These are the actresses I consider my favorites. In order to enter into the Hall of Fame and, be a recipient of the Veronicas, I must have seen at least five of their films. I will be adding new actresses at the end of every month as well as updating links and movie totals to any actresses already included. Not ranked in any order. Clickable links take you to any reviews I’ve written.
What I love about Her: her sweetness, her humor and the fact that you could laugh with her but not at her.
Favorite Movie: Some Like It Hot
Additional Films Reviewed: All my reviews of Marilyn’s work can be found in the My Month with Marilyn section.
What I Love About Her: Natalie Wood was the first classic actress I ever took notice of starting with West Side Story. There was an innocence to her performance that was more poignant in Splendor in the Grass. Not only did Natalie appear innocent but her personal story is filled with struggle and in many ways I find her own tragic demise to be more heart-wrenching than Marilyn’s (but that’s me).
Favorite Movie: Splendor in the Grass
What I Love About Her: Lake walked the line between perpetual naivete and wily woman; a woman always available, but searching for lover. She played everything from a irascible witch to a suicidal nurse, and always let audiences see her vulnerability. When she had to be tough, she was never completely cold. Despite living some hard years and dying broke and forgotten, her luminosity still shines bright.
Additional Films Reviewed: I Wanted Wings
What I Love About Her: O’Brien just brought joy to all her movies. Her blithe, joyous nature could make you smile, but she could just as easily make you cry. For a child she always brought a childlike rationalization to everything, never acting too wise beyond her years. Her characters have a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world that only a child who isn’t acting can bring.
Favorite Movie: Meet Me in St. Louis
What I love about Her: The feisty, independent characters she plays. They tend to be compromised by the end due to the Production Code, but you understand that Stanwyck is choosing to conform, she’s never forced to do anything.
Favorite Movie: Christmas in Connecticut
What I Love About Her: Lauren Bacall smolders on the screen! She was the first femme fatale character I saw and from the minute she walked in I was mesmerized by her beauty, her swagger, and the fact that she meant business. Even as she’s grown older in films like The Fan she’s still got that edge!
Favorite Movie: The Big Sleep
Additional Films Reviewed: How to Marry a Millionaire
What I Love About Her: I’d be yelled at by the amazing Margaret over at The Great Katherine Hepburn if I didn’t include Katharine. Katharine is one of the few “feminist”-focused actresses of a time period where feminism hadn’t hit its stride. While there is debate in regards to how much of a feminist icon Hepburn was she makes it in my book. She was an actress who played characters on equal footing with men, and most times surpassed them in intelligence and ingenuity all while making you laugh!
Favorite Movie: Bringing Up Baby
What I Love About Her: Ginger is one tough cookie, known for excelling in every genre, from drama to comedy, and, especially, musicals. The infamous quote about her dancing with Fred Astaire sums up why I love her: “Sure, [Astaire] was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards…and in high heels!”
Favorite Movie: Stage Door
What I Love About Her: Bette Davis is tempestuous and mean in one breath, but in others she can sweet and tender. Her various personas prevent her from being truly understood, and the various genres of the top films I listed above are proof of that. She never categorized herself, and while in later life she may have become a caricature she always excelled at entertaining.
Favorite Movie: Dark Victory
What I Love About Her: Goldie Hawn is just so bubbly and sweet, the epitome of the California girl although I know she wasn’t born in California! All of her movies had her playing the dumb blonde but she played the blonde who knew she was dumb and thus tried to rise above it. Her films when she became older are my favorites although I adore her in Shampoo.
Total Films Seen: 7
What I Love About Her: Ingrid always played the girl with the horrible love life which made her relatable to me in that a girl who beautiful didn’t have it easy. She also conveyed emotion beautifully even in situations where her life was on the line seen in Gaslight, Casablanca and Notorious.
Favorite Movie: Notorious
What I Love About Her: Julie is my songstress (and the woman I wish was my grandmother if I ever got to recast my family). She possesses a beautiful voice and has always provided a source of comfort and warmth in her roles, it helps that she’s played a nanny and a nun in her films. Despite her Mary Poppins image she’s definitely played her share of wild cards including a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman in Victor/Victoria.
Favorite Movie: The Sound of Music
Additional Films Reviewed: Thoroughly Modern Millie
What I Love About Her: Blondell was usually relegated to being the best friend, but she made the most of it. Her wisecracking, saucy attitude made her perfect for comedy or romance. She was a pre-Code darling able to be sexual while removing vulgarity and her expressive eyes make you want to hug her, or laugh with her.
Favorite Movie: Night Nurse
What I Love About Her: Arthur is scrappy. She’s beautiful, but there’s an underlying toughness that seeps through. Her characters have pasts, but they never show and she never lets anything stop her. Arthur excelled at both comedy and drama.
Favorite Movie: Too Many Husbands
What I Love About Her: Joan Crawford always played characters who knew about a hard day’s work. Her characters were always working girls – and sometimes that was in both senses of the word if you’re watching The Women. Her persona has taken on a life of its own, in a negative sense, but her body of work presented her as an honest, down-to-Earth character who always had to stay respectable in the face of wealth.
Favorite Movie: Mildred Pierce
What I Love About Her: Jean could be brash but there was always a humor and a vulnerability. Where you laughed at Marilyn’s attempted stupidity with Jean you laughed because she was a comedian. She also played every genre!
Favorite Movie: Libeled Lady
Additional Films Reviewed: All Jean Harlow’s films can be found in my Films of Jean Harlow Retrospective
What I Love About Her: She’s stunning for one! Marilyn Monroe was blonde and sweet whereas Elizabeth Taylor was dark and sexual. Those eyes alone could stop you and she just exuded power, she was Cleopatra after all!
Favorite Movie: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
What I Love About Her: Celeste Holm is both down-to-Earth and incredibly regal. There’s always a courtly bearing to her performances, even if she’s stuck playing the voice of reason (or, in the case of A Letter to Three Wives, a voice entirely).
Favorite Movie: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
What I Love About Her: I only recently discovered that I’ve seen so many Angela Lansbury movies, mainly during her earlier years. I’d always associated her with “old” television shows like Murder She Wrote and yet she was an amazing movie actress playing a variety of characters. I particularly love her in villainess roles like Gaslight or Manchurian Candidate. Not to mention Angela provided voices in two of my favorite animated films (Beauty and the Beast and Anastasia) and is a Broadway legend!
Favorite Movie: The Manchurian Candidate
What I Love About Her: What can be said about Audrey that hasn’t already been said? She’s a fashion icon who could play a romantic lead or a terrorized woman.
Favorite Movie: Sabrina
What I Love About Her: Myrna is one of the few I think combines elegance with a casual flighty air. She can be serious but she can also be serious with a playful side à la Nora Charles. She can play rich or poor, she even played a judge for crying out loud! And that look that combines classic Hollywood with a mysterious exotic edge!
Favorite Movie: The Thin Man
Additional Films Reviewed: Love Crazy, Double Wedding, Evelyn Prentice, Manhattan Melodrama,Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Another Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man, The Thin Man Goes Home, Song of the Thin Man
What I Love About Her: Shirley MacLaine is my “kick in the pants” actress because she’s just spunky. She tells it like it is and isn’t afraid to make a complete fool of herself for love which she’s done in two movies. Her published works emphasize her eccentricities and even those are fun. She’s the actress I don’t think takes herself too seriously.
Favorite Movie: The Apartment
What I Love About Her: Before Lucille Ball there was Billie Burke. Burke epitomized the flighty ditz with a heart of gold mostly playing a socialite in films like Topper and Dinner at Eight. She’s best known as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, the first film I saw of her and she was a squeaky voiced symbol of goodness in that fairy tale story.
Favorite Movie: The Wizard of Oz