I got tagged at Seraphic Secret with a meme: name my 20 favorite actresses. Before I begin, a couple of things. First, in the post tagging me, Robert has a good summary about what makes an actress worthy of the list:
If yours truly will sit down and screen a film—any film, even a lousy movie—just to watch a particular actress weave her magical spell, well, she definitely qualifies as a favorite actress.
Mind you, we’re not talking best actresses. Hence Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Myrna Loy, Ida Lupino, Norma Shearer and other towering figures do not make my list.
Some of the actresses on my list are great actresses. Others are deeply limited but possess that magical star quality that makes it impossible for Seraphic Secret not to watch.
Second, you should check out Robert’s list, which not only leans heavily to silent screen actresses, but also has photographs of those ageless, luminous beauties.
Because I am once again playing beat the clock with deadlines (including a waxing and waning desire to go to martial arts tonight), I’m going to be stingy and not include photographs. I’ll just do the laundry list. I’d love it if you all would weigh in with your comments and suggestions.
So, in no particular order, but just as they come to mind, here they are, my 20 favorite actresses:
1. Vivien Leigh, who was transcendentally good in Gone With the Wind, and who is so beautiful and intelligent in every role she plays.
2. Myrna Loy, who can do more with a kittenish twitch of her face than most actresses can do with a whole repertoire of words and movements.
3. Kirsten Dunst, who has a fresh intelligence I consistently enjoy watching. I just saw her in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, a movie I was prepared to dislike and that, instead, I found myself enjoying a great deal. Aside from being absolutely gorgeous, it was accurate historically, and that despite the slightly pop edge Coppola gave it. Surprisingly, Coppola remained true to the core historical facts, and part of this was due to Dunst’s performance.
4. Elizabeth Montgomery, who took the role of Samantha in Bewitched and made it a lasting testament to charm. If you have listened to as many hours of the show as I have (in the car), you realize how gifted she really was.
5. Ginger Rogers, who had an earthy vivacity and physical grace that often got lost next to Fred Astaire — but it was there, and it was wonderful.
6. Cyd Charisse, surely one of the most beautiful women and dancers ever to grace the screen.
7. Lucille Ball, comedienne extraordinaire.
8. Carole Lombard, one of the great madcap actresses of the 1930s, who managed to combine silliness, grace and intelligence in every performance.
9. Annette Benning, whose politics I hate, but who has a marvelous screen presence, so that I enjoy her every performance.
10. Judy Garland, who was sometimes a little too high-strung, but who was mesmerizing, and whose talent never wavered.
11. Doris Day, always fresh, always tuneful, always lovely.
[It’s getting harder about now to think of actresses I like. Fatigue? Or am I running out of choices?]
12. Jane Powell, a singer and actress I think has been seriously underrated. For one thing, she had one of the most gorgeous voices in 1950s musicals. For another thing, she easily held her own opposite such powerhouses as Fred Astaire and Howard Keel.
13. Esther Williams. How can you not like her? She’s gorgeous, acts fairly well, and swims like a mermaid. I always enjoy her films.
14. Mary Tyler Moore during her Dick Van Dyke days. I wasn’t a huge fan when she had her own show, but I think she was just brilliant as Laura Petrie. “Oh, Rob!”
15. Katherine Hepburn. Yes, she overacted dreadfully and eventually became a caricature of herself, but she still had a blazingly powerful screen presence that never seems to get old.
16. Agnes Moorehead. Since I gave the nod to Elizabeth Montgomery, how can I ignore Moorehead, who brought a delicious, malicious sparkle to what was otherwise a very silly (but still enjoyable) show?
17. Vivian Vance, without whom Lucille Ball would have been less than half as funny. She was both a straight woman and a comedienne, and deserves many more kudos than she ever got.
18. Carol Burnett, another brilliant comedienne, who managed to burn up the small screen and, on occasion, the big one too.
19. To be announced.