Moviemaking in the Golden Age of Hollywood — the era from the 1920s to 1960s when the studio system controlled American film production — is remembered for its glitz and glamour. But the movie business was also cutthroat. The studios, and in particular the Big Five (Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, and Columbia), owned everything from the scripts to the sets to the theaters — and infamously controlled the careers of its biggest stars, who were held to stringent standards and often told how to eat, what to wear, and even who to date.
In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to break up the monopoly of the Big Five, and in the 1960s, when television became a dominant medium, the Golden Age of film finally faded. We still have movie stars, of course, but none that shine so bright as the stars of the early 20th century.
Just about every movie star from those glitzy years has left some record of how they viewed themselves and their peers during those times. Some remained ever optimistic, while others turned to comedy to make sense of their unusual lives, but they all seemed to appreciate that they held a special place in the history of film and pop culture. Here, we’ve compiled 20 of our favorite one-liners from the icons of that time — sentiments of kindness, humor, and endurance that still ring true today.
Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.
— Lucille Ball
I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film.
— Alfred Hitchcock
Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
— Judy Garland
Intentions often melt in the face of unexpected opportunity.
— Shirley Temple
Things are never so bad they can’t be made worse.
— Humphrey Bogart
Never confuse the size of your paycheck with the size of your talent.
— Marlon Brando
So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness.
— Sidney Poitier
You don’t always win your battles, but it’s good to know you fought.
— Lauren Bacall
The problem with the people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.
— Elizabeth Taylor
Happiness is good health and a bad memory.
— Ingrid Bergman
A shot of brandy can save your life, but a bottle of brandy can kill you.
— Cary Grant
One nice thing about silence is that it can’t be repeated.
— Gary Cooper
Men who think deeply say little in ordinary conversations.
— Charlie Chaplin
You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.
— Audrey Hepburn
There was more good acting at Hollywood parties than ever appeared on the screen.
— Bette Davis
Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.
— Joan Crawford
The best gift you can give yourself is the gift of possibility.
— Paul Newman
Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes.
— Sophia Loren
You’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you’re doing is work or play.
— Warren Beatty
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