Gregory Peck in The Yearling, 1946
Gregory Peck, who won two Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama, first in 1947 for The Yearling, and again in 1963 for To Kill a Mockingbird. Pictured here in The Yearling, 1946.Walter Sanders—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Gregory Peck in The Yearling, 1946
Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet, 1947
Fred Astaire in 1945
Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman on the set of Saratoga Trunk, 1943
Spencer Tracy in 1955
Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront in 1954
Kirk Douglas in Lust for Life in 1955
Alec Guiness n 1953
Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine in Guys and Dolls in 1955
Jack Lemmon in The Apartment in 1960
Glen Ford in Cimarron in 1960
Bob Newhart in 1961
Sidney Poitier in the stage production of "A Raisin in the Sun" in 1959
Mickey Rooney in 1960
Rex Harrison in 1960
Peter O'Toole as Hamlet in 1963
Alan Arkin in 1966
Dean Martin performing at the Sands Hotel in 1958
John Wayne in "The Undefeated" in 1969
Albert Finney in 1963
Gregory Peck, who won two Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama, first in 1947 for The Yearling, and
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Walter Sanders—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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20 Stunning Photos of Classic Golden Globe-Winning Actors

Jan 09, 2015

This year’s award season kicks off in earnest on Sunday, Jan. 11 with the Golden Globes, the annual pageant used by Oscar prognosticators to predict who will win the award that really matters. But a Globe is, undoubtedly, nothing to scoff at, as the line of past winners serves to demonstrate.

As the Cumberbabes duke it out with the Redmayniacs for the most deserving actor of the year, a look back at those crowned during the awards’ first decades reaffirms that a win cements one’s place in Hollywood history. Jack Lemmon still boasts the greatest number of nominations for an actor, with 22. Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet is still, nearly 70 years later, the Hamlet of Hamlets. And no one’s managed to pull off a top hat and cane better than Fred Astaire — it’s quite possible no one never will.

As with the race for best actress, any racial diversity in the field was nearly absent for decades — Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win (in 1964), and it was more than 25 years before another black actor won for a leading role (Morgan Freeman for Driving Miss Daisy in 1990). And as with opportunities for many who have traditionally been underrepresented in Hollywood, things are slowly getting better.

This collection of photographs represents the tip of the iceberg that is LIFE Magazine’s Hollywood coverage. Taken by storied photographers like Alfred Eisenstaedt, Allan Grant and Gordon Parks, these images capture the entertainment industry’s leading men, forever iconic.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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