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November 1, 2023

Disney Women: 27 Actresses Who Have Been Featured in Disney’s Movies

Walt Disney’s name will forever be associated with cartoons. But his work can’t be reduced to that field. In the 1940s, he began to produce films combining live-action and animation, a technique which would be later used at its best in Mary Poppins (1964).

In 1950, Treasure’s Island was Disney’s first completely live-action film. And many others would follow, mostly adventure films, Westerns, and comedies. Of course, these were family-oriented movies and “clean entertainment” was the watchword. When selecting actors and actresses to work with him, Disney was smart enough to use young talents and veteran stars alike. Sometimes, animals (such as dogs, cats, horses, etc.) co-starred with humans.

Here’s a list of 27 actresses who have been featured in Disney’s movies. The deadline is Walt Disney’s death, on the 15th of December 1966. The Disney films in which these 27 stars appeared were released before that date. However, some of these actresses have worked for the Disney studios both before and after Walt’s death.

1. Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews (1935) won a best actress Academy Award for her film debut in Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964). Her third film, The Sound of Music (1965), was also a huge box office hit for 20th Century Fox. Some fifteen years later, she won praise for her portrayal in Victor/Victoria (1982). Later in her career, she came back to the Disney studios for The Princess Diaries (2001) and The Princess Diaries II (2004). In 2003, she also appeared in two episodes of the TV series The World of Disney.

2. Joanne Dru

Joanne Dru (1922-1996) was a John Ford heroine in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Wagon Master (1950). Among her other westerns are Red River (1948), directed by Howard Hawks, Vengeance Valley (1951), The Siege at Red River (1954) or Drango (1957). She was also Fess Parker’s love interest in Disney’s Light in the Forest (1958). During her career, she played other kinds of roles, most notably in All the King’s Men (1949), which won a Best Picture Oscar. On the campy side, she was a secretary secretly in love with her boss, Liberace, in Sincerely Yours (1955), the movie which failed to make a movie star of this flamboyant and hugely popular pianist.

3. Annette Funicello

Under contract with Disney, Annette Funicello (1942-2013) became one of the most renowned performers of the TV program The Mickey Mouse Club from 1955 to 1958. The Disney studios cashed on her popularity by featuring her on the big screen in four films: The Shaggy Dog (1959), Babes in Toyland (1961), The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), and The Monkey’s Uncle (1965). At the same time, she continued her TV career, for example in The Horsemasters (1961) and several episodes of Zorro. Annette Funicello was also famous for the teen-oriented beach movies she made for the A.I.P. Company such as Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1964), or Beach Blanket Bingo (1965).

4. Jean Hagen

Jean Hagen (1923-1977) was a versatile star, equally good in the classic Film Noir The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and the famous musical Singin’ in the Rain (1952). The Disney studios featured her in The Shaggy Dog (1959), in which she played Fred MacMurray’s wife.

5. Susan Hampshire

For TV audiences, the name of Susan Hampshire (1937) will forever be associated with the hugely popular BBC series The Forsyte Saga (1967), as the spoiled and wayward Fleur. On the big screen, she played alongside Orson Welles in Belgian director Harry Kümel’s Malpertuis (1971), based on a Jean Ray fantasy novel, and she notably portrayed the famous wildlife activist Joy Adamson in Living Free (1972). She also starred in The Three Lives of Tomasina (1963) and The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966), two Disney features filmed in the U.K.

6. Glynis Johns

Charming star Glynis Johns (1923) was featured in two 1953 Walt Disney British adventure films, The Sword and the Rose (1953) and Rob Roy (1953). Later, she worked again for Disney with the role of Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins (1964). Other highlights in her career include Miranda (1948), The Card (1952), The Sundowners (1960) or The Chapman Report (1962).

7. Nancy Kwan

Nancy Kwan (1939) became famous thanks to her title role in The World of Suzie Wong (1960). She later played a South Sea beauty in Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966), produced by the Walt Disney studios and loosely based on the famous Daniel Defoe novel, ‘Robinson Crusoe’.

8. Carol Lynley

Carol Lynley (1942-2019) made her film debut by playing the love interest of James McArthur in Walt Disney’s The Light in the Forest (1958). Later films include Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) and the disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

9. Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel (1893-1952) won an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actress category for Gone With the Wind (1939). She was the first black performer to ever receive an Oscar. She played a maid called Aunt Tempy in Disney’s Song of the South (1946). The movie caused much controversy in its day and was accused of perpetuating racial stereotypes. Hattie McDaniel herself was criticized for having accepted such a role and, deeply hurt, she publicly made it clear that she found those attacks, especially from the NAACP, most unfair.

10. Dorothy McGuire

Dorothy McGuire (1916-2001) won praise for her sensitive portrayals in films such as Claudia (1943), The Enchanted Cottage (1945), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), The Spiral Staircase (1946), Till the End of Time (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) or Friendly Persuasion (1956). With her quiet beauty and soothing cinematographic personality, she perfectly played mother roles in Disney’s Old Yeller (1957), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), and Summer Magic (1963).

11. Vera Miles

Vera Miles (1929) was one of those Hitchcock’s blonde heroines in The Wrong Man (1956) and Psycho (1960). John Ford also gave her interesting roles in The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). For Disney, she played mothers in A Tiger Walks (1964) and Those Calloways (1965) and was the object of Fred MacMurray’s affection in Follow Me Boys! (1966). The Disney studios seemed to like her very much as, after Walt’s death, they used her again in The Wild Country (1970), One Little Indian (1973), and The Castaway Cowboy (1974).

12. Hayley Mills

Hayley Mills (1946) was a major box office draw for the Disney studios in the first half of the 1960s. She starred in Pollyanna (1960), The Parent Trap (1961), In Search of the Castaways (1962), Summer Magic (1963), The Moon-Spinners (1964), and That Darn Cat (1965). She later broke away from her clean Disney image by appearing for example in The Family Way (1966), in which she had a brief nude scene, and the controversial thriller Twisted Nerve (1968). In the 1980s, she worked again for the Disney studios by reprising her role in three TV movies which were sequels to one of her greatest successes: The Parent Trap II (1986), Parent Trap III (1989), and Parent Trap: Hawaiian Honeymoon (1989).

13. Aurora Miranda

Aurora Miranda (1915-2005) was Carmen Miranda’s sister and was a star in her own right in her native country, Brazil. When Walt Disney produced The Three Caballeros (1944), as part of the Good Neighbor policy towards Latin America initiated by Roosevelt, it was only natural that she would be featured in it. And the Brazilian segment perfectly showcased her dancing and singing talents.

14. Carmen Molina

Carmen Molina (1920-1998) was a popular actress during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema and played opposite such great names as Emilio Fernandez, Pedro Infante, German Valdes, or Arturo de Cordova. She was one of her native country‘s representatives in Disney’s The Three Caballeros (1944), in which she makes a great impression on Donald Duck, who shares two musical numbers with her.

15. Agnes Moorehead

Everybody remembers Agnes Moorehead (1900-1974) as Endora in the TV series Bewitched (1964-1972). At the beginning of her brilliant career, she appeared in two classics directed by Orson Welles: Citizen Kane (1941), as Kane’s mother, and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), as spinster aunt Fanny. Among scores of other interesting performances, is that of the grouchy and hypochondriac Mrs. Snow in Walt Disney’s Pollyanna (1960).

16. Janet Munro

Cute English actress Janet Munro (1934-1972) was signed by Walt Disney at the end of the 1950s and became famous thanks to Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), Third Man on the Mountain (1959), and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). For Disney, she was also featured in The Horsemasters (1961), which was shown on TV in the U.S.A. and released in the cinemas in the U.K. Wanting to escape from her wholesome Disney image, she later handled more dramatic roles, such as in Life for Ruth (1962) or Bitter Harvest (1963). Sadly, she died from heart disease in 1972.

17. Maureen O’Hara

Irish-born Maureen O’Hara (1920-2015) was said to have been John Ford’s favorite actress, although their relationship seems to have been quite stormy at times. He directed her in How Green Was My Valley (1941), Rio Bravo (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), The Long Gray Line (1955), and The Wings of Eagles (1957). She also made a perfect film couple with John Wayne, who appreciated her very much. From the end of the 1930s to the mid-1960s, this fiery redhead starred in 50 films. For Disney, she played the mother of Hayley Mills in the smash hit The Parent Trap (1961).

18. Nancy Olson

Nancy Olson (1928) made a splash in Hollywood in 1950 thanks to the classic Sunset Boulevard (1950), the crime drama Union Station (1950), and the musical Mr. Music (1950). For Disney, she played an empathetic maid in Pollyanna (1960), Fred MacMurray’s love interest in The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), and his wife in the sequel, Son of Flubber (1963). After Walt’s death, she came back to the Disney studios for Smith (1969) and Snowball Express (1972). She also had an uncredited cameo in the Robin Williams vehicle Flubber (1997), a remake of The Absent-Minded Professor.

19. Joy Page

Joy Page (1924-2008) played Sal Mineo’s wise Native-American mother in Tonka (1958). She is probably better remembered by filmgoers as Annina Brandel, the young refugee contemplating giving herself to Claude Rains to obtain a visa in the classic Casablanca (1942). Her exotic looks, which she inherited from her father, actor Don Alvarado, also enabled her to play an Indian jungle girl in Man-Eater of Kumaon (1948), a Mexican senorita in The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) or an Italian resistance fighter in Fighter Attack (1953).

20. Lilli Palmer

During her long and brilliant career, international star Lilli Palmer (1914-1986) worked mostly in British, American, German, and French films. She won the Best Actress Volpi Cup for The Four-Poster (1952) and was awarded two Deutscher Filmpreis awards in the same category for Teufel in Seide (1955) and Anastasia - Die letzte zarentochter (1956). She was also Robert Taylor’s wife in Disney’s The Miracle of White Stallions (1963), filmed in Austria. In 2018, Netflix released The Other Side of the Wind, the last movie directed by Orson Welles, which was left unfinished by his death in 1985. In it, Lilli Palmer played an actress named Zarah Valeska, a role allegedly intended for Marlene Dietrich.

21. Luana Patten

Child star Luana Patten (1938-1996) appeared in the Disney productions Song of the South (1946), Fun and Fancy Free (1947), Melody Time (1948) and So Dear to My Heart (1948). She later became a ravishing young lady and worked again for Disney in Johnny Tremain (1957) and Follow Me Boys! (1966).

22. Suzanne Pleshette

A lovely brunette 1960s star, Suzanne Pleshette (1937-2008) will forever be remembered as the ill-fated Annie Hayworth in Hitchcock’s horror classic The Birds (1963). She played the wife of Dean Jones in Disney’s The Ugly Dachshund (1966). After Walt’s death, she worked again for the Disney studios in The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967), Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968), and The Shaggy D.A. (1976).

23. Dorothy Provine

Nine years before Faye Dunaway, Dorothy Provine (1935-2010) played the most famous female bank robber of all time in The Bonnie Parker Story (1958). She was also part of the all-star cast of Stanley Kramer’s comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). For the Disney studios, she was the older sister of Hayley Mills in That Darn Cat (1965), in which she is courted by a pompous and insufferable neighbor played by Roddy McDowall.

24. Joan Rice

Joan Rice (1930-1997) played Maid Marian in Story of Robin Hood (1952), a Walt Disney British production. But her best-known film is probably His Majesty O’Keefe (1954), co-starring Burt Lancaster.

25. Dany Saval

French star Dany Saval (1942) played a cute extra-terrestrial in Moon Pilot (1962). Three years later, American audiences had a second opportunity to enjoy her piquant charm in Paramount’s comedy Boeing Boeing (1965), in which she co-starred with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.

26. Ruth Warrick

Ruth Warrick (1916-2005) will forever be best remembered as the first wife of Orson Welles in the classic Citizen Kane (1941). Later, she played Bobby Driscoll’s mother in Disney’s Song of the South (1946).

27. Jane Wyman

Jane Wyman (1917-2007) won an Academy Award in the Best Actress category for her performance as a deaf-mute in Johnny Belinda (1948). During her career, this great star, who was given a “World Film Favorite” Henrietta Award in 1951, worked twice for the Disney studios. She played the stern and dictatorial Aunt Polly, whose goodness is brought out in full by the cheerful heroine, in Pollyanna (1960). Two years later, she was Fred MacMurray’s wife and a mother of two in the comedy Bon Voyage! (1962).

(This original article was written by Marlene Pilaete and published on European Film Star Postcards)

1 comment:

  1. All the actresses are very beautiful. But my favorites are Glynis Johns and Nancy Olson. Very beautiful women.




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