I've never had a blog that lasted a whole 50 posts before. My goat, doesn't seem like this much at all! But, at the same time, it seems like so much more. Almost 200 published comments, 27 lovely followers, unspeakable amounts of fun...
I must thank you all for sticking with me for this long!
As a way to make this post very special, I decided to release a revised edition of my top 10 actors and actresses born before 1940. Now, the list originally published on my top bar was made in late May/early June when I had been an Old Hollywood fan for only around 5 months. It wasn't that long ago and, to be honest, I still consider myself a newbie in this world (despite writing fifty posts on a blog exclusively about it: good job biting more than you can chew once again, Marcela!). But I must say that I have made a lot of progress in the past 3 months. I've had a lot of time and resources in my hands and I've done a lot of research. I consider this list more carefully made than the last.
Now, the criteria for this is not only acting ability. If it were, the list would probably be entirely different, except for the #1 man and woman. It is all-encompassing: How much I like their movies, their characters, their life stories, their personalities, how much I admire them as human beings, and all that involves that person.
Let's start with the actresses. I'll post the actors tomorrow.
MARCELA'S TOP 10 ACTRESSES BORN BEFORE 1940
10. Barbara Stanwyck
It wasn't until recently when I really paid attention to Barbara Stanwyck. I saw her for the first time on the big screen of Action Christine Cinémas in Paris, at a late session of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). I went completely unpretentiously, not looking to find myself a new diva, as I was reading "Me: Stories of My Life" and Katharine Hepburn had just started to take over my heart. As a result, I realized Babs was a fantastic actress, but didn't go any further than that. Recently, a friend I met on Blogger (I think we can all guess who it is) who is crazy about Ms. Stany stimulated me to look more into her filmography and to truly explore the extent of her talent. I was quick to realize that a film noir lover like me could not go any longer without the likes of Barbara Stanwyck. It was Meet John Doe (1941) that did the trick. By the first scene, I was hooked. Everything from her tone of voice, to her physical expression, to the way she walked, to her frail figure and strong face, to her quick reactions, to her immaculate aura, to her crystal smile. I finished it and immediately moved on to Double Indemnity (1944). Do I need say more?
9. Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo is the greatest silent star who ever lived and there is no question in my mind about that. Notice I used the word "star". To be a star is to be beyond a performer. Greta has the so-called it factor that so many performers have had attributed to them, but so few actually had. Greta Garbo was a gifted actress, she could play various roles to perfection, she could do with or without her voice like very few could, she survived the transition from silents to talkies at the top, she was an extraordinarily beautiful woman, she managed to lead a normal private life somewhat away from the prying eyes of the media and she believed in her own talent and in her own hard work. Because of her private nature, little is known about her life after 1941, when she retired from the Hollywood scene. But what is likely to be true is that Greta was a rather (wait for it) normal individual. An independent woman, she made a choice not to marry, but she didn't live her life in seclusion. She had many friends with whom she socialized and traveled. After the death of her great love John Gilbert, when they were already separated and she was at the tender age of 31, she was known to have normal romantic relationships when other men and, according to some, other women. She liked to read by herself and to take long walks around New York City, dressed casually. She is said to have had some problems with depression, but nothing that stood on her way. She died at 84 and left her fortune, originated mostly from wise investments in the stock market (Greta Garbo! A stock marker investor! What do you know!) to her niece. It was estimated in over 32 million dollars.
8. Carole Lombard
Aah, Carole Lombard. For a comedienne, it's amazing the amount of tears that this bombshell blonde has yanked from my eyes. Carole is such a natural for comedy. You can see it in all her performances, how very much at home she seems with those roles. I think most of that comes from her being an easy-spirited individual who didn't take life or herself too seriously. On the other hand, she was a very passionate woman, about her craft, about her country, about Clark... And thinking about her accident really upsets me, there was so much more she could've done and she was traveling for such a noble purpose. Her life was tragically interrupted, and to be honest, it was her death that hit me the hardest, but I try to remember her in life, with that everlasting smile shining on, like she would want me to.
7. Audrey Hepburn
I've been looking for a word to describe Audrey Hepburn and I can only come up with one: angel. We use that word a lot when describing dead stars but I don't think it applies to anyone as well as it applies to Ms. Hepburn. And it wasn't just the charity work she did, even though I admire that very much. It was what she stood for in her entire life. She stood for selflessness, goodness of spirit, kindness of heart. She wished to live her life for other people and I have every reason to believe she did. She was very insecure, grew up with a mother who discouraged her, the struggles of war and the loss of her biggest dream (being a dancer), but these didn't make her a bitter person. Au contraire, Audrey became very appreciative of life and her desire to give back all the love she received and more was fueled by her life story. Her son Sean tells that on her very last days, when she was about to succumb to appendicial cancer, she wouldn't stop thinking of the suffering of the Unicef children, and how, despite her being about to die, it was still greater than hers. Angel. No more.
6. Bette Davis
It wasn't too long ago when I sat down to watch Of Human Bondage (1934). I watched it to explore the man who mentored Bogie, Leslie Howard. Despite my not being a huge fan of Howard, I have to appreciate the fact that he helped along the career of my favorite actor ever. But, before I knew it, a scrawny ice blonde took over the screen. "I never cared for you, not once! (...) You bored me stiff, I hated ya! It made me sick when I had to let you kiss me! I only did it 'cause you begged me! (...) And after you kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! Wipe my mouth!" (Watch this scene here.) I had seen countless movies with Ms. Davis before, and in each of them, she blew me away. I always considered her one of the top 5 female performers of all time. But it was in Of Human Bondage that I realized what it was about Bette that made me think so highly of her. There is no one, who can play one type of character as well as Bette: the bitch. I love the bitch characters in movies, I've always found them fascinating and Bette gives them a quality no else possesses.
5. Joan Crawford
There are many actresses in Hollywood, I feel, who deserve all of our love. But, Joan is one of the very few who, I feel, needed all of our love. Lucille Fay LaSueur - that's her birth name - had a very difficult childhood, one that led her to be an emotionally insecure adult. She needed other people's affection for her self-assurance, she needed external approval to reassure her of her own worth. While this character trait stood in her way as far as shyness and self-confidence, it did make her an affectionate and loving human being, described by friend and biographer Charlotte Chandler as a "very fine spirit". She got to the movies as a girl next door, and, despite her multiple talents, unable to catch the eye of an audience because she had nothing different about her. She molded herself into one of the most unique personas in the history of film. From the 1920s to the 1930s, she became almost unrecognizable. The praise Hollywood yielded her for her very gifted performances was highly appreciated. So much so that she believed it was her obligation to never leave her star persona. She was known for never leaving the house without making sure she looked and felt like a star.
And, before you ask, no, I don't believe a single word of "Mommie Dearest". I understand she was a strong disciplinarian at home, but the child abuse stories were denied by multiple biographers and fellow Hollywood artists, including close friends such as Barbara Stanwyck, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Bob Hope. Even Bette Davis, who, as we all know, wasn't a huge fan of Ms. Crawford, died denying the entire story. In my book, Tina is a spiteful and jealous individual. In the word of Myrna Loy: "Christina Crawford didn't just admire her mother, she wanted to be her."
I wrote too much about Joan, I admit. But it's because I never mention her on my blog and I feel like I should do it more often.
4. Ingrid Bergman
She may not be absolute #1 on this list, but Ingie and I go way back. Ingrid Bergman was the first leading lady I've ever seen on a pre-1960 movie. You guessed it, it was Casablanca (1942), the only Golden Age movie I had in my house at the time, and it belonged to my uncle. My parents aren't exactly movie buffs. I was desperate to watch a classic film, I was so curious about them and my experience with "old" movies had only gone as far as Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). Casablanca is still one of my favorites and it was then when I realized one of the best qualities of the Golden Era that the films of today, for the most part, lack: its unpredictability. I could swear she was gonna stay with Bogie. Since that very day, I realized Ingrid would always be special to me. She became one of my favorites when I was studying abroad in Paris and one of my colleagues was a huge fan of hers. We had a long conversation about her one day and my favorite movie theater (yes, there were multiple movie theaters dedicated to old films: heaven!) just so happened to be playing Notorious (1946) that night. I was hooked for life.
3. Lucille Ball
Hilarious. Strong. Charming. Humble. Human. There are so many adjectives that can describe Lucille Ball, but there are no adjectives that can do her justice. She is a fabulous actress, not only in comedy, even though this is the genre in which she surpasses all, who compels, moves and thrills on the big screen. Lucy's filmography is not very good - it wasn't until her late thirties that she hit it big - but she is always the best part, if not the only good part, of her films. Her face is seemingly made of rubber, she has the widest range of expressions I have ever seen. Her voice ranges from a high-pitched scream to a low, calming tune. I've never seen her deliver a poor performance. On top of all that, her life story and personality is absolutely beautiful. She was a woman of principle, she stood by them at all times, no matter how much she was risking. She was a strong woman who rose above all the disappointments in the world. And after all her success, she still couldn't believe her own talent and how it was the work of her own hands that led her to being where she is today. Lucy is certainly one of my role models as a career-oriented individual and as a woman.
Last piece of weirdness: What an unfortunate last name. Whenever I hear it, I don't imagine ball as in ballroom, I imagine ball as in football. Not that it matters.
2. Lauren Bacall
Okay, putting this one over the other L.B. on this list was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my blogging life. It's nearly impossible to put anyone who isn't Katharine Hepburn over Lucille Ball. But every time I look in her eyes, I get reminded of why I love this little gal so much. She was so young when she got to Hollywood, but she had such maturity! Her life choices make me admire her so much. Look at the other teen stars throughout history: Nearly all of them had problems with drugs, alcohol or scandals. Everything in her life happened early and fast, and I don't think anyone else would have her tranquility to deal with the situation and come out with the impeccable record that she did. The thing about Betty is that she is one person that I look at and I think how, had things worked differently for both of us, she could've been my best friend. She is so straightforward and sincere, like I am, but she does it in such a classy and understated fashion that she seldom embarrasses herself (I'm afraid I do, much more than I would want to.) She is such a breezy spirit, she brings laughter wherever she goes, she can make anyone laugh and she has an endearing spontaneity about herself. She is one of those endearing people, that walk into a room and just bring so much light to it that there's no way her presence goes by unknown. She was a rather active political personality, with such a well-formed opinion for such a young age. She was also in some of my favorite movies ever: Dark Passage, To Have and Have Not, How to Marry a Millionaire, Designing Woman and Murder on the Orient Express. One of the most underrated actresses in the Golden Era. She deserved better parts, but it's amazing how much her presence alone improves an otherwise mediocre picture. And when a movie with her is indeed very good, you can't help but credit her for a sizable chunk of its quality.
I am so glad that she is alive.
1. Katharine Hepburn, a.k.a. Surprise of the year
Nope. This one will never change.
Even if some people call her over the top and melodramatic, I find her acting absolutely perfect. Even if some people call her obnoxious and theatrical, I find her personality fascinating. Even if some people call her strange and angular, I find her absolutely beautiful. Who am I kidding? This is my favorite person ever. And if anyone needs any reminding why, just read this.