13 Canadian Actresses Who Made It In Hollywood

January 8, 2014

1. MARY PICKFORD (1892-1979)


The Toronto native was “the best known woman who has ever lived, the woman who was known to more people and loved by more people than any other woman that has been in all history,” reported the book “The Woman Who Made Hollywood.”

She co-founded the United Artists film studio with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Onscreen, she was a silent film star and won the first Best Actress Oscar in 1929 for her performance in her first talkie — “Coquette.” Offscreen, her extramarital affair with Fairbanks and her three failed marriages, including one with Fairbanks, received a lot of public attention.

2. NORMA SHEARER (1902-1983)


The Montreal native won the second Best Actress Oscar in 1930 for her performance in “The Divorcee” and was nominated for Best Actress Oscars in 1930, 1931, 1934, 1936, and 1938 (yes, she was nominated for two different roles in 1930).

She was known for playing sexually liberated women before the Motion Picture Production code was enforced in 1934.

Her offscreen life was also wild. Her romances with the married George Raft, Jimmy Stewart, and the much younger Mickey Rooney (he’s alive today at 93) were well known.

3. MARIE DRESSLER (1868-1934)


I’ve listed the Cobourg, Ontario, native third despite her birth date because in 1931 she became the third consecutive Canadian to win the Best Actress Oscar, winning for her performance in “Min and Bill.”

She was also a nominee in 1932. Offscreen, she had romances with other actresses.

4. FAY WRAY (1907-2004)


The native of Cardston, Alberta, is best known for her role in “King Kong” in 1933. She acted in many other horror movies, retired in 1942, and unretired several years later because she had financial trouble.

In later years, she acted on several television shows. She could have attained fame again in her old age, but she turned down the role of the older woman in the 1997 hit “Titanic.”

5. DEANNA DURBIN (1921-2013)


The Winnipeg native is mostly unknown to the general public today, but she was a huge star in the 1930s and 1940s.

The book “Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland” credits Durbin with saving Universal Studios because movies she starred in as a teenager were very popular.

In 1938, she and Mickey Rooney became the second and third actors after Shirley Temple to receive a special “Juvenile Oscar” award. In 1947, she was the top-paid actress in Hollywood. Two years later, she retired — and never returned.

6. YVONNE DE CARLO (1922-2007)


Who knew that Lily Munster was Canadian? Her performance might have been creepy, but having a romance with Howard Hughes is probably creepier.

The Vancouver native starred in “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston, “Band of Angels” with Clark Gable, and “McClintock” with John Wayne. Besides Hughes, she had romances with Burt Lancaster, Robert Stack, Robert Taylor, Billy Wilder, and a prince, she wrote in her autobiography.

7. COLLEEN DEWHURST (1924-1991)


The Montreal native is best known for her work in television, television movies, and the theatre.

She won Emmy awards for her performances in the “Murphy Brown” television series as well as the TV movies “Between Two Women” and “Those She Left Behind.”



Canadian actresses were nominated nine times for Best Actress Oscars nine times from 1929 to 1938, but have received only one nomination in the past 75 years.

A native of Montreal, Bujold was nominated for her 1969 role as Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, in “Anne of the Thousand Days.”

She won the Golden Globe award for that role. She’s still acting.

9. MARGOT KIDDER (1948- )


The native of Yellowknife, which is in the Northwest Territories, is not only Canadian, but she could have been the First Lady of Canada because she dated Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (although not when he was in office).

She also dated Richard Pryor. She must be Superwoman! Actually, Kidder is best known for playing Lois Lane in four Superman movies.

10-11. JENNIFER TILLY (1958- ) and MEG TILLY (1960- )


The Tilly sisters were born in California, but numerous lists of Canadian actresses list them as Canadian because their mother was Canadian and they lived in Victoria, British Columbia, for several years when they were children.

Meg was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her 1985 performance in “Agnes of God” while Jennifer was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her 1994 performance in “Bullets Over Broadway.”

12. PAM ANDERSON (1967- )


OK, the Ladysmith, British Columbia, native is not known for her acting, but the headline says “who made it” and not “who can really act.”

This article has all sorts of gossip about Canadian actresses that you previously didn’t know about, but finding gossip you didn’t know about Pam is difficult.

For the record, her most prominent acting roles were on the TV series “Baywatch,” “Home Improvement,” and “V.I.P.” For the record, the Playboy magazine model’s measurements are 36-22-34.

13. ANNA PAQUIN (1982- )


The Winnipeg native became the second child to win an Oscar for acting when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at age 11 for her performance in “Piano” in 1993. Tatum O’ Neal, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar at age 10 for her 1973 performance in “Paper Moon,” is the youngest.

Timothy Hutton was the third youngest Oscar acting winner. He was 20 in 1980 when he was a supporting actor in “Ordinary People.” Offscreen, Paquin received notoriety for announcing she is bisexual.