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The appellation “America’s Sweetheart” aboriginal appeared in the aboriginal 1900s, aback aback motion pictures were still a novelty. Over the years, it’s been activated to a all-inclusive cardinal of celebrities—largely young, bubbly, wholesome-seeming ladies who women appetite to be and men appetite to acquaint to their mothers. (The casual man has been dubbed America’s sweetheart, too, but the moniker has never actually authentic acclaimed men the way it has authentic a assertive brand of changeable celebrity.) Here are nine bodies who accept been alleged “America’s sweetheart” in the past.

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Mary Pickford—perhaps the best iconic extra of the Bashful Era and a architect of Hollywood institutions like the United Artists flat and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—was the aboriginal to authority the actionable appellation of “America’s Sweetheart,” a appellation reportedly accustomed to her by affecting amphitheater buyer David Grauman. The appellation would afterwards be acclimated in ad archetype for her films and by magazines autograph about her work. In a 1918 affection in Photoplay annual alleged “Women I Accept Loved,” amateur Elliott Dexter, in enumerating all of the actresses who had served as his on-screen adulation interests, wrote that “Mary Pickford actually captivated me as she does anybody who goes a her. Her genius, her brilliancy, her charm, her beauty—oh, what’s the use? All of that has alone been said two or three thousand times added or beneath and all of it is true.” Dexter played adverse Pickford in A Affair of the Redwoods, a 1917 bashful Western. (To accord you an abstraction of her allusive clout, she accustomed top billing, while his name didn’t arise on the film’s affiche at all.)

“In added than 200 films, including 52 feature features, she was the adventurous little babe whose beard afraid bottomward in aureate ringlets,” The Washington Post declared in her obituary in 1979. “She was hardly 5 anxiety tall, but she never gave up aback times got bad. She was funny and sad, boxy and vulnerable, innocent and ingenious, and she consistently won out in the end.”

Oddly enough, Pickford accepted that you didn’t charge to be from the U.S. to become America’s sweetheart—she was Canadian.

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Several decades afterwards Pickford pioneered the name, Shirley Temple took over as “America’s Sweetheart,” so finer embodying the appellation that abounding accept afield alleged her America’s aboriginal sweetheart. The dimpled, ringlet-sporting Depression-era adolescent amateur was acclaimed by the time she was 6, singing and tap-dancing her way through added than 40 films afore she retired from the pictures at the accomplished age of 22 and diplomacy millions of dolls in her affinity to American accouchement in the process. As an adult, she went on to become a U.S. agent to the U.N. and agent to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

The appellation of America’s sweetheart ashore with Temple throughout her life. Aback Fox arise box sets of her complete works on DVD in the aboriginal 2000s, the flat alleged them the America’s Sweetheart collection.

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Debbie Reynolds became America’s latest sweetheart in the 1950s, starting with her brilliant about-face in Singin’ in the Rain, which debuted in 1952 aback she was 20 years old. She went on to arise in assorted movies a year throughout the 1950s and had several hit songs on the Billboard charts. “Her girl-next-door looks, animated personality and activity in a cord of comedies and musicals bound becoming her the appellation of America’s Sweetheart,” The Times of Shreveport, Louisiana explained in 1988.

Unfortunately, Reynolds’s position as America’s sweetheart was generally aing with the -sym cachet of her aing acquaintance Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds’s bedmate Eddie Fisher (himself an American sweetheart) afar her to ally Taylor in 1959, a aspersion that garnered amazing media advantage at the time and still appears in account today. Reynolds died in backward 2016, and about every obituary referenced her years as America’s sweetheart.

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In the 1970s, Mary Tyler Moore took over the appellation of America’s sweetheart—though there was generally a caveat. “Just as absolutely as Mary Pickford was America’s sweetheart, Mary Tyler Moore is the viewers’ sweetheart,” a UPI newswire adventure about The Mary Tyler Moore Appearance declared in 1972, not actually giving her the abounding title. Moore became a domiciliary name in the aboriginal 1960s while arena Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Appearance and went on to brilliant in her own eponymous appearance amid 1970 and 1977. In 1977, the New York Daily News alleged her “America’s TV sweetheart.” But in added publications, there was no descriptor required. Both Esquire and Rolling Stone labeled her “America’s sweetheart’ in awning belief in 1977 and 1980, respectively.

And yet, America can’t focus on one sweetheart for too long. Already, her appellation was already at accident of actuality anesthetized off to addition else. In 1979, The Pittsburgh Press wrote that Donna Pescow of Saturday Night Fever, who was again starring in the ABC appearance Angie, “may alter Mary Tyler Moore as America’s sweetheart.” (That one didn’t actually appear to fruition.)

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Not all of America’s sweethearts accept been actresses. Walter Cronkite bestowed the honorary on aerialist Mary Lou Retton afterward her wins at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Olympic agent Mary Decker occasionally donned the characterization in the 1980s, too, as did tennis brilliant Chris Evert and swimmer Janet Evans. Just about every acknowledged changeable amateur of the 1980s was at one point accounted to be America’s sweetheart. The adumbration continues today, too—more contempo Olympic gymnasts like Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, and Aly Raisman accept all been alleged America’s sweethearts, too.


Meg Ryan became America’s sweetheart acknowledgment to roles in a cord of adventurous comedies, starting with Aback Harry Met Sally… in 1989 and continuing throughout the 1990s. In one archetypal commodity of the time, a Detroit Free Press adventure in 1996 alleged Ryan “she of the cackle in the articulation and the animation in the eye.” Another, appear by The Age in Australia, alleged her “cinema’s intoxicating, decent-hearted sprite.” But she fell out of Hollywood favor in the aboriginal 2000s afterwards an activity with Russell Crowe brought about the end of her alliance to Dennis Quaid, a aspersion that captivated the tabloids. If there’s one aphorism to actuality America’s sweetheart, it’s that you accept to accumulate your angel aspersion free—extramarital diplomacy are absolutely not allowed.

Though she has been out of the spotlight for several years, Ryan afresh discussed her time as America’s sweetheart with Gwyneth Paltrow at a Goop conference, adage she never admired the title. “When you get labeled anything, like America’s sweetheart—I didn’t alike apperceive what that meant,” she told Paltrow. “I bethink thinking, ‘Is that good?'” She went on to say, “It doesn’t necessarily betoken that you’re acute or animal or complicated or anything. It’s a label. And what can a characterization do but assumption at you?”

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Julia Roberts got her alpha in Hollywood with films like Mystic Pizza (1988) and Steel Magnolias (1989) and became a accurate all-embracing brilliant aback Pretty Woman came out in 1990. In 1993, The Boston Globe alleged her “the aing affair there is to America’s Sweetheart.” Throughout the ’90s, both she and adolescent sweetheart Meg Ryan consistently fabricated the top of lists like Harlequin’s Top 10 Best Desirable Women and Men’s Health’s account of the top stars to “take home to Mom.” And yet by the mid-1990s, some writers were already affective on to addition else. “Sandra Bullock emerged as the acceptable almsman to the crumbling Julia Roberts as America’s Sweetheart,” the South Florida Sun-Sentinel appear in its end-of-year advantage for 1995. But she was anon aback on top—after My Best Friend’s Wedding came out in 1997, the Orlando Sentinel wrote that she “hardly seems accessible to abandon her appellation as America’s Sweetheart.” In 2003, National Enquirer arise a adventures of the brilliant alleged Julia Roberts: America’s Sweetheart.

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Anyone with a few hit adventurous comedies beneath their belt is abiding to become America’s sweetheart, and Sandra Bullock was no exception. Bullock fabricated her name starring as the adventurous charlatan in movies like While You Were Sleeping (1995), but aback she approved to amplitude her affecting legs, she wasn’t actually so beloved. “Sandra Bullock and Clint Eastwood are accepted because of their personalities and looks, not necessarily because we appetite to see them perform,” a Knight Ridder bi-weekly analyzer snarked in 1999. Bullock wasn’t decidedly invested in actuality America’s sweetheart, however, and she absolutely accepted the rules of the game. “There’s a altered ‘America’s Sweetheart’ every time they accept to advance addition adventurous comedy,” she told The Orange County Register in 2005.

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Even added fool-proof than adventurous comedies, the quickest way to become America’s sweetheart is to articulation up with addition all-American celebrity. While Jennifer Aniston hit sweetheart cachet acknowledgment to the massive acceptance of her appearance on Friends—one Entertainment Weekly labeled as a Top 10 greatest pop-culture characters of the aftermost 20 years in 2010—her affair with acclaimed Hollywood baby Brad Pitt absolutely closed the deal. Aback that concluded in 2005, she got to accumulate the title, except she became “America’s alone sweetheart” (compared to the “superhumanly sensual” Angelina Jolie), as a biographer from The Arizona Republic alleged her in 2005. (Another aphorism for these abounding titles? Women charge be alveolate adjoin anniversary other, whether they like it or not.)

Even admitting Aniston no best appears in our homes every Thursday night as she did during her run on Friends, she’ll consistently be the country’s sweetheart for many. “Look at Jennifer Aniston: she’s America’s sweetheart for a reason,” adolescent extra Allison Williams empiric while talking about red carpeting styles in Elle’s 2014 Women in TV issue. “You apperceive what she’s activity to attending like aback she shows up to something, and there’s article so adequate in that.”

Maybe that’s the key. If America’s sweetheart is anything, it’s comforting.

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