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?
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.
Recently loving THIS video tribute to Davis:
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.
…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.
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.
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.
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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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