FIVE STARS BLOGATHON

Today has been designated National Classic Movie Day. ( We classic film fans made this OUR “Executive Order”!!! ) Hosted by the Classic Film and TV Cafe blog, we were given the task to name our five favorite movie stars for the FIVE STARS BLOGATHON. Siiiigh! It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.

If you quickly scroll down this page, you’ll see who my favorites are. But I do hope you take a moment to see why they are. I admit, there is no rhyme or reason to my five favorite movie stars. Oh I’ll try to give a modicum of rational reasons for the why of my list…you know, just to appear adult and academic. But my five favorites are my five favorites because of my visceral emotional response to them. Shall I begin?

BETTE DAVIS

Get outta her way!

It’s easy to put her at the top of my favorite favorites list without fear of changing my mind. She’s fireworks and volcanoes. She’s a force of nature. Look over her body of work. She can make you cry in “Dark Victory” or “Now, Voyager” or cut you to shreds with a glance ( “The Little Foxes” ). She commands and dominates the screen. You ARE compelled to watch her. She’s my Queen of Classic Films.

( “The Letter” “Marked Woman” “Jezebel” “All About Eve” )

Recently loving THIS video tribute to Davis:

 

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CLARK GABLE

The King. You’ll take it…and like it.

I ain’t gonna lie, I respond to Gable’s virility. Pure and simple. Cary ~ suave like butter / Flynn ~ dashing, beautiful to look at / Colman ~ gentleman extraordinaire. But Gable? Honey, please. He is alpha male, masculine, confident, take charge, with that roguish smile of his. But I’ve seen him in movies when he can be slayed by a woman < Myrna Loy, Loretta Young, Vivien Leigh > they unleash his vulnerability. Don’t make him mad, though; you’ll have a bear on your hands. Don’t get me wrong, “It Happened One Night” was fun…but c’mon. I think his performance in “Gone With the Wind” is his great one, and it’s tragic he didn’t win an Academy Award for this meaningful, long~lasting work. Because of an annual movie~star poll in 1938 hosted by columnist Ed Sullivan, Gable was good~naturedly named the King of Hollywood. I think his 30~year career in Hollywood bears this out. Clark Gable IS…The King.

( “Mogambo” “Red Dust” “The Hucksters” “Gone With the Wind” )

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DORIS DAY

…And what’s wrong with feeling good?

I love her. Wanna make sumthin’ out of it?!!! She makes my heart smile. She’s sunshine. She has an ebullient, warm, happy presence that uplifts me. Doris Day is one of those rare multi~talented actresses. She could do it all: sing, dance, do comedy, do drama, all pretty convincingly…and with great box office success. She could be the businesswoman in the office or the Mom at home. I do wish the studio cultivated her a bit more in the dramatic tract of things. It might’ve stretched her career just a bit. Can you deny she stood toe~to~toe opposite the great Cagney? But I can’t kick, there were plenty of actresses burning up the screen with their thespian gymnastics. You know Doris Day started off as a big band singer and parlayed that into a movie career. But you can’t just put over a song, you have to put over a characterization in the movies, and Day could do that too. She is one of my two favorite singers ( Ella Fitzgerald is the other ~ one of Day’s too, I understand ). Doris’ voice is a warm sultry maple syrup of seduction. I melt. At the TCM Film Festival one year they showed “Calamity Jane.” It’s not one of my favorites of hers, but I can always see Doris on screen and I was going to sit at the screening with a row of friends who are just as wild about Doris as I am. As much as I already loved Doris, I gained even more respect for her from that film. She literally OWNED the movie. Doris Day is a wonderment to watch. Like I said, she makes my heart smile.

( “Send Me No Flowers” “My Dream Is Yours” “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” “Pillow Talk” )

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CARY GRANT

Put your head on my shoulder.

Is there any doubt he’d be on any classic film fans’ favorites list? He’s gorgeous to look at ( I realize I always lead with the looks. Hey, I got eyes, ain’t I? ); suave, sophisticated…and that brush of an accent sends me. He’s charming. As for his acting he makes it all look so easy, which might be why he’s so under~rated. He handles comedy and drama with equal aplomb. He doesn’t beat you over the head with a sledge hammer. I don’t think many of his contemporaries has as light a touch with comedy as Cary Grant. He could bandy about words ( “His Girl Friday” ) or go all out ( “Arsenic and Old Lace” ). But welling under that good will is the dark side of Cary Grant. Think of him in “Suspicion” or “Mr. Lucky” or “Only Angels Have Wings.” I was mad at him for quite a while after I saw how cold and mean he was to Ingrid Bergman in “Notorious.” He has the ability to laugh at himself; be silly if he has to. Look at him in “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.” He also cuts quite a romantic figure falling head over heels for Deborah Kerr, Carole Lombard or the exquisite Grace Kelly. Ladies…can you imagine walking into a room on the arm of Cary Grant? We’ll start there. I love the look of him, the sound of him, the Capricorn of him ( we share January 18th birthdays ). Yes, I love Cary Grant. He’s one of my favorites.

( “The Awful Truth” “Charade” “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” “In Name Only” “Holiday” )

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BARBARA STANWYCK

She could kiss you or kill you.

She’s Brooklyn, and that might explain everything. The reputation of being from there faintly permeates many of her performances. I adore her. She’s strong, she’s smart, has street~smarts and a tough veneer. She’s tough and gentle. Stanwyck’s approach to acting is very natural. It’s not Acting. She sounds like she’s merely speaking. And she’s kind of an Everywoman. Perhaps not in the way a Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper is, but check it ~ She’s as home on the range, as in a swanky night club or in a prison or in a boardroom. Like the best, Stanwyck can play comedy or drama in equal measure. Her lithe body has a ramrod straight posture which lends to her walking with a purposeful stride, owning the room…the scene. ( Watch Stanwyck’s walk the next time you see her ). Whether she’s getting a man to kill her husband or giving up her daughter for a better life…whether she’s pleading for John Doe NOT to jump off the roof or throws a pair of scissors at Judith Anderson’s face I find her acting natural and believable. She’s very attractive, in an approachable, non~bombshelly way. Her most closely matched contemporary is Bette Davis and I always have them battle it out in my mind for Supreme Diva. But I needn’t compare the two ~ as I almost did for this blogathon; scrapped that entire train of thought ~ there’s room enough for both actresses. I had the pleasure of actually seeing both women in person at two separate events. I saw them with my own very eyes. ( One, at a John Springer event and the other, honored at Lincoln Center. ) Those images are burned in my memory.

When she’s on the screen…the world comes to a halt. At least my world. When I need the courage to walk into a crowded room alone, my go-to gal is Barbara Stanwyck. Maybe it’s the Brooklyn in her.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”  “Walk on the Wild Side”  “My Reputation”  “Meet John Doe” “East Side, West Side” “The Gay Sisters” “Double Indemnity

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One of the things that strikes me about my favorites is that I kind of forget all except Doris Day are no longer with us. Seeing them in the movies, they seem so vibrant and alive and present. I know they are more than the adjectives and cliches I’ve ascribed to them as they loom so large on screen with the best lighting, hair, make~up and clothes. ( Are you sure Cary wasn’t born in a tux? ) No, these are fully formed human beings with foibles like the rest of us. It’s a little hard to think of them as not perfect. It’s a little hard to think of them as gone. But you know what they say…

There are loads of other writers who talk about their five favorite stars. Go on over to the blogathon and check ’em out. And if you have time to drop me a line below on this National Classic Movie Day, tell me who are YOUR five favorite movie stars. Thanxxxx again for joining me on the Couch.

 

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54 thoughts on “FIVE STARS BLOGATHON

  1. Excellent list! I also love your writing style as well 🙂 For example, Bette Davis truly was “fireworks and volcanoes”, and she still is as her memory as well as countless others have been imprinted on the silver screen for many years to come. Barbara Stanwyck was also on my list. They are all legends!

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    • Hi Molly…can’t wait till you start writing again in earnest…this summer. I think any star on my list can be swapped out for other of the greats of classic film. ( You just can’t touch Doris Day and we’ll stay BFFs, ya get me?! ) 😉 Thanks for reading, my friend.

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  2. Great post. I agree that Clark Gable is the king! I narrowly missed including him in this blogathon myself. It is interesting you say that some women “unleash his vulnerability”. These women must be truly one of a kind to do that.

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    • You say, I say: “It is interesting you say that some women ‘unleash his vulnerability’. These women must be truly one of a kind to do that.” I guess I base that on a photo I saw of Gable and Loretta Young that just made me drop my jaw. I must find that pix and include it in my blog post. I look forward to reading YOUR post for the blogathon. Thanks for taking the time to comment on mine.

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  3. i love how you encapsulate ( wow, where did that come from) what makes those five so great. If I had to choose, I’d have Cary on my list and then maybe Jean Arthur, Randolph Scott, Fred Astaire and Irene Dunne.
    As you say, it is such a personal thing, how you react to actors.
    You are such a great writer. Don’t blush!

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    • I won’t blush, b’cuz in space…NO ONE can see me get swell~headed. L0L! ( Encapsulate? I LOVE Big grown~up words. Guess I can’t run for President now. Oh well…I STILL have classic films! )

      I like your list of Grant, Arthur, Scott, Astaire and Dunne ( oooooh dammit, girl…it killed me to leave Irene Dunne off my list. She’s a marvel. My friend Aurora of “Once Upon A Screen” thinks Dunne is Cary Grant’s greatest co-star. She makes a great case of Irene Dunne—-> HERE <—- Check it out when you have time. Hey, did you submit a post to this FIVE STARS BLOGATHON? I'd LOVE to read your reasons for your picks.

      As always Vienna, I thank you for making the time to read and write me. 🙂

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  4. Happy National Classic Movie Day!

    Shh! I have been recording and saving a slate of Bette Davis movies to spring on my daughter for a marathon of marathons. She may not want to take the time, but she’ll thank me for it.

    I have actually met living, breathing people who claim not to like Doris Day! I wouldn’t want to live like that.

    Okay. As a bullied kid it was channeling Barbara Stanwyck that got me through the corridors of junior high. I wonder now how many others hold her up in their minds that way.

    It Happened One Night is my favourite Gable performance. I had it on TV once while languishing on the couch with the flu. I could barely open my eyes, but I listened. And listening to Peter Warne made me appreciate how he took those words from the page and breathed life into them. I fell a little bit in love that day.

    Ah, Cary Grant. When I read Evenings With Cary Grant by Nancy Nelson i wept at the end with his passing. I missed him with an ache even though I still had the films which were the only thing I have did possess. What he does to us!

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    • I’m sorry to hear about the J.H.S. bullying. Wish I could beat them bullies up for you. ( Probably get stomped in the process but the bravado sounds good so many years later, right? 🙂 ) I came to Stanwyck pretty early in my life and fought to the ( near ) death with my younger sister to watch our shared tv exclusively Monday nights, 10:00pm channel 7 to watch “The Big Valley.” My favorite Gable performance of course is “GWTW.” Nice to read his voice had a healing effect on you when you were under the weather. Cary Grant…what can we girls say about Cary Grant that hasn’t been said. I’ve not read “Evenings With Cary Grant” but looks like I have to.

      I sure hope your daughter enjoys the Bette Davis films you have set up for her. And if she doesn’t, give her up for adoption and let me have that marathon. Thanks for your comment Paddy!

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  5. How the hell did you ever whittle your list of loves down to five? Yikes, tough task! So agree with Bette (my queen) and Stany, like your boy picks, too. Instead of Day I would have to choose between Irene Dunne and Jean Arthur….impossible!

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    • Dunne and Arthur? Good choices. My pick would be Irene Dunne…she’s a dream actor to work with. Whittling my list down to five was pretty easy. These folks just speak to me. Yes, I’m a classic film fan who hears voices. Haa! Thanks for you comments, Susan.

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  6. Stanwyck and Grant were the only 2 of yours on my list this time, but I agree wholeheartedly with Davis and Gable. I must confess I’m not a Day fan, but I absolutely love your defense. Anyone who can bring you this much joy is worth defending. I did like her more after watching the silliness of Down with Love and loving it; I started catching more of her playfulness after that.

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    • Hey Leah…thanks for dropping by and reading my picks. I enjoyed your list as well, and I’ll be over there in a bit to let’cha know my thoughts. Thanks again for writing. Now…to get you to change your mind just a leeeeetle more about Doris Day…

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    • TWENTY! Oh dear, is right. Why such a short list. Don’cha like movies? L0L!! I like lists. I find ’em easy and torture…the perfect blend for a classic film fan. Thanks so much Paula for reading and lettin’ me know you like it.

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      • Of course 🙂 I just got clearance to publish a late post, so I may do “Five Favorite Underrated Stars.” But then I would probably have to leave off Cary Grant and I couldn’t really do that…decisions, decisions!

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    • Glad you liked my choices and took the time to write me here. Thanks so much.

      I’ve read YOUR LIST and SETSUKO HARA makes me swoon. ~ I am literally enchanted by her. I’m a very recent devotee of hers and saw “Early Summer” at “The Nitrate Picture Show” two weeks ago. I hope to have a write-up on that festival before too long. She makes my heart sing.

      My friend Aymee writes about Setsuko:

      “Isn’t she just magical. Such a soft, almost melancholic beauty and talent, there is really no other like her.”

      Yeah.

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  7. Cinemaven, you’ve done the impossible. I’ve changed my list 5 times this afternoon. Three of your excellent choices – The Great Bette, Babs Stanywyck and Cary Grant are on my list too. LOVE them. Although I’ve moved Grant off twice and replaced him with Robert Ryan, Humphrey Bogart and Gene Tierney. Kay Francis is my favorite, fav – always #1. There are quite a few I hated to leave off the list. How did you do it? How long did it take? Have you changed your mind since posting?

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    • Hi Deb…

      I’m not remembering, do you have a blog where your list is posted? Kay Francis. Wow! She owned the 30’s didn’t she. It wasn’t really hard for me to make the list. I just went with my gut feeling. Nothing fancy schmancy. Just led with my heart. And my heart is steadfast. Bette, Barbara and Cary…ahhh. How could one NOT add them? Thanks for leaving a comment.

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  8. What a fabulous list! I love that you included Doris Day. I think she is one of the most underrated classic Hollywood stars. She really could do it all. Act, dance, sing- and had one of the best comedy instincts in the business. And what a fashion icon of the 50s. I’ll happily soak in her rays of sunshine any day. (Her & Ella are two of my fave song birds too.)

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    • Hey hey there Cayman Islander!! Welcome back!! Loved the pictures you posted of your belated honeymoon by the way. Glad you liked my list, Kellee. Pretty happy with it myself. We’ve got to make a pilgrimage to visually SEE Doris Day. That’d be quite a pre-TCMFF adventure, don’cha think? “I’ll happily soak in her rays of sunshine any day.” I like that. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Enjoy your blog as well!!!! ( Now quit honeymoon and get back to writin’!!! )

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    • GABLE? What an omission. But it’s all good. Thanks for reading…and writing. And soon to have a Guest Essay here on my blog. Welcome to the Couch you darling boy! 😉

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  9. I love, LOVE that photo of Barbara Stanwyck you posted. I haven’t seen it before.

    As for your ultra-fabulous list, I was chuckling and nodding in agreement all the way though. You, dah-ling, have exceptional classic movie star taste. There’s a reason why all these folks are legends, and you summarized those reasons beautifully.

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  10. All great choices who are big favorites of mine. I’m afraid I’m going to run on a bit and require two responses for this one!

    Bette Davis even when she’s was chewing every piece of scenery in sight, Another Man’s Poison is a prime example, is wonderfully compelling. Like all great Golden Age stars she had her share of lemons but some of her lesser known films, The Sisters, Watch on the Rhine & June Bride are among my favorites of hers.

    Gable is pure male id charisma and possessed a magnetism that drew the eye even in his earliest stuff like the wretched Painted Desert which aside from his presence is execrable. He made that odd pencil thin mustache work better than anyone else but I’ve always felt he was more attractive without it. My favorites of his aside from the obvious GWTW, Red Dust, Strange Cargo, Forsaking All Others and The Misfits.

    Doris Day! Just love her so!! Some of her later movies, Caprice, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out and the like are weak but the majority of her films are pleasant to exceptional entertainments that she drives with her talent and personality. That she wasn’t nominated for Love Me or Leave Me is a perfect example of how blind the academy is at times. Her first two movies Romance on the High Seas and My Dream is Yours are comfort movies for me that I can pop in anytime I’m low and they perk me right up.

    What can be added about Cary Grant? So suave, so talented and so urbane and to a certain extent realistic about who he really was since he was famously quoted “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” His most well-known films are great…well Suspicion leaves something to be desired but my favorites of his films are Holiday, In Name Only and Indiscreet which are less venerated but excellent films that show him to great advantage.

    Barbara Stanwyck to me was the most versatile of the big Golden Age female stars. Her agility with comedy set her apart, Davis, Crawford, Hepburn, Garbo etc., could play a specific kind of comedy but it was always stylized to their particular eccentricities whereas Stanwyck could relax into it in an every woman sort of way that didn’t type it to a certain unique situation. For instance I can’t envision any of those other women making Christmas in Connecticut the breezy, effortless affair that it is. She’s another that I recently completed her filmography and while she had her bad patches, Mexicali Rose (glug!), To Please a Lady and a few others, she managed to always be compelling. Aside from the aforementioned Christmas my favs of hers are The Mad Miss Manton and Titanic. Oh and speaking of her walk I’ve read she would sit at the zoo and study the panthers to perfect her authoritative gait.

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    • Thanks for your comments on my choices. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this comment:

      “Barbara Stanwyck to me was the most versatile of the big Golden Age female stars. Her agility with comedy set her apart, Davis, Crawford, Hepburn, Garbo etc., could play a specific kind of comedy but it was always stylized to their particular eccentricities whereas Stanwyck could relax into it in an every woman sort of way that didn’t type it to a certain unique situation…”

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  11. Now as to who I’d choose selecting just five is torturous since except for my first pick, who will always come out on top, my list could go many ways depending on just a tiny shift in criteria. I’m crazy about so many so I’ll just pick two actors and two actresses to stand beside my ultimate favorite.

    My number one now and always is Linda Darnell. I fell for her hard as a kid in Blackbeard, the Pirate-hardly her best but derring-do and a lady in distress are what a young boy looks for in a film. Since then I’ve been trying to see everything she’s done, a few have remained elusive unfortunately, and my admiration for her has only grown. She was much better than she was given credit for so I’ll toot the horn for her whenever I can. Best films: A Letter to Three Wives, Summer Storm, No Way Out, This is My Love, Fallen Angel, Hangover Square, The Lady Pays Off and Everybody Does It. She even made a few films in Italian which she spoke fluently, one-Angels of Darkness where she costarred with Giulietta Masina and Valentina Cortese is one of my Grail titles, but the other It Happened in Roma with Vittorio De Sica is an airy comedy with some great shots of Rome.

    Next would be Susan Hayward. Again as a youngster there was a series called The Movie of the Week that played the same film three times a day for a week. I happened upon The President’s Lady where she and Charlton Heston played Andrew and Rachel Jackson, I was fascinated by her mixture of toughness and vulnerability and watched the film as many times as I could. By happenstance the next week’s film was With a Song in My Heart where she played Jane Froman and I was hooked for life. Best films beside those two: They Won’t Believe Me, Deadline at Dawn, The Lusty Men, I’d Climb the Highest Mountain and I’ll Cry Tomorrow. There is one that I love, Ada though I don’t know if it could be described as among her best it holds a certain special place in her filmography. As she entered the end of her cancer struggle Hayward’s friends arranged for her to see any of her films that she desired and she selected Ada much to their surprise since it hadn’t been neither notable nor a huge success. But in hindsight it’s easy to see why, it’s a STAR vehicle if ever there was one and every effort is made to make her look her best and tailor made to her strengths . Plus it’s set in the south which had been her home for many years during her happy second marriage.

    The hauntingly unique Margaret Sullavan is someone else who I regret isn’t better known. Her smoky croak of a voice that can convey reams of unspoken meaning, her large darting eyes and simplicity of expression make her standout from her contemporaries. She more or less hated making films and Hollywood and only made a small number of movies so I can’t say the fault is entirely the studios. But when she did work it was something special. Best films: The Shop Around the Corner, Cry Havoc, Back Street and The Shopworn Angel.

    John Garfield-First saw him in the allegorical Between Two Worlds and while the rest of the cast was excellent he fairly burst off the screen with his dynamic personality. Though the years I’ve managed to see all his films and he remains my favorite actor classic or contemporary. Best films: The Breaking Point, Under My Skin, Dust Be My Destiny, Body & Soul, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Humoresque.

    For my last I’m going with the versatile Richard Widmark. Able to play the most unimaginable bastard or the sweetest guy in the world believably, just by adjusting that dazzling smile of his he could charm the pants off the audience or send a chill right down their spines. Funny how he and Robert Ryan, another expert purveyor of menace, were in real life noted as fiercely liberal, exceedingly kind men. I suppose they were able to vent their spleens in their performances and work out their negativity that way. As well as playing those two opposite types Widmark was adept at shading all his characters in between with an everyman accessibility that kept him always interesting on screen.

    So that’s my five though it killed me to leave off Thelma Ritter, Joan Bennett, Robert Ryan, Ida Lupino, Gail Russell, Claire Trevor, Deanna Durbin, Veronica Lake, Eve Arden, Clifton Webb, Edmond O’Brien, Gloria Grahame and on and on.

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    • Hi Joel . . . I like your five faves; respect the talents of them all. And maybe one I lust after. They really are unique in the annals of classic films and your reasons back that up. Hey, when I write up “They Won’t Believe Me” I’ll let’cha know. I especially like that one. You truly are a movie fan. Ha…your “on and on” choice of stars attests to that. Thanks again for weighing in.

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      • I’ll look forward to your take on They Won’t Believe Me, it’s a sensational unjustly lesser known noir. Not just because it offered Robert Young a chance to break out and play a weasel but it provides a terrific showcase for its three main actresses. I’ve already gone through why I love Susan Hayward but both Jane Greer and Rita Johnson would fit right into that on and on list.

        Rita Johnson is a particularly individual performer, she had a slightly off kilter pattern to her speech and a quietly placid manner that drew the audience’s eye to her. It was that recessive demeanor that held her back from major stardom but until the accident that caused her brain injury she was an important, respected second lead and it’s a great pity her career was cut so short.

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  12. I love Doris Day especially in “Lover Come Back” and “The Thrill of It All.” I can watch those classics any day! I also like that she truly cares about rescuing animals. I truly enjoyed reading your post! – Toto

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  13. I loved your choices. Doris Day is, indeed, sunshine! And I never had doubt that Cary, Bette, Gable and Stany would be popular choices.
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!
    Le

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