When television took off in Hollywood, many actors and actresses decided to not only film movies, but TV shows as well. After all, it was another source of income and excellent way to get your face out there to the public. However, some, like these ones, chose instead to dedicate all their time to the silver screen, perfecting the art of cinema.
*For this list, I will be excluding appearances on variety or talk shows and TV movies.
#10: Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo was known for her intense performances on screen, such as in Anna Karenina (1935). However, she also had a way of finessing the audience with her humor, such as with her performance in Ninotchka (1939). However, her final film, a comedy called Two-Faced Woman (1941), failed at the box office and faced significant backlash. Finally, after World War II, she felt like the world had turned and left her behind, compelling her to permanently retire. Though she never blossomed into the age of television, she left behind her legacy in her fantastic films.
#9: Marlene Dietrich
This German bombshell, known mainly for Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Touch of Evil (1958), and Morocco (1930), never starred in any sort of TV special. For a time, she was even the highest paid actress in America. She was known as a flirt and comedian throughout Hollywood and used her talents to entertain millions of Americans. During World War II–perhaps in an attempt to distance herself from Hitler’s Germany–she toured with the USO and performed for soldiers in Algeria, Italy, the UK, and France, bringing joy to America’s war-weary military. Afterwards, she limited her cinematic life and never starred in any sort of TV program. However, her legacy lives on in her films.
#8: Gary Cooper
Quite possibly one of the most famous male heartthrobs of classic Hollywood, Gary Cooper never once appeared on the small screen. His movies are nationally-renowned, such as: High Noon (1952), Sergeant York (1941), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and The Pride of the Yankees (1942). His early death at age 60 (1961), may have contributed to the fact that he never appeared on TV. However, he never needed TV to endear himself to millions of Americans. To them, he was their hero–the cowboy, the soldier, the baseball player, the man.
#7: Rita Hayworth
I’ll admit–my first exposure to Rita Hayworth was watching The Shawshank Redemption (1994). However, she was known for way more than just Gilda (1946). She also starred in Cover Girl (1944), The Loves of Carmen (1948), Miss Sadie Thompson (1953), and The Lady from Shanghai (1947). However, in her 40s she suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which severely hampered her acting career, thus why she never appeared on TV. Her films carry on her beautiful legacy, though.
#6: Charlie Chaplin
The Tramp was the master of silent and talking films. Most of his movies were filmed in the 1930s and 40s, some of which he even wrote himself (he was a crazy talented dude). However, the 40s were a tumultuous time in America; communist sympathizers were imagined on every corner and Chaplin was among the accused. He was forced to flee to Switzerland where he spent the rest of his life. His blacklisted status meant that he never starred in a television program or even many more movies. However, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest actors of all-time. His movies The Great Dictator (1940), Modern Times (1936), and Limelight (1952) are well-loved throughout the world.
#5: Spencer Tracy
Katharine Hepburn’s other half in her famed affair, Spencer Tracy was a prolific actor. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967), Adam’s Rib (1949), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and Father of the Bride (1960) are all definitive masterpieces. Despite his Hollywood fame, he never appeared on television other than to narrate shorts or appear at awards shows. This is partly due to his ailing health from alcoholism. Yet, he remained a well-respected actor throughout Hollywood and his films remain examples of great cinema.
#4: Clark Gable
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn… I felt that no article mentioning Clark Gable would be complete without that quote. Nor would Hollywood be complete without this man’s amazing legacy. He starred in the highest-grossing movie (adjusted for inflation, of course) of all-time, Gone with the Wind (1939), and also classics like It Happened One Night (1934), Mogambo (1953), and Mutiny On the Bounty (1935). However, his prestigious figure never graced the small screen.
#3: Marilyn Monroe
Happy Birthday, Mr. President… Who doesn’t love America’s sex symbol? (Many people but we’ll ignore that.) The fact is, Marilyn Monroe began a new era in movies. No longer would it be a chaste family experience. Instead, the movies could be sexy, provocative, and scandalous. While her premature death obviously shortened her career, it’s worth noting that her success blossomed on the big screen. Her films The Seven Year Itch (1955), Some Like It Hot (1959), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) left an enduring legacy for Hollywood and America.
#2: Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn was in a class of her own. She was the epitome of sophistication and success. The Philadelphia Story (1940), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, The African Queen (1951), and Bringing Up Baby (1939) were some of her best movies. Of course, later in life she appeared in many TV movies, such as Love Among the Ruins (1975) and The Corn is Green (1979). However, she devoted much of her later time tending to her ailing partner, Spencer Tracy.
#1: Cary Grant
Who else to top this list than one of the greatest actors of all-time? Though Grant enjoyed much cinematic success, he never did any work on television. Minus the odd appearance at the Academy Awards, Grant mostly contained his talents to the silver screen. And with hits like North by Northwest (1959), His Girl Friday (1940), and To Catch a Thief (1955), he really didn’t need any extra income from television. He was practically the King of Hollywood without ever dabbling in other media.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on actors that never made the switch to TV? Comment down below!
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