5 Classic Actors We Wish Were Still Around Today
By Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
These familiar faces dazzled audiences in the heyday of the Golden Age of Hollywood and had lasting careers that paved the way for future generations of actors. Many of these stars worked with one another on various projects, and also had a faith in Jesus, either early in their career, or later in life.
1. Charlton Heston
“Let my people go!” Heston was a celebrated actor most known for his captivating portrayals as Judah Ben-Hur in BEN-HUR and Moses in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. He met his wife of 64 years, Lydia, while acting and the couple had two children together and supported the civil right movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In his later years, Heston hosted a documentary series called CHARLTON HESTON PRESENTS THE BIBLE before passing away in 2008. Dr. Baehr comments on Heston’s transparent faith, “Charlton Heston came to most of our early Annual Faith & Values Awards Galas. He loved MOVIEGUIDE® and wrote articles for us. We interviewed him several times, and Chuck told me how he came back to faith in Jesus Christ when Cecil B. DeMille fell off a very tall ladder filming one of the movies they did together but came back the next day to give the credit of his healing to Jesus Christ and to handout pocket Bibles.”
2. Donna Reed
You might remember this Iowa-native actress from her roles in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, DALLAS, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or perhaps her own TV show called THE DONNA REED SHOW. Before her death in 1986, Reed’s talents allowed her to work with some of the most recognizable names in Hollywood during the Golden Age, such as Judy Garland and Lionel Barrymore. In a moving story, the actress detailed how her father’s devout faith during the Depression helped her to feel confident in the Lord. “One by one, we had to sell our livestock. One by one our neighbors deserted their farms and each time my father would say to us calmly but with undeniable vigor shored up by his faith: ‘It will not always be this way.’”Originally written in 1962, Reed’s reflections still hold value fifty years later, “today represents new times, yes, new problems, new fears, but one basic and beautiful thing links us with the past and with the future. That thing is faith, our belief in God and His adequacy.” Reed concluded, “With Him we know that if we fail today, tomorrow offers its triumphs.”
3. Jimmy Stewart
Jimmy Stewart’s nearly sixty-year-long career in Hollywood landed him acclaimed roles in movies like MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON in 1939 and VERTIGO in 1958 opposite Kim Novak. Like his IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE co-star Donna Reed, Stewart also had his own TV show in the 1970s called THE JIMMY STEWART SHOW. During WWII, Stewart also served in the Air Corps and recounted how his father’s encouragement and God’s word drew him to a sense of peace during his service in the military. A letter from his father while he was in the military reads, “‘My dear Jim, soon after you read this letter, you will be on your way to the worst sort of danger. I have had this in mind for a long time, and I am very concerned… But Jim, I am banking on the enclosed copy of the 91st Psalm.’” His father’s words continued, “’The thing that takes the place of fear and worry is the promise in these words. I am staking my faith in these words. I feel sure that God will lead you through this mad experience…. God bless you and keep you. I love you more than I can tell you. Dad.’” Stewart explained that through this selfless declaration of love, God strengthened him. “Never before had he said he loved me. I always knew he did but he had never said it until now. I wept. Dad had committed me to God, but I felt the presence of both throughout the war,” Stewart concluded. In one of his final projects before his death in 1997, Stewart, an avid church-goer, played the title role in MR. KRUEGER’S CHRISTMAS and proclaimed the glory of Jesus to all who watched his stirring performance.
4. Ingrid Bergman
Arguably her most popular role, Bergman starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in noir movie CASABLANCA. Bergman began acting in movies in the 1930s and starred in movies like NOTORIOUS and JOURNEY TO ITALY. However, in the movie THE INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS, Bergman starred as the English missionary, Gladys Aylward, who served orphans in China in the early 1900’s. At first, the real-life Glady Aylward was skeptical of Bergman’s Hollywood persona and personal life when it came to her portrayal, but nonetheless, the two had an opportunity to meet. J Christy Wilson Jr. mentions that Bergman made a special trip to see Gladys, but sadly, she died of the flu just days before her arrival. Thankfully, the experience led the leading lady to the feet of Jesus. “Ingrid fell down beside Gladys’ bed and wept, saying she was unworthy to play the life of such a woman of God. Katherine Smith [Glady’s co-worker] then had the opportunity to lead Ingrid through the steps to peace with God, showing her that Christ had died for her sins. Ingrid prayed the prayer of repentance and received Jesus as her Savior and Lord.”
5. John Wayne
Over the course of John Wayne’s or as some called him, the “Duke’s” career, the actor played everything from a cowboy to heartthrob, with many characters in between. Some of Wayne’s widely recognized movies include his Academy Award-winning performance in TRUE GRIT as well as THE QUIET MAN and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE with Jimmy Stewart. Originally born with the name Marion Robert Morrison, Wayne was a devout patriot, whose beliefs mirrored his Hollywood roles and resonated with audiences. In Karen Edmisten’s book Deathbed Conversions: Finding Faith at the Finish Line, the author details Wayne’s final days and his back and forth struggle to surrender to God. “Two days before he died, Wayne, in tremendous pain, agreed when his son Patrick asked him if they should call the priest now. ‘Yeah,’ Duke said, ‘I think that’s a good idea.’” Edmisten continues, “he baptized the dying man, probably conditionally, as Wayne had grown up in a Christian church, and administered last rites.” Edmisten notes that Wayne’s other son Michael felt this way about his father’s last moments, “I don’t know the technicalities of the Church…. Dad did die in the Church.” Wayne’s battle with stomach cancer ended his life in 1979, but his values and characters have a legacy of their own.