Some of them you already know … others might surprise you. scroll down to find out who’s on the list!
Celebrities occasionally speak proudly and publicly of their Catholic faith in interviews and speeches, and that’s nothing new. In fact, many actors and actresses from your favorite classic movies — known as the Golden Age of Hollywood (the 1920s to the late 50s) — were Catholic and spoke about the importance of faith in their lives, as imperfect as they were (like the rest of us).
What does shine a new light on celebrities sharing their faith today is social media. None of the following celebs from the Golden Age had Instagram to post photos of them going to Mass or meeting the pope, but they were still converted, enlightened, or guided in the same ways, big and small, even if they didn’t make headlines. Some of them you already know … others might surprise you.
Bob Hope: The comedian was married for 69 years to a devoted Catholic, but only converted himself at the end of his life.” My wife does enough praying to take care of both of us, ” he once told a friend, a cardinal, who had invited him to join the church, according to Angelus News. Even before the conversion became official, the generosity of the Hopes had long supported many Catholic initiatives, including charities, help for refugees in war-torn countries, and the construction of chapels, shrines and altars across the country, including including Our Lady of Hope Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.
Grace Kelly: Born and raised Catholic, and attending Catholic schools, the The Rear Window actress famously gave up acting at the height of her career at age 26 to marry Prince Rainer of Monaco in 1956. The couple had strong ties to the Vatican and Pope Pius XII, as both countries are Catholic states. While Kelly died in a tragic auto accident when her children were still young, her devotion to the faith perhaps helped inspire the conversion of her son’s wife, Princess Charlene, to Catholicism before her royal marriage in 2011. Princess Charlene now finds “great spiritual balance” through the Church.
Spencer Tracy: The actor who played a Catholic priest four times — one of them, in Boy’s Town, earning him an Oscar — had his share of real-life conflicts with faith. But according to his biographer, Tracy, a lifelong Catholic, always maintained a spiritual side. In 1966, when Tracy’s health had begun to decline, he was visited by then-Maryknoll Father Eugene Kennedy. “Tracy, the former priest recalled, embraced a wooden statue of the Madonna he had found in Chamonix, France, and told Kennedy, ‘This is something I truly love. It’s so simple,'” according to the National Catholic Reporter.
Loretta Young: Starting as a child actor in silent films, the Utah-born actress made close to 100 films in the 1930s and 1940s, co-starring with many of Hollywood’s leading men, before moving on to TV later in her career. Her personal life was not without its share of scandal, but after bidding the entertainment industry adieu for the most part in 1963, she devoted much of the rest of her life supporting Catholic charities in Phoenix and Los Angeles. She was a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California.
Alec Guinness: Before he was known as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, the English-born Guinness, who died in 2000, had a long film career starting in 1934, including an Oscar for his role Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai in 1957. Born poor and in a broken family, he was confirmed in the Anglican church at 16, but had no real interest in religion. At age 42, he converted to Catholicism after a “miracle”: When Guinness’s son got ill, and then recovered after much prayer, Guinness and his entire family embraced the faith two years later.
Maureen O’Hara: When a reporter once asked her the secret to her longevity at age 80, the The Quiet Man actress replied: “Say your ‘Hail Mary’ every night when you go to bed.” O’Hara was a lifelong Catholic, born in Ireland but ending up in Boise, Idaho, to spend the last days of her life near her grandson. Despite the challenges of her life, including several marriages and a battle with cancer, she remained classy, strong and wore her faith and heritage proudly, even serving as the Grand Marshal at the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1999. While it’s rumored she was responsible for converting one of her most famous co-stars to Catholicism on his deathbed, the truth is something a little different …
John Wayne: O’Hara’s friend and co-star in several movies, the tough-guy actor converted to the faith at the end of his life, but according to Wayne’s grandson, Catholic priest Fr. Matthew Muñoz, it wasn’t mainly O’Hara’s influence. In fact, Wayne was baptized in 1978 (a year before his death) by Archbishop McGrath of Panama, in front of Munoz’s mother and uncle. Wayne was raised with many Christian values and a sense of right and wrong, Munoz told the Catholic News Agency, and those values were reflected in his films.
James Cagney: Born Catholic, Cagney, who featured in everything from light comedy to gangster films, is perhaps best known for his role of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy, for which he won an Academy Award. He stayed married to his sweetheart his entire life, and the couple adopted two children. After his funeral in 1986, in the same church where he was confirmed and served as an altar boy, the Rev. John Catoir, director of The Christophers, a Roman Catholic media organization, said: “Jimmy Cagney was not the most pious man to walk across the stage … but he was good to the core of his being,” according to the LA Times.
Gregory Peck: Many said the actor exemplified the man of honor and values he played in the character Atticus Finch, which earned him an Oscar for the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. In real life, he was known for his humanitarian efforts (earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom for it) in causes for health, art, religion and education. A Catholic born and raised, he attended Catholic schools and once considered the priesthood. Despite several marriage and divorces, Peck remained true to his faith always, even though he struggled to live it fully. “ Faith is a force, a powerful force. To me, it’s been like an anchor to windward — something that’s seen me through troubled times and some personal tragedies and also through the good times and success and the happy times,” Peck said.