Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ladies of the Silver Screen and Why I Love Them

Leslie Crosbie (The Letter): Bette Davis pumping bullets into a man in a white linen suit on a moonlit veranda in Manila. I would love to play this part but BD has pretty much defined it for all time. No remakes allowed.

Mrs Hampton aka the Eurasian Woman (The Letter): Gale Sondergaard parting the bead curtains in the opium den revealing her mysterious and regal self while that crazy opium addict snickers in the background. Sondergaard's biggest career mistake (or not; see below*) was turning down the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

Maude (Harold and Maude): "My body is in the earth, my head in the stars." When I was a teenager I performed a monologue from the play The Actress for an audition. I didn't get the part but it was the beginning of my appreciation for the woman who wrote that autobiographical script: Ruth Gordon. Eighteen years after The Actress appeared on the silver screen Ms Gordon breathed life into Harold's Maude and gave us the most vibrant free-spirited octogenarian in all cinema.

Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's) Audrey in Givenchy! It made me want to go to Tiffany's. I finally got there a few years ago, just stood outside like Holly did in the movie.

Margo Channing (All About Eve): "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night". Another great turn from Mother Goddam.

Mrs Robinson (The Graduate): She loses in the end but with Anne Bancroft playing this sexy mom/seductress could she ever really be considered a loser? I first saw La Bancroft in The Miracle Worker as the kindhearted Annie Sullivan. This switch up to the cold and calculating Mrs R endeared her to me forever.

Jeanne (Last Tango in Paris): My hair was poker straight so naturally I wanted Maria Schneider's full head of curly hair. But that was all I coveted of hers. Brando was cruel to say she'd be playing soccer with her breasts in a few years but it made me like my slender silhouette even more (Twiggy had already given me a pretty good appreciation for skinny).

Sylvia Scarlet. Alice Adams (from movies of the same names): Because Katherine Hepburn played both.

Kitty Foyle (Kitty Foyle): Never seen it, just like her name.

Fran Kubelick (The Apartment): Another great name (Wilder specialized in them). In that fabulous career girl coat Shirley MacLaine gave Fran a touching and elegant vulnerability. I admire Wilder's decision to shoot in b & w.

Irma LaDouce (Irma LaDouce): French prostitute packing a mean poodle. The awesome Ms MacLaine in another Wilder jewel. This one in Technicolour for jewels have to be colourful especially if they are in Gay Paree!

Elmira Gulch (The Wizard of Oz): "I'm all but lame for the bite on my leg!" Not lame enough to stop her from pedaling a mean bike.

*Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz): Margaret Hamilton's career never recovered from the typecasting but she gave us one of the great evil ladies of cinema. As a child I always wrote a witch part for myself into the plays I put on in my basement. Hamilton's crone was a terrific role model.

Glinda (The Wizard of Oz): Billie Burke in sparkly splendor with that inimitable dance of consonants off her enchanted tongue: "Toto too." Ah, the glitter and glimmer of Glinda! I once found a dress in the garbage outside a tony downtown shop that was much like Glinda's garb except that it was blue and falling apart: a cross between the Good Witch's frock and Miss Haversham's rags.

Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz): Every year they showed The Wizard of Oz at Christmas when I was a kid. Since we only had a b & w set I watched it for several years without that splendid change to colour when Dorothy lands Over the Rainbow. Still I was entranced. I'm so glad Shirley Temple didn't play Dorothy as planned. I love Judy.


Maggie May said...

Welcome to the land of blogging!

It is good to think of all the good films that you have seen and who was the leading lady/man!
I used to love Charlton Heston...... Ben Hur. He is an old man now! I surprise myself by saying that because I have to admit to being an old lady if I do!

Ann said...

If you're a Katharine Hepburn fan, I'm writing to let you know that the Katharine hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theater will be opening this summer in Hepburn's beloved seaside town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
You can find out all about us by going here:
You can become a "Founding Fan" by going here:
Help us spread the word...we'd love it if you'd link to us on your site!

Vargas said...

Maggie May, I have never seen Ben Hur and look forward to checking it out; also would like to see the Ben Hur MGM shot in Italy in the 30s. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Ann: I am a Hepburn fan and intend to write some posts about her soon - stay tuned. In the meantime I became a supporter of The Kate on FB. Thanks!

San said...

You've paid tribute to so many of the great roles and the women who played them. I'm a fan of Tippi Hedrin in Hitchcock's The Birds. That silken voice. Those high heels. She made getting pecked by birds gone amok look not half-bad. But poor Suzanne Pleshette--the birds did her in. Her role was nonetheless meaty and her own voice deliciously throaty.

Have you seen the new Bette Davis stamps?

Vargas said...

Thanks San for your comments. Yes, Tippi was great in The Birds as Melanie Daniels (and this is where her daughter's name comes from). Also in Marnie - remember that opening shot where she's walking away from the camera: black hair, stylish suit, stash o cash tucked under her arm in an elegant yellow clutch? Screen gems!

I worked on a movie called Queen of Mean (I played a maid) with Suzanne Pleshette (she played Leona Helmsley). Her voice was indeed deliciously throaty and she could reach the back of the theatre if she had to: the first day on set she walked into holding and boomed: "Whose reading Meisner?" She was referring to my book lying on the table: Sanford Meisner On Acting. And so we had a long conversation about him (and acting) for he had been her acting teacher. Nice woman, and smart.

BD stamps? I have to get me some!

A friend sent me some snail mail with a Norma Shearer stamp. Which I love. She's in my next round of Ladies of the Silver Screen - there are so many!

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Vargas, I see you are quite the cinephile - Fabulous! And welcome to Hollyblog!

One of my favourite 'old' films, which never seems to age is 'His Girl Frida' with Cary Grant (my favourite male actor, of course) and Rosalind Russell. If you've never seen it, it's really worth checking out; It's full of wise cracks and fabulous one-liners - very fast-paced. I had a sneaky look at IMDB, and apparently one of the personal quotes attributed to La Belle Rosalind (who was also in Gypsy) is: "Flops are part of a life's menu and I've never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses". Got to love that gal!

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Hello Vargas - thank you for visiting my blog and wanted to do a return visit.

I loved this post - have always been a film fan though don't see many these days. (mostly re-runs on TV). Recognised most of those mentioned. My favourite leading ladies:- Doris Day (for her fresh, girl-next-door look and I enjoyed her singing), Audrey Hepburn (just for her beauty and elegance as much as anything) and Katherine Hepburn (for her gritty performances, my favourite being "African Queen". There are many others I admire, (some more modern) but these three top my list I think.

Leading men - Paul Newman, Michael Caine, Robert Redford but my all time, forever favourite - Steve McQueen.

A x

Dumdad said...

Hi, thanks for popping over to my humble abode.

Yes, I'm a fan of the great Orson as well (or should that be, as welles!) I'm a big movie fan too and there are many great actors and actresses out there, dead and alive.

Ben Hur reminds me of the reviewer that commented: "Ben Hur? Loved him, hated her!"

Sarah said...

Hello Vargas!
Thank you for the visit, I do write too, though juggling can get hectic I find I can get rid of my niggling inner narrative by spilling it on paper before the hitting the canvas.
I grew up watching some great movies with my Mum; I love Singin' in the Rain, The Quiet Man...any how my point- leading ladies; it is finding the films where the women are central, or equal and strong but not tragic; it's like I always dreamed of being a ballet dancer when I was a child but was square-shaped so the role of princess was never to be mine, being hefted round the stage was never gonig to happen, so I put myself in a male role, to my friend's pink frilly dance dramas while I searched, I suppose for the female architype to let me do my thing, but still be feminine.
Is this so much blah?
I love your blog, by-the-way; are you writing for publication?

Vargas said...

AWONI: His Girl Friday is top notch, first rate, cream of the crop, no question, as is Roz Russell. I like your taste.
Maggie May: I named this blog after a character Charlton Heston played. Do you know which movie?

SJA: The two Hepburns, DD, African Queen all A++++. And I just saw Steve McQueen in The Great Escape - it was, among other things, a great escape.

Dumdad - ha! good joke!

Sarah, your pink frilly dancer escapades entertain and enlighten. Not blah. And yes I write for publication.

aaronschwartz said...

Vargas, you intrigue.