Why were so many of our very best actors born in April? It’s an unanswerable question, of course, but intriguing nonetheless. And in the rarefied world of movie stardom, the concentration of April birthdays is pretty remarkable.

If I had to name the very best male actors in movie history, the list would certainly include Spencer Tracy, Alec Guinness, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Daniel Day-Lewis. 

All these brilliant performers have April birthdays. But it doesn’t stop there: Charlie Chaplin, perhaps the most famous star of the silent era, was also born in April. 

Factoring in female Oscar winners,  we add Bette Davis, Shirley MacLaine, Julie Christie, Barbra Streisand, Jessica Lange, and Penelope Cruz.

Beyond the legendary names listed earlier, more Oscar-winning male stars join this special club: Walter Huston, Melvyn Douglas, Gregory Peck, William Holden, Anthony Quinn, Peter Ustinov, and Russell Crowe.

You see? It’s quite the line-up.

To pay tribute to all these April babies, let’s consider each actor in chronological birth order, along with their Oscars, my desert island film for them, and one interesting fact you may, or may not, know.

Happy April, when flowers bloom and stars are indeed born.

Walter Huston

Birth date: 04/05/1883

Oscars: 1 for Best Supporting Actor, in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948)

Desert Island pick: “Dodsworth” (1936)

Did you know: The Huston family claims three generations of Oscar winners: father Walter, son John (who got two), and granddaughter Anjelica, who won for “Prizzi’s Honor,” directed by her dad.

Charles Chaplin 

Birth date: 04/16/1889

Oscars: Best Original Music for 1952’s “Limelight,” and an Honorary Oscar in 1972

Desert Island pick: “Modern Times” (1936)

Did you know: Accepting his honorary Oscar, Chaplin received the longest standing ovation in Oscar history: a full twelve minutes. Hollywood’s “Red Scare” had driven him away two decades before.

Spencer Tracy

Birth date: 04/05/1900

Oscars: Two for Best Actor, in “Captains Courageous” (1937) and “Boys’ Town” (1938)

Desert Island pick: “Bad Day at Black Rock

Did you know: Tracy was the first and only star to win two consecutive Best Actor Oscars until Tom Hanks matched him in 1995. He still holds the record for most Best Actor nods at 9.

Melvyn Douglas

Birth date: 04/05/1901

Oscars: 2 for Best Supporting Actor, in “Hud” (1963) and “Being There” (1979).

Desert Island pick: “Ninotchka” (1939)

Did you know: Douglas’s wife, Helen Gahagan, lost her Senate race to Richard Nixon in 1950, who smeared her as soft on communism. Actress Ileana Douglas is their granddaughter.

Bette Davis

Birth date: 04/05/1908

Oscars: 2 for Best Actress, in “Dangerous” (1936) and “Jezebel” (1938).

Desert Island pick: “All About Eve” (1950)

Did you know: In 1963, she became the first star to amass ten Oscar nominations for Best Actress. Later she was surpassed by Meryl Streep (17) and Katharine Hepburn (12).

Alec Guinness

Birth date: 04/02/1914

Oscars: One for Best Actor, in “The Bridge On the River Kwai” (1957)

Desert Island pick: “Kind Hearts and Coronets

Did you know: Guinness was the only “Star Wars” player to get a best actor nomination. He actually did the movie reluctantly, but since he’d negotiated points, it made him rich.

Anthony Quinn

Birth date: 04/21/1915

Oscars: Two for Best Supporting Actor, in “Viva Zapata” (1952) and “Lust for Life” (1956)

Desert Island pick: “Zorba the Greek” (1964)

Did you know: When not shooting films, Quinn was a gifted and prolific artist. He was also fascinated by architecture, and maintained a long friendship with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Gregory Peck

Birth date: 04/05/1916

Oscars: One for Best Actor, in “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1962)

Desert Island pick: “Roman Holiday” (1953)

Did you know: Convinced she’d be a sensation, Peck lobbied for newcomer Audrey Hepburn to receive equal star billing on “Roman Holiday.” The two stars remained devoted friends.

William Holden

Birth date: 04/17/1918

Oscars: One for Best Actor, in “Stalag 17” (1953)

Desert Island pick: “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957)

Did you know: Holden was a heavy drinker, but always professional on set. Still, feeling incredibly self-conscious, he insisted on drinking before his sexy dance with Kim Novak in “Picnic” (1955). 

Peter Ustinov

Birth date: 04/16/1921

Oscars: Two for Best Supporting Actor, in “Spartacus” (1960) and “Topkapi” (1964)

Desert Island pick: “Lola Montes” (1955)

Did you know: Ustinov was the first choice to play Inspector Clouseau in 1963’s “The Pink Panther.” When he pulled out, they hired Peter Sellers, who’d go on to play the character in five films.

Marlon Brando

Birth date: (04/03/1924)

Oscars: Two, for “On the Waterfront” (1954) and “The Godfather” (1972)

Desert Island pick: “On the Waterfront” 

Did you know: Brando was a voracious eater, and as he got older, had to go on crash diets before starting films. On “Apocalypse Now” (1979), he was so obese he had to be shot in shadow.

Rod Steiger

Birth date: 04/14/1925

Oscars: One for Best Actor, in “In the Heat of the Night” (1967)

Desert Island pick: “The Pawnbroker” (1964)

Did you know: George C. Scott turned down Steiger’s Oscar-winning role (in “Heat of the Night”). Three years later, Steiger rejected the title role in “Patton” (1970), which gave Scott his Oscar.

Shirley MacLaine

Birth date: 04/24/1934

Oscars: One, for Best Actress in “Terms of Endearment” (1983)

Desert Island pick: “The Apartment” (1960)

Did you know: The older sister of Warren Beatty, the two have never made a film together. MacLaine also shares a birthday with Barbra Streisand, and they usually celebrate it together.

Jack Nicholson

Birth date: 04/22/1937

Oscars: 2 for Best Actor, in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “As Good As It Gets” (1996); 1 for Best Supporting Actor in “Easy Rider” (1969)

Desert Island pick: “Chinatown” (1974)

Did you know: Nicholson grew up being told that his real mother was his sister, and his grandparents were his parents. The truth came out in the mid-seventies after he was famous.

Al Pacino

Birth date: 04/25/1940

Oscars: 1 for Best Actor, in “Scent of a Woman” (1992)

Desert Island pick: “The Godfather, Part 2” (1974)

Did you know: Originally, Paramount was dubious about casting the unknown Pacino as Michael Corleone, but director Francis Coppola (another April birthday) defended his choice.

Julie Christie

Birth date: 04/14/1941

Oscars: One for Best Actress, in “Darling” (1965)

Desert Island pick: “Don’t Look Now” (1973)

Did you know: Early in her career, she was up for the role of Honey Rider in “Dr. No” (1962) that went to Ursula Andress. The producers felt she was insufficiently busty for the part.

Barbra Streisand

Birth date: 04/24/1942

Oscars: Two, for Best Actress in “Funny Girl” (1967), and Best Original Song in “A Star is Born” (1976)

Desert Island pick: “Funny Girl”

Did you know: Due to a tie vote, Streisand’s first Oscar in 1968 was shared with Katharine Hepburn. Later, she turned down the role in “Cabaret” (1972) that won Liza Minnelli an Oscar.

Jessica Lange

Birth date: 04/20/1949

Oscars: Two, one for Best Supporting Actress in “Tootsie” (1982) and one for Best Actress in “Blue Sky” (1994)

Desert Island pick: “Tootsie”

Did you know: Lange achieved the Triple Crown of acting, winning an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy. Married once, she later had children out of wedlock with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Sam Shepard.

Daniel Day Lewis

Birth date: 04/29/57

Oscars: Three for Best Actor, in “My Left Foot” (1990), “There Will Be Blood” (2007), and “Lincoln” (2012)

Desert Island pick: “In the Name of the Father” (1993)

Did you know: A disciplined Method actor, Day-Lewis is the only male star to win three Best Actor Oscars. Married to filmmaker Rebecca Miller, he was also son-in-law to playwright Arthur Miller.

Russell Crowe

Birth date: : 04/07/1964

Oscars: One for Best Actor, in “Gladiator” (2000)

Desert Island pick: “L.A. Confidential” (1997)

Did you know: Over seven years, Crowe starred in five movies nominated for Best Picture. Two of those films (“Gladiator” and “A Beautiful Mind”) actually won in consecutive years.

Penelope Cruz

Birth date: 04/28/1974

Oscars: One for Best Supporting Actress, in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008)

Desert Island pick: “Volver” (2006)

Did you know: Cruz was the second Spanish actor to win an Oscar. The first was husband Javier Bardem, who won Best Supporting Actor the prior year in “No Country for Old Men” (2007).