CLASSIC FILM MAN CANDY
Most people would agree that looks shouldn’t matter in how we’re perceived and judged. Our actions and behavior are a much better reflection of our character and beauty.
However, Hollywood has long been a place and an industry where appearances are partially responsible for success. Talent, of course, is the main factor, but often the most successful actors are also very handsome. It’s often a combination of both talent and looks which attract an audience and turn viewers into fans.
Contemporary actors are not the first to garner attention for their looks. Actors of Hollywood’s Golden Era also experienced this phenomenon. In fact, many of them were often mobbed any time they appeared in public and required police escorts and protection. And just like now, female fans drooled over their favorites.
Today, I’m sharing with you a list of classic film man candy whose onscreen charisma made us swoon. For the purposes of this list, I’ve only chosen actors who began their careers before 1965. This is often considered a cut-off point in defining the classic film era.
Twenty-Six of the Most Handsome Classic Film Actors
(In no particular order except for Cary Grant, who will always be my number one.)
1. Cary Grant
Popular/Famous Films: The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, An Affair to Remember, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest
Fast Facts: Born in England. One of the most popular classic film stars. Personal friends with Ingrid Bergman & Grace Kelly. One of the first free-lance actors in Hollywood.
Never won a competitive Oscar. Favorite of director Alfred Hitchcock. Known for his personal style and trans-Atlantic accent.
2. Robert Redford
Popular/Famous Films: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The Great Gatsby, All the President’s Men, The Natural, Out of Africa
Fast Facts: Founder of the Sundance Film Festival. Awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom. Close friends with Paul Newman and director Sydney Pollack. Both acts and directs and has won an Oscar for directing.
3. Paul Newman
Popular/Famous Films: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cool Hand Luke, Hud, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Verdict, The Color of Money
Fast Facts: Served in the Navy. Started career on Broadway and in television. Co-starred with wife Joanne Woodward in ten films. Nominated ten times for an Oscar with one win. Loved racing cars. Founded Newman’s Own. Started a camp for kids with illnesses.
4. William Holden
Popular/Famous Films: Sunset Boulevard, Born Yesterday, Stalag 17, Sabrina, The Bridge on the River Kwai
Fast Facts: Championed by Barbara Stanwyck in his first starring role. Served in the Air Force. Co-owned an animal reserve in Kenya. Had a love affair with Audrey Hepburn. Advocated for wildlife conservation. Fascinated by the Japanese culture. Appeared in nine Oscar-nominated films.
5. Clark Gable
Popular/Famous Films: It Happened One Night, Manhattan Melodrama, Mutiny on the Bounty, Gone With the Wind
Fast Facts: Married five times – most famously to fellow actress Carole Lombard. Nicknamed the King of Hollywood. Started out in the theater.
Had a long-term affair with six-time co-star Joan Crawford. Had a secret child out of wedlock with co-star Loretta Young. Good friends with director Victor Fleming and actor Lionel Barrymore. Flew five combat mission with the Air Force during WWII.
6. Joel McCrea
Popular/Famous Films: Sullivan’s Travels, The More the Merrier, Foreign Correspondent, Ride the High Country
Fast Facts: Grew up in Los Angeles and delivered papers to Cecil B DeMille. Started out in romantic comedies and dramas but eventually found success in Westerns.
Married fellow actress Francis Dee. Made more money from his real estate investments than his films. Co-starred in six films with Barbara Stanwyck. A close personal friend of Will Rogers.
7. Gary Cooper
Popular/Famous Films: A Farewell to Arms, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Sergeant York, The Pride of the Yankees For Whom the Bell Tolls, High Noon
Fast Facts: Started his career in silent films. Married once and had one daughter. Known by his nickname “Coop.” Attended school in England for several years.
A close friend of Pablo Picasso, Bing Crosby, Ernest Hemingway and James Stewart. Became a Western star in his later years. Loved dogs, outdoor activities and sports. Won two Oscars.
8. Tyrone Power
Popular/Famous Films: Jesse James, The Mark of Zorro, The Razor’s Edge, Blood and Sand, Witness for the Prosecution
Fast Facts: Third generation actor of the same name. Served as a pilot in the Marine Corp during WWII. Known for being a skilled swordsman. Died of a heart attack while filming Solomon and Sheba and was replaced by Yul Brynner.
9. Rock Hudson
Popular/Famous Films: Magnificent Obsession, Giant, Pillow Talk, A Farewell to Arms, Ice Station Zebra
Fast Facts: Served in the Navy. Most famously matched onscreen with Doris Day in three romantic comedies. Married to hide his homosexuality. The first public figure to announce he had AIDS.
10. James Garner
Popular/Famous Films: The Great Escape, The Rockford Files, Grand Prix, Victor/Victoria, Maverick, The Notebook
Fast Facts: Started his career in television and saw success both there and in films. Received two Purple Hearts while serving during the Korean War. Married once and had two children.
Co-starred with Julie Andrews in three films. John Wayne once called him the best American actor. Enjoyed racing cars like his friend Paul Newman. A close friend of co-stars Doris Day and Lauren Bacall.
11. Robert Taylor
Popular/Famous Films: Camille, Waterloo Bridge, Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table
Fast Facts: His good looks were often a detriment to his reputation as an actor. Remained humble despite his success. Good friends with Clark Gable. Loved planes and flying. Served in the Navy. Stayed with MGM longer than any other contract star. Married to Barbara Stanwyck.
12. Gene Kelly
Popular/Famous Films: On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Brigadoon, The Three Musketeers
Fast Facts: Graduated college with a degree in economics. Fluent in French. Started a career as a teacher before becoming a choreographer and then a performer. Judy Garland convinced MGM to buy out Kelly’s contract with another studio so that he could be her co-star.
Partnered with Frank Sinatra in three films. Acted as a dance consultant for one of Madonna’s tours. Has been cited as an influence by Jackie Chan. Directed several of his own films.
13. Gregory Peck
Popular/Famous Films: The Yearling, Roman Holiday, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cape Fear, Spellbound, The Gentleman’s Agreement
Fast Facts: Good friend of Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Michael Jackson. Lost oldest son to suicide. Chairman of the American Cancer Society and the American Film Institute. Considered running against Ronald Reagan for governor of California.
Opposed the Vietnam War. Marched with Martin Luther King. Co-founder of the La Jolla Playhouse. Remained close to his onscreen daughter from To Kill a Mockingbird. Close friend and supporter of President Lyndon B. Johnson and French President Jacques Chirac. Turned down the chance to work with Marilyn Monroe.
14. Steve McQueen
Popular/Famous Films: The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, Cincinnati Kid, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Getaway, Bullitt
Fast Facts: Spent time in a reformatory as a teenager. Loved anything with an engine. Raced cars and motorcycles and piloted his own plane. Admired John Wayne. One of his three wives was co-star, Ali McGraw. Was on Charles Manson’s kill list and just barely missed being a victim of the Manson murders when his plans changed at the last minute.
Acted as a pallbearer at Bruce Lee’s funeral. Participated in Bible studies with Billy Graham. Kevin Costner, Collin Farrell, Bruce Willis and Pierce Brosnan have all named McQueen as their inspiration for being an actor.
15. Errol Flynn
Popular/Famous Films: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Adventures of Don Juan
Fast Facts: Born in Tasmania, Australia. A notorious womanizer who favored younger women. Lived such a wild life that he inspired the phrase, “in like Flynn.” Starred with Olivia de Havilland in nine films, each had a crush on the other but never acted on it.
Son Sean Flynn was a photojournalist who went missing in Vietnam during the war and has never been found. Famous for his swashbuckling films.
16. Henry Fonda
Popular/Famous Films: The Grapes of Wrath, 12 Angry Men, On Golden Pond, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Young Mr. Lincoln, The Lady Eve, Jezebel, Mister Roberts
Fast Facts: Took acting lessons from Marlon Brando’s mother. Saw active combat in the Navy during WWII. Best friends with James Stewart despite their opposing political views.
Enjoyed painting, beekeeping and building model airplanes and kites. Father of Peter and Jane Fonda. Despite much praise and an Oscar Fonda was never satisfied with his performances. Preferred the stage over the camera.
17. Sean Connery
Popular/Famous Films: (Bond Films) Dr. No, Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice, Marnie, The Untouchables, First Knight, The Rock, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Fast Facts: Born in Scotland. Portrayed James Bond in seven films. Bond author Ian Fleming was so impressed with his portrayal that he created a partial Scottish heritage for his hero in later books. Took dancing lessons for eleven years. Had his wrist broken by Steven Seagal and lived with it broken for several years.
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Good friends with Michael Caine and his Bond replacement Roger Moore. One of only four Scottish actors to receive an Acadamy Award nomination and the only one to win one. Enjoys golf.
18. Dana Andrews
Popular/Famous Films: Laura, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Ox-Bow Incident, State Fair, Where the Sidewalk Ends
Fast Facts: Son of a Baptist minister. His alcoholism affected his career. Years later he got sober and did a public service announcement about the dangers of alcohol.
Served a term as President of the Screen Actors Guild. Trained in opera. Co-starred with Gene Tierney in five films. Became a real estate investor after reading a how-to book.
19. Louis Jourdan
Popular/Famous Films: Gigi, Octopussy, The V.I.P.’s, Three Coins in a Fountain
Fast Facts: Born in France. Member of the French Resistance during WWII. Married only once and stayed married. His wife was a friend of Cary Grant. Lost his only child to a drug overdose. A good friend of his Julie co-star Doris Day. His career suffered over his resistance to playing the stereotypical French lover.
20. Rod Taylor
Popular/Famous Films: The V.I.P.’s, Sunday in New York, The Time Machine, The Birds
Fast Facts: Born in Australia. Originally wanted to be an artist. A performance of Shakespearean actor Laurence Olivier inspired him to become an actor. Started his career on stage and radio. Owned his own television production company. Refused to screen test for the role of James Bond.
21. Charlton Heston
Popular/Famous Films: The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Planet of the Apes, El Cid, Soylent Green
Fast Facts: Known for his roles in biblical and historical epics. Famous for his passionate support of the NRA. Served in the Army Air Force. Portrayed many real-life figures including Marc Antony, Andrew Jackson, Cardinal Richelieu, Michelangelo, Moses and John the Baptist.
Narrated for classified military instruction films and held the highest security clearance with the U.S. government. Advocated for civil rights and marched with Martin Luther King. A close friend of Kirk Douglas. Enjoyed drawing and sketching.
22. Laurence Olivier
Popular/Famous Films: Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, That Hamilton Woman, Spartacus, Hamlet, The Prince and the Showgirl, Fire Over England
Fast Facts: Born in England. Father was an Anglican priest. One of his wives was film and stage co-star Vivien Leigh. Their marriage was witnessed by Katharine Hepburn. Considered one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of our time. Vivien Leigh fell in love with him watching him play Romeo on the stage. Preferred the stage to film and performed in England, America and Australia. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
One of two actors to direct himself in an Oscar-winning performance. Felt the career of Cary Grant was the “paradigm of greatness.” Signed to play the role of Don Veto Corleone in The Godfather but was replaced by Marlon Brando before filming began. He is the most Oscar-nominated actor in history with thirteen nominations.
23. Charles Farrell
Popular/Famous Films: 7th Heaven, Street Angel, Lucky Star, Sunny Side Up
Fast Facts: Majority of his movies are from the silent film era. Co-starred with Janet Gaynor in twelve films and even proposed to her. Had his eardrums blown out by an explosion on set leaving him partially deaf.
Became a land developer after he left films. Served as the mayor of Palm Springs. One of the first major American male film stars to appear nude on screen. Played polo. Opened the Palms Springs Racquet Club with fellow actor Ralph Bellamy.
24. Alan Ladd
Popular/Famous Films: Shane, This Gun for Hire, The Glass Key, The Blue Dahlia
Fast Facts: An only child. While playing with matches, burned the family apartment at age five. Trained for the 1932 Olympics until an injury sidelined him. Known for his tough guy roles in films. Co-starred with Veronica Lake in seven films. Died from an overdose. Campaigned for Eisenhower in the presidential election.
25. James Dean
Popular/Famous Films: Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, Giant
Fast Facts: Lost his mother as a child and was raised by his aunt and uncle. Career consisted of three films and a handful of television series. Died in an auto accident at 24. Was issued a speeding ticket hours before his death.
The only actor to receive multiple Oscar nominations posthumously. Favorite book was The Little Prince. Enjoyed playing practical jokes on his friends, painting and reading. Aspired to be a writer. Mentor and friend to Dennis Hopper.
26. Montgomery Clift
Popular/Famous Films: From Here to Eternity, A Place in the Sun, The Misfits
Fast Facts: Had a twin sister. Made his Broadway debut at age 13. Film career consists of eighteen films. Close friends with co-star Elizabeth Taylor who saved his life after he had an auto accident leaving her home.
His reliance on drugs and alcohol led to his early death at 45 and was called “the longest suicide in history.” A friend of Marlon Brando. Was multilingual, speaking French, Italian and German.
Photos: Public Domain
Source for Fast Facts: IMDb.com
Are you a fan of any of these classic film actors? Who do you think is the most handsome? Who would you add to this list?
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