Movie actresses who have won a Tony Award for Leading Actress
Despite some general commonalities, the respective worlds of Broadway theater and Hollywood cinema take starkly different approaches toward acting. Whereas movie actors are largely tasked with fulfilling a director's vision of the material, stage actors rely on a distinct set of physical and visceral skills to forge a direct connection with the audience. Additionally, there are no cuts or camera angles in the average play, meaning each performer has to be completely impactful and on-point from beginning to end through their performance skills alone. It's then all the more impressive when well-known film actresses transition into theater to award-winning effect.
Since many professional acting journeys begin on the stage, it also marks a return to one's roots when a popular film actress forays into theater. That's, of course, in reference to the actresses who are in the midst of Hollywood careers when they decide to headline a major play. Just as plentiful are the examples of talented thespians who launched their careers on stage before making it big in Hollywood. Ultimately, there is no set of rules by which to abide, since an actor rarely knows which scripts or roles will inspire her, or where the next opportunity will come from.
Today, Stacker celebrates movie actresses who have won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Best Actress in a Play up through 2018. For the list, Stacker went through the Internet Broadway Database (IBDB) and manually picked out 50 actresses who are also Hollywood stars. The majority of these actresses remain best known for their film output, though a handful are (or were) stage veterans who occasionally appeared on the big screen. Without further delay, here are 50 movie actresses who have won a Tony Award for Leading Actress.
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- Title: "Joan of Lorraine" (Play)
- Year: 1947
Swedish icon Ingrid Bergman tackled dual roles for this play-within-a-play, starring as both Joan of Arc and the actress who portrayed her. For her performance, Bergman received one of the first-ever Tony Awards for Best Actress. She reprised her role as Joan of Arc in a subsequent film adaptation, which delivered a more straightforward account of the martyr's life.
- Title: "Medea" (Play)
- Year: 1948
British actress Judith Anderson portrayed the title character in this adaptation of a Greek tragedy, about a former princess who takes revenge upon her unfaithful husband. It first ran in London's National Theatre before moving to Broadway's Royale Theatre (now known as Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre), delivering 214 performances in total. In 1982, Anderson starred as the nurse in yet another adaptation of the same source material.
- Title: "Call Me Madam" (Musical)
- Year: 1951
Ethel Merman was already “the Undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage" by the time she headlined the original production of this Broadway musical. Centering on the exploits of a Washington D.C. hostess-turned-political-ambassador, it sold a record-breaking number of advance tickets. No stranger to the big screen, Merman also starred in the 1953 film adaptation.
- Title: "Wonderful Town" (Musical)
- Year: 1953
Featuring music from composer Leonard Bernstein, “Wonderful Town” premiered on Broadway in 1953 and went on to win five Tony Awards. Rosalind Russell appeared in both the original production and a subsequent TV movie version as Ruth Sherwood, an aspiring actress and singer who lives in New York City with her sister. This was one of four Broadway productions to star Russell, whose career in film was far more prolific.
- Title: "Ondine" (Play)
- Year: 1954
The same year she won an Oscar for her breakout role in “Roman Holiday,” Audrey Hepburn snagged a Tony Award for her turn in this Broadway play. She starred as the title character, a magical water-sprite who gets lured into the world of mortal men. The second of two acclaimed Broadway performances, it marked her last appearance as a stage actress.
- Title: "The Bad Seed" (Play)
- Year: 1955
William March's 1954 novel provided the inspiration for this hit Broadway play, starring former child actress Nancy Kelly as a mother named Christine Penmark. After a young girl mysteriously drowns, Christine suspects that her seemingly perfect daughter, Rhoda, might actually be a homicidal maniac. Kelly also starred in the 1956 film adaptation, which sparked a horror trope so classic that it's since become a long-running sub-genre.
- Title: "Bells Are Ringing" (Musical)
- Year: 1957
Judy Holliday was best known for playing Billie Dawn in both the stage and screen versions of “Born Yesterday” by the time she headlined this Broadway musical. Her Tony-Award-winning turn as Ella Peterson came on the heels of a publicized investigation, during which she purposefully played dumb while answering for her supposed communist ties. In 1960, Holliday reprised the role of Peterson for a film adaptation.
- Title: "The Miracle Worker" (Play)
- Year: 1960
After snagging a Tony Award for her performance in this celebrated Broadway play, Anne Bancroft went on to win an Oscar in the film adaptation. In both versions she played Annie Sullivan, the blind tutor to Helen Keller. A genuinely versatile talent, Bancroft would star in multiple plays, TV shows, and films throughout her career.
- Title: "A Taste of Honey" (Play)
- Year: 1961
In the midst of a meteoric stage career, Dame Joan Plowright played working-class teen Josephine in the Broadway production of this poignant drama. Set largely in a squalid flat in 1950s England, it chronicles the exploits of Josephine and her crude mother (Angela Lansbury). British dramatist Shelagh Delaney was just 19 years old when she wrote the play, which originally debuted in London with a different cast.
- Title: "Tovarich" (Musical)
- Year: 1963
With a number of iconic stage and screen performances already under her belt, actress Vivien Leigh starred as Russian exile Tatiana in this Broadway musical. Set in the wake of the Russian Revolution, the story follows Tatiana and her consort (Jean-Pierre Aumont) as they struggle to survive in Paris. Leigh dropped out of the production early due to a bout of depression, but still snagged a Tony Award for her performance.