Old Hollywood, with its glamorous façade and strict societal norms, often concealed the hidden lives of its stars. While many actresses of the time adhered to the public’s expectations of heterosexual relationships, there were several remarkable women who defied conventions and embraced same-sex relationships behind closed doors. In this article, we will explore the lives of ten Old Hollywood actresses who secretly engaged in relationships with other women, challenging societal expectations and paving the way for LGBTQ+ visibility.
- Dorothy Arzner
Dorothy Arzner, a pioneering female director in Hollywood, is believed to have had relationships with several women throughout her life. Arzner’s sexuality remained private, but her unique perspective and influence on the film industry continue to inspire generations of filmmakers.
- Hattie McDaniel
Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award, led a discreet personal life. Rumors suggest that McDaniel had intimate relationships with women, but due to the societal climate of the time, her sexuality was never openly discussed or acknowledged. Hattie McDaniel and Tallulah Bankhead were rumored to have had a close and intimate relationship, reflecting the hidden complexities of their personal lives within the confines of Old Hollywood.
- Tallulah Bankhead
Tallulah Bankhead, known for her wit and charisma, was open about her bisexuality in private circles. She engaged in relationships with both men and women, challenging the norms of the era. Bankhead’s unapologetic approach to her sexuality made her a trailblazer in Old Hollywood. Tallulah Bankhead and Hattie McDaniel shared a rumored close bond, defying societal expectations and showcasing the complexities of their personal lives in the backdrop of Old Hollywood.
- Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck, an iconic actress, had a complicated personal life that included relationships with both men and women. Although Stanwyck kept her same-sex relationships discreet, her legacy as a talented performer endures.
- Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford, a prominent actress of the time, had a complex love life that included both male and female partners. While Crawford’s romantic relationships with women remained largely unacknowledged, whispers of her same-sex encounters circulated within Hollywood circles.
- Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo, one of the most enigmatic stars of Old Hollywood, maintained an air of mystery throughout her life. Although she never publicly discussed her sexuality, rumors persisted about her romantic involvement with women, adding to the intrigue that surrounded her persona.
- Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn, the legendary actress known for her fierce independence, had a romantic relationship with fellow actress and icon Spencer Tracy. However, Hepburn’s private life also included relationships with women, though details remained closely guarded.
- Alla Nazimova
Alla Nazimova, a pioneering actress and producer, openly embraced same-sex relationships during a time when it was highly unconventional. She hosted gatherings known as “The Sewing Circle,” attended by other lesbian and bisexual actresses of the era.
- Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich, the iconic German-American actress, was known for her seductive on-screen persona. While she publicly had relationships with men, she also reportedly engaged in romantic affairs with women, contributing to her captivating and fluid image.
- Mercedes de Acosta
Mercedes de Acosta, a socialite and playwright, had relationships with several notable women in Hollywood, including Greta Garbo and Alla Nazimova. De Acosta’s love affairs with women were well-documented, challenging the societal norms of the time.
In conclusion, these ten Old Hollywood actresses, including Dorothy Arzner, Hattie McDaniel, Tallulah Bankhead, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Alla Nazimova, Marlene Dietrich, and Mercedes de Acosta, dared to defy societal expectations and engage in same-sex relationships. Their courage and resilience paved the way for greater LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance in the entertainment industry, leaving an indelible mark on the history of Old Hollywood.