So sorry I missed my last two advertised Blogathon events. Frankly, I’ve been really busy at work and at the time I signed up for the events, I wasn’t anticipating how busy we’d be. Inventory Control in the warehouse has been crazy and everyone (myself included) have been working mandatory 10-hr shifts + OT on Saturdays. We’re halfway through the month, so if I can get through May, I should have more time to dedicate to writing. I did not want to miss National Classic Movie Day. This year, we’ve been asked to discuss our Top Five Favorite Actors, which believe me, is was quite an arduous task just to narrow down my favorites.
Without further ado…
My boyfriend, Errol Flynn. He’s the whole package: unbelievably attractive, charming, athletic, gifted, great accent, tall, he’s got everything. Aside from his physical attributes, Flynn is a highly underrated actor. One of Warner Brothers top stars of the 1930s-1940s, Flynn provided a nice alternative to the gangster and “weepy” films that also permeated the movie landscape at the same. Though dozens of actors have tried, nobody can top Flynn’s portrayal of the legendary Sherwood Forest outlaw, Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Flynn was born to steal from the rich and give to the poor. He is one of the few male performers who completely steals the viewer’s gaze (or maybe the female viewer, lol) from the female lead. Who even notices “her” when he’s on the screen? Did I mention that he’s super cute? And that accent! ::swoon::
Best Known Films: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, Dodge City and They Died With Their Boots On.
My Favorite Films: Gentleman Jim, Uncertain Glory, The Sisters, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Never Say Goodbye and Footsteps in the Dark.
The Star Who Introduced Me to Classic Film: Lucille Ball. In 1995, when I was in the sixth grade, I discovered Nick at Nite. How I ended up on the channel, I don’t know and I don’t care. The first show I watched was I Love Lucy. I was immediately hooked. I thought this show was hilarious. Then, I ended up falling in love with the shows that came on after I Love Lucy, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch and The Munsters. But ‘Lucy,’ was always my favorite. On weekdays, I made sure to have all my homework and such completed, so that I was ready to go at 8pm to watch “my shows” uninterrupted. On Saturdays, Nick at Nite had the “Whole Lotta Lucy Saturday” which was my favorite day, because you got to watch two episodes of I Love Lucy and an episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.
From my love of Lucy and my natural curiosity, I started borrowing books about Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy from the library. It was from these books that I learned that Lucy had been a movie actress prior to being on I Love Lucy. Soon, I needed to watch all the Lucy movies that I could get my hands on. Lucille Ball appeared in dozens of films before hitting it big in radio and television–she could never seem to find her niche in film. At this same time, TCM was in its infancy and soon I was scouring the TV Guide (remember the paper TV Guide that used to come in the Sunday newspaper?) looking at TCM’s schedule to see what Lucille Ball films were airing. I would rig up the VCR and cross my fingers that 1) The recording actually worked; and 2) The tape didn’t run out!
From my exposure to Lucille Ball on TCM, I was exposed to other actors which led me to learning about other actors and so on. I discovered Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers through Stage Door (which also featured Lucy); I discovered Gene Kelly through Du Barry Was a Lady (featuring, you guessed it, Lucy). From Gene Kelly, I discovered other favorites like Ann Miller and Cyd Charisse. I Love Lucy started me down the glorious wormhole that is classic film. I never tire of classic film. I never tire of Lucille Ball; and I never tire of I Love Lucy.
Best Known Films: Stage Door, The Long Long Trailer, Yours Mine and Ours, Mame and The Big Street.
My Favorite Films: The Long Long Trailer (My #1 favorite film of all time), Stage Door, The Affairs of Annabel, Miss Grant Takes Richmond, Five Came Back, Next Time I Marry and Beauty For the Asking.
The Star to Whom I Just Want to Give a Big Hug: Judy Garland. Poor Judy. She had such a sad, tragic life. She had a lot of problems that unfortunately affected her work. However, you would never know of her problems from watching her on screen. She is so charming and such a joy to watch. She was a very unique performer. She wears her emotions on her sleeve. As an audience member, you feel every feeling she’s emoting on screen. She’s very underrated as an actress and only appeared in a handful of films where she didn’t sing. One of her greatest performances is as Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester in A Star is Born. Frankly, as much as I like Grace Kelly, Garland was robbed of the Best Actress Oscar in 1955. Her performance is brilliant and also features one of her greatest musical performances, the torch song, “The Man Who Got Away.”
I find it tragic that MGM (allegedly) treated her so poorly when she was under contract. Louis B. Mayer referred to her as “[his] little hunchback” and frequently made unkind comments about her appearance. As a teenager, Judy was often cast as the less attractive buddy to the male star. This is most evident in her films with Mickey Rooney. Judy was Mickey’s friend, but she was never the object of his affections. It didn’t help that Judy competed with the likes of Lana Turner and Ava Gardner who were all her peers when she was at MGM. I think Judy was very pretty. She had a unique beauty. Frankly, I find Judy prettier than Lana Turner, only because Turner seems to have a bit of a generic blonde starlet look about her. Judy is her prettiest in Meet Me in St. Louis and Easter Parade.
Judy’s performances and songs often have an underlying sadness about them and that’s why I want to give her a hug.
Best Known Films: The Wizard of Oz, A Star is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, and the Mickey Rooney films (Babes in Arms, Girl Crazy, Babes on Broadway and Strike Up the Band).
My Favorite Films: Meet Me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, The Clock, The Pirate, The Harvey Girls, Summer Stock and Presenting Lily Mars
Star Who I Could Watch Dance ALL DAY LONG: Gene Kelly. I love Gene Kelly. I love Fred Astaire too, but I love Gene Kelly and would venture to give him a slight edge over Astaire. I would never compare the two men as dancers, as they have two completely different styles, but in terms of films, I love Gene’s films just a wee bit more. I have found that some people are not fans of Gene’s because they find him too hammy or what not. I don’t. I find his smile endearing and also enjoy the massive musical numbers he puts on. The ballet in An American in Paris is exquisite and a real joy to watch. The Broadway Melody in Singin’ in the Rain is amazing. Gene’s greatest on-screen moment may be his performance of the title song from Singin’ in the Rain. Gene’s joy and enthusiasm is contagious in this number. I defy anyone to watch it and not instantly feel happier. If it doesn’t move you, then you’re made of stone and I don’t know if I want to watch movies with you anymore.
Each of Gene’s movies are so innovative and so different from one another. They really are a work of art and demonstrates how much Gene loves dancing and showcasing the artistry of dance. His films, like On the Town, An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain, elevated the musical film as an art form. One of his greatest contributions to the musical is forming the plot around the music and dancing so that it makes sense within the context of the film. Many opponents of musicals dislike them because they find the musical interludes random and they cannot suspend their disbelief. I’ve found that Gene’s musicals (and many of Astaire’s as well) so beautifully incorporate the music and dance into the film and the dance numbers seem natural and not random at all.
I remember when he died. I was in the seventh grade and so sad– I watched Singin’ in the Rain in his honor.
Best Known Films: Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Brigadoon, On the Town, Anchors Aweigh, For Me and My Gal
My Favorite Films: Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, On the Town, The Pirate, Summer Stock, What a Way to Go!, Cover Girl, Xanadu
Actor Who I’d be Terrified of, but Also Fascinated By: Bette Davis. I love Bette Davis. She is amazing. She seems like she would have been completely intimidating in person, but also a joy to listen to. She is compelling in her 1971 Dick Cavett interview (I highly recommend watching it on You Tube or Hulu if you have a chance). I could listen to her recollect about her life and career all day.
Bette Davis has an interesting career trajectory. She started out with small parts in a variety of pre-code films. Many of these films are not good, but she has a few early films here and there that show that Bette had that certain something. Her big break was Of Human Bondage in 1934. Many felt that Bette was robbed of the Oscar for her performance in that film, and that her 1935 Oscar win for Dangerous was a consolation prize for having lost to Claudette Colbert the year prior. Bette had to fight for good roles at Warner Brothers, which was very male driven. She was on suspension many times, which paid off in the end, when she finally became Warner Brothers’ top female star. The tides turned for Bette in 1938 when she won her second Oscar for Jezebel. From then on, through the end of the 1940s, Bette churned out one hit film after another. By the end of the 1940s, Bette’s star was waning. She left Warner Brothers after filming ended on the hilarious (albeit, unintentionally, I think) Beyond the Forest. She had a bit of a comeback with the amazing All About Eve, however this didn’t end up materializing with any other huge parts. By the 1960s, her career had segued into “psycho-biddy horror films” (as they’re known). I for one, really enjoyed her small role as an elderly aunt in 1976’s Burnt Offerings.
I love Bette because she really gives her all in her roles–she sacrifices glamour in name of the character. In The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Bette had no qualms about playing a 60 year old Queen Elizabeth I to Errol Flynn’s 30 year old Lord Essex. She shaved her hairline to mimic the real Elizabeth I’s balding and studied very hard in an attempt to play the Queen as true to life as possible. In Mr. Skeffington and Now, Voyager, Bette allows herself to appear very unattractive as it fits within the confines of the plot. In ‘Skeffington,’ Bette’s character is very vain and goes through great lengths to maintain her appearance. After a bout of diphtheria, Bette’s character’s looks are ruined and she must cope. In Now, Voyager, Bette appears as a frumpy, overweight, bushy eyebrow-ed spinster who undergoes a makeover which changes her life. Even when Bette is completely bonkers, like in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, she commits. “Go big or go home” seems to be her motto.
Best Known Films: Jezebel, Now Voyager, Mr. Skeffington, All About Eve, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Dark Victory
My Favorite Films: Now Voyager, All About Eve, Mr. Skeffington, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, The Sisters, Three on a Match, June Bride, The Letter, Little Foxes and Beyond the Forest.