40 Stunning Vintage Photographs Of Iconic Golden Age Stars At Award Shows

If we say the words “Old Hollywood,” you can instantly picture the glitz and glamour in your mind. Cameras flashing, women with pin curls and satin gowns waltzing down the red carpet alongside escorts in crisp black and white suits. But such scenes don’t show you what it was really like at these Golden Age awards shows. Read on for a glimpse behind the scenes to see how your favorite stars let their hair down when they thought the cameras weren’t on.

40. Winning the Oscar can be stressful

David Nivens was sweating from his brow after winning the Best Actor Oscar in 1959 for his work in Separate Tables. Luckily, he had someone by his side who knew how stressful the ceremony could be. Susan Hayward – who won a Best Actress statuette that same night for her role in I Want to Live – sweetly dabbed a tissue on his forehead.

39. Who’s the winner here?

Jane Wyman won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1949, and we can see her gleefully holding her statuette in this photo. Meanwhile, fellow thespian Jane Wyman congratulates her with a hug – and a grin that’s almost bigger than the actual winner’s. Now, that’s what we call a supportive co-worker.

ADVERTISEMENT

38. Hollywood’s version of multi-tasking

Donna Reed is perhaps best known for starring in the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life. But it was actually her supporting role in From Here to Eternity that earned her an Oscar. Here, she shows us how to juggle an Academy Award trophy while signing an autograph for an adoring fan.

37. Posing with the paparazzi

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s not very often that we see the people responsible for snapping pictures of celebs at Hollywood’s most glamorous gatherings. But famously extravagant actress Zsa Zsa Gabor managed to pose alongside one of the photographers at the 1956 Emmy Awards. Is anybody else seeing a vague resemblance to Abraham Lincoln?

36. A-list couple making small talk

Felicia Farr and Jack Lemmon had an on-and-off relationship for years before a 1962 phone call that changed everything. The actor supposedly told her that their break-ups and make-ups were silly since they both loved each other so much. So, they got married in 1962 – and stayed together until his death in 2001. Here, we see them sharing a private word at the 1961 Oscars, a year before their nuptials.

ADVERTISEMENT

35. Shelley Winters loses her shoes

ADVERTISEMENT

Anyone who wears high heels to a party knows that by the time the dancing has begun, it’s time to take off the pumps. Shelley Winters did just that at an after-party for the 34th Academy Awards in 1962. The actress, who starred in The Diary of Anne Frank and A Patch of Blue, danced barefoot while Donnie Brooks performed at the festivities.

34. Taking the dress code seriously

Over the course of his prolific career, Bing Crosby starred in more than 70 films and recorded a whopping 1,600 songs. He clearly took his art seriously – and perhaps he felt the same about his fashion. The crooner and his date – his future wife Kathryn Grant – arrived at the 1955 Oscars dressed to the nines. When’s the last time you saw someone wear a top hat to the Academy Awards?

ADVERTISEMENT

33. Sitting back and enjoying the show

ADVERTISEMENT

The 1938 Oscars were meant to take place on March 3, but Los Angeles experienced a flood on that very date. So, the ceremony happened a week late. No one seems nervous in this photo that the natural disaster was a bad omen. Instead, actor Tyrone Power and A Star is Born nominee for Best Actress Janet Gaynor sit together and watch the show go on.

32. A Disney moment

No one has ever won more Oscars than Walt Disney. The iconic producer and animator won 26 statuettes in the course of his lifetime. In this photo, he holds nearly one-sixth of all of his Academy Awards. He won all four of them at the 1954 ceremony – two for his short movies and two for his studio’s documentaries.

ADVERTISEMENT

31. Ingrid Bergman goes casual

ADVERTISEMENT

When we think of fashion at the Oscars, we envision celebrities strutting down the red carpet, dripping with glamour. Of course, not everyone has to stick to this dress code. Ingrid Bergman kept things casual at the 1945 ceremony, which saw her taking home a Best Actress statuette for her work in Gaslight. She paired a black midi dress with chunky kitten heels and a simple, pinned-back hairstyle.

30. John Wayne hands over the Oscar

It was Olivia de Havilland’s night at the 1950 Oscars, where she won Best Actress for the movie The Heiress. The man who handed off the prize was actor John Wayne, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and box office draws at the time. Still, it’d take him two more decades to bring home an Academy Award of his own, which he finally did for his part in the 1970 movie True Grit.

ADVERTISEMENT

29. A new way to honor music’s best

ADVERTISEMENT

Music executives in the late 1950s had a problem – they could only reward a select few of the industry’s most important creators with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So, they decided to come up with another prize to honor the best and brightest in music, which they’d deliver in a ceremony much like the Oscars or Emmys. Thus, the Grammys were born in 1958, with the first ceremony taking place in 1959. By 1960 they had celebs including Nat King Cole and Bob Newhart standing at the podium and speaking during the ceremony.

28. Raquel Welch makes a joke

In 1973 Marlon Brando famously sent a Native American person to collect his Oscar. This woman delivered a protest speech about how Native Americans were treated by the movie business. But when Raquel Welch announced the Best Actress winner alongside actor Gene Hackman, she quipped that she hoped “they haven’t got a cause.”

ADVERTISEMENT

27. The winners’ circle

ADVERTISEMENT

In 1963 Gregory Peck took home the Best Actor Oscar for his iconic role in To Kill a Mockingbird. Meanwhile, Joan Crawford nabbed the Best Actress statuette – by accepting on behalf of the absent winner Anne Bancroft. With them in this photo are the previous year’s winners Sophia Loren and Maximilian Schell, who handed over the trophies.

26. Schmooze it or lose it

Lucille Ball stands as one of the most beloved and widely known female comedians in American history. With that in mind, it’s hard to believe tha she’d need to court the favor of the press. But we guess it didn’t hurt for her and then-husband Desi Arnaz to chat up Louella Parsons, a powerful gossip columnist during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

ADVERTISEMENT

25. A loving gaze

ADVERTISEMENT

Actors dream their entire careers of winning an Academy Award. So, it’s no surprise that when Charlton Heston won his first Academy Award for Ben Hur, he couldn’t stop staring at the statuette. Even with actress Susan Hayward at his side, the star only had eyes for his well-deserved trophy.

24. Hard work pays off

Marilyn Monroe made some big changes in the mid-1950s. Her studio didn’t want to change her contract, so she decided to form her own production company in 1954. The next year, she learned about method acting from Lee Strasberg. And in 1959 it all paid off. She garnered critical acclaim for her role in Some Like It Hot – and she even picked up a Golden Globe for her performance.

ADVERTISEMENT

23. Golden Age women supporting women

ADVERTISEMENT

Ginger Rogers handed Joan Fontaine her Academy Award in 1942, an honor she’d earned for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion. The presenter looks pleased as punch, and it may have been because she knew how exciting it was to win. Rogers had taken home the same prize the year prior for Kitty Foyle.

22. Dick Van Dyke takes over

It’s fair to say that the team behind The Dick Van Dyke Show were pretty successful at the Primetime Emmys. After all, the program won 15 out of its 25 nominations over a five-season run. A handful of those awards went to the show’s stars, with both Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore taking home two Emmys for their performances. They posed for this photo after winning their first set of statues on May 25, 1964.

ADVERTISEMENT

21. Sinatra’s return to glory

ADVERTISEMENT

When Frank Sinatra left his wife Nancy for screen siren Ava Gardner in 1951, Hollywood turned its back on him. But he made a triumphant return a few years later thanks to his new wife, who rallied for him to get cast in From Here to Eternity – a part that won him an Oscar in 1954. With that, he signed a seven-year deal with Capitol Records and his second rise to the top commenced.

20. Olivia de Havilland walks the red carpet

Olivia de Havilland earned four Oscar nominations between 1941 and 1949. So, by the time she arrived at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1950, she knew what to expect. And that must be why she looks so calm in this photo, posing amid the horde of cameramen on the red carpet.

ADVERTISEMENT

19. The Golden Girls

ADVERTISEMENT

Even if you don’t go home with an Oscar, you can pose with one – that’s the lesson to be learned from actresses Cleo Moore and Jayne Mansfield. In the end, neither one earned an Academy Award nomination at any point in their career. But, hey, they clearly still had fun at the 1956 ceremony.

18. Kiss the winner

It’s hard to believe that Humphrey Bogart only had one Oscar win, considering that the American Film Institute considers him to be the number-one male star of Hollywood’s Golden Age. It seems that actress Claire Trevor was aware of that, too. She couldn’t help but give The African Queen’s leading man a smooch when he finally won in 1952.

ADVERTISEMENT

17. Brando lets his hair down

ADVERTISEMENT

Marlon Brando took his craft seriously. He believed in method acting, meaning he’d embody his character constantly in order to convincingly portray them when the cameras rolled. With that in mind, it’s fun to see this photo of him letting loose at the 1955 Oscars. He got into a joke fight with the show’s host Bob Hope, who’s trying to steal away the screen legend’s first of two Academy Awards.

16. Beaming Sophie Loren

Receiving an Oscar is exciting – we’ve seen that in quite a few of our pictures so far. But for Italian actress Sophia Loren – who’s beaming in this snapshot after her 1962 win – it meant even more. That’s because she made history as the first person to ever win an Academy Award for a role performed in a language besides English.

ADVERTISEMENT

15. Peck and Passani forever

ADVERTISEMENT

French journalist Veronique Passani interviewed Gregory Peck ahead of his trip to Italy for the Roman Holiday shoot. And the rest, as they say, is history. The pair became inseparable, got married and remained together until his death. This photo – taken on the 1962 Oscars red carpet – shows them a decade into their lifelong love affair.

14. World’s Favorite Actress

You won’t see any stars winning the award for World’s Favorite Film Actor or Actress anymore – at least, not at the Golden Globes. But half a century ago, such an honor existed as part of the slate of awards up for grabs from the Hollywood Foreign Press. Grace Kelly won the title in 1956, and here we see her gleefully accepting her trophy.

ADVERTISEMENT

13. Audrey’s rise to the top

ADVERTISEMENT

Audrey Hepburn’s first ever starring role came in the 1953 flick Roman Holiday, and she was handsomely rewarded for her work. For one thing, she shot to fame thanks to her part in the classic film. But she also became the first actress to win a BAFTA, Golden Globe and an Oscar for a single role. Here, we see her smiling with the latter award.

12. Joan Crawford’s unglamorous acceptance

Joan Crawford earned her first Academy Award nomination in 1946 for Mildred Pierce, but she wasn’t able to have her glamorous night in Hollywood. She instead found herself ill in bed, where she remained when the movie’s director Michael Curtiz came over with a special delivery: the trophy that the actress had won. It was her first and only Oscar.

ADVERTISEMENT

11. Cary Grant and… Someone else’s Oscar

ADVERTISEMENT

The American Film Institute considers Cary Grant to be the second-best actor of the Golden Age in Hollywood’s history. But the star never actually won an Academy Award, save for the honorary one he received in 1970. Here, we see him in 1957, cradling an Oscar that actually belonged to actress Ingrid Bergman.

10. I Love Ethel

It wasn’t just the public who adored I Love Lucy – the show and its stars were a hit with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, too. But it was neither Desi Arnaz nor Lucille Ball who won a trophy for their performance at the 1954 Primetime Emmys. Instead, their co-star Vivian Vance won for her supporting role as Ethel, Lucy’s best friend.

ADVERTISEMENT

9. Reflecting on a momentous win

ADVERTISEMENT

Sidney Poitier made Hollywood history in 1964 when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his part in the movie Lilies of the Field. He was the first Black man and Bahamanian to nab the coveted statuette. And as of March 2021, he’s the oldest Best Actor Oscar winner still alive.

8. Liz’s boredom

Elizabeth Taylor earned her first Oscar nomination in 1958. It was only after three unsuccessful trips to the ceremony, however, that she finally won her statuette in 1961 – and again in 1968. But this picture comes from the 1954 Academy Awards, and perhaps that’s why the screen siren looks so bored. Don’t worry, Liz – your moment is coming.

ADVERTISEMENT

7. The odds-defying Bogarts

ADVERTISEMENT

Just 11 days after Humphrey Bogart divorced his third wife, he married Lauren Bacall. The couple – pictured here at the Oscars in 1955 – had a 25-year age difference, but it didn’t affect them in the slightest. According to Biography.com, Bacall later said, “When Bogie and I were married, the Hollywood gloom set shook their collective heads and moaned, ‘It won’t last.’ We knew better. What the catastrophe-anticipators didn’t consider was that the Bogarts were in love.”

6. Famous friends

It seems you’ll never know who’ll be on the red carpet at the same time as you. Just check out this quartet of stars smiling for photographers at the 1964 Golden Globes. Looking left to right, we see Natalie Wood, Steve McQueen, Julie Andrews and Rock Hudson, as well as a pair of trophies.

ADVERTISEMENT

5. Friendship sealed with a kiss

ADVERTISEMENT

In the late 1930s Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland became frequent collaborators in MGM movie-musicals, including Babes in Arms. From that point on, their on-screen chemistry translated into an enduring, lifelong friendship. In the 1992 documentary MGM: When the Lion Roars, Rooney said, “We weren’t like brothers or sisters but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other. It was so special…” Perhaps that’s why he planted this smacker on her after he presented her with the Oscar for Outstanding Juvenile Actress in 1939.

4. Rita Moreno’s “I-won-an-Oscar” face

Nowadays, we have social media to tell us who wins an Oscar and for what. In the 1960s, though, news traveled much more slowly. So, West Side Story’s Best Supporting Actress winner Rita Moreno took matters into her own hands. She called someone, presumably to tell them about her trophy, and she could barely hide her excitement.

ADVERTISEMENT

3. A hug from Hudson

ADVERTISEMENT

We’ve already seen Marilyn Monroe pouting with her Golden Globe, the one she won for Some Like It Hot in 1962. Here, we see her in a much more celebratory state, and it’s not because she’s holding the night’s coveted trophy. She seems giddy to be in the arms of one of the Golden Age’s most beloved stars Rock Hudson.

2. Oh, just two of the best singers of all time

Imagine flipping on the Emmys and seeing Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole listed among the guests. These two crooners had similar careers, singing in a more old-fashioned style in the 1950s and ’60s as other singers climbed the charts with music that catered to a younger audience. But their music endured then as it does now – and that’s likely why they were invited to the 1964 awards show.

ADVERTISEMENT

1. Vivien Leigh earns her Oscar

ADVERTISEMENT

Vivien Leigh knew she was the right woman to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. But she first had to convince producer David O. Selznick. He’d seen her perform, but thought she was too British to play the southern belle. So, Leigh traveled to Hollywood and met with Selznick’s brother Myron, who soon became sold on her as O’Hara. And eventually the movie’s producer was, too. All of that lobbying paid off for Leigh in the end – here she is accepting her Best Actress Oscar for starring in the iconic movie.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT