Brooklyn-born stars of Hollywood’s golden age

Forget the myth of the small-town girl being whisked off to Los Angeles to become a star. Many of Hollywood’s biggest leading ladies and sex symbols hail from big-city Brooklyn.

Barbara Stanwyck (left) was born Ruby Stevens in Flatbush in 1907. She had it rough: Her mother was killed when a stranger pushed her from a streetcar, and Barbara bounced around foster homes until getting a foothold as a Ziegfeld girl at 15.

Mae West, aka Mary Jane West (right), comes from Bushwick. Born in 1893, she got her start performing at the Royal Theater on Fulton Street.

I don’t know what neighborhood Clara Bow (left) grew up in, but reportedly her strong Brooklyn accent worked against her when she started acting in the teens.

Rita Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino (right), didn’t stay in Brooklyn long; her family moved to L.A. in the 1920s.

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14 Responses to “Brooklyn-born stars of Hollywood’s golden age”

  1. petey Says:

    “Her mother was killed when a stranger pushed her from a streetcar”

    that’s just horrifying, and i see from wiki that it got worse:

    “Two weeks after the funeral, Byron Stevens joined a work crew digging the Panama canal and was never seen again”

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Wow. Even Hollywood starmakers couldn’t make up a backstory like that.

  3. kbsalazar Says:

    Clara Bow was from Sheepshead Bay. She was the most famous graduate of my first elementary school – PS. 98 on Avenue Z and East 26th.

    PS. 98 closed after I finished 2nd grade and all the kids were moved over to PS. 52 on Nostrand Ave. When the school closed there was a big assembly, and one of the speeches was about her rise from local kid hanging out around the area’s seedier race tracks to Hollywood diva.

    The old PS. 98 building itself dates back to the 1860s, and was said to have originally been a hospital for Civil War veterans, later remodeled into a school. It’s still there, and now houses a yeshiva. I don’t know if any of the kids in the yeshiva know that Clara Bow once sat in their classrooms.

  4. bb Says:

    Clara Bow was in 1905 on Bergen St in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

  5. bb Says:

    Clara Bow was born in 1905 on Bergen St in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! I guess Clara Bow moved to Sheepshead from Cobble Hill. That would be a long hike for elementary school.

  7. Ricky Says:

    Barbara Stanwyck’s career supposedly moved from contract actress to sexy leading lady with the help of Edith Head. As Edith said, she corrected her
    “figure “problem” -a long waist and a comparatively low rear end” by “widening the waistbands on the front of her gowns and narrowing them slightly in the back. I could still put her in straight skirts, something other designers were afraid to do, because they thought she might look too heavy in the seat. Since she wasn’t the least bit heavy, I just took advantage of her long waist to create an optical illusion that her derriere was just as pertly placed as any other star’s.”

    Miss Head also says that Clara Bow Bow was the first big star she worked with at MGM and Mae West was the second.

  8. wildnewyork Says:

    Fascinating. Edith Head did the costumes for so many great movies, like The Heiress and Double Indemnity.

  9. Peter Bennett Says:

    Just on a side note, Lauren Bacall was named Miss Greenwich Village of 1942, got to put in a plug for my home town’s famous stars.

  10. petey Says:

    acc. to wiki, lauen bacall “is first cousin to Shimon Peres, current President and former Prime Minister of Israel.”
    jumpin’ jehosaphat!

  11. addie Says:

    Dane Clark was born and raised in Brooklyn. I believe Flatbush.

    And I know she does not count for this topic, but she was famous, so forgive me, Winston Churchill’s Mother was from Brooklyn! How weird is that?? I know!

    Did you mean when Barbara Stanwyck became a, “leading,” man? heehee


  12. tarbender Says:

    Veronica Lake was born and lived in Brooklyn. I believe Williamsburg. Tarbender

  13. mn Says:

    Here are the what I found searching the US Census:

    Mae West (Mary Jane West)
    137 Conselyea St. Brooklyn,(1900)
    421 Stanhope St., Brooklyn NY (1910)
    705 Boyd Ave. Woodhaven, NY (1920)

    Barbara Stanwyck (Ruby Stevens)
    312 Classon Ave. Brooklyn, NY (1910)

    Clara Bow
    428 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, NY (1910)
    33 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, NY (1920)

    Constance Ockelman (Veronica Lake)
    395 Maple St. Apt A1 (1930)

    Rita Hayworth (Margareta Cansino)
    480 Central Park West. Manhattan (1920)

  14. Juliet Bittencourt Says:

    According to Wiki: Bow was born in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn at 697 Bergen Street,[8] in a “bleak, sparsely furnished room above [a] dilapidated Baptist Church”.

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