Iowa-Hollywood Connection

A number of well-known actors and actresses were born or raised in Iowa, some very famous, some lesser-known. How many of the following have you heard of?

 Cloris Leachman, born in Des Moines in 1930, is well-known for her role as downstairs neighbor Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.   Biographies

Donna Reed, born in Denison in 1921, was first recognized for her role in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. She later starred in The Donna Reed Show from 1958-1966.   Biographies

John Wayne, born in Winterset in 1907 as Marion Morrison, made
many Westerns and won an Oscar in 1970 for True Grit.    Biographies

Fred Grandy, born in Sioux City in 1948, is famous for his role as Gopher on The Love Boat. He was later a congressman from Iowa for four terms, 1987-1995. 

Jerry Mathers, born in Sioux City in 1948, will always be identified with his role as Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver on the Leave It to Beaver show.

Jean Seberg was born in Marshalltown in 1938. She made her acting debut as Joan of Arc in Otto Preminger’s 1957 movie, Saint Joan.  Biographies

William Frawley, born in Burlington in 1887, starred as neighbor
Fred Mertz, wife of Ethel, on I Love Lucy, and later played Bub on
My Three Sons. 

George Reeves, born in Woolstock in 1914, played Superman on television in The Adventures of Superman from 1951-1958.

Sada Thompson, born in Des Moines in 1929, was a renowned Broadway actress and later played the mother on the TV show Family.

Richard Beymer, born in Avoca in 1939 (some sources say 1938), was best known for his role as Tony in the movie version of West Side Story.

Sue Lyon, born in Davenport in 1946, won fame playing Lolita in the
film of the same name when she was sixteen.

Marcia Wallace, born in Creston in 1942, played Bob’s secretary on
The Bob Newhart Show and is currently the voice of Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons.   Biographies

Some of the more recent Iowa natives now working in Hollywood are

Tom Arnold, born in Ottumwa in 1959, is a television and movie actor.  Biographies

Michael Emerson, born in 1954 in Cedar Rapids, played evil character Ben on the TV series Lost. 

Terry Farrell, born in Cedar Rapids in 1963, has had recurring roles on the TV series Becker and Star: Trek Deep Space Nine.

Annabeth Gish was born in Albuquerque, NM in1971, but grew up in Cedar Falls. She made her debut in the movie Mystic Pizza in 1988, and has had recurring roles on The West Wing, The X Files, and Brotherhood.

David Anthony Higgins was born in Des Moines in 1961 and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He has appeared on both Ellen and Malcolm in the Middle.

Ashton Kutcher, born in Cedar Rapids in 1978, is well-known for
That ‘70’s Show and Punk’d.  Biographies

Ron Livingston, born in Cedar Rapids in 1967, has acted in movies, including Office Space, and on TV, including on The Practice and Sex and the City. 

Michelle Monaghan, born in 1976 in Winthrop, was most recently seen in the movie Gone Baby Gone.

Brandon Routh, born in Des Moines in 1979, followed in George Reeves’ footsteps and played Superman/Clark Kent in the 2006 movie Superman Returns.

Elijah Wood, born in Cedar Rapids in 1981, has acted in movies and on TV, probably best known for his role as Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson.

Iowa Film Office. Stars from Our Backyard. 1996.
Internet Movie Database.

Reprinted from the Local History pages of the Des Moines Public Library website.

One Response

  1. You left off the Lane sisters from Indianola, IA

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