Friday, August 13, 2010
The Top 20 Actresses (Talent-Wise, Not Stardom) of the Studio Era (With Apologies to Gloria Swanson, Jean Simmons, Anne Baxter, Ava Gardner, etc.)
20) Natalie Wood - A brilliant child star who became an even better grown-up actress (that screen-eating stuff from "Splendor in the Grass" and "This Property is Condemned" was particularly brilliant)......19) Claudette Colbert - Let's just say that I would have flat-out pulled over my car, too......18) Joan Crawford - A prototypical glamor star of the thirties, her talent eventually won out in films such as "Mildred Pierce", "Sudden Fear", and "Possessed"......17) Rosalind Russell - That frenetic shit from "The Women" and "His Gal Friday" is pure, unadulterated virtuosity......16) Irene Dunne - One of the most beautiful and charming actresses ever. And, really, hows about that smile, too?.....15) Susan Hayward - Considered in some circles to have been over the top. I disagree. I mean, come on here, that final walk to the gas-chamber in "I Want to Live!" Try and "top" that, Sandra Bullock......14) Audrey Hepburn - Elegant and enchanting, was literally on top from start to finish. A great humanitarian, too......13) Vivien Leigh - Created (with an ample amount of help, of course) two of the greatest characters in cinematic history; Scarlet O'Hara and Blanche Dubois. If not for her constant battles with mental illness, who can really tell how great she might have been (totally loved her in "Waterloo Bridge", by the way)......12) Shirley MacLaine - While not especially my cup of tea, it is what it is, folks. Quite simple, one of the most versatile and majorly quirky actresses ever. And a hell of a kick-ass dancer, too......11) Greta Garbo - Only because of a truncated career am I not able to rank the woman higher. I mean, come on - those cross-dressing scenes from "Queen Christina" - flawless! Add to that the androgyny, the mysterious and elusive nature of her persona, THE BEAUTY, and, yeah..........10) Elizabeth Taylor - Because of her oft-times buffoonish personal life, I really think that we sometimes forget what a deep/talented performer she was. Her performances in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" were especially brilliant......9) Jennifer Jones - Won an Oscar in 1943 for playing a nun ("The Song of Bernadette"). Three years later she was nominated again - this time for playing a tramp ("Duel in the Sun"). Nuff said?.....8) Barbara Stanwyck - Some people are referred to as diamonds in the rough. Barbara Stanwyck was a diamond AND the rough. I especially loved the way that she strung around a) Henry Fonda in "The Lady Eve", b) Gary Cooper in "Ball of Fire", and c) Fred MacMurray in "Double Indemnity"......7) Deborah Kerr - The personification of pure class, folks. Couple that with three decades of pure excellence, seven Oscar nominations, etc. and, yeah, you can pretty much understand the lofty ranking here......6) Olivia de Havilland - If the only movies she ever made were "Gone With the Wind" and "The Heiress" - those alone would have gotten her onto the list (that pitch-perfect in them, she was). Fortunately, for us, there were also more; "The Snake Pit", "To Each His Own", "Hush....Hush, Sweet Charlotte", etc., etc.......5) Norma Shearer - People often forget, Norma Shearer was bigger than Hepburn, bigger than Dietrich, bigger even than Greta Garbo. And, while, yes, those hairdos of hers were often hideous - her eyes - those, me-buckos, were frigging magic. As were her performances......4) Greer Garson - While she may have gotten to Hollywood later than the others (I believe that she was 34 when "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" came out), it sure as hell didn't take very long for those green eyes and red hair to dominate (a five consecutive year stretch of Oscar nominations). And, yes, she was exactly what the Western world needed, too, psychologically - a home-front heroine to counterbalance Hitler......3) Ingrid Bergman - Bergman's ability to fight off type-casting ultimately proved fruitful. While she's still most famous for playing the "good girl" in films such as "Casablanca" and "Gaslight", her turns in "Notorious" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" were themselves stellar/an awfully nice change of pace. Oh, and can you-all say three Academy Awards?.....2) Bette Davis - As tough and uncompromising as anybody, Davis, folks, was one of the few actresses of that era to eschew glamor and replace it with realism. And talk about the results - two Oscars, eleven nominations, a list of Hollywood classics that can literally top anybody (well, except for maybe Bogie); "Jezebel", "Dark Victory", "Now, Voyager", "All About Eve", "The Little Foxes", "Dangerous", "Of Human Bondage", etc., etc.. Just an extraordinary life/career......1) Katharine Hepburn - One could easily argue the greatest acting chops ever. Hepburn, folks, is the only actor to have ever won four Oscars (add to that a robust eight more nominations). She was also one of the few actresses who could go head to head with the major dudes of Hollywood (yes, folks, even those who sat behind the camera). I mean, come on, just take a look those frigging movies with Spencer Tracy alone. Katharine Hepburn, ladies and gentlemen - the greatest movie actress EVER!!