Hollywood tends to promote the next generation of actresses, but the masters who dominated the silver screen with grace and beauty for decades also had their moment. Those who don’t investigate classic cinema could be surprised when they see how these 15 older celebrities used to be complete bombshells back in the day.
1. Anyone who is aware of the film itself will know of Meryl Streep. Cited by the media as the “best actress of her generation,” Streep has a wildly impressive filmography of versatile roles that have earned her significant acclaim. Streep has been nominated for an Academy Award more than any other actor or actress, with 20 nominations to date. Considering her career is yet to decelerate, many moviegoers may not have had the chance to become familiar with her early work. With iconic role after iconic role, Meryl has a whopping 79 credits to her name and is mostly recognized for her more recent work and achievements. There’s no denying that at 67 years old, Meryl has aged beautifully, but she’s been stealing the screen ever since she made her debut. Streep began her acting career on Broadway before taking on the film world and sweeping up awards left, right, and center.
Actor Robert De Niro first spotted Streep in her stage production, The Cherry Orchard, which prompted him to offer her the role of his girlfriend in the acclaimed war film The Deer Hunter. The role ended up being Streep’s big breakthrough and earned her her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
2. Sally Field is another actress who has a plethora of accolades to her name. Many will be familiar with Field’s work in the hit films Mrs. Doubtfire and Forrest Gump, and she’s seen much success in her career ever since. The actress has aged gracefully over the years but truly stole the show when she first debuted on television.
Field first starred in the sitcoms Gidget, The Flying Nun, and The Girl with Something Extra. It was clear from those performances that the small screen was too small for an actress of her caliber. Starting her film career with background roles like “Beatnik Girl in Lineup,” Field has gone on to be one of the most celebrated actresses of her time.
3. Age has not come close to slowing down Jessica Lange’s career, which has been ongoing for an impressive span of over 40 years. Hot off of appearing in multiple seasons of the hit anthology series American Horror Story, Lange recently appeared as Hollywood legend Joan Crawford in Ryan Murphy’s latest FX series, Feud.
Jessica Lange made her feature film debut by playing the iconic damsel in distress in the blockbuster 1976 monster film King Kong. Newcomer Lange beat out acclaimed actresses Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn for the coveted role, which ended up earning her the 1976 Golden Globe for New Star of the Year.
4. Actress Brigitte Bardot rocked French cinema with a globally celebrated career. She starred in 47 films, performed in multiple musicals, and recorded over 60 songs. The 82-year-old former actress retired from the entertainment industry back in 1973 after a successful 20-year career and later became an animal rights activist.
Brigitte Bardot was initially an aspiring ballerina. After veering into the world of cinema, she had her breakthrough in the controversial 1957 film And God Created Woman. Her appearance catapulted her into worldwide fame, and she went on to take on a number of roles that solidified her place as an international sex symbol.
5. Martha Stewart has become known for a variety of successful business ventures. However, the television personality is mostly associated with her variety of talk shows related to cooking, crafts, gardening, and interior design. Now, Stewart can be seen alongside rapper Snoop Dogg in the cooking show Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.
The Martha Stewart Show helped this American businesswoman solidify her brand. At the beginning of her career, she mostly relied on her looks. Stewart began modeling at the age of 15 and was featured in a television commercial for Unilever. From there, Stewart landed a number of modeling gigs that helped her pay for college.
6. Faye Dunaway’s career started back in 1962, and she’s earned herself a number of awards ever since. Dunaway also managed to be the first-ever recipient of a Leopard Club Award, which honors film professionals whose work has left a mark on the collective imagination. Dunaway’s career took off with the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde.
7. A number of well-known and talented actresses were up for the iconic role of Bonnie Parker. Supposedly, photos taken by Curtis Hanson of Dunaway on the beach won her the part. Actor and producer Warren Beatty stated, “She could hit the ball across the net, and she had an intelligence and a strength that made her both powerful and romantic.”
8. 95-year-old Betty White has become known for her comedic roles playing foul-mouthed older women. White has had a career that has spanned more than 75 years. Back in the 1940s, White sought out film work but was turned down for being “unphotogenic,” something she clearly proved wrong after booking modeling gigs.
White may have gotten her name out to the world first through her voice, appearing on multiple radio shows. However, it was when she began appearing on television shows that White won over hearts everywhere. Betty became one of the first women ever to have control both in front of and behind the camera.
9. Italian actress Sophia Loren became recognized for her work in film after receiving an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women. Loren was the most popular actress in 1964 and the fourth most popular star in 1965, according to British box office polls.
Sophia Loren was encouraged to step in front of the camera and take acting lessons after entering a beauty pageant. Loren enjoyed international success and worldwide fame during the height of her career. However, the actress decided to only take on the odd job after starting a family in the early 1970s.
10. Susan Sarandon has enjoyed a wildly successful career, winning a number of awards for her work and taking on roles that have since become iconic. Sarandon’s career continues to thrive, and she recently appeared alongside Jessica Lange in Ryan Murphy’s FX show Feud, portraying Betty Davis during the production of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
Sarandon started her career on the small screen, appearing on the soap operas A World Apart and Search for Tomorrow. She quickly became a household name after appearing in the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Since then, Sarandon has proved herself to be a fearless actress who’s not afraid of controversial roles.
11. English actress and author Dame Judi Dench established herself as an acclaimed actress by appearing in multiple Shakespeare plays. She even won a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer. However, Dench received even more acclaim when she entered the world of cinema, where she ended up becoming a seven-time Oscar nominee.
Dame Judi Dench had roles in multiple television shows before establishing her long-running filmography. She had her breakthrough role when she appeared as M, James Bond’s boss, in GoldenEye. Dench was the first woman to portray M after British actor Robert James Brown portrayed the character throughout the early editions of the franchise.
12. Helen Mirren has enjoyed a versatile and continually thriving career. She has appeared in notable films such as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, The Madness of King George, and Calendar Girls. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to the performing arts.
Mirren got her start with the Royal Shakespeare Company back in 1967. Since then, she has become one of the few performers who has achieved the Triple Crown of Acting, being an 11-time Emmy, 4-time Oscar, and 3-time Tony nominee. Mirren went on to win six awards of the total 18 Triple Crown nominations she was recognized for.
13. Goldie Hawn was one of Hollywood’s most bankable actresses for three decades and has earned a number of awards for her work. Hawn decided to take a break from acting in 2002. This summer, she’s set to star in her first film in 15 years with Amy Schumer in the comedy Snatched.
Hawn broke into the biz not just for her good looks but a knack for comedy. The actress took on a number of comedic roles that solidified her as Hollywood’s funny girl. At 39 years old, Hawn graced the cover of Playboy, where she posed in a giant martini glass wearing just a white collar shirt and fishnet stockings.
14. Dame Angela Lansbury is an actress whose work in theater, television, and film has received international attention. Lansbury has had a successful career that has spanned over seven decades. One of her most prominent roles was as the character Jessica Fletcher in the wildly popular series Murder, She Wrote, which aired from 1984 to 1996.
Lansbury has been referred to by The New York Times as the “First Lady of Musical Theatre.” She gained stardom by playing the leading role in the Broadway musical Mame in 1966. Lansbury has a plethora of awards to her name, including an Honorary Oscar, five Tony Awards, six Golden Globes, an Olivier Award, and a Grammy.
15. Diana Ross was part of one of the world’s best-selling girl groups of all time, The Supremes. It was Ross’s success that is attributed to making it possible for future African-American R&B and soul acts to gain mainstream attention. Departing from The Supremes, Ross went on to enjoy a successful solo career as well as an acting career.
Throughout Ross’s career, she’s been nominated for a Grammy 12 times and became the recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Billboard Magazine has ranked Diana Ross as the 50th most successful dance artist of all time. A number of successful artists today were influenced by Ross’s incredible legacy.