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Leading Man Tournament: Week 3 – The 1950s

Another round has come and gone and we’re entering the 1950s!  The time of “cool” and teen rebellion and Westerns.  The 1950s were a pretty crazy time as evidenced by the cinema and these five actors are as diverse as they come.  As with all the Leading Men poll previously, voting opens today and closes next Sunday (June 10th).  Asterisks next to the movie title indicate they’ve been reviewed on this blog.  I’ll be updating the readers with the current poll numbers Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Happy voting everyone!

JOHN WAYNE

Movies That Secured His Nomination: Rio Grande, Hondo, The Searchers, Rio Bravo, The Horse Soldiers

Vote for me pilgrim!

My Thoughts on the Nominee:  John Wayne was an eleventh hour addition as my mother kindly reminded me (“HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE JOHN WAYNE!”).  I grew up with John Wayne movies in a way as my father adores them like no other so every weekend in our house one could generally find “The Duke” gracing our living room screens.  Sadly…I didn’t take to Wayne.  I’m not generally a Western fan and I think my father’s undying love for John Wayne forced me to ignore his movies in a bizarre form of rebellion.  I’m going out to see The Searchers this month courtesy of Cinemark’s Classic Film series so maybe I’ll finally appreciate him.  Either way Wayne epitomized masculinity, the cowboy, and the world of the 1950s so even though we aren’t friends, he’s more than worthy of this list.

MARLON BRANDO

Could he be ANY more gorgeous?!

Films That Secured His Nomination:  A Streetcar Named Desire*, The Wild One, On the Waterfront, Guys and Dolls

I’m still waiting for Brando to shout my name out in the streets!

My Thoughts on the Nominee: This would be a hard decade for me to vote as two of my FAVORITE actors are in this decade, the first being Marlon Brando.  I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with him…freshman year of community college when we watched Streetcar Named Desire!  Brando’s known as the man who brought the t-shirt in vogue and damn did he make it look good.  I’ve gone on about Brando in my review of Streetcar but he defines “manly” to me.  He’s the guy who, with a sly wink and a smile could easily seduce you out of money….and other things and sure he’s hotheaded and/or a total jerk at times…but that’s why you love him.  Not to mention Brando exhibited his range every chance he got, case in point his singing in Guys and Dolls!  Brando, enough said!

JAMES DEAN

Films That Secured His Nomination:  East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, Giant

Live fast, die young…

My Thoughts on the Nominee:  What can be said about James Dean that hasn’t already been said?  He literally defines the decade that is the 1950s.  The decade has many rebellious teen films but Dean eclipsed them all as Jim Stark in the red leather jacket in Rebel Without a Cause.  Dean’s characters may have been rebellious but they delicately hid a vulnerability that you see as the movie unfolds.  I haven’t seen East of Eden or Giant yet but I want to.  Dean’s life, and death at the age of 24, marked the beginning of a group of stars who died young, whose iconography is interlocked with their troubled life and tragic passing.  Many have said that the innocence of the 50s ended with Dean’s death (I disagree) but either way if I hadn’t put Dean on this list I’d be a pretty crappy film buff.

GENE KELLY

Films That Secured His Nomination:  An American in Paris, Singin’ in the Rain, Brigadoon

My Thoughts on the Nominee:  Who doesn’t love Gene Kelly?  I wanted to just use .gifs of him dancing but figured I didn’t want to show-off a potential favorite.  Kelly is the quintessential song and dance man as evidenced by the three musicals that secured his nomination.  Singin’ in the Rain especially cast a hilarious eye on the troubles associated with sound and has become an iconic piece of Hollywood history.  Kelly’s dancing is the best I’ve seen and makes me exhausted and I had to include someone know for their dancing…I just had to!

WILLIAM HOLDEN

Films That Secured His Nomination:  Sunset Blvd., Born Yesterday, The Moon is Blue, Stalag 17, Sabrina, The Country Girl, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing*, Picnic, The Bridge on the River Kwai

Oh Audrey, I know how you feel

My Thoughts on the Nominee: Okay I can’t contain myself, I FREAKING LOVE WILLIAM HOLDEN!  Whew, got that out of my system.  I’m not  sure if I’ve said that exactly in the reviews I’ve done of his movies, but it’s true!  Holden excelled at playing the sexy seducer, the man who knew how to get exactly what he wanted.  Just watch his seductions of Maggie MacNamara or Audrey Hepburn and you’ll see it.  The man not only possessed a gorgeous face but had swagger!  Even in today’s Hollywood stars I don’t see the ability to seduce quite like Bill Holden did.  He’s the one I’m rooting for hands down!

Those are your nominees…vote wisely!

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Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

10 thoughts on “Leading Man Tournament: Week 3 – The 1950s Leave a comment

  1. I am with you on William Holden…he is one of my beloveds. I can’t get enough of that man!! Besides loving the man, his Sunset Boulevard is one of my 5 favorite films of all-time. He was sensational in that!

    • I sadly have only seen snippets of the movies but I’m hoping to rectify that and at least be able to make a determination on whether I like him as an actor. I’m sure if I end up loving Wayne my father will be thrilled lol. Thanks for reading!

  2. I am so with your mom on the John Wayne question – how can you not love John Wayne!!! I’m totally not a fan of westerns, but what a great hunk of man he was! Of course, my favorite Wayne movie has to be Rooster Cogburn and the Lady (Katharine Hepburn). The two play off each other so well! And since you asked the question, I will say that I do not love Gene Kelly. He’s all right I guess, but I am totally team Fred on this one! But, I do agree with you (and Lucy Arnaz) when I say I love Bill Holden!!! These are some great choices!
    http://thegreatkh.blogspot.com/

    • Oh yes, my mother LOVES Rooster Cogburn and True Grit as well. I think a lot of it is bound up in that teenage spirit that whatever one’s parent likes must be boring (how far I’ve come thankfully). I should include the clip of Lucy shouting Bill Holden! That’s a great idea if he wins…not that I’m hoping or anything.

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