New Hollywood, also known as The Hollywood Renaissance, denotes the period from the 1960s to the early ’80s when shifts in film revolutionized how movies were made. Suddenly directors were the head honchos, style and narrative became rebellious, and leading ladies left movie-goers speechless with their command of the screen. Some of these women never left the spotlight, such as Jane Fonda and Julie Andrews. Others we still stand in awe of for their classic roles, like Audrey Hepburn. From Italian star Sofia Loren to French heroine Catherine Deneuve, these international actresses showed us what being a leading lady is all about.
Most will recognize Maggie Smith from the Harry Potter franchise, in which she plays Professor Minerva McGonagall. One of her most famous characters recently is Violet Crawley, a Countess in the British drama series Downton Abbey.
However, Maggie had a tremendous career long before these modern roles. She premiered on Broadway just before the ’60s and spent the next three decades collecting acting credits. She was in more than a dozen films and television shows throughout the 1960s. In ’69, she won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
It may not come as a surprise that Sophia first began as a model. However, in 1956, a contract with Paramount pictures made her an international star by the turn of the decade. She was the first actress to win an Oscar for a foreign-language performance, an award she earned in ’62 for starring in Two Women.
She is also a record holder for the most David di Donatello Awards for Best Actress; she earned a total of six, three from films in the 1960s, and three from ’70s films. Most recently, she starred in the 2009 musical Nine alongside a host of current leading ladies.
Elizabeth Taylor spent most of her young life on the screen. She was a child star of the ’40s and one of the top leading actresses in classic cinema through the ’50s. Though she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in ’59, she was just getting started.
Her most epic role was the lead in the 1963 film Cleopatra, for which she earned a record-breaking $1 million. She went on to star in a dozen films with her Cleopatra co-star and husband Richard Burton. Her die-hard lifestyle, including her jewelry collection that was the most expensive in the world, was followed closely by the media until her death in 2011.
Wholesome-looking Shirley Jones made it big with her late-1950’s musical roles. Her first major award came in 1960 when she broke her good-girl look and starred in Elmer Gantry as a corrupted woman seeking revenge. The role earned her an Academy Award.
She starred in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father in 1963 and Fluffy in 1965 before being offered the part of Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch. She turned it down to instead star in the musical sitcom, The Partridge Family. She admitted to the Vancouver Sun that this role stuck with her, destroying a future for her in film. Even so, she has no regrets.
Audrey Hepburn’s critical acclaim and social stardom exploded in the 1950s with films like Roman Holiday and Ondine. She rang in the 1960s with the movie most of us have heard the name of, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She took on a role in a darker film, Charade, opposite Cary Grant in 1963.
Her starring role in My Fair Lady helped earn its Academy Award and BAFTA for Best Picture in 1964. She returned to the thriller genre for Wait Until Dark, receiving nominations for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA. She shifted her focus in the remaining decades of her life, contributing largely to UNICEF until her untimely death in 1992.
Vanessa Redgrave has one of those faces you swear you recognize, but can’t put your finger quite on it. That’s because she’s spent recent years popping up in popular shows and films such as Girl, Interrupted, Nip/Tuck, Letters to Juliet, and Atonement, to name a few.
The roles that first put her on the map were onstage, two of which were leads in Shakespearean plays. Meanwhile, she landed her first film in 1958 and went on to earn several nominations for Morgan– A Suitable Case for Treatment. She won the Film Critics’ Award for Best Actress for her role in Isadora in 1968.
Shirley Maclaine is one of the few leading ladies of the 1960s who never departed with the film industry. It’s likely you’ve seen her in one of her recent films alongside recent stars, such as In Her Shoes, Rumor Has It…, Steel Magnolias, and Valentine’s Day.
She hit the gates running, earning a Golden Globe for her breakout role in a Hitchcock film. She starred next to Audrey Hepburn in The Children’s Hour in 1961 and replaced Marilyn Monroe in Irma la Douce and What a Way To Go! She starred alongside Michael Caine, another long-time actor, in Gambit in 1966.
Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore’s career may have been slow to start, but it lasted decades. She spent the better part of the 1950’s dancing in television commercials and modeling for record albums. However, 1961 proved to be her year, offering her a heaping of parts including the one that she’s most known for.
After appearing in several mystery series, such as 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye, she landed the lead in The Dick Van Dyke Show. She earned her first Emmy Award for her part and went on to win six more. She starred in several Broadway plays and landed her own show in 1979.
Katharine Ross decided on a whim in the late 1950s that she wanted to be an actress. After studying in San Francisco, she landed her first television role in 1962 and appeared in several series throughout the next couple of years, many of which were western and sci-fi.
After playing supporting roles in 1966 and 1967, she caught her big break as the lead in The Graduate opposite Dustin Hoffman, winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe. She starred alongside Robert Redford and John Wayne before trading in film for theater. However, she made a comeback in the original version of The Stepford Wives, winning a Saturn Award for Best Actress.
Jane Fonda was in dozens of films in the ’60s alone. By 1963 she was pegged “the loveliest and most gifted” new actress by Newsday. She starred in Cat Ballou, which earned five Oscar nominations, and in The Chase with Robert Redford and Marlon Brando.
A turning point came in 1969 with her award-winning role in the drama They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? At the end of the decade, she turned down the lead in Rosemary’s Baby and Bonnie and Clyde. In 1991, she took a deserved break from acting after decades of success. She returned to acting in 2005 as though she never left.
Julie Christie is a British actress known as an icon of the “swinging London” era of the ’60s. Six of her films appear in the British Film Institute’s 100 greatest British films of the 20th century. Her breakthrough role was in 1963 in the film Billy Liar.
In 1965 she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Darling. The following year she starred in Fahrenheit 451, a film based on the classic novel by Ray Bradbury. More recently, Julie earned a BAFTA nomination for her role as Kate Winslet’s mother in Finding Neverland.
Despite being signed to MGM and winning a Golden Globe in the 1940s, Angela Lansbury was largely seen as a B-list actor. Her acclaimed role in the 1962 thriller The Manchurian Candidate set the record straight, as did her leading role in the 1966 Broadway musical Mame.
Though Lansbury led Mame to success on the stage, the film version of the musical went to Lucille Ball. This, as well as other disappointments, led Angela away from Hollywood and towards stage performances. She proceeded with a successful stage career, with the exception of her lead in Murder, She Wrote and as the voice of Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast.
Donna Douglas landed her first film role alongside Shirley MacLaine in the 1959 drama, Career. This role came amongst a plethora of television appearances in shows such as The Twilight Zone, Checkmate, Route 66, and Thriller.
Despite having yet to hit stardom, she was pegged out of 500 actresses to play a leading role in The Beverly Hillbillies, which ran from 1962 to 1971. In 1966, she starred next to Elvis in Frankie and Johnny. In the decades to come, Donna dabbled in several industries, including Real Estate, gospel singing, and writing.
French actress Catherine Deneuve entered the spotlight for her role in the 1964 musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, whose dialogue is entirely sung. In 1965, she was in the British film Repulsion, followed by A Matter of Resistance in 1966.
At the turn of the decade, she was in another French musical and another thriller before setting her sights on American films. She starred in The April Fools with Jack Lemmon and Hustle with Burt Reynolds. She also starred alongside David Bowie and Susan Sarandon in The Hunger.
Julie Andrews began her career as a child star, appearing onstage and landing her first Broadway part at 19 years old. He first time on film was in 1964 as the everlasting role of Mary Poppins, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
The following year she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her lead role in The Sound of Music. Around the same time, she detoured from musicals to take on the serious roles in The Americanization of Emily, Hawaii, and Torn Curtain. She rounded out the decade with musicals Thoroughly Modern Millie and Star!
Barbara Feldon spent most of the ’60s snagging temporary roles in television series. The role that changed everything was on East Side/West Side, a drama from the same creators of the comedy series Get Smart.
Sure enough, Barbara was cast as Agent 99 in Get Smart for the remainder of the decade, earning two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress. The role became an inspiration for women of the era, who rarely saw a female character in that type of career.
Ann-Margret signed to 20th Century Fox in 1961 and debuted in Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis. After appearing in State Fair, she hit stardom with her role in the 1963 musical Bye Bye Birdie. The following year she starred with Elvis Presley in Viva Las Vegas.
In 1965, she starred in The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen, and was in Murderers’ Row with Dean Martin in 1966. Her CBS television special, The Ann-Margret Show, aired in 1968. It’s follow-up special, Ann-Margret: From Hollywood With Love, featured Lucille Ball and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy.
After working as a weather forecaster in Texas and a model in San Diego, Raquel Welch headed to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. Through 1964, she was cast in several small roles in films and television series. However, her first feature came in 1965 with the beach film Swingin’ Summer.
After being recognized by Life magazine, Raquel was signed to 20th Century Fox. In 1966 she landed a lead role in Fantastic Voyage, making her a star. Her publicity still became a best-selling poster, breaking dream girl stereotypes. By the end of the decade, she was an international success.
French actress Brigitte Bardot made it big with her starring roles in French films towards the end of the 1950s. She transitioned into international films in the mid-1960s, starring in Dear Brigitte in 1965 alongside James Stewart, which was a success around the world.
In 1968, she was in the film Two Weeks in September, a French-English film that was a flop. The same year she starred in the Hollywood film Shalako, also starring Sean Connery, though it was not a box-office smash. Bardot returned to french films before retiring in 1973.
Faye Dunaway’s career began in the 1960s on Broadway. She transitioned into film with her starring role in the 1967 crime comedy, The Happening. Her portrayal in Bonnie and Clyde the same year earned her her first Academy Award nomination.
In 1968, she starred alongside Steve McQueen in the box office smash The Thomas Crown Affair. After a few commercial failures, Dunaway landed back on her feet with her role opposite Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man. Today, Dunaway is regarded as one of the greatest actresses of the New Hollywood era.