Publicity still: Marilyn Monroe in River of No Return (1954)
The beautiful, sexy blonde actress has played an important role in movie history. Here are ten unforgettable blondes whose screen immortality is guaranteed in the world of motion pictures and television. Some are natural blondes, and some aren’t. But, hey, this is Hollywood where all things are possible.
Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)
Born Norma Jeane Mortensen in Los Angeles, Marilyn Monroe still reigns as Hollywood’s all-time famous blonde. Although her natural hair color was a reddish brown, Monroe’s boss Emmeline Sniveley at the Blue Book Agency felt that a lighter look would be more advantageous for modeling work. Thus, in 1946 the lightening process began at Frank and Joseph’s Beauty Salon in Los Angeles, where over the course of eight months tint technician Sylvia Barnhart gradually transformed Norma Jeane into a platinum blonde. Norma Jeane’s name was later changed to Marilyn Monroe and the rest is history as the model-turned-actress took the world by storm, appearing in such popular films as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), Bus Stop (1956) and The Misfits (1961). Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles on August 5, 1962.
Jean Harlow (1911-1937)
Jean Harlow was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter in Kansas City, Missouri. A natural ash blonde, Harlow’s famous platinum blonde look was the by-product of a weekly bleaching regimen that utilized peroxide, ammonia, Clorox and Lux Flakes. Although Harlow began her career as a bit player, the diminutive, green-eyed actress known as “Baby” to her family later achieved international stardom, appearing in such films as Hell’s Angels (1930), Platinum Blonde (1931), Bombshell (1933) and Libeled Lady (1936). Harlow’s untimely death at age 26 came on June 7, 1937, the result of uremic poisoning due to kidney failure.
Portrait still, MGM 1930s: Jean Harlow as photographed by Ted Allen
Grace Kelly (1929-1982)
Grace Patricia Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A natural blonde, Kelly appeared in only 11 films before retiring at age 26 to become Princess Grace of Monaco. Kelly epitomized the smart, classy, sophisticated blonde of the 1950s, showcasing her talent and beauty in such movies as High Noon (1952), Rear Window (1954), The Country Girl (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Grace Kelly died in an automobile accident in Monaco on September 14, 1982.
Publicity still: Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder (1954)
Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967)
Born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Jayne Mansfield was one of Hollywood’s leading sex symbols of the 1950s and ’60s. A drama student at UCLA and a former Playboy Playmate (February 1955), Mansfield began her movie career in bit parts for Warner Bros., later garnering her first starring role in The Girl Can’t Help It (1956). Her other films included such fare as Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), Too Hot to Handle (1960), Promises! Promises! (1963) and The Las Vegas Hillbillies (1966). A natural brunette, Jayne Mansfield died in an automobile accident near Slidell, Louisiana, on June 29, 1967.
Publicity still: Jayne Mansfield in Kiss Them for Me (1957)
Brigitte Bardot (1934-)
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot was born in Paris, France. A natural brunette, Bardot shot to international fame playing Juliete Hardy in …And God Created Woman (1956). In time, Bardot came to epitomize the blonde, international “sex kitten.” The actress retired from movies just shy of her 40th birthday, becoming an often controversial advocate for animal rights. When the initials “B.B.” came up in her heyday, most everyone knew Brigitte Bardot was the registered owner.
Publicity still: Brigitte Bardot in A Very Private Affair (1962)
Julie Christie (1941-)
Born Julie Frances Christie in Chabua, India, the blonde actress made her movie debut in Crooks Anonymous (1962) playing the role of Babette LaVern. In 1965, she appeared in both Doctor Zhivago and Darling, winning a Best Actress Oscar for the latter. Julie Christie came to represent the alluring British Empire blonde, one who could both light up the screen with her natural beauty and turn in a great screen performance as well.
French grande movie poster: Julie Christie in Darling (1965)
Veronica Lake (1922-1973)
Veronica Lake was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn, New York. Nicknamed “The Peek-a-boo Girl” in deference to her hairstyle which covered the right side of her forehead, the diminutive Lake (4’11” tall) made her film debut in Sorority House (1939). Her other movie credits included I Wanted Wings (1941), I Married a Witch (1942), The Blue Dahlia (1946) and Slattery’s Hurricane (1949). “I will have one of the cleanest obits of any actress. I never did cheesecake like Ann Sheridan or Betty Grable. I just used my hair,” Lake once said of her long golden locks. Veronica Lake died of hepatitis in Burlington, Vermont, on July 7, 1973.
Portrait still, 1940s: Veronica Lake
Ursula Andress (1936-)
Ursula Andress was born in Ostermundigen, Switzerland. Called “the most awesome piece of natural Swiss architecture since the Alps,” the shapely Andress made her motion picture debut playing Astrid in An American in Rome (1954). In 1962, she appeared as Honeychile “Honey” Ryder in the James Bond movie Dr. No, emerging from the ocean clad in a white bikini in what ranks as one of Hollywood’s most unforgettable sexy scenes.
Lobby card: Ursula Andress in Dr. No (1962)
Carol Lynley (1942-)
Born Carole Ann Jones in New York City, Carol Lynley began modeling at an early age, later making an appearance on the April 22, 1957, cover of Life magazine when she was only 15. Lynley made her motion picture debut in The Light in the Forest (1958) and the following year won acclaim as a pregnant teenager in Blue Denim (1959). Her other film credits include Return to Peyton Place (1961), The Pleasure Seekers (1964) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Blessed with golden good looks and a come-hither persona, Carol Lynley was unmistakable on both the silver and small screen.
Portrait still: Carol Lynley
Penny Singleton (1908-2003)
Born Mariana Dorothy Agnes Letitia McNulty in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Penny Singleton portrayed one of the most famous fictional blondes in history. A natural brunette who lightened her hair for her most famous role, Singleton portrayed Chic Young’s comic strip Blondie in 28 movies from 1938-50. “God bless Chic Young,” Singleton later said of Blondie’s creator. Penny Singleton died of complications from a stroke in Sherman Oaks, California, on November 12, 2003.
Half sheet movie poster: Penny Singleton in Blondie (1938)
Fifteen More Popular Hollywood Movie and TV Blondes – Past and Present
- Yvette Mimieux (1942-)
- Carole Lombard (1908-1942)
- Marilyn Maxwell (1921-1972)
- Tippi Hedren (1930-)
- Kim Novak (1933-)
- Mamie Van Doren (1931-)
- Linda Evans (1942-)
- Honor Blackman (1927-)
- Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009)
- Hilary Duff (1987-)
- Estella Warren (1978-)
- Gwyneth Paltrow (1972-)
- Charlize Theron (1975-)
- Cameron Diaz (1972-)
- Claire Danes (1979-)
Publicity still, 1950s: Mamie Van Doren
- All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas