Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Favourite Actresses (other than Audrey)

I have way too much fun saying what are my favourite things. But hey, why spoil fun when you're on a roll? Here we go.

Katharine Hepburn
She's the woman who a critic once flamed as 'running the gamut of emotion from a to b' and who, along with other notable names, made a list of Box Office Poison in 1938. And yet two years later she came out with the successful The Philadelphia Story and didn't look back. It is for this resilience and unwillingness to back away when the going gets tough that I admire her. Also, often actresses hit their peak in their 20s and early 30s and then fade to obscurity. But no such thing for Hepburn, who was acting for six or so consecutive decades (she won her last Oscar in her seventies). She's, to me, one of the best rebuttals to the argument that it's a 'man's world'.
Favourite film: Holiday (1938), an ode to free-thinkers and the quirkier people of the world
Favourite performance: Woman of the Year (1942), Hepburn perfectly plays a woman who just can't compromise her career ambitions for marriage.

Doris Day
To me she was once some chirpy actress who played in routine comedies (prior to actually seeing a film of hers). That, or she was the woman who sang "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" in Strictly Ballroom. Then after some time: I watched three or so of her films, was mildly impressed, then saw Calamity Jane and didn't look back. Day is the one actress who I believe I could watch any film of--I tend to disregard ratings of her films because I know that I've found entertainment in just about every one I've seen of hers. I guess some people tend to see her as having this virginal, girl next door, superficial fluff image, but if an actress is so capable of lifting up the screen when she comes on, what's superficial about that? To boot she has a wonderful singing voice.
Favourite film: Calamity Jane (1953), packed with high, exhilarating energy, this is no doubt one answer to the word *fun*
Favourite performance: Love Me or Leave Me (1955) gave Doris the chance to show how comfortable she could be in drama

Jean Arthur
You know that question, who would you like to portray you in a movie of your life? Well, my answer is Jean Arthur. The first film I saw her in was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (after an unsuccessful attempt with Mr. Deeds Goes to Town) and I just felt such an identification with her character, moreso than I've ever felt. Jean was quite a talented actress--she could do comedy with such timing and was equally strong in drama. When you see her so natural and comfortable on screen, you really can't believe that in real-life she was very insecure and shyed away from the public (hence perhaps why, outside of classic film lovers, she's virtually unknown).
Favourite film: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, a film that is in equal turns funny and moving
Favourite performance: The More the Merrier, the part was written for her and shows off all her strengths.

Jane Fonda
She didn't quite come into her own as an actress until the late 60s, but when she did, she became a powerhouse. In her best parts, she's so intriguing because she has this outward toughness and independence, but inwardly she's brimming with insecurity and self-destruction. I haven't seen as many films of hers as I'd like to, but so far I think she's great.
Favourite film: Barefoot in the Park, wonderfully light comedy, that conjures up the bohemian 60s
Favourite performance: has to be a tie, sorry but I can't tear these performances apart, They Shoot Horses Don't They? and Klute. This is what it means for an actress to let themselves go.

Marilyn Monroe
Many people adore her, she's universally appealing. Mysterious, profound, self-destructive and a legend. She was also a great actress, but that wasn't something I had immediately realised. Sometimes she played the dumb-blonde role, but though that's what's she most famous for, she didn't play that kind of role as much as I thought. In fact, even when she's playing that role, her comedic abilities and actor's instincts give her away as someone who is very intelligent. Though she's a sex symbol, it's that inward vulnerability and insecurities that brings her down to earth and allows us to understand her. She is every bit worth the title 'legend'.
Favourite film: Some Like it Hot is probably the best film she's appeared in
Favourite performance: The Prince and the Showgirl, she's so sassy in this, and all-knowing, not to mention the way she's photographed so etherally.

Judy Garland
Does anybody sing like Judy? Does anybody pour their souls into a song or role like she does? Probably not. Judy was one of a kind and when you see her up there on screen, you can neither take your eyes off or forget her. She keys into your emotions with her moving voice and performances.
Favourite film: Easter Parade, it's delightful
Favourite performance: The Clock, it's WW2 and Judy falls in love with and marries a young GI in the matter of hours, one of the only films where Judy doesn't sing, allowing you to focus more on her natural acting.

Deborah Kerr
One very talented actress. She was sort of typecasted as a prim and proper upper Englishwoman, yet she showed she had diversity--she could play a promiscuous wife, a nun questioning her faith (I think she played this kind of role twice), and a mentally ill and meek woman. She was often captured as an ideal woman in her films and rather than envy or dislike her, I felt myself admiring her very much.
Favourite film: The King and I, I'm a sucker for musicals
Favourite performance: Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, she plays a nun who finds her values coming into question by a roguish kind of man--she never outwardly gives in, but you can tell her conflict through slips of dialogue and her expressions.

Gene Tierney
In my opinion, she's the most beautiful woman in film history, yet she strove to be recognised for much more, namely her acting. And she did deliver on that front, kind of proving that yes it is possible to be both genetically blessed and talented. I admire actresses who try to prove themselves beyond people's opinions of them and so I admire Gene.
Favourite film: Laura, a film noir with elegance
Favourite performance: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, this is for me her most sympathetic performance

Myrna Loy
She's cute as a button, has a sense of comedy that is all her own (and perfectly understood by her onscreen equal, William Powell) and is just all around fascinating. She kind of began her career as a vixen-type, until it became clear that she was much more suited to playing sassy, independent society women. She was intelligent and sharp but without being overbearing.
Favourite film: The Best Years of Our Lives, great film about the aftermath of war
Favourite performance: The Thin Man, holding her own in the male-dominant detective world of her husband

That was long.

No comments:

Post a Comment