The Golden Age of Hollywood spanned from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, marking a remarkable time in film. It was most memorable for the rise of iconic actresses. With alluring star quality, these ladies left an indelible mark on the film industry. Although they once graced the silver screen and were the most popular household names in the world, they disappeared from the public eye. How come they fell off the map, and why did they leave the industry? Find out more below.
Known for her famous roles in the silent films of the 1920s, Clara Bow often played modern young women who defied conventional cultural norms at the time. Though she was known for being clever and oozing sex appeal, Bow’s life was filled with scandal, and she didn’t have the best reputation due to her erratic behavior and mental health issues. She left due to betrayals and pressure from the studios, and by 1933, she married and moved to a ranch in Nevada.
Norma Shearer was once the queen of MGM and had a lot of power with that specific studio. It’s no surprise that this was due to her being married to Irving Thalberg, who was Metro’s head of production. But even beyond her husband’s clout, Shearer had an undeniable star quality, showcasing many different kinds of femininity. She could go from noble and dignified roles to liberated and chaotic ones in the blink of an eye, and she retired in 1942, six years after her husband passed away.
Normand was one of Hollywood’s most impressive female trailblazers. Although she was a director, writer, and comedy star, many remember her legendary reputation as a reckless party girl. She often co-starred with a comedian called Fatty Arbuckle, who had notorious legal issues in 1920. Scandal was always present around Mabel Normand. This includes her chauffeur, who committed a shooting, and her director friend, William Desmond Taylor, who was murdered. After films started being censored for immoral behavior, she lost traction as a star, and her last film was released in 1926. She died of tuberculosis in 1930.
Paramount discovered the beautiful Frances Farmer at 22 years old. But after getting sick of the studio world, she left and returned to her theater roots. Although she eventually returned to Hollywood, she suffered many mental health and addiction struggles and was portrayed as a fallen star by the headlines. Along with these scandals, she had a conservatorship under her controlling mother and experienced a very public breakdown that ended her career.
The suspenseful movie “Sunset Boulevard” lets Gloria Swanson shine in a fictionalized and glorified version of her story. Swanson once dominated Hollywood, but since she failed to transition to talkies, she left the industry towards the end of the 1930s. Although she still popped up on the stage and in radio appearances, her star began to fade, and its revival due to “Sunset Boulevard” didn’t last long, leaving her as a fallen goddess of Hollywood.
Despite breaking records, Luise Rainer isn’t discussed too often, except for within knowledgeable cinephile groups. Born in Germany, this actress won multiple Oscars in back-to-back years. She was expected to become the next Greta Garbo, but bad career advice, the death of a producer, and her studio advocate, Irving Thalberg, cut her career in movies short. After being disenchanted with Hollywood, she left the industry and only took on roles occasionally.
Discovered by Alfred Hitchcock in a TV commercial, acting came naturally to Tippi Hedren, as we can see from her movie “The Birds.” Fitting Hitchcock’s ideal of the cool blond, Hedren was mentored by the king of suspense. Though some would see this as a plus, his counseling ultimately ended her career. He kept her under a contract that disallowed her from taking roles anywhere else after she rejected his advances. This prevented her from cashing in on other roles and ruined her future as an actress.
The adorable, curly-haired Shirley Temple dominated box offices at the height of her career. There was nothing this little cutie couldn’t do. She tap-danced, sang, and cried believably in films of all sorts, and while she had the potential to continue as a teen and adult, she retired at 22 years old, marrying and living a quiet life until the 1950s, when she began to make TV appearances. In the 1960s, she switched career paths to be a US diplomat.
Hedy Lamarr was anything but ordinary. Besides her extraordinary beauty and acting skills, she also invented a radio guidance system, which is the basis for tech like WiFi. Later in her career, she was known for being a recluse, and she made her last movie in 1958. She started to get protective of her image and wasn’t afraid to take legal action against anyone she thought was trying to cash in on her fame. In the ‘80s, she only communicated with her best friends on the telephone and lived the last 20 years of her life in complete seclusion.
Garbo is famous for saying, “I want to be alone.” And she wasn’t joking. The Swedish silent star arrived in Hollywood in 1925, when she began to work for MGM. Unfortunately, her final film, dubbed “Two-Faced Woman,” failed, and as a result, she announced she was retiring from Hollywood despite being its biggest star at the time. Her life afterward was very private and guarded, and she lived almost half a century in solitude after retiring.