CAROLE LOMBARD - My Favorite Actress

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Presenting Jessica Ellen Rowe, Hostess of the 2012 Favorite Classic Movie Actress Tournament

Hello and WELCOME to Monty’s 2012 Favorite Classic Movie Actress Tournament!!! I’ll be your host for this evening (or morning or afternoon or whenever you may be reading this) complete with cheesy opening! Heehee!
Jessica, who loves vintage clothing and hairstyles,
as you can tell by her photo

My name is Jess and I’m a film history student from Melbourne, Australia in my sixth year of university and currently writing (and ripping my hair out over) a thesis on the noir films of Joan Crawford. I first met Monty a while back through mutual friends on Facebook, one of them being Desiree who will be assisting Monty in the tourney, and we’ve shared many a jolly chat on all things Classic Hollywood.

When he asked me to write a little something as an introductory piece, I got all excited at the idea of discussing my favorites but I had no idea of the scope of the actual tournament! 128 actresses pitted against each other in an all-out battle for the overall title of “2012 favorite”! So much fun!! However... 

I’m not going to pretend I fully understand how the matches work. I’m sure Monty has had a fair bit of trouble attempting to explain the rules of American College Football to a little Aussie girl with no interest in sport what so ever, so I’ll leave that to him (even though I think I got SOME clarity out of it in the end). There are some very interesting and exciting matches this year, some that I think can be predicted and some that look like they’ll be very close though I know there were a few surprising upsets last year; Irene Dunne beating Barbara Stanwyck, Vivien Leigh and well... everyone! 

For me, the most interesting matches will be in the silent/1930s and 40s. That’s where my heart lies in the Golden Age. While I do like quite a few actresses from the 1950s and 60s, most of the actresses I’ve loved and obsessed over (And I have OBSESSED let me tell you!) are from earlier decades. I have a great admiration for strong, gutsy women and in my opinion most of these were at their height before and during the war. Before the 1950s when the “perfect housewife” became the desired image for the most part.

BARBARA STANWYCK Vs MIRIAM HOPKINS (of the 1930s TOUGH BROADS AND PRE-CODE BABES round) will be hard for me to choose between. I don’t know much about Stanwyck herself, other than the fact that she was one of the few actresses not under contract to any one studio, but I do love her films, her no-nonsense attitude and her ability to perform well in just about every genre. As for Miriam, I first encountered her in the Bette Davis film Old Acquaintance (1943) when I was going through a quite intense Bette phase. Miriam was one the first actresses that I thought could hold her own against the Great Miss Davis and I loved the story of the rivalry between the two. However true or untrue, I loved learning that Hopkins had a tendency to stand at just the right place on set which would effectively “mussel” Bette out of prime positions in front of the camera. My thought was not that Hopkins was being “cruel” but that she was a shrewd business woman, fighting for her position in the spotlight; something that, from memory, Geraldine Fitzgerald said Miss Davis also did. Bette is my all time favorite so I’ll be voting for her in her match!

JOAN CRAWFORD Vs NORMA SHEARER (of the same round: 1930s TOUGH BROADS AND PRE-CODE BABES) will be interesting since Monty has already recently pitted them against each other with Joan coming out on top. Exciting for me because Joan is one of my VERY favourite actresses and was in my eyes one of the most beautiful women of the studio era with all of those stunning Adrian gowns and George Hurrell photo shoots contributing to some of the most fiercely glamorous images I’ve ever seen! Crawford could do the “don’t mess with me” look better than anyone else! 

GREER GARSON Vs GENE TIERNEY (of the 1940s SOPHISTICATES) will be interesting to watch as Lady Greer is one of my favourites and Gene, I know, is one of Monty’s. Might be a bit of rivalry going on there between us! Haha!

LUCILLE BALL Vs MAUREEN O’HARA (of the 1940s FUNNY LADIES/GIRLS NEXT DOOR catagory) will definitely be an exciting round to watch, as Monty puts it, the battle of the redheads!! Lucy is my current obsession (she is just so darn adorable!) and I’ve always admired Maureen too. The Parent Trap (1961) was one of my favourite films growing up and it also happens to be the film that Lucy’s real life children played to her, over and over again when she divorced her husband Desi Arnaz. How cute is that?! If not a little sad too. And not only will the redheads battle it out in this year’s tourney, but they also came to blows in a glorious cat fight in 1940’s Dance, Girl, Dance

In the 1950s rounds, DEBORAH KERR Vs KIM NOVAK is a stand out for me. I’m a relatively new Deborah fan and I think she is one of the most underrated actresses of the golden age. Mostly remembered for films like The King and I (1956) and An Affair to Remember (1957), though both good films, people seem to forget (or they just don’t realise) her incredible talent! Some of her truly amazing performances include those in Black Narcissus (1947), Edward, My Son (1949), The End of the Affair (1955), Tea and Sympathy (1956) and Separate Tables (1958). And these are only a few of her performances which had me completely speechless after each. Kerr was nominated for 6 Oscars and never won, but she was awarded an honorary award in 1994 as “an artist of impeccable grace and beauty”.

Another stand out of the 1950s for me is DEBBIE REYNOLDS Vs JANE POWELL (SINGERS/ DANCERS). My Grandmother Disey grew up in the 50s and Jane Powell was her favourite actress then and still is to this day. While I am not a huge fan of Powell, I have recorded many of her films from TCM here in Australia and given them to my Grandmother who says it’s like reliving her childhood. This always makes me smile and Disey and I have had many fun arguments over who is better, Debbie Reynolds (who I adore!) or Jane Powell? We’ll wait and see, won’t we?!

As for the 1960s, unfortunately not much stands out for me as my love and knowledge of the classics seems to whimper out at the end of the 1950s. I hope to venture into that territory at some point but looking at Monty’s list there are many names I don’t recognize. Jane Fonda is the only actress I can honestly say I really love, though Hayley Mills was a favorite during childhood and I’m rapidly recognising the little firecracker talent that is Jean Simmons. Maybe Monty and the tourney will shed some light on some of the others for me. We’ll see...

Some actresses I’ve missed that are among my all time favorites are Katharine Hepburn (my first love and the woman who introduced me to Classic Hollywood with Bringing Up Baby – 1938), Greta Garbo (with her utterly mesmerizing face and acting style), Gloria Swanson (who’s performance in Sunset Boulevard – 1950 is my favorite of all time), Carole Lombard (Monty’s favorite and who absolutely kills me in Nothing Sacred – 1937), Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow (both of whom I wrote an extensive essay on about comedy), Jean Arthur (with her adorable voice and comic style), Irene Dunne (perfection!), Ginger Rogers (in everything she does!), Lana Turner (in her later years), Rosalind Russell (Desiree’s favorite and the fastest talker I’ve ever hear!) and the lovely Jane Wyman. 

If I’ve missed your favorites, I would love to read your comments if you’d like to tell us who they are and why you love them. I’m sure Monty would love to as well!
So that’s me and my little (or long...) introduction to Monty’s tournament. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and I can’t WAIT to see who wins the matches and start voting myself! Good luck to all and...


~ Jess x

I don't know about everyone else but now I am really excited for the tournament to start. Thank you Jess for such a wonderful intro. If you guys are interested in checking out Jess's wonderful blog called The Cluttered Classic Attic, where she posts some of the loveliest photos of classic era actresses. Here is the link: theclutteredclassicattic. It's so awesome, it made me start my own page on Tumblr dedidcated to all the women of the classic eras as well. Please stop by to check out what Jess has been doing over there.


Renata said...

awww Jess, what a lovely post =) you should have a blog! =) haha

Irene Palfy said...

Great to learn more about you, Jessica!


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