Hollywood’s most rebellious women through the years
Hollywood can either inspire you or shatter your spirit. Given the expectations of many stars, it isn’t too surprising that some of Hollywood’s most famous beauties either succumbed to the pressures or decided to lash out against them.
From serial spouses to unbelievable controversies, these famous Hollywood “bad girls,” constantly found themselves at the center of a scandal. You’ll be surprised to see that Tinseltown’s past is full of wild antics that make some of today’s stars look lame in comparison.
The “Bad Reputation” singer doesn’t care what you think about her, and her career is proof of that. From an early age, she discarded the typical female stereotype that plagued young starlets. The first thing Jett did when she stepped onto the music scene was form an all-girl band that rocked harder than most of the boys at the time.
Jett helped pave the way for females who wanted to be a part of the Rock and Roll scene and basically invented the ‘tude harnessed by female rockers over the years. In 1999, she famously coined the phrase, “There’s nothing more threatening than a girl with a guitar.” Jett has never been afraid to speak her mind, and she has become a fronting figure in the feminist movement.
Madonna’s career has been full of controversy, and she is one of the few stars that has successfully reinvented herself time and time again. Often referred to as the “Queen of Pop,” Madonna is one of the most iconic female recording artists of all time. With such an intimidating and crucial cultural impact, there is bound to be some push-back.
Madonna’s career is often applauded (and frowned upon) for the lengths in which she exhibits her sexuality. In 1989, Pope John Paul II, spoke out against her “Like a Prayer” music video, as it featured her singing in front of burning crosses as well as performing other disrespectful religious acts. The Vatican even went as far as to try to boycott her “Blond Ambition” tour when it came through Italy.
Hollywood’s favorite outcast, Winona Ryder found fame with famous ’80s films like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Heathers. It was in the cult favorite Edward Scissorhands where she met renowned ex-fiancee, Johnny Depp. Depp even got her name tattoo’ed on himself, “Winona forever.” He has since altered the tattoo to read “Wino forever” (fitting).
On Dec. 12, 2001, Ryder was arrested on shoplifting charges. She was accused of stealing $5,500 worth of clothing and accessories from Saks Fifth Avenue. Ryder admitted to Interview that the shoplifting event occurred during a time in her career when she was clinically depressed. She has since made a comeback, and received high praises for her role in Netflix’s Stranger Things.
Carrie Fisher has had a tumultuous career, and has openly discussed her battle with addiction and struggles with bipolar disorder in her book, “Wishful Drinking.” During Q&A sessions at fan conventions, she’s told stories about how she partied with The Rolling Stones just hours before filming scenes in The Empire Strikes Back.
She has admitted that the role pushed her drug addiction to new heights, and in 2008, admitted that she wished she had turned down the role. Fisher often marched to the beat of her own drum and was very blunt when it came to the issues of sexism and ageism in Hollywood. Filmmaker Naomi McDougall Jones revels in the idea that Fisher “took the sex-symbol image off the pedestal and flipped it on its head.”
Courtney Love, known for being the lead singer of Hole and the wife of Kurt Cobain, is no stranger to the negative attention that comes with the spotlight. Love has been making headlines since she first appeared on the scene in the early ’90s.
Some of her more controversial moments include her throwing a shoe at Madonna during her interview at the 1995 VMAs and flashing David Letterman during The Late Show. She even went as far as attempting to attack a Vanity Fair journalist during the 1995 Vanity Fair Oscar party using the nearest possible weapon (Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar statue).
Jane Fonda, otherwise known as “Hanoi Jane,” was an avid political activist, actress, and model. She earned the nickname “Hanoi Jane” when she went on a trip to North Vietnam to check out the war situation. Once in country, Fonda was photographed while sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, and the photograph sparked anger across America.
During the 1960s, Fonda supported the Civil Rights Movement and has since been a longtime supporter of feminist causes. On Nov. 2, 1970, Fonda was arrested by authorities on suspicion of drug trafficking, although she insisted the pills were vitamins. Her famous mugshot, where she has her fist raised defiantly, has become an iconic image of the beloved actress.
Drew Barrymore had an early introduction to the crazy Hollywood lifestyle, and she became a regular at the famous risque nightclub, Studio 54 by the age of 12. Following her success in E.T., the media became obsessed with the young Barrymore’s party-girl lifestyle, and it was a popular topic in the tabloids.
At 14, Barrymore moved back to West Hollywood and sought emancipation from her parents. In the early ’90s, she became the figurehead of teen rebellion. She played out the narrative in the 1992 film, Poison Ivy, where she played a manipulative teenage seductress. She would then shock audiences later on in the ’90s when she flashed David Letterman on The Late Show.
The fresh-faced Kate Moss came onto the fashion scene in the ’90s, and left a lasting impression with her 1993 Calvin Klein campaign. Kate was a reckless force and a shameless party-girl that didn’t really care about the negative media attention. In fact, she seemed to embrace it.
Moss played into her “bad-girl” stereotype. She dated “bad boys,” Johnny Depp and Pete Doherty, and partied hard with the most beautiful supermodels in the ‘biz. Unfortunately for Moss, the brands that once pined for her attention, fell out after an infamous photo leaked, confirming her drug use. In 2005, her drug use led to her being dropped from fashion campaigns with H&M, Stella McCartney, and Chanel.
If you grew up watching the Brady Bunch, then you are familiar with Florence Henderson who played the warm and loving Carol Brady. Now, you may be asking, “Why did Carol Brady make this list?” Oh, no reason, except the fact that she briefly dated her on-screen son when he was 15 years old. By “briefly dating,” we mean they went out on one date, but still, she was 36 at the time, and he was a young teen.
In 1991, Henderson revealed to People Magazine: “He had a crush on me, and he asked me out for a date, which I’ll never forget. He was too young to drive, so his older brother brought him to my hotel, and then I drove us to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where we saw a singer. It was so sweet because Barry made sure we had a good table. After the show, his brother picked him up and took him home. The crush was a very serious thing for him, so I was never condescending. I certainly liked him too, but I wasn’t exactly the Cher of the TV mom set.”
Rumors have run rampant through the years about Joan Crawford. It was said that she danced nude for extra money, partied until the break of dawn, and that she used her sex appeal to sleep her way to the top.
True or not, Crawford experienced her share of gossip. If it wasn’t her violent feud with Bette Davis that was in the headlines, then it was her four marriages, all of which ended in divorce. Probably one of the more interesting assumptions of Crawford’s feud with Davis was that Crawford, who had relationships with both men and women, was interested in Davis.
At one point, Crawford was one of Hollywood’s most recognizable movie stars and one of the highest-paid women in the United States.
Marilyn Monroe needs no introduction, as she remains a household name to this day. Monroe was the queen of the tabloids, and it seemed that her name appeared in a different headline every other week, often attached to a wild accusation.
Monroe was linked to many A-list actors and politicians which only solidified her star power. Although the first Playboy cover girl lived and breathed a Hollywood dream, she still suffered at the hands of her demons. The blonde icon was plagued by her vices and psychological problems. Many historians believe that she suffered from schizophrenia, although they have been unable to prove this assumption.
Angelina Jolie was a wild child and a Hollywood “bad-girl,” until she became a mother, a wife, and a role model. Some of Jolie’s famous antics include her wearing a vial of ex-husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck, kissing her brother on the lips at the 2000 Academy Awards, and her bisexual trysts, which she’s spoken about publicly. She was branded as a homewrecker after Brad Pitt walked away from his marriage to Jennifer Aniston to begin a relationship with Jolie.
These days, Jolie is a mother of six, and she is noted for her incredible humanitarian efforts. She promotes various causes, including conservation, education, and women’s rights. But, don’t get it twisted. Angelina Jolie still has her dark side, and she confirmed this to CBS News correspondent Bob Simon saying, “I’m still a bad girl. I still have that side of me… it’s just in its place now…”
Loretta Young was a well-respected actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She found herself amid a scandal when it was revealed that she was pregnant with Clark Gable’s child. The pair were the romantic leads of the 1935 film, The Call of the Wild, and during filming, Gable impregnated Young. For decades, many assumed that the pair had engaged in an affair which resulted in a pregnancy. Linda Lewis, Young’s daughter-in-law, gave a public statement admitting that Young shared with her that Gable had raped her.
Upon learning about her pregnancy, Young, her sisters, and her mother devised a plan that they would hide the pregnancy and then pass off the child as adopted. Young knew that if Twentieth Century Pictures found out about the pregnancy, they would immediately intervene. When she began showing, she went on a “vacation” to England and returned to California several months later. Although the plan seemed to work, the true parentage of the child, Judy Lewis, was widely rumored throughout Hollywood.
Natalie Wood’s classic beauty and marvelous career are remembered fondly to this day. Beginning her career as a child actress, she received three Academy Award nominations before she turned 25. Among her many successes, Wood also remains as one of the biggest tragedies in Hollywood history due to her devastating death.
During the 1970s, Wood married Robert Wagner and remained married to him up until her death in 1981. Wood drowned while out on a boat with Wagner and co-star, Christopher Walken, (who she was rumored to be having an affair with). Although the death was ruled as an accident, bruises were found on the actresses body along with a significant amount of alcohol in her system. Although Wagner became a person of interest after it was revealed that the couple fought hours before her death, the case remains unsolved.
Frances Farmer was a force in her own right, and she did things her way, regardless of the tabloids. She appeared in over a dozen films throughout her career, but it was her personal life that made her popular with the media.
Apparently, Farmer’s studio hairdresser filed an assault charge against Farmer, claiming that Farmer dislocated her jaw. It was during this time that police were also going after Farmer for an unpaid fine for driving drunk with her lights on while passing through a War Zone. She also once threw an inkwell at a judge, who sentenced her to 180 days. Before being carried out, she knocked over a policeman and bruised another. Farmer was then involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, where she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Marion Davies famously found herself in the middle of a love triangle between Charlie Chaplin and William Randolph Hearst. William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration behind Citizen Kane, wasn’t too fond of sharing his lady (even though he was already married to someone else). Eventually, there was a physical altercation between the two that resulted in the death of director William Ince (which nobody was tried for by the way).
Although details of the story have changed over time, two popular theories claim that Ince was mistaken for Chaplin, and Hearst shot him, or he was accidentally shot when Hearst went after Chaplin. Due to Hearst’s tremendous power and influence, witnesses were terrified to come forth, leaving the official cause of death as “heart condition.”
Although Hayworth had quite a turbulent personal life, she was otherwise a reserved individual. Her multiple strained and violent marriages weighed heavily on her heart and affected her greatly. At just 18 years old, Hayworth married her manager, Edward Judson. Hayworth later recalled: “I married him for love, he married me for an investment. From the first, he told me I couldn’t do anything for myself. My personality crawled deeper and deeper into a shell.”
Although this was only the first of five marriages, all ended publically. Over the course of her career, Hayworth’s appearance changed drastically to fit the beauty standards at the time. Hayworth lost 20 pounds, dyed her hair auburn, and had her hairline (painfully) raised by electrolysis. Hayworth died at the age of 68 from complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease on May 14, 1987. which drew attention to Alzheimer’s awareness.
The lovely Elizabeth Taylor was known for her undeniable talent and her many marriages (eight to be exact). Since her career spans over five decades, there’s bound to be some controversy (and there was). Buckle up! This one is going to be a wild ride. It’s no secret that the public disapproved of her marriages, but it is also her claim to fame. Her first marriage occurred at 18, to Conrad “Nicky” Hilton Jr., heir to the Hilton Hotels chain in 1957.
During the production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, she became involved with singer Eddie Fisher, who was married to America’s Sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds. The affair, (that soon turned into marriage after his divorce from Reynolds) forced the public to look at Taylor as a homewrecker. This sparked a longtime feud between Reynolds and Taylor, with Taylor vilified by the media. Taylor’s film, Cleopatra in 1963, became her most famous to date, and she was the first actress to be paid $1 million for a role.
You probably knew this was coming. Look, everyone is familiar with Lindsay Lohan and her outrageous behavior that has plagued the tabloids for years. The original Disney-star-gone-wild, Lohan has dealt with a plethora of court cases, multiple financial issues, and substance abuse over the years.
Her personal struggles and hurdles landed her in quite a few rehabilitation facilities, which resulted in the loss of several movie roles. Her life often interfered with her work, and she became a liability on set when she would show up hours late, or not show up at all. Lohan has since taken a step back from the spotlight, and in 2016, developed a series of businesses in Greece, including the Lohan Nightclub in Athens, Greece, and two Lohan Beach Houses in the Cyclades islands.
Bettie Page is the original pinup girl, and she is often referred to as “Queen of Pinups.” Her jet-black shoulder-length hair that she sported with a heavy fringe became her signature, and it has been copied for decades. Page would eventually look on her former modeling days with disdain, as she underwent a transformation into a born-again Christian.
She was adored by Hugh Hefner, and she was “Miss January 1955.” Hefner gushed in 2008 that, “I think she was a remarkable lady, an iconic figure in pop culture who influenced sexuality, taste in fashion, someone who had a tremendous impact on our society.”
In 1954, during the height of her fame, Page met with photographers Jan Caldwell, H.W. Hannau, and Bunny Yeager to create the “Jungle Bettie” photographs. The photographs include naked photos of Page with two cheetahs. In 1955, Page won the title “Miss Pinup Girl of the World,” and earned the nickname, “The Queen of Curves,” and “The Dark Angel.”
Lana Turner epitomized the “femme fatale” stereotype, and while she usually played innocent and naive characters, she gained notoriety for being a pinup girl (and for her sexually liberated lifestyle). She garnered a lot of attention in 1958, when her mobster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, was stabbed in the abdomen by her 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane, during a domestic struggle.
Regardless, the controversy worked in Turner’s favor, as her film, “Imitation of Life,” ended up being one of the greatest financial successes of her career. After getting married seven different times, she joked, “My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around.”
Shannen Doherty is best known for portraying Brenda Walk on Beverly Hills, 90210, and for her bad-girl reputation. She has even written a book entitled, Badass: A Hard-Earned Guide to Living Life with Style and (the Right) Attitude. Despite more of a mild public persona in recent years, Doherty will be forever remembered for her diva ways.
People Magazine deemed her the “iconic Hollywood bad girl” of the ’90s after fights between Doherty and her co-stars were the source of negative headlines. Doherty had a reputation of heavy partying, showing up to set late, and fighting. Executive producers of 90210, Darren Star and Charles Rosin, have said: “She had habitual lateness. Her lateness was appalling, and she had a callous attitude and an indifference.” She would often get into physical altercations with co-star, Jennie Garth.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
This Hungarian-American actress and socialite began her career in 1936 (when she was crowned Miss Hungary). In 1941, she decided to make the big move to the U.S. and quickly became the European actress everyone sought after. Although she flourished in the acting world, Gabor was famous for her lavish lifestyle, her glamorous Old Hollywood personality, and her many marriages. In total, Gabor had nine husbands including Conrad Hilton and actor George Sanders.
Gabor always managed to find the humor in her situation, saying, “I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.” Gabor later found herself in a scandal when she claimed to have had a sexual encounter with her stepson, Nicky Hilton. In an ironic side note, other Hilton descendants, Paris and Nicky Hilton, would become known as the ultimate party girls of the early aughts.
Mabel Normand was a famous comedienne during the silent era of film. She worked side by side with the scandal-ridden Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle and had a relationship with director Mack Sennett. In 1918, after her relationship with Sennett fizzled out, she began spiraling and indulging in dangerous vices.
After Normand got clean, she formed a close relationship with director William Desmond Taylor, and she was the last person to see him before he was murdered in his home. Although she wasn’t a serious suspect in the case, newspapers concocted wild rumors. In 1924, she found herself in the headlines again when her chauffeur shot her lover, millionaire oil broker and golfer Courtland S. Dines, using her pistol.
Gia Carangi was the world’s first supermodel of her caliber, and she paved the way for many ladies that would rise to fame in the same line of work. By the time Carangi turned 18, she had sealed deals with the likes of Armani, Versace, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Diane Von Furstenberg. Gia Carangi is also noted for being the first openly gay model.
Carangi was famous for her apathetic attitude, and she would often show up with a cigarette in hand and a dismissive glare. Unfortunately, at the same speed that she flew to stardom, she tumbled to self-destruction. By 1983, Carangi had dried up her bank account and was admitted to an intense drug treatment program at Eagleville Hospital in December 1984.
After a plethora of typical jobs, she began engaging in prostitution in Atlantic City. In December 1985, Carangi was diagnosed with AIDS-related complex. She succumbed to the disease at the age of 26, becoming one of the first famous women to die of the disease.
Jayne Mansfield was a nightclub entertainer, a singer, and one of Playboy’s earliest Playmates. She was a preeminent sex symbol during the ’50s and ’60s, so was never scared of showing a little skin. Mansfield was a starlet of a different caliber, as she never shied away from a wardrobe malfunction. She would even invite photographers into her home to take photos of her in her bikini.
In 1963, Mansfield became one of the first actresses to appear naked on the big screen in the movie, Promises, Promises. Often referred to as the “Working Man’s Monroe,” she was one of Hollywood’s original blonde bombshells. She always knew how to steal the show. In a 1955 press jacket promoting her film, she wore a red bikini that was too small, so when she dove into the pool for photographers, her top came off. The media began bustling after the event, leading to Warner Bros. and Playboy to approach her with offers.
Before becoming a Hollywood starlet, West had a run-in with the law for her work as a playwright. West, who actively worked in Vaudeville, was one of the more controversial movie stars of her decade due to her sexual independence and lack of censorship.
Her first role was on Broadway in a 1926 play she wrote, produced, and directed called Sex. The production was immediately the target of disdain for religious groups, and she was eventually prosecuted on morals charges. On Apr. 19, 1927, she was sentenced to 10 days in jail for “corrupting the morals of youth.” West challenged the good-girl stereotypes of the Depression-era.
Bankhead was known for her provocative voice, charismatic personality, and cutting wit. She was also the inspiration behind the colorful and outlandish stereotype often associated with actresses. Although many people cannot remember her stage or on-screen performances (besides Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat), she is remembered for her scandalous life and her creation of catchphrase “dah-ling.”
She had numerous lovers in Hollywood, men and women, and she once told Joan Crawford, “Dah-ling, you’re divine. I’ve had an affair with your husband. You’ll be next.” Bankhead was known for throwing extravagant, Gatsby-like parties and her love for dangerous vices, which she ultimately succumbed to.
Jean Harlow rose to fame towards the end of the silent film era, and with a life so full of scandal, Hollywood worshipped her. Her father was a mobster, she had nude photos taken of her at the age of 17, and she terminated her pregnancy fathered by her fiancee William Powell. Although this all weighed heavily in the media, her most recognizable scandal involved second husband, Paul Bern, who was 22 years her senior.
On Sept. 5, 1963, Bern was found dead a few months after their wedding. Although there was a suicide note found at the scene, Bern reeked of Harlow’s perfume. Harlow died a few years later due to kidney disease, but that didn’t stop the media from turning her death into a frenzy. They claimed (falsely) that the bleach from her hair seeped into her brain and killed her. Others claimed that Harlow’s kidneys were damaged from the rough beatings given to her by her husband. Even in death, Harlow could not escape the ruthlessness of Hollywood.
Clara Bow was the reason the phrase “It-girl” was coined. It was her appearance as the shopgirl in the film It that brought her fame and fortune, leading to the phrase “It-girl.” The frontwoman of the “Roaring Twenties,” Bow was one of Hollywood’s first proclaimed “sex symbols.”
This made Bow a famous actress, as she was often the root of media attention. The Guardian reported that fellow actress, Lina Basquette, said of Bow: “She wasn’t well-liked amongst other women in the film colony. Her social presence was taboo, and it was rather silly because God knows Marion Davies and Mary Pickford had plenty to hide. It’s just that they hid it, and Clara didn’t.”