Sunday, 28 October 2012

My favorite actors [REVISED!]


10. Desi Arnaz

One word: Underrated. It wasn't until I became a huge fan of I Love Lucy that I realized how much of the quality of show can be credited to Desi as well as to Lucy. First, what a life story. Bird-cage cleaner in Florida, vaudevillian in a traveling act, singer in the New York stage until finally meeting the love of his life, and settling down in Hollywood, then struggling to become the most legendary man on television. He was discriminated for being Latin American, he had to lie about his age, he broke in the conga drums, the maracas and the chick-chicky-boom when all everyone wanted to hear was rock'n'roll. He was a trend-setter and a trailblazer on a medium that still took its first steps. He had business wits that made I Love Lucy what it is today. And behind all these qualities, and certainly behind all his flaws, he was a passionate, loving man, who brought his wife carnations every year on their anniversary and sang the song he wrote especially for her in his crystal clear baritone. Desi was far from perfect, but what a wonderful man. 

9. Fred Astaire

The energy Fred Astaire emanates would be enough to provide power to the city of New York for a hundred years. Rough estimate, of course. The fact is: Fred Astaire is the best dancer in film, and one of the most magic smiles I've ever seen. The first time I saw him was on Funny Face, and I fell in love instantly, despite the presence of one of my favorite people on the planet Audrey Hepburn. I moved on to Top Hat and the scene about getting caught in the rain did the trick. Fred Astaire is the sweetest musical star ever. And he was so humble too. When told by Dorothy Kilgallen that he was one of the best singers who ever lived, he simply smiled and said "thank you, I just don't think so".

8. Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda is what I would describe as one heck of an actor. I first saw him on Twelve Angry Men, and before I watched the movie, I took some time to look at the cover. A friend of mine had lent me the DVD and told me the general storyline. I remember I had a hard time believing that such a sweet-looking man was capable of playing a part like that of the juror. But I was pleasantly surprised. He comes alive on the screen and he gets a strength in his eyes (and what a pair of eyes!) that he simply doesn't give off off-screen. When I really fell in love with him was in On Golden Pond, one of my favorite Katharine Hepburn movies and one that I had been told to expect one of the finest performances from the first lady of cinema. Turns out it was, but Fonda had no trouble holding his own. His crowning glory was Yours, Mine and Ours, with my beloved Lucille Ball. It's always like this with me and Hank: I watch his movies for someone else, but he ends up surprising me. 

7. Gregory Peck

Meet my husband, y'all: Gregory Peck! That's right, get in line Cary Grant, because this is the most attractive man in Hollywood in my opinion. He has the perfect face, his voice is deep and sexy, he has the perfect walk, everything about him makes me wish I had a time machine and he was single... But to top it off, he was a very gifted actor. I first saw him on Roman Holiday and it was then when I understood what type of character he could do better than anyone: the knight in shining armor. That one leading man who seems to have no flaws whatsoever, but for some reason he has to work to get the glamour girl's affection. We all know the type. With Greg, these fellas take knighthood to a whole new level. Perfect to spend hours and hours swooning in front of the TV. 
However, one of his characters, and incidentally his best performance, differed from this typecast: It was Atticus Finch, from To Kill A Mockingbird. Twenty minutes of this one movie had my mother in tears.

6. Clark Gable

No, my story with Clark Gable did not start with Gone With The Wind. It all began when I watched "It Happened One Night" and I realized just how charming this Clark fella really is. He was irresistible to watch on the screen, and I'm not just talking about physical appearance, although that Gable smile is as close to earth-shattering at they get, I'm talking about screen presence. He catches everyone's eyes at the screen, and that's in addition to his unquestionable talent. So much so that when I did watch Gone With the Wind, I thought he was the star that stood out, as opposed to Vivien Leigh, who took home the Academy Award. Along with his screen talent and presence, I have every reason to believe he was a wonderful man. Two anecdotes about those who I believe were, albeit in different ways, the two women of his life: Carole Lombard and Joan Crawford. His wife and his best friend. His Ma and his Baby.
One: When Carole Lombard died, he joined the army and went to fight in World War II. He convinced many of his fellow Hollywood stars to follow him. When he was honorably discharged, he asked the United States Navy to name a battleship after his beloved, and admitted that this would mean more to him than any medals or military honors. SS Carole Lombard was launched in 1944. 
Two: In the filming of one of his 8 movies with Joan Crawford, there was a scene where he had to slap her in the face. He always managed to only pretend to hit her for the cameras, while leaving her intact. On one take, however, his hand accidentally landed on Crawford's jaw. The minute the scene was over, Joan was happy it went well, but Gable looked distressed and she soon found out why: he took her in her arms and whispered: "I'm sorry, Baby."

5. Charlie Chaplin

What a genius. Charles Francis Chaplin is one of the most gifted, intelligent, brilliant individuals in history. He didn't appear or work in his movies, he was his movies. He wrote the script, he acted, he directed, he composed the background music and he even cut the final product. His co-stars were merely instruments to the completion of a piece of work that was nearly a hundred percent his. This is more than can be said about Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Roberto Begnini or any other versatile stars in history. He was the one who wrote the uniquely beautiful song "Smile", made so famous in Judy Garland's voice. His movies had a kind of childish innocence to them, but at the same time carried valuable life lessons. He was the brains behind some of the most well-known works in the history of film, works that people of all ages understand, appreciate and learn from. But, in my opinion, this is the best thing Mr. Chaplin has ever done. 

4. Cary Grant

If the word lovely has ever been used to accurately describe a Golden Age actor, this is it. Cary was sweet, loving, cheerful, kind, and boy was he handsome! He was my first favorite Classic actor, when I was just starting to explore this world. He stood out to me as such a great performer, who seemed at home in his roles, regardless of whether it was a screwball comedy, like Bringing Up Baby or a thriller, like Notorious. And not only his talent and his endearing personality, but the entire aura that surrounds him, the vibe he gives off with that enchanting smile makes me think that he was one of the nicest fellas around Hollywood. He was the one who picked up Ingrid Bergman's Oscar in 1956 and the one who stood by her side when she was being shunned by American audiences for having an unwed pregnancy. He sent a letter to Lauren Bacall when she lost Bogie in 1957, without ever having met her, inviting her to dinner with him and his wife, as a demonstration of his support. Katharine Hepburn developed a wild crush on him (as, she says, every woman did) during the filming of Sylvia Scarlett, and he was already taken at the time. What did he do? Found the best man around for Kate. Howard Hughes. They dated for four years. That was the kind of guy Cary was. 

3. Jimmy Stewart

I was very lucky with Jimmy Stewart because the first movie I ever saw him in was my favorite movie and one of his finest performances: The Philadelphia Story. He was absolutely brilliant in that movie and it was a type of character he excels at: the fella next-door, the stand-up guy who makes his living honestly, has nothing much special about him, but you can't help but love. When I really fell in love with him was when I got into his partnerships with Hitchcock. That showed a whole new face of Stewart, one I liked even better than the first one. Some of his movies with Hitchcock are on my list of favorites. I've yet to see him give a bad performance. One Oscar is certainly not enough.
In his private life, I understand he was incredibly faithful to his wife Gloria. He got married only once, a rarity in Hollywood and, frankly, the entire world at the time. And when he died, he could think only of her. His last words were: "I'm gonna be with Gloria now." As Jimmy himself would say: Aaah, shucks!

2. Spencer Tracy

Behold, in his glorious grey hair and Irish lion eyes, Potato Tracy, the only one capable of making my heart melt with only one smile. My story with Spence was a little different than any other actor. I usually see someone on-screen, like them, and do my Googling to find out if I'm ready to like them off-screen. By the time I saw any movie with Spencer, I already knew a lot about his private life. You see, Potato Tracy made my girl happy for twenty-seven years, so let's say I had a good impression of the fella before I even saw him. I saw his movies with Kate and somehow, I couldn't see the magnificence of his ability (except for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner). I couldn't see what Kate saw in him, his naturalness, his enchantment, his ability to touch and compel. I attribute that to my looking at Kate instead of him the entire time. (I know, I know.) I knew he was good, and he was on my top 10, but way down there at #8 or #9. It was when I saw Inherit the Wind, one of the finest movies ever made, that he immediately shot up to #2. Seeing Spencer alone, to me, was seeing the real Spencer. How did I not see this in his movies with Kate? How did I miss this incredible performer? I rewatched all of the Tracy-Hepburn flicks, now aware that Spencer's presence was one worth watching out for and I was, once again, pleasantly surprised. I was looking at the wrong thing all the while. The Great is fantastic alone, but with Tracy, she is even better. Potato is fantastic alone, but with Hepburn, he lights up. These two together make the best acting duo I will ever see. I followed with Boys Town, another Spence flick and one he got the Academy Award for. Needless to say I was blown away in the very first minutes. Potato is one actor that I feel the movie industry should thank heavens he was even born. 

By the by, the nickname Potato was given by Kate and it is not because she thought he looked like a potato (which I think he does), it's because his acting was very simple, very pure, much like a baked potato. Fit him like a glove. 

1. Humphrey Bogart

Bogie, my man. Fancy seeing you here. This is one guy who will never leave my #1 spot. If watching Inherit the Wind and Boys Town made Spencer shoot up to second position and not to first, it was because there was an unbreakable barrier securing #1 to one man and one man only: Humphrey Deforest Bogart. 
Bogie was the first actor, not only the first Classic actor, I've ever truly adored, the first one whose movies I searched the Earth for like a crazy person, the first actor I couldn't get enough of and the first one whose pictures I spent hours looking at with a huge and rather teenage-like crush. 
Here's the thing about Bogie: His acting is perfect. And I'm not throwing that word around, I am expressing a serious belief. But, so is Spencer Tracy's. To be 100% honest with you, I cannot tell you which one of these two I find more talented. It's not like it is with the actresses, when I have one favorite who I'm sure is head and shoulders above the rest. These two are a serious competition. And why is Bogie always my #1? Why does he always come first? 
From what I read about him, I have every reason to believe he was my ideal man. He was respectful, above all with women. He never undermined them or let them feel they were less than him. On the contrary, when he loved a woman, he was as passionate as they come, the type that writes love letters and sends flowers and chocolates on a rainy day. We share an intimate desire for freedom, one he exercised on his ever-so-charming boat, the Santana. He held himself and his friends to very high morals, and he would not tolerate a lie. He was tough, in the sense that he couldn't be bought or corrupted and it was very hard to get him off the path he judged as right for him. He was a very intelligent fella, he was friends with intellectuals of the caliber of Ernest Hemingway, and he knew the ways of life and how to interpret them in the best way he could. He made the right choices, he led himself to being one of the most recognized actors of all time, #1 of the AFI list of silver screen legends. He plays so well my favorite type of male character: The tough guy, from villains like Dobbs from Treasure of Sierra Madre to smooth-talkers like Rick Blaine from Casablanca, but always carrying that conviction in his eyes. 
One problem of his that I don't know how well I'd be able to handle was his drinking. Bogie, unfortunately, was a very heavy drinker. Betty Bacall was able to make him cut back on it, but he never stopped. I, as a non-drinker and a health-freak, don't know how well I'd handle it. But, frankly, to be with Humphrey Deforest Bogart, I think I'd be able to handle anything. 


  1. Glad to see Fonda, my #2 favorite, in this list. I always swoon watching him, even in the films in which he's older. All of them are magnificent, including the multitask Chaplin (just to say, his middle name was Spencer, not Francis. Now it got even better to you, didn't it?).
    I have all respect for Bogie, but my #1 will always be James Cagney :)

    1. wait where did I get francis from? i didn't even look it up HAHAH I think it was thinking of frank sinatra while writing this ;)
      thanks for bringing it to my attention! :D
      Jimmy Cagney is wonderful!

    2. Oh and yes Spencer > Francis by far ahahah :)