Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Great (film) Debates vol. 14

Classic Hollywood produced some wonderful actresses. They had style, grace, and they could act.

Who is your favorite classic Hollywood actress and what was her best role?


Panelist: ScottDS

Miss Barbara Stanwyck, and I would say her best role is a toss-up between Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity and Jean Harrington in The Lady Eve. In fact, when people ask me who my celebrity crush is, I mention a few modern day actresses and I top it off with "Barbara Stanwyck circa 1941 when she did The Lady Eve and Ball of Fire." A friend of mine thinks she resembles a girl I had a crush on in film school but the jury is still out on that one. "There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour."

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Joanne Woodward (of course) in Long Hot Summer. Hepburn is the obvious choice, but you did say favorite!! I liked Long Hot Summer over 3 Faces of Eve even though the latter won her an Oscar. The rationale for that is probably as a native Georgian, she was a natural in LHS.

Panelist: T-Rav

Judy Garland. Obviously, The Wizard of Oz would be the high point of her career; it's hard now for me to imagine Dorothy being played by anyone else but her. She had several good movies after that, of course, like Meet Me in St. Louis (on my mind right now for obvious reasons), and through the '40s and '50s she probably had a better set of pipes than anyone else in Hollywood, in my opinion. I wonder what more she might have done, if not for her sad descent and premature death.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

I was tempted to say Rosalind Russell because she was a fantastic actress and I've liked her in everything I've seen her in. But for favorite, I just can't get away from Lauren Bacall. Her performance in To Have And Have Not is one of my all-time favorites and she was solid in every film after that -- even as late as the 1970s, when she starred in Murder On The Orient Express. There isn't a character she couldn't play.


Comments? Thoughts? Who would you choose and why?

36 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

Hard to argue with any of these choices, panelists. It makes me wonder, though "where have all the great actresses gone?"

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - Double Indemnity, but that is purely a reflection of my "liking" that film rather than whether Barbara's role was somehow "better."

Rav - Miss Judy and that role is just about as iconic as it gets.

Andrew - I think of Ros and I think of Auntie Mame. She was a treasure. Bacall, though not as classically beautiful as a few of the others, had a total look about her that was unbeatable. It certainly worked for Bogie.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Really? Favorite? Just one?

Myrna Loy -- Nora Charles (The Thin Man series) -- natch. Love the dames... Rosalind Russell, etc.

My favorite role tough is Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall in North By Northwest. At the risk of TMI... that role revs my engine... good Lord... how DOES a woman like her get to be a woman like her?

Floyd R. Turbo said...

T RAV: My wife and I saw Lorna Luft (Judy Garland's daughter for those who don't know) perform a couple of years ago. She sang "The Man That Got Away" and if you closed your eyes you'd have sworn it was Judy Garland singing.

ScottDS said...

I have some homework to do!

I've only seen Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, which I saw for the first time in college ten years ago. I'm not all that familiar with her musical work. My high school crush was a fan of hers. :-)

Likewise, I'm not all that familiar with Ms. Woodward's work either.

I liked Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (her hats, not so much) but I haven't seen much else of hers. I also liked Lauren Bacall in the aforementioned films, as well as modern movies like The American President and Birth.

As far as Katherine Hepburn goes, I think I soured on her because the first film of hers I saw was Bringing Up Baby which I absolutely hated. But don't worry, my opinion has improved, thanks to The Philadelphia Story and The African Queen (Paramount's restoration of the film is stunning).

Floyd - great call on Myrna Loy!

AndrewPrice said...

Great choices everybody! And let me second Jed's point, "where have all the great actresses gone!" This one was so much harder than the modern actresses because there really are so many excellent choices to choose from!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I agree, she's not at all a classical beauty, but she's got that "it" factor that is just incredibly sexy! Ironically, I doubt they would even let her appear as an extra today because she's so far outside the mold they use. And think about what for a shame that would be!

P.S. I love how all your choices keep coming up "Woodward"! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I almost went with Eva Marie Saint because she just fantastic as Eve Kendall! The scene on the train in the dining car in particular is one of the sexiest scenes ever put on film.

As for picking a favorite, yeah, it's tough in a category like this!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Russell had tremendous comedic timing. She was also a surprisingly physical actress who could handle any role.

Bacall is all around great as well and really did some stellar work as she got older.

I liked Stanwyck a lot too, though she always struck me as an odd actress. Ball of Fire was enjoyable though and a great premise. It's amazing how our view of professors has changed!

ScottDS said...

I liked Stanwyck a lot too, though she always struck me as an odd actress.

Well, that obviously explains the attraction!

I've actually watched a few films that she was in that I may not otherwise have been interested in, like Christmas in Connecticut and earlier work like Night Nurse and Baby Face.

T-Rav said...

Floyd, I haven't heard Ms. Luft sing, but I have heard about her, and everyone who's mentioned her says she sounds just like her momma. That's very cool.

I agree, great choices all! And as Jed and Andrew said, it does raise the question why we don't have such greats today.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I saw her first in Bonanza where I thought she was quite good. Then I went back and saw her older stuff. It's hard to describe her, but the word "firecracker" comes to mind.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, It makes me wonder if Hollywood had just become more twisted or if society has started to settle on a single image of beauty? And if we now think that beauty without talent is as good as beauty with talent -- which seems to be the case in the music industry?

LawHawkRFD said...

For glamor and sultriness, Rita Hayworth. For everything else, Bette Davis.

AndrewPrice said...

Good choices! Hayworth in particular was truly sultry.

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - although Joanne Woodward may be known as wife of the late Paul Newman, not seeing her work would be practically unpardonable. The two films I mention would be, imo, the best of the best.

Andrew - The Woodward thing may be an interesting coincidence, but in all honesty, Edward, Morgan, and Joanne are all up there in stratified air when it comes to the acting profession.

Scott - yes Hepburn is an amazing actress. Cate Blanchett (among my favorite "moderns" did a great Hepburn in the "Aviator.") Amazon Queen was my first Bogie movie as a little kid. Loved the whole episode with the leeches. And you are right, the Blu-Ray is stunning. One of the first films to be screened in the recent grand re-opening of Cinema Woodward.

Rita and Betty. Ah! Hawk, I should have figured you would go down this road. I think I'll put on Kim Carnes' classic"Betty Davis Eyes." ;-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Eva Marie Saint - she was fantastic in North by Northwest (a contender for my alltime favorite film.) I like the fact she has stayed in acting. Floyd - Myrna Loy. For some reason, I picture her and the word "coquette" flashes before my eyes.

DUQ said...

Jed, That's a lot of Woodwards! :)

My choice would be Audrey Hepburn. How could you not like her?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Cinema Woodward! LOL!

I actually haven't seen Aviator, though I do intend to. Somehow it just slipped between the cracks.

North By Northwest is one of my favorites as well. That's one of those films were everything just came together right and it really shows how BIG films should be made.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Excellent choice. Her iconic role is obvious Breakfast at Tiffany's, but she really was solid in everything I've seen her in -- not just a pretty face.

Ed said...

Margaret Dumont! No other actress alive could stand up to the pounding she takes from the Marx Brothers with such grace and class!

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, True. She does and excellent job as the straight-man in their routines and she really shows herself to be a good sport.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Wimmins and modern films....

Two thoughts...

1. feminism... Men like strong women who know how to be women. We hate strong women who try to act like men. Rosalind Russell = strong and sexy. The 9 to 5 women = angry vindictive bitches.

2. I'm not sure how to word this but women in positions of power in Hollywood -- studio heads, directors, etc. It's a good thing over all I know, however... no studio head in the Golden Age would give us Meg Ryan as the leading lady a Rom-Com. Hell -- Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Claudette Colbert, Lana Turner, Barbara Stanwyck, et al. made loud O-sounds too -- they just wouldn't have felt the need to either: a. debase themselves in public or b. prove anything to a milquetoast like Billy Crystal (who is hilarious don't gt me wrong).

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I agree.

On point one, I think feminism has redefined "official" femininity from "strong" to "bitchy." It is truly rare these days that I see a female character on film that I would respect in real life. In the past however, there were many. It seems they've decided that to be a "strong" woman these days, you need to emulate the most nasty, aggressive men around. What they don't seem to realize is that we don't respect those men -- we think they're jerks. So they're looking at the wrong models.

On point two, first, it amazes me how crude modern actresses have become. If you want to lose people's respect fast, get crude. And the cruder you get, the faster that respect vanishes.

Secondly, it amazes me how often women in films are playing opposite these total milquetoast, pathetic, whiny leading actors. I don't know if that's supposed to make them stronger by comparison or what, but it makes them seem desperate.

T-Rav said...

Agreed. I hate crudeness, especially when it comes from women. I guess that makes me a chauvinist or something, since I expect more elevated behavior from them than most men are capable of displaying.

Which is why I never understood the appeal of shows like "Sex and the City." I have never yet met women who talk like that on a regular basis. Okay, maybe a few, but they are a very small minority. It frightens me that in a few years, that sort of thing might be regarded as almost tame.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I have seen no evidence that outside of frats and Hollywood films, crudeness is acceptable anywhere. I've seen people who can get away with it for one reason or another, but that's different than it being acceptable. And there are very few people I've ever met who don't find crudeness a turn off in males or females -- and I don't travel in prude circles.

In any event, believe it or not, I don't think you need to worry about that. In my lifetime, crudeness has expanded and receded. It's like a pendulum and I think we peaked a while back (Jerry Springer era) and are actually drifting back away again from crudeness.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Claudette Colbert... Cleopatra and milk baths...

Jean Arthur too

I love Carole Lombard (and Gail Patrick -- brunette ice) in My Man Godfrey and of course -- Maureen O'Hara and her red hair and fiery disposition.

AndrewPrice said...

Maureen O'Hara, definitely a great actress. Colbert, even better! :)

Tink in Cali said...

I agreed with you all, it is very hard to narrow the list down. My favorites have long been Barbara Stanwyck (a side note, Andrew - she was in The Big Valley, not Bonanza), Maureen O'Hara, and Myrna Loy.
And Doris Day. And Greer Garson. And Teresa Wright. And if I don't stop now I never will.

AndrewPrice said...

Tink, I should have known that! LOL! Whoops. I don't know how I added her to Bonanza?!

On Doris Day, she is just great. I first saw her in The Man Who Knew Too Much with Jimmy Stewart and she was fantastic. I don't know if there is a more likable actress in all of Hollywood?

rlaWTX said...

Blogger ate my response!!!!!! I will try and remember my list...

I was out of town for the question I've been waiting for!!!

Kate Hepburn: Philadelphia Story
Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Maureen O'Hara: McClintock (my fav JWayne movie), The Quiet Man, Big Jake, etc
Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable: How to Marry a Millionaire
Rosalind Russell: Auntie Mame, The Women
Myrna Loy: Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House (never seen the Thin Man series)
Deborah Kerr: Affair to Remember, etc
Bette Davis: All about Eve
Doris Day: Please Don't Eat the Daisies, The Man Who Knew Too Much

Barbara Stanwyck never grabbed me... except in Big Valley...

Example of differences between then & now: "The Women" 1939 - amazing movie!!!, the remake - sheer awfulness!!!!!

rlaWTX said...

crudeness: actually, I have known a lot of people who "talk like the movies". when my sheltered, preacher's wife mom began working in retail she was shocked at the language and sensibilities the "kids" (17-25yo) had. she came and told me that she never really believed me when I said there were people who talked and thought like that. But with that demographic, I wonder if it's the chicken or the egg?

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Fortunately, there's no time limit on responding! :)

Excellent list!

Great point on the difference between the two versions of The Women!

On the crudeness, there's no doubt there are a lot of people who talk like that, but it's almost impossible to be successful speaking like that and their numbers become fewer and fewer as they grow older. Employers don't accept it. People with kids don't want to associate with people like that. Etc. As people grow older, they adapt to that or disappear from society.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Superb choices!

I'll hafta go with the great Barbera Eden in the oscar winning Chatanooga Choo Choo! :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Excellent choice! I'll always know her either from I Dream of Jeannie or Voyage To The Bottom Of the Sea!

Kit said...

Barbara Stanwyck, for no other reason than I have a massive crush on her. :)

Look up the clip of her performing "Play it on the G-String".

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