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Marilyn Monroe poses in 1947
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Marilyn Monroe poses in 1947. The next year, she'd get a six-month Columbia Pictures contract, followed by a Marx Brothers movie in 1949, and, eventually, near-mythic status as the quintessential Hollywood "sex goddess."J. R. Eyerman—TIME & LIFE Pictures/Getty Images
Marilyn Monroe poses in 1947
Seen here in a 1954 photo that ended up on the cover of LIFE, Moreno debuted on Broadway at 13 before making it big years later in the film version of West Side Story.
Actress Rita Moreno demonstrates the "sexy-sophisticated" type, 1954.
Kim Novak Lounges in Bed, 1954
Kim Novak, 1954
Elizabeth Taylor in 1947, age 15
Sophia Loren poses in 1957, the year she began to make a name for herself in America in such movies as Boy on a Dolphin (her U.S. debut) and Legend of the Lost.
Audrey Hepburn in 1951 — two years before her film breakthrough in Roman Holiday — posing under a theater marquee for the stage version of Gigi.
Catherine Deneuve, 1961
Margarita Carmen Cansino, soon to be Rita Hayworth, models tennis fashions in 1939.
Wisely abandoning the name Tula Ellice Finklea, Cyd Charisse, seen here in 1945, was best known for her dancing roles opposite Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
Ann-Margret, 1961
Esther Williams, 1943
Eva Marie Saint opens a prop door during a TV shoot at NBC studios in 1947. The Newark, N.J.-born actress started her career as an NBC page.
Eva Marie Saint, 1949
Jeanne Crain 1946
Jane Fonda, 1959.
Jane Fonda was a well-regarded actress by the time this shot was taken in 1959, when she was 22, but it took the screwball Western Cat Ballou (1965) to turn her into a movie star.
Gene Tierney, 1941
Judy Garland, 1939
Barbra Streisand, 1962
Shirley MacLaine, 1955
Debbie Reynolds, circa 1950
Julie Andrews, 1956
Marilyn Monroe poses in 1947. The next year, she'd get a six-month Columbia Pictures contract, followed by a Marx Brothe
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J. R. Eyerman—TIME & LIFE Pictures/Getty Images
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LIFE With Actresses on the Brink of Fame

Aug 01, 2013

There's nothing quite like being there at the earliest emergence of a new Hollywood star, and as the premier pictorial weekly of its era, LIFE magazine was uniquely positioned to feature more than a few famous faces at the start of their careers, well before they became bona fide legends.

Here, LIFE.com offers a gallery of some of moviedom's most celebrated (and gorgeous) young talents on the very brink of life-altering fame, from Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn to Kim Novak, Ann-Margret, Liz Taylor, Rita Moreno, Catherine Deneuve and others. Long may they reign.

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