The 16th of May is National Classic Movie Day, and what better way to celebrate this than to write a post on one’s favourite five classic movie stars. The rules of this blogathon hosted by the Classic Film and TV Cafe is that people list their five favourite classic movie stars and then say why they love them. So, without further ado and in no particular order:
I. Vivien Leigh (1913 – 1967)
“My birth sign is Scorpio and they eat themselves up and burn themselves out. I swing between happiness and misery. I am part prude and part nonconformist. I say what I think and I don’t pretend, and I am prepared to accept the consequences of my actions.” (Vivien Leigh)
I will talk about three November-born ladies, and my first one is Vivien Leigh, who had a rich life story. She was born in British India, but when her parents left for England, found herself at a British boarding school. From there, she was determined to succeed as an actress, and even set aside her married life with a lawyer to pursue theatre work. She later married no other than Laurence Olivier, with the two sharing a passionate love and mutual professional admiration. Her breakthrough came when she was cast as Scarlett O’Hara in the famous adaptation of Margaret Mitchell novel of the same name “Gone with the Wind” (1939) alongside Clark Gable, for which she won her first Oscar. There, she proved to be a great actress indeed: controlled, magnetic, capable of showing every possible façade of a personality, from cunning aloofness to extreme passion. Vivien Leigh really was Scarlett O’Hara, strong-willed, determined, intelligent, passionate, magnetic and beautiful. She was a femme fatale, both on screen and in life, but without any negative connotations, admired for her irresistible charm and acting skill. She was later also cast in such films as “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) alongside Marlon Brando, for which she won her second Oscar, “That Hamilton Woman” (1941), “Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945) and “Anna Karenina” (1948).
II. Grace Kelly (1929 – 1982)
“I would like to be remembered as someone who accomplished useful deeds, and who was a kind and loving person. I would like to leave the memory of a human being with a correct attitude and who did her best to help others.” (Grace Kelly)
My other November-born lady is Grace Kelly. Born in Philadelphia, US, Grace decided on a career as an actress early on. She started to rocket to stardom when she landed roles in “High Noon” (1952) and in “Mogambo” (1953), and later gain immense popularity for Alfred Hitchcock’s films “Rear Window” (1954), alongside James Stewart, “Dial M for Murder” (1954), opposite Ray Milland and “To Catch a Thief” (1955), co-starring Cary Grant. She won her Oscar for her role of Georgie Elgin in “The Country Girl” (1954), cementing herself as one of the leading actresses of her generation, and also appeared alongside Frank Sinatra in “High Society” (1956). Always exquisitely beautiful, elegant, posed, honest and true to herself, Grace was lovely as a person and on screen, capturing the attention in every film she was in. She was one of the few actresses who can convey a sense of mischief, mystery and excitement on screen, while always remaining confident and classy. Later in life, she gain even more popularity after marrying the Prince Rainier of Monaco, putting her acting career to one side, and tragically died in a car accident at the age of 52. She will always be remembered by her loveliness, kindness and her great films, and she was truly an unparalleled icon of pure beauty, elegance and grace.
III. Gregory Peck (1916 – 2003)
“I can honestly say that in twenty years of making movies I never had a part that came close to being the real me until Atticus Finch [in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)]. (Gregory Peck)
With the career spanning almost five decades, Gregory Peck is a serious name in Hollywood. Born in California, US, Gregory landed his first noticeable role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” (1945), alongside Ingrid Bergman, and later, this handsome and talented actor will go on to be cast in such films as “Duel in the Sun” (1946), “Gentleman’s Agreement” (1947), “Twelve O’Clock High” (1949), “Roman Holiday” (1953), “Moby Dick” (1956), “Designing Woman” (1957), “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) and “The Omen” (1976). Overall, he had five Oscar nominations, and won an Award for the Best Leading Actor in 1963 for portraying a lawyer in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I like Gregory for the sense of adventure, danger and excitement he often brings to his films. Many of his films have a theme of “social conscience”, and there he shines both as a laid-back and always-young-at-heart enthusiast and as a hard-working and serious man with strong convictions and willingness to help others. In real life, he was no worse, and often spoke in favour of equal rights for all. It does not matter whether this exotically handsome actor with a touch of roughness about him will be recalled as a menacing guy from “Duel in the Sun”, as a hopelessly-in-love cynic reporter from “Roman Holiday”, or as a determined individual fighting for justice from “To Kill a Mockingbird”. The truth is that Gregory Peck will always be remembered as an immensely talented actor, capable of arresting screen presence, thanks to his magnetic, easy-going personality, top-notch acting ability and brooding good looks.
IV. Gene Tierney (1920 – 1991)
“I approached everything: my job, my family, my romances – with intensity.” (Gene Tierney)
My final November-born lady is Gene Tierney. Born in New York and educated at most prestigious schools, Gene started her career as an actress in theatre and soon caught public attention for her striking beauty, and probably, for that enigmatic, enticing aura about her. I first got to know her through “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945), playing opposite Cornel Wilde, where she astonished me by her beauty, composure and acting ability. There she was in a very challenging role of Ellen Berent, an immensely jealous young woman who is determined to keep the subject of her affection close to her heart at whatever cost. Playing such a complicated, polarised and damaged personality demands some great acting ability, and I admire actors who can show hidden agendas and emotions of their characters with ease. In fact, she was nominated by the Academy in the “Best Leading Actress” category for this role. Her other prominent role includes playing the title character in “Laura” (1944), a murder victim, also a very mysterious and complex personality. She also appeared in “Heaven Can Wait” (1943), “The Razor’s Edge” (1946), “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947), “Whirlpool” (1949) and “The Left Hand of God” (1955). Breathtakingly beautiful, enchanting and enigmatic on screen, Gene has always displayed thought-provoking performances in films, which stay with you long after you left the theatre.
V. Jack Lemmon (1925 – 2001)
“Everything that is truly worthwhile – I think passion is involved in your approach to it. No matter what it is.” (Jack Lemmon)
Famously born in an elevator in Massachusetts, US, Jack Lemmon had a very long and dedicated career on screen. He could handle both dramatic roles and comedy, and was known for his versatility on screen. He is probably best known for his role of C.C. Baxter in “The Apartment” (1960) and for the role of Jerry/Daphne in “Some Like It Hot” (1959). In these films, Jack demonstrated such an uncanny ability to “re-invent” his characters and improvise, it is amazing. In “Some Like It Hot“, he went from portraying a musician Jerry to playing a temperamental “lady” Daphne, and the comic effect is hilarious; and in “The Apartment“, he is back to portraying an average lonely Joe, but this atmosphere of “lightness” or humour is still about him. He was nominated for an Oscar for both of these films, with the total of eight nominations by the Academy in his career and two wins (for “Mister Roberts” (1955) and for “Save the Tiger” (1973)). The older generation may also still remember him from “How to Murder Your Wife“ (1965) and “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962) (see my entry to The Jack Lemmon Blogathon), while the younger generation may recall him from “Missing“ (1982) and “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992). He can be either fun or sad to watch on screen, but when he is funny, he is so entertaining he can reduce the audience to laughter in seconds, and where he is sad, he is always heart-wrenching to contemplate. Few can compare to that skill, and that is why Jack Lemmon is probably, still, one of the most revered actors in Hollywood.