley was an American actress who was best known for being the live model for Cinderella. She entered the entertainment industry in 1942 by performing a role in the film Girls’ Town. Following the movie, she acted for Universal Pictures between 1943 and 1945. At the time, she used her stage name “Dolores Diane”. The year 1946, saw her working for MGM and began using “Helene Stanley” as the stage name. 

It was in 1948 that she started working with Disney and became a huge hit for her role as a live model in Cinderella and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. 

Bobby Driscoll


Robert Cletus Driscoll was a huge name in the movie industry back from 1943 to 1960. He was an American actor who had worked with the likes of Walt Disney and offered many hit films such as Song of the South, So Dear to My Heart, The Window, and Treasure Island. Amongst his famous roles, the most notable was Peter Pan. He lent his voice for the iconic character and received an Academy Juvenile Award for two feature films released in 1949. 

However, during the mid-1950s, Driscoll’s acting career began declining and he moved towards guest appearances. The reason being that he got involved with narcotics and was sentenced for illicit drug abuse. After being released, his financial condition was poor and his health even worse. As a result, his body was discovered in an abandoned building in 1968. 

Robert Guy Newton


Robert Guy Newton was one of the most popular actors amongst the male juvenile from the 1940s to 1950s. He is best known for his role as the Long John Silver in the 1950 film Treasure Island. The film was based on pirates and became a standard for several other pirate-related movies to come in the future. 

Newton during his career worked in many films including Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, Noir and Obsession, etc. It was his success from Treasure Island that provoked him to return to Hollywood. His last screen appearance was in Around the World in 80 Days as Inspector Fix. The movie in 1956 won the Academy Award for the Best Picture.

Kirk Douglas


Kirk Douglas was an American producer, actor, and director. He made his debut in the movie The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. It did not take long for Douglas to receive worldwide fame during the 50s due to his serious dramas and war and western films. In total, Douglas appeared in more than 90 films. 

Douglas received critical acclaim for his leading role in the movie Champion as a boxing hero. The movie brought him his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He also took part in the movie Detective Story which earned him a Golden Globe nomination as the Best Actor in Drama. 

Following the Golden Globe Nomination, he received his second nomination for his dramatic role in The Bad and the Beautiful. 

James Mason


James Neville Mason was an English actor who was quite famous before entering Hollywood. In 1944 and 1945, he was the top attraction in the UK for his films including, The Wicked Lady, The Seventh Veil, and Odd Man Out for which he received the BAFTA Award for Best British Film. 

Throughout the 50s and 80s, Mason starred in extremely successful British and American movies such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, North by Northwest and Bigger Than Life, etc. During his career, Mason received three Academy Award nominations, three Golden Globes nominations, and two BAFTA Awards. He was known to be one of the most versatile actors in the history of the entertainment industry. 

Tommy Kirk


Tommy Kirk was an American actor who is known for starring in several popular Walt Disney films such as The Shaggy Dog, Old Yeller, and Swiss Family Reunion. Kirk was a regular appearance on television throughout 1956 and 1957. However, he received his first major break in 1957 by auditioning and being selected for the film Old Yeller. 

Although Kirk was a kid at the time but received the lead role. His role was so successful that he became Disney’s first choice whenever they wanted someone to play an American Teenager. Kirk coming out as gay became the prime reason behind leaving Disney. Upon finding out that he was having an affair with another 15 years old, Disney decided not to renew Kirk’s contract and fired him. 

His termination was not made public and Kirk soon found himself working for the American International Pictures. Later his drug abuse and emotional problems got in the way of winning an important role. In 2006, he retired with a nice pension and vows never to use drugs again.

Final Word

The 50s stars mentioned above starred in one of the most successful movie projects in history. At the time Walt Disney was at the forefront of talent hunting and even helped turn child stars into a global phenomenon. Therefore, if these actors were destined to become huge stars in the coming decades, it was solely due to their acting portfolio of the 1950s. 

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