Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Hardest Meme Ever

The Siren has been double-dog tagged, by Peter Nelhaus of Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee and Tony Dayoub of Cinema Viewfinder. This traveling list originated with Nathaniel R at The Film Experience, so if you've been tagged, go blame him for the fact that it's ridiculously hard, the hardest meme ever. Twenty actresses. Only twenty! Next time, gentlemen, just go ahead and ask the Siren to pick 20 favorite children, all right?

To whittle things down, the Siren gave herself but one requirement: The actress must be someone whose presence alone, irrespective of director, scriptwriter, subject matter, cinematographer, location or studio, will prompt the Siren to watch the movie. Even if the Siren suspects, or knows, that a movie is a wing-flapping wattle-waving turkey, she will watch it for one of these actresses.

The Siren has added a small embellishment by picking a still from a favorite movie for each actress. The pictures are very easy to guess, for the most part; it was just something the Siren did for her own amusement.

Myrna Loy.

Bette Davis.

Joan Crawford.

Greta Garbo.

Carole Lombard.

Joan Fontaine.

Lillian Gish.

Barbara Stanwyck. Should be on everyone's list.

Miriam Hopkins.

Alida Valli. The Siren saw this movie again recently and it was better than she remembered it.

Danielle Darrieux.

Kay Francis. I already proved I will watch anything with her. I sat through Doctor Monica, for heaven's sake.

Margaret Sullavan. This publicity still is for X. Trapnel; it was lifted from Classic Montgomery, a terrific classic-film blog from a fan of the actor Robert Montgomery. So far it wins the prize for most bizarre stars-link-arms-and-walk-toward-camera-still ever.

Katharine Hepburn.

Thelma Ritter.

Gloria Grahame. See Stanwyck.

Hideko Takamine.

Janet Gaynor.

Catherine Deneuve. All the boys will grab an opportunity to post something from Belle de Jour but this movie was the Siren's first Catherine love.

Meryl Streep. The Siren has problems with this movie, but chose this still because people forget what a unique beauty Streep was when starting out. Still is, in fact, and thank god she can still move her forehead.

You will notice that neither Bennett sister appears here; Constance and Joan just missed this tier. If I see more early work that I love, they may yet make it. Also cruelly forced out by the numerical limitations were Judy Holliday, Jean Harlow, Julie Christie, Ruth Chatterton, Clara Bow, Eve Arden, Dorothy Dandridge, Gong Li, Mary Astor, Gene Tierney, Anna May Wong, Setsuko Hara, Olivia de Havilland, and Ruby Dee.

All right, here are the Siren's tags:

J.C. Loophole of The Shelf (he volunteered--this'll learn him)
Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Film (she probably hates these things, but she will make great choices)
Operator_99 of Allure (this is his second tag from me in as many months, but come on, look at how great his A-Z list was)
Kimberly at Cinebeats (dying to see her swingin' list)
David Cairns at Shadowplay (I expect totally fabulous classic choices from him, too)

P.S. Damnit. I forgot Isabelle Huppert. I think this blog is in Portuguese--which I do not speak, alas--but she has picked up the actress meme and her taste needs no translation. Amazing pictures.

And since I am adding a link anyway, here is an unrelated tip--rush over and read David Cairns' post on the underrated William Dieterle and The Last Flight.


Greg said...

I think William Powell should be designated an "Honorary Actress" for this meme as he made three of your pics. It's a great list and if I did lead actresses I too would have gone with many of these (alas I ignored leads on mine and did character actresses only). But we do have some overlap. Well one, Thelma Ritter. And I put Kay Francis in my banner today so that's kind of, sort of an overlap, right?

Anyway, a great list. Myrna Loy is indeed one of my favorites ever and I was glad to see her on your list. I've adored her since I was a teenager and still think she is one of Hollywood's most versatile actresses of the thirties and forties, loved for her charms but under appreciated for her skills.

The Siren said...

Jonathan, Ruby Dee almost made my list. I do love her. I think any list with Thelma Ritter on it is a list worth seeing. When I was compiling this I heard a sigh behind me and turned to see Mr. C looking at the Myrna pictures I was searching. He just smiled and said "I LOVE her." All men do, I think. At least, if I encountered a man who did not I would be deeply, deeply suspicious of him.

J.C. Loophole said...

I take the challenge with pride madame!
And don't count on me learnin' nothin' - Mrs. Loophole says I'm just too stubborn for that!

The Siren said...

JC, I will really look forward to your list!

mndean said...

Since I hate lists (mentioned before), you won't see one from me, but all of yours are solid. Although I don't think I could sit through The Paradine Case or Mississippi Mermaid ever again. If I made a list, mine would be half different.

Truthfully. I despise courtroom drama where there is a lot of courtroom action (personal peeve after having to sit through an interminable trial only to be dismissed on the next-to-last day). The Paradine Case has rather too much of the courtroom in it as well. I can only stand courtroom now if it's comic or short.

Mississippi Mermaid just made me think that Truffaut was running out of ideas and his worship of Hitchcock was ruining him as a filmmaker. Although the scene of Deneuve tossing off her top and the guy driving the car behind them crashing because he had to have a look was hilarious.

Vanwall said...

Nice inclusion there for Valli, one of my faves, altho I would've thrown Brooksie into this mix, too.

The Siren said...

Vanwall, my daughter's name is Alida, which I wrote about right after Valli died, so that's about favorite as this "favorite actress" thing can get. I YEARN to see Senso.

M., I am a lawyer's daughter so courtroom dramas are fine by me--they cut out all the boring bits, unless we're talking something like "A Time to Kill" which was about 48 hours long, I swear. Hitchcock said the problem was Jourdan, he was too handsome and clean for the part.

Ténèbres à la lumière... said...

Hi! Self-Styled Siren,

I really like your choices, especially, the choice(s) of actresses Barbara Stanwyck,(Babs) Gloria Graham, (or as she is known in the "Film noir" circles as G.G.) Alidi Valli, (I also liked her "turn" in "The Welles'" "The Third Man." ) and "The Great Kate" ...actress Katherine Hepburn. If the "truth" be mother, really "adore" her!...I lean more toward the other Hepburn...Miss Audrey.(Gosh, in my next life, I want to be her!)Shawn, from over there at DeadPan, threw down the gauntlet and challenged his readers(or the readers that he tagged!) to 10 actresses that you have a "crush on"...Ahh!..both "Hepburns"
made my list with Miss Hepburn as
in Audrey coming in first, but of course!...Ahh!...Once again! great choices!.. btw, so many "great" actresses and so little time!

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Of the actresses on your list, the only one--to paraphrase Jay C. Flippen from Wild River (1960)--"I'm all busted up about" leaving off is Thelma Ritter. I knew when I undertook this project that I'd end up overlooking someone, and Thelma is it.

Two others on your also-rans that I neglected are Eve Arden and Gong Li. I might have forgiven myself for overlooking Eve--but Gong Li is a definite tragedy.

And now, just in scribbling this down, I realize I had no room for Paula Prentiss. Que lastima!

Oh,'s nice to know that you'd always be up for a Gloria Grahame marathon. ("Hey, I like this! Early nothing...")

DavidEhrenstein said...

And speaking of Catherine Deneuve, Manoel De Oliveira is 100 Years old today.

Tony Dayoub said...

Gong Li... Damn it! Forgot that one, too.

X. Trapnel said...

Hardest meme ever? Must think about this. Twenty is difficult but reasonable as an aid to concentration and bringing all faculties to bear (not merely the, ah, physiological) on this trans-delightful subject. The Siren's stricture on seeing the divine ladies in anything is admirably stringent and I don't know if I can meet it (The Left Hand of God? Saratoga Trunk? Serenade? [bad enough to see my adored Cathy O'Donnell in the amorphous embraces of Farley Granger, but Lovely Joan and...Mario Lanza!!!???]. List to follow.

Rick Olson said...

Fine list, and it shows to go you that there are many I forgot, and could have added to mine.

Especially I like your inclusion of Danielle Darrieux. I just saw The Earrings of Madame de ... for the first time a month or so ago. She blew me away in that.

The Siren said...

editor, thanks, and I am so glad that other Alida Valli fans are turning up.

Ivan, your list rocks of course, but you really did need Thelma. I'm not gonna say who I'd kick off to make room for her, though!

mndean said...

X. Trapnel - the stringency part is the one killer for me. Joan Crawford up until around the film Mannequin - just fine, I'll watch anything she was in. After that, it becomes more problematic. Barbara Stanwyck, Margaret Sullavan, Myrna Loy (even when she was a phony Asian), Miriam Hopkins, Janet Gaynor, Lillian Gish, Kay Francis - no problem watching anything they were in. Others have films in their resume that I dislike enough to want them in, but if the rule is strict, then they don't meet it. I'd be willing to try a film I hadn't seen with most any of them, but rules is rules.

Vanwall said...

Siren -

"Senso" is a curiosity for me - Farley Granger is like a younger Holly Martins around Valli, and thank God she's in it, as I've always felt it was a somewhat muted film, both visually and structurally, it needed her luminous self; that said she could play amazingly cruel in so casually a way, with the light playing across the planes of her face in "Il Grido", no wonder poor Steve Cochran's heart-break performance looked so deep - she sharpened the knife well before sticking it in.

X. Trapnel said...

MND--Rules are made to be broken and I couldn't conceive of the Siren as a harsh enforcer (say, like Hope Emerson in Caged) in vital matters such as these. For the sake of order (not the Hume Cronyn/Brute Force sort) though I'm trying to crystalize mt choices in terms of certain sublime moments that 1. only film can deliver, and 2. illuminate the Eternal Feminine. For example, Joan Fontaine peeking through the transome to hear Louis Jourdan play Liszt's "Un Sospiro" or Danielle Darrieux listening to the Stendhal anecdote in La Ronde or Gene Tierney saying, "Then it was worth it, Mark." At that moment, we are all Mark McPherson.

The Siren said...

David, thanks for the reminder! My dearest friend's birthday is today as well, may he live as long as Oliveira.

Tony, I worship Gong Li. I cannot accept Zhang Ziyi as anything other than a pallid substitute.

X Trapnel I have to admit I cheated just a bit because I cannot watch Davis and Crawford much past about 1960; their vehicles became quite unworthy of them, pace Baby Jane and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte. But with the others it's true. BTW I like Saratoga Trunk.

Rick, there are so many more Danielle movies I really want to see, including Mayerling and Battement de Couer which was remade with Ginger Rogers in the Darrieux part. Haven't seen the Rogers version either, which was directed by Sam Wood.

Ann Nyberg said...

If you're a fan of Katharine Hepburn I'm writing to let you know that this summer (2009) , the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theater will be opening in Hepburn's beloved town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Until we open, we are a blog about all things Hepburn.
Come visit us and we'd love it if you'd link to us on your site.
Thanks so much!

The Siren said...

Oh, the theater looks wonderful! Sure, I will link on my next visit to the sidebar.

Gloria said...

I agree that naming just twenty actresses is a tough call, I'd certainly sign up for anyone in your list!

And of course, I'm mighty glad to see our gal Hideko there...

The Siren said...

Gloria, the wonderful Girish sent me Floating Clouds and now I am like a kid saving the best piece of chocolate at Christmas ... I want just the right occasion to watch. Have you ever seen any of Takamine's work as a child star? The closest I have come was "Hideko the Bus Conductress" during the Naruse retrospective.

Karen said...

Wow. GREAT list. I especially love the inclusion of Danielle Darrieux, whose performance in The Rage of Paris--the first film I ever saw her in--fills me with a level of joy I can barely contain. There is one scene in particular, on the morning after her first night in her nice hotel room, which is sheer delight. She gives a lengthy and bizarre list of things she wants Helen Broderick (aka The Divine Helen Broderick) to order, while she's rolling around her bed like a Shiba Inu puppy, finally falling off it entirely. And then she does a strange mouth-popping noise as she prepares to enter the bathroom. It feels so fresh and genuine and unmannered that you almost can't believe she's doing it.

Another actress I always will watch, although there aren't enough opportunities to do so, is Anna May Wong.

Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Great list Siren and we share Catherine Deneuve in common! I actually posted my list yesterday evening (Peter asked me to participate as well) but you may have missed my post since I'm on the west coast and there's that time difference thing.

I have to say that I especially loved seeing Alida Valli on your list since I know we share a fascination with her, but I completely forgot about her when I was compiling my own list.

This meme thing actually gave me a headache but in the end, my own selections were sort of narrowed down by your own reasoning. I'll watch the ladies in question in anything! No matter how awful the material is. If I made a longer list, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn and Greta Garbo would have all been on it.

X. Trapnel said...

By the way, Siren, thanks for that truly bizarre publicity still from Three Comrades. The shadowy procession on the wall made me think of the end of Rules of the Game and I had a vision of de la Chesney, Octave, and les girls striding toward us, arm in arm.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Hey, what about Charlotte Rampling? The Night Porter is risible, but she's fabulous in Chereau's Flesh of the Orchid and more recently in Ozon's Under the Sand.

And then there's Jane Birkin: Nymphette Supreme in Blow-Up, unforgettable in her debut in The Knack and then there's Doillon's La Pirate, Varda's Kung-Fu Master and Rivette's L'Amour par terre.

Best of all, iconographically speaking, is Tavernier's Daddy Nostalgie where she plays neglectful father Dirk Bogarde's forgiving daughter -- and on the soundtrack sings "These Foolish Things" as a duet with the great Jimmy Rowles.

Gloria said...

Of Hideko's childhood films I have only seen Ozu's Tokyo Chorus, in which she has a small role as a daughter. There she lacks her front teeth, which is a departure from the usual image of her perfect smile.

BTW, in my country, Tokyo Chorus has been released in DVD on a double-bill set featuring Ozu's "A Hen In The Wind", with the great Kinuyo Tanaka, with whom Hideko teamed up in a handful of films (I've seen her together in "The Munekata Sisters" and it is extraordinary to see her styles of acting making the radically different sisters come to life)

As for Floating Clouds... When the right occasion comes for you I'm sure it'll be like one of these 70% cocoa with caramelized cocoa seed chips delight. I'll you'll enjoy masayuki Mori, too: in this film he's close to being the Japanese doppelganger of James Mason, so obviously I fell for him!

I won't spoil anything, but I'd like to mention that, being as it is a fully-fledged melodrama, it had sudden touches of drollness in the plot than really cracked me up.

Karen, I have not seen Anna May Wong much, but watching her in "Piccadilly", I agree with you that she's worth following.

DavidEhrenstein said...

How you can possibly leave out Julie Christie (my all-time favorite actress/goddess) I shall never know.

Darling is esssential cinema. She's the 60's equivalent of Louis Brooks in it. And then there's Doctor Zhivago, Far From the Madding Crowd, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Memoirs of a Survivor, The Gold Diggers and Away From Her.

And I happen to know what she's going to do next btu the filmmkaers have pledged me to silence until everything is in place. It's going to be REALLY special.

Patricia Perry said...

Great list! Gish and Stanwyck came very close to making my list, but in the end, I tended almost entirely towards contemporary actresses. I did include Isabelle Huppert.
(And I'm sorry to be so stupid, but from what film does the Meryl Streep still come?)

I'm a frequent lurker here, if not always a commenter. Might I kindly request an exhange of blog links?

Uncle Gustav said...

An excellent line-up, Siren...and it makes me wonder if I shouldn't do an additional list devoted exclusively to Hollywood!

As a few meme-bers have said, twenty just isn't enough!

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

David E., I'm shocked, I tell you, *shocked* that you don't include "Petulia" in your Julie Christie list. Thank you, though, for naming her.

My own list would echo many of the ones here, although I feel an obligation to name the name "Gloria Grahame" since she and I share a birthday.

A possible candidate aming current actresses ... Jennifer Jason Leigh?

DavidEhrenstein said...

You're so right about Petulia, and I love her in Fahrenheit 451 too.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is Grunge Goddess Material, especially in Georgia and Short Cuts.

Tony Dayoub said...

While I totally agree with Mr. Ehrenstein that Julie Christie and Charlotte Rampling should be a part of anyone's list (indeed they are a part of mine), I must protest his assertion that The Night Porter is "risible".

Fetishistic, yes. Twisted, yes. Blackly comedic, yes. But not "risible".

X. Trapnel said...

Since I've already listed 1. Joan Fontaine, 2. Danielle Darrieux, and 3. Gene Tierney and the talk has turned to "twisted" and "fetishistic" Let me add 4. Gloria Grahame, scene with the masseuse in In a Lonely Place, a kinky delight. It says a lot about our culture that boring old "Marilyn" is an "icon" while glorious Gloria, witty, perverse, quirkily beautiful, endlessly talented and watchable, is a marginal figure. Or caviar for the general.

Trish said...

I never considered Joan Fontaine a contender until she blew me away in "Born to Be Bad", and got away with it in the end! That aint no MGM or Warner Bros. picture.... So much better than playing the dull and proper lady in distress. My other favourites from your list are Gloria Grahame, Barbara Stanwyk, Myrna Loy and Bette Davis.

Siren, I would love to add Kay Francis but I've only seen two of her films. Based on those however, she rocks. I need TCM badly...

How about Joan Blondell?

Uncle Gustav said...

In the Oh-How-Times-Have-Changed department, has any meme-ber included Marilyn Monroe?

Karen said...

Oh! Siren, I just now saw that you link to a post on The Last Flight! Have we ever talked about that one before? It's another film that is living on my DVR (along with Our Betters and What Price Hollywood? and Cluny Brown and The Happy Time) until the big heads release it on DVD.

I think it is by far by far by far the best Lost Generation film I've ever seen, and it's simply haunting. Thanks for pointing me to David Cairns' post!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Well protest away.

The Siren said...

But David, I did put Julie in my "needed more space." I assure you that I worship at her feet as well. Which lady would you have bumped to put her in the top 20?

But Rampling, hmm, she's usually very interesting and in later years has gotten really good, but too chilly for me to seek out. Birkin -- well, she always looks great and to my surprise I liked her in La Piscine, but again, not somebody I would drop everything to see.

The Siren said...

Flickhead, so far I see no Marilyn namers. I do like her and come to think of it she didn't make many bad movies. Hell, I even liked Let's Make Love. But yeah, I think that among cinephiles her cult is not what it was.

Karen, I saw the Rage of Paris a long time ago and liked it a lot, but I don't remember the scene you describe so I need to see it again. Anyway I adore her and she is still with us, bless her. And Goatdog sent me The Last Flight some time back after you and he raved about in my comments. And it was all you say, a really wonderful and in many ways, very original movie.

X. Trapnel said...


I suspect that nobody cares a hoot about M. Monroe anymore. I believe her popularity was essentially manufactured, a top-down phenemenon of imposed consensus, built according to the logic of wartime production with the long-term aim of cultural homoginization. The whole tiresome Marilyn business, kept going by cultural thumbsuckers, is now little more than a wheezing, clanking machine that ought to be junked. Now.

The Siren said...

Pat, sure thing! and the Streep still is from The Deer Hunter. Don't get me started. But she was so, so lovely in it.

Trish, welcome! I love Joan Blondell ... here I must remind everybody that I called it THE HARDEST MEME ever and I meant it ... I assure you at 3 am I will sit bolt upright in bed, horrifyingly awake and thinking of an actress I left off. **shakes fist at Nathaniel R**

MrsHenryWindleVale, did I mention that your screen name gives me an absolute jolt of pleasure each time I see it? I feel this urge to retreat to my room and smoke and carve boxes ...

mndean said...

Joan Blondell would be in my "almost" section, and really mostly because of what Tashlin did to her in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. I sat there watching and saying "Poor Joan" through every one of her scenes. In her later films like in Nightmare Alley or even a minor film like This Could Be The Night, she's great because she gets to do what she's best at. Turning her into a blubbering, sentimental horror was supposed to be funny, I guess, but Tashlin stereotypes women so often it gets tiresome watching a cartoon of a woman instead of the real thing.

X. Trapnel said...

My favorite Joan Blondell performance: Stand In, opposite Leslie Howard. See especially her Shirley Temple imitation.

mndean said...

Stand-In is rather an expensive proposition. The cheapest used one is nearly $35, unless I settle for VHS. Sheesh. Guess that's have to pass me by.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Stand-In is rather an expensive proposition. The cheapest used one is nearly $35, unless I settle for VHS.

You gotta be jinkin' me! I have a DVD of Stand-In here at the house and I've never even opened it up.

(Bought it because of Bogart's unconventional turn as a director who carries a yippy-yap dog with him on the set.)

X. Trapnel said...

MND, go for the VHS if you must, the picture as a whole is not worth $35. It's a case of wonderful actors making the best of limp material (Bogie's part is ridiculous). There's a running gag involving Leslie Howard obsessively emptying ash trays that somehow becomes very funny, if only because it is never alluded to or explained, just a nice bit of Dada that was possible in those days.

mndean said...

Well, I don't spend $35 on anything but box sets anymore - the days of a single movie being sold for that kind of coin to me are long over. That may mean I can't get Criterions except used ones, but honestly I don't care. I'd rather reactivate my Netflix subscription than pay those prices again. It's going to be a lot of years before I ever get a Blu-Ray machine. I remember spending $550 for the first DVD player I got with four whole movies. I built up a decent early collection only to have it stolen, machine and all.

X. Trapnel said...

I sympathize, but still I regard every DVD, book, or cd I buy as another brick in the fortress against the coming barbarism.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Thanks for playing, Campaspe! Hideko Takamine is an inspired addition. I'm glad I have Carmen comes Home in my collection.

As for Gong Li, I use to be enamored of her until I started diving deeply into Hong Kong films. If you have space in the queue, add New Dragon Inn so you can see Maggie Cheung, disguised as a man, flirting with Brigitte Lin. And also see this film to understand why Lin is the one to play a character named Asia the Invincible.

Gloria said...

Peter, "Carmen comes home" is a riot! having seen Miss Takamine excelling in melodrama, it was quite a surprise seeing her doing broad -very broad- comedy: she really nails a "dumb brunette", and conveys the character's lack of wits, but also her innocence: she genuinely believes in her art.

And things get even more interesting in "Carmen Falls in Love"

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Glad that I'm still able to give *somebody* a jolt...

(David E. will give you my actual name, should you happen to be curious.)

After writing my last entry, it struck me that I really should have chosen Tuesday Weld for my list. "Lord Love A Duck" counts for an awful lot, where I come from.

mndean said...

X. Trapnel,
I have another collection (less Criterions, though), plus all the DVDs I've recorded off TCM, which, in a years time I've been able to record ~500 films.

That recorder, a good HDMI DVD player (which was easy to make region-free), plus the small 720p television I have to watch them all didn't add up to what I paid for the first DVD player. And I live in a nicer place now.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Tuesday Weld by all means!!!!

Her last important performance was in Once Upon a Time in America

DavidEhrenstein said...

As for Jane Birkin, leave it to Serge

The two of them play central roles in Abrham Polonsky's seriously negelected swan son, Romance of a Horse Thief

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here she talks about Serg.

Marilyn said...

I was tagged before you got to me, but I do appreciate your vote of confidence Siren. Your list, as usual, is beyond reproach.

I naturally would have included Margaret Sullavan, but I just did a big piece on her, so I thought I'd give another actress a chance.

Stanwyck is a great favorite, but she's getting a great deal of love out there in the meme world. Again, I thought I'd try to shine a light on some other stars.

Many may question my selection of Milla Jovovich, but I have room for all kinds of screen presences, and she always, always delivers what I'm looking for in popcorn entertainment. That's worth a lot in my book.

Operator_99 said...

Ya know, I saw the meme floating around and started a list "just in case" and boy it is really difficult to limit it to twenty, but I'm working it - damn it. Certainly gonna be some major overlap I would think, but maybe all the lists could then be compiled to see which twenty showed up the most - BTW, I'm not volunteering for that.

J.C. Loophole said...

Well Siren- you were right! It was more difficult than I imagined! But it was fun!
Here's my list:
Thanks again!

Yojimboen said...

X.T - "...the "coming" barbarism"?

Been outside lately?

DavidEhrenstein on Birkin:
"...Here she talks about Serg..."

Well, here she walks with Serge:

in a news photo which knocked yours truly out of his chair.

(Apologies, ladies, it's a guy thing.)

Still working on my list - this is a beast of an assignment.

Marilyn said...

X.Trapnel - I chose Cathy O'Donnell for the meme, but I figured my interest in her would be very much in the minority, especially on this exercise. Nice to know there's another O'Donnell fan out there.

crumit said...

What a great list. I don't think I could do this exercise--too wrenching. Setsuko Hara would have to be there, and Glynis Johns, and Ida Lupino. I sat through Snowbeast with Bo Svenson just because Sylvia Sidney was in the credits, so she would need to be there, too. And Judy Davis.

Janet Gaynor appreciation makes my heart glad.

Gloria said...


I for one, wouldn't question Miss Jovovich... I keep an eye on every film about Joan of Arc, and an actress ability to make it her own always scores high for me, and I liked her her earnest, cussed, mad Joan (though of course, no screen Joan can top La Falconetti)

X. Trapnel said...


"There is nothing bad that can't turn into something worse"--from X. Trapnel's Prolegomenon to a Theory of Culture

X. Trapnel said...

Ah, Marilyn glad to know you're out there too.
Cathy is my secret favorite. She reduces me to a puddle of mute adoration, so there's little I can say by way of explanation. Is it her look of a first love that lasts forever. Yes, that and more.
By the way I discovered a cache of Cathy pictures on the web, including one of her writing poetry with noirish sunbeams coming through venetian blinds. Alas, I suppose I'll be able to track down a copy of George Sanders' memoirs before I can get The Collected Poems of Cathy O'Donnell (Variorum Edition.)

Marilyn said...

BTW, Marilyn Monroe is mentioned on at least one meme I saw, but I can't remember which. I almost included her myself, primarily for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but 'twas not to be.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Re Jeanne d'arc, I'm terribly superfond of Jean Seberg in the Preminger and Sandrine Bonnaire in the Rivette.

Operator_99 said...

They are up - and it was so tough it almost feels arbitrary - I really like many current actresses, but while not limiting myself to the 30's, I didn't not venture to far forward, the field is so vast.

X. Trapnel said...

Balzac said the sublimest sight is a beautiful woman dancing.
Its embodiment is Sandrine Bonnaire in East-West. I must have re-run this stunning sequence 15 times in a row when I first rented it.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

BTW, Marilyn Monroe is mentioned on at least one meme I saw, but I can't remember which

Could it be this one?

Alex said...

you never tag me for shit, man. I'm resentful (of course, tagging me won't get me to respond either, but I still like to be asked so I can scornfully refuse).

The Siren said...

All right Alex, the next meme I will tag you for, even if I don't participate myself I will tag you. :D

Yojimboen said...

Ah, Cathy O’Donnell! And I thought I was alone. Was there ever any creature so sweetly innocent as she in Best Years? (but she hasn’t made the cut) Or sexily innocent as Shirley MacLaine in The Trouble with Harry? (she has)

“Favorite Actresses”, chère Madame Sirène, is a dangerous category to set among the pigeons. I’ll go further; this is bordering on that no-no of no-nos: permitting, nay, encouraging your dinner guests to discuss religion or politics.

It’s a palpable fear, how much to reveal of our likes and dislikes; will our hostess invite us back once she learns we don’t actually like Joan Crawford? Never have, never will. Wouldn’t even make our list of 100?

(“What did he just say?”
“Trust me, you don’t want to know.”)

Torn, here; mndean is right that ‘rules is rules’ but so is X.T’s offer that they’re meant to be broken. Don’t want to get a rep here as a rule-breaker, but, dot dot dot, we’re stuck with the reality: The great ones, the icons, had long careers and inevitably their share of molar-shattering clinkers. I mean I can watch Eva Marie Saint in Waterfront or Raintree County until the celluloid melts in the projector. But Pardon My Reservation?

You want 20, of whom I would swear to watch absolutely everything they’ve done? Sorry, I can only come up with five - in alphabetical order:

Carole Lombard
Myrna Loy
Agnes Moorehead
Thelma Ritter
Delphine Seyrig

The rest, and the whys and wherefores:

Shirley MacLaine – “Miss Kubelik? I absolutely adore you.”
Barbara Stanwyck – for Eve, only.
Bette Davis – for Eve and Foxes, but that’s about all.
Machiko Kyô – for Ugetsu and Rashomon
Ingrid Bergman – for taking on a role she didn’t want, in a movie Warners didn’t expect too much of, against a leading man a six inches shorter than her, and giving it her all.
Here’s looking at you, Ingrid.

Danielle Darrieux – for Mayerling; Madame de; and her perfect beauty
Nathalie Baye – for Une Semaine de Vacances
Alida Valli – for Senso; Il Grido; and making us all pray that Holly Martins will follow her from the cemetery.
Gloria Grahame – at the very least for being the first American actress to be nude under the sheets in a major motion picture.
Eva Marie Saint – see above
Jean Simmons – for living long enough to play both Estella and Miss Favisham, all the while being perhaps the most beautiful woman on the planet.

Patricia Neal – for her strength, her indominatible spirit and, for Fountainhead, Tiffany’s; A Face in the Crowd, Day the Earth Stood Still and… Hud
Miyoshi Umeki – for surviving the subtle-as-a-sailor-with-a-six-hour-pass direction of the dread Joshua Logan and creating a timeless, priceless character in Sayonara.
Rosalind Russell – for His Girl Friday and almost everything else (but not The Women)
Annette Bening – for being the bravest and the best of her generation.

Noel Vera said...

It's a great list; love the Stanwyk love, approve the choices for Hopkins and Gish.

Personally speaking, I'd include Nargis, Setsuko Hara (she's incredible in Kurosawa's The Idiot, just to name one memorable film), Camilla Horn, Louise Brooks, Anna Magnani, Ingrid Bergman, and my own favorite, Nora Aunor. Who, incidentally, also produced the films where she gave some of her finest performances.

Noel Vera said...

Throw in Supriya Choudhury, Susan Taslimi, Mary Alice, Vanessa Redgrave.

And yes, much much agree with your choice of the Ritter pick. Bresson was partly inspired by that to make Pickpocket.

Gloria said...

Noel, re Miss Hara, I recently saw her in "No Regrets for My Youth", and having seen her in The Idiot, and a number of Ozus, I was quite impressed: she's quite impressive as the spolied girl who evolves into a Soviet-tipe of heroine.

Laura said...

J.C. Loophole of the Shelf, who was tagged by the Siren, tagged me...just posted my list:

20 Favorite Actresses

I'm thoroughly enjoying everyone's comments and the links to more lists and great photos.

Best wishes,

Karen said...

will our hostess invite us back once she learns we don’t actually like Joan Crawford?

This cracked me up, reminding me, as it did, of the great game of "Humiliation" in David Lodge's Changing Places. Of course, Yojimboen, your feelings for Joan aren't likely to affect your tenure review.

A name I've not yet seen, to my surprise, is Joan Greenwood (who didn't even come up in the comments re actresses with husky voices). I was just a child when I first heard her, as my parents had bought me an LP of "Alice in Wonderland" with Joan as Alice. Discovering her later in Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Importance of Being Earnest and Whisky Galore! was GRAVY.

Perhaps she is not to every taste, but she is very definitely to mine, and I will happily watch anything she appeared in.

DavidEhrenstein said...

She's pretty special, Karen. Are you familiar with Moonfleet ?

Karen said...

No, David, I'm not--but now I've IMDBed it and...Fritz Lang? Melville Cooper? George Sanders? Clearly I need to be! The only fly in the ointment is Stewart Granger, who I've always found slightly off-putting--but I'll manage.

It doesn't appear to be on DVD, more's the pity. Well, I'll program a DVR search and hope it shows up somewhere on cable soon--thanks!

X. Trapnel said...

A virtuoso performamce, Yojimboen, bravo! And what discernment! E.M. Saint for sure! There were many fifties actresses wrongly overshadowed by showhorses like "Marilyn," E. Taylor and...(I don't dare name some others who I think utterly charmless, cold, artificial). Although I like Kim Novak very much, I often wonder what Vera Miles would have been like in Vertigo. I think she might have conveyed Madeleine's fragility more effectively, but no-one can begrudge Novak her immortality. And then there's Jean Crain, Dorothy Maguire, Donna Reed, all relegated to suburbia. A pity.
Karen, I'm relying on your assurances that the Siren will not use her powers to send my fragile craft into turbid currents and e-wastes where Brittny,Angelina, and Jen are matters of common concern. The fact is I find both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis hard to take, gorgons both. (To be fair, I probably wouldn't have "gotten" Sarah Bernhardt either; I can imagine my nineteenth-century eye swiveling toward some pretty extra [maid in waiting, slave girl] while the great lady was emoting. Monstres sacrees are not for everybody) How I would love to substitute Barbara Stanwyck for JC in Mildred Pierce and Humoresque, though in the case of the latter I imagine it would have been John Garfield's mother descending to the ocean floor under the gaze of the mildly curious fish.

Yes, Cathy O'Donnell was "sweetly innocent" but those sad eyes bespoke secret knowledge that future films might have brought out. Fry, Samuel Goldwyn, Fry!

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

A definite "Yes!" to Joan Greenwood. I still cherish the thought of Greenwood in "Kind Hearts and Coronets" saying "...when pigs have wings!"

Noel Vera said...

Hara was best known for her work with Ozu, but her work with Kurosawa ain't exactly chicken feed--No Regrets For Our Youth is an early masterpiece and his most feminist film; The Idiots is I think a great and greatly underrated film, and Hara is just ferocious in it; I'd love to see the full, unbutchered version.

D Cairns said...

I bet that link doesn't work. You may have to copy and paste.

I think I warped the meme! Thelma Ritter is in there, also a lot of other favourite character actresses -- my one self-imposed rule was to avoid all glamour-girls. Got to the end and realised I'd missed Margaret Dumont, Edith Evans, Fay Compton and that woman with the squeaky voice who plays maids in late Bunuel films.

You're right, 20 is too few!

Gloria said...

"that woman with the squeaky voice who plays maids in late Bunuel films"

Do you Lola Gaos?

The Siren said...

Yojimboen and X. Trapnel, my real question is how you tolerate hanging around here, since my posts on Crawford and Davis tend to come with regularity! :D In the first post I ever did on Crawford I talked about how much I prefer her earlier, hungrier work. The laquered Crawford of later years has many pleasures -- hell, I even like her in The Best of Everything -- but the Crawford of the 30s has my heart. Davis, well, she doesn't need me to defend her. She would bite my head off for even trying.

Noel & Gloria -- leaving Hara off HURT, in part because I did see No Regrets and, wow.

Yojimboen, I love your list in general but most particularly for you including Machiko Kyo. A goddess.

Karen and MrsHWV, I loved Greenwood's voice as Gwendolyn Fairfax. I also have a copy of Saraband for Dead Lovers that I need to watch; one of the few movies Stewart Granger claimed to be proud of. (BTW Karen I love Stewart Granger too but I promise not to banish you.)

Post going up presently with links to all the lists mentioned--thanks, Laura, for dropping by too!

Yojimboen said...

X.T – I thank you for the kind words. Praise indeed. And of course I agree about Ms Novak – not terribly talented as actresses go, but that’s not how we judge our goddesses, is it? Vera Miles, yes, I suspect she would have done wonders in Vertigo, but it was not to be. For me the high point of her career will remain, not the basement reveal in Psycho, but rather The Searchers and that dazzling close-up as she watches Ken Curtis and Jeffrey Hunter punch each other silly for her love. Vera was (is?) one of that host of unfortunate actresses; many of them hugely talented, handsome, beautiful even, but not quite super-glamorous enough to please the bosses. So hundreds of brilliant, beautiful actresses, capable of first-class roles, were forced to settle for second-class careers.
(Angela Lansbury? There is a special place in hell for Louis B. Mayer).

Madame Sirène – Not to get too deeply into Freud here, but I suspect men are less susceptible to the charms of J.C. and (to a lesser extent) B.D. than are the ladies. I can only speak for myself, but they always seemed rather brittle women, hard-edged and forbidding; hence there is little to attract the basic Neanderthal in some of us guys. Not that one is necessarily intimidated by their strength, or the strong characters they tended to play (as befitting the queens of the Burbank lot), but rather the difficulty was their failure to convince, to let one suspend the disbelief of their respective styles: J.C. and her 57 varieties of scowl, and B.D.’s uniquely mannered delivery.

I hasten to add sometimes B.D.’s style worked perfectly, in The Letter she is very, very good and Jezebel and Little Foxes are undeniable masterpieces, but in all three she was under (figuratively and literally we are told) the stronger hands of William Wyler. Just one man’s opinion…

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, I would read anything you write, even on a subject of sub-zero interest (Van Johnson, say). You've converted me on the subject of Kay Francis (to whom I was indifferent until I saw Trouble in Paradise and was beguiled; your banner with KF and Wm. Powell helped. She looked lovely indeed) and now intend to see her even in sub-Lubitsch fare. Yojimboen got it exactly right about Crawford and Davis. I'll certainly grant that BD is some kind of a great actress, but to play on that dopey line from All About Eve (one among a multitude) her performances are like those of a pianist out of synch with the orchestra. In The Letter, I can't relate her brittle, elocutionary line readings with anything that inspires James Stephenson's passion(a truly amazing performance), nor Herbert Marshall's anguished forehead clutching. All of it ladeled over with Maughham's customary rancid misogyny, and a dash of racism makes it unpalatable to me. She is amazing in Now Voyager, but here all of the elements of the film seem subsumed to her performance and appears that she vanquishes all the male characters (cf. Claude Rains at the end sitting on the floor eating hot dogs & potato chips, if memory serves, divested of authority).
I will happily concede that Crawford is deeply appealing in Grand Hotel, and add that a friend insists she is equally so in Daisy Kenyon.

I think I've listed five of my favorites. After much soul searching, here is the complete list (in no particular order):

1. Gene Tierney
2. Ingrid Bergman
3. Cathy O'Donnell
4. Myrna Loy
5. Jean Arthur (see esp. Hepburn imitation in Talk of the Town--a fall-in-love moment)
6. Lilli Palmer
7. Joan Fontaine
8. Danielle Darrieux
9. Margaret Sullavan (I refer readers to Otis Ferguson's encomion to the bewitching lady)
10. Ann Sheridan
11. Gloria Grahame
12. Ida Lupino (am mystified at the tendency to link her with Bette Davis)
13. Barbara Stanwyck
14. Olivia de Havilland
15. Carole Lombard
16. Alida Valli
17. Michele Morgan
18. Nancy Coleman (a special favorite)
19. Jane Greer (an extra-special favorite)
20. will leave this slot open

D Cairns said...

No, the squeaky voived maid is an actress called Muni, apparently. She's a unique presence!

Noel Vera said...

Ida Lupino. Forgot about her. Should be on my top twenty, yes sirree.

mndean said...

The Joan/Bette thing is sort of half yes, half no. For JC, it's a matter of liking her less and less as the years wore on (I mentioned Mannequin as the turning point, but there are a few I like after that, and signs that her acting would harden even much earlier, as in Possessed). Bette I never had any real problem with, except sometimes she wrecks a picture for me here and there (by either not getting in the spirit of the picture or going waay too far with a role, which amounts to the same thing - she's Bette Davis and she's gonna do what Bette Davis thinks she should, the director be damned), which is tolerable since I can't see them all and I can decide which ones to avoid. BTW, as much as most here seem to love Now, Voyager, I only like it mildly as the apotheosis of the Cinderella Soap. It's good, but rather hard to swallow.

The Siren said...

oh X Trapnel, you included Michele Morgan! **melts**

X. Trapnel said...


I recently had the pleasure of showing The Fallen Idol to a small audience of about 30, no cineastes, jes' plain folks. Two things that were particularly gratifying: the collective gasp of delight at the hide 'n seek scene and the collective admiration accorded Mlle. Morgan during the post-film discussion.

The Siren said...

The Fallen Idol is a HUGE favorite of mine so I am delighted that it got that reaction. Ralph Richardson is superb and I love little Bobby Henrey too. Richardson's scenes with Morgan are so quiet and lovely.

Have you seen Les Grandes Manoeuvres? she's great in that one too.

Dan Callahan said...

Jeanne Moreau is not at all pleased about not being mentioned thus far, and she's planning her vengeance from her Paris apartment right now....

The Siren said...

Dan - Oh yeah? Well Marlene Dietrich says "Get in line, toots."

Yojimboen said...

Meanwhile across the pond a certain group of ladies:

Mesdames V. Leigh; W. Hiller; F. Robson (the British Agnes Moorehead); E. Thompson and A. Lansbury (whom Frankenheimer considered the best actress of all time) are quietly harrumphing in ever-so genteel a fashion.

The Siren said...

Yojimboen I just watched Bel-Ami and Angela was brilliant, so glowing and lovable in a part that could have been so annoying.

Dan Callahan said...

To soothe La Moreau's wrath, I have decided to place her on the top of my list; otherwise, she threatens to tottle over to Catherine Deneuve's apartment in her stilettos and beat her to death with a bunny, a'la "Mademoiselle."

1. Jeanne Moreau
2. Lillian Gish
3. Barbara Stanwyck
4. Bette Davis
5. Katharine Hepburn
6. Greta Garbo
7. Marlene Dietrich
8. Ingrid Bergman
9. Marie Dressler
10. Margaret Sullavan
11. Jean Arthur
12. Vanessa Redgrave
13. Gloria Grahame
14. Maggie Smith
15. Joan Crawford
16. Kinuyo Tanaka
17. Jessica Lange
18. Judy Davis
19. Meryl Streep
20. Mae West

X. Trapnel said...


Yes, indeed I've seen Les
Grandes Maneouvers. And Joan of Paris, Quai des Brumes (that shimmering raincoat that seems itself made of rain, or of the silvery seaspray the bore Venus ashore! Boticelli knew Mlle Morgan), Joan of Paris, Passage to Marseilles and whatever else I could and can lay hands on. The question remains; Why are American audiences so generally cool toward French actresses?

Yojimboen: I thought about Vivien Leigh, but realized I don't particularly like any of her films (sick unto death of GWTW and always steer clear of Williams, TN and its suburbs).
Flora Robson is magnificent (and sort of sexy in The Sea Hawk).
Will anyone second me on Aline MacMahon, especially in The Man from Laramie?

X. Trapnel said...

Xt! Typos! Ridiculous to be this self-conscious but:

that bore Venus ashore


Let me add that I love Vivien Leigh herself, but the films are a sorry lot with a few highpoints.

As with Margaret Sullavan we have to remember how very few she made.

I've noted before that when not with Stewart, Fonda, Boyer, Margaret S. was usually stuck with callow or unpleasant leading men. I had forgotten that the worst was at the end: Wendell Corey the seeming result of an experiment involving william Holden and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Joel Bocko said...

I just put my list up:

We have three overlaps, two of which are favorite-film overlaps as well (I'm not so sure about the Stanwyck one - that isn't Baby Face, is it?) I included You Tube clips too, though I was not able to find one for all of my favorites.

Yojimboen said...

Hereby seconded!
Aline MacMahon in anything!

She was the heart, soul and backbone of The Search! Young Mr. Clift was lucky indeed to begin a career with Aline to lean on.

mndean said...

I'm guessing you haven't seen The Merry Frinks. Lunatic isn't a strong enough word for it. Aline is really the best thing in it, but good grief, they have Allen Jenkins as her son, among other bits of insanity - her family is the most ungrateful bunch apart from the Neselrodes, but not nearly so funny. The rest of the films I've seen her in were definitely brightened by her presence, but she didn't get many big roles in A pictures. Of course (although I don't blame her for it), there's also Dragon Seed, which I still refuse to believe exists even if I've seen it.

Yojimboen said...

mndean - Actually I did see The Merry Frinks – about 100 years ago in the UK where it was titled Happy Family. Everything I remember about it tallies with your take: Despite Aline MacMahon’s valiant effort, it’s one of the most annoying movies ever made.

Re Dragon Seed – it’s odd how our perception changes. Films like Dragon Seed, Good Earth, Charlie Chan, with western actors playing Chinese are now almost as embarrassing as white actors in black face.

mndean said...

I may defend Warner Brothers for being more working class oriented, but when I want to show how bad they could be, I've got a few choice ones handy - The Merry Frinks, Sh! The Octopus and a few others I have to dig through to find the names of. I like collecting real duds from the majors as a sort of proof that at times they could go off the rails and be as bad or worse than Monogram.

RKO had a "what if you had a movie with all the supporting players of a Fred and Ginger movie, without Fred and Ginger". Called The Smartest Girl In Town, it has the usually very reliable Ann Sothern and also Gene Raymond. And it's pretty awful for screwball. I wanted to smack Erik Rhodes, and that's saying something. He plays a count that's as idiotic as Tonetti, but more irritating. And what they put Eric Blore through was a crime. That one's going in my RKO dud pile.

Classic Maiden said...

I must say I agree with a lot of your choice, mostly with the Stanwyck one and the Deneuve one :)

The Siren said...

M., haven't seen Merry Frinks or Sh! The Octopus (wth?) but I did see the Smartest Girl in Town and it pretty much upholds my contention that Gene Raymond + anything = drek. You spend his movies waiting for him to exit. I can't believe I left him off my "don't like" list. Quelle omission. I will revise that thing on its anniversary, I think.

MovieMaiden, welcome! and love your avatar. :)

mndean said...

Gene's the biggest problem in the movie, agreed. I don't know what it is about him, but he irritates me in the same way Preston Foster did in Love Before Breakfast (Foster is worth seeing in other films, just not here). Ann almost can do no wrong for me (I've even liked all the Maisie films I've seen). Oh, and I forgot that Helen Broderick was in that picture, too. She wasn't misused quite as badly, but she's not nearly as good as in the other Astaire/Rogers pictures.

To describe the problem with The Merry Frinks and Sh! The Octopus, it's this: They're the kind of movies that make you wonder who the hell approved the scripts. The Merry Frinks might not have been so bad if they'd just cut down the number of horrible people in the household by half and got them to tone it down (it was just one damn thing after another for poor Aline, even after she abandons them). Allen Jenkins is not just her son, but is a Communist and lawyer that works out of the parlor. Husband Hugh Herbert is a drunk sportswriter who keeps losing his job so Aline can get it back for him. It's a Dagwood sandwich of ungrateful, selfish and creepy people and personalities (her untalented teenage daughter dates "talent agent" Harold Huber) and it just gets worse from there, too. Even when usually reliable Guy Kibbee drops in, he's a folksy globetrotting bullshitter who kills himself by eating a dish he cooks that's nauseating just to listen to. It's like something that ran wild and gets worse and worse.

Sh! The Octopus is something that was utterly unsalvageable. A hunk of cheese where they let cop Hugh Herbert run wild, and partner Allen Jenkins is the sane one. Spooky old lighthouse, a hanging corpse, trapdoors, rubber octopus arms, disappearances, unmemorable supporting cast, the works.

crumit said...

Alice Brady. I haven't seen her name anywhere and for some reason I feel compelled to type it. A little too much of her is irritating, but I love her, even in creaky vehicles such as Should Ladies Behave.

Karen said...

Well, I've just seen The Smartest Girl in Town and everyone's right: it's not very good. No one's very good in it--with the exception of Helen Broderick wh couldn't be bad if she tried with both hands.

Gene Raymond doesn't bug me as much as he does you all--and I confess I was impressed to see in the credits that he had written the song he sings himself (although he lost major points for accompanying himself on a ukulele). But he doesn't really have that leading man oomph, does he? He's like an overgrown schoolboy.

There were some nice gowns, though!

Trish said...

Sheesh! I thought I knew a lot about 30s films! This blog is like a gold mine. I haven't seen The Smartest Girl in Town, but I do have an opinion of Gene Raymond. I just watched Mr. & Mrs. Smith and thought they did a bang-up job of making him look gay, but he's definitely someone I can do without. That movie starts out well but becomes very by-the-numbers.

mndean said...

Alice Brady could tone it down when she had to - watch her in the Mae West film Go West Young Man. She's a lot less flighty than in much of her oeuvre.

Helen Broderick's not bad in The Smartest Girl in Town, nor is she bad in the other Gene Raymond film I recently saw, The Bride Walks Out. She gets Ned Sparks as a husband there. In that film, Barbara Stanwyck has to pick between a petulant Raymond and a rich Robert Young. It's too bad "neither" wasn't on the list of choices. I can't say I hate either of them, it's just they have no charisma which makes you wonder what people saw in them. I always think of Robert Young as the cut-rate Robert Montgomery. Gene is just, well, pretty and unmemorable otherwise. He's like Richard Cromwell in that sense.

Karen said...

Oh geez, Richard Cromwell! What a great example. If Robert Young is a cut-rate Robert Montgomery, then Richard Cromwell is a cut-rate Robert Young.

I think the scene of Cromwell cowering in fear and cowardice in Lives of a Bengal Lancer has always colored my attitude towards him, but I can't think that that callow nebbish ever really had anything going for him.

He had a weak mouth, which I can never forgive in a man. There, I said it.

mndean said...

My view of Richard Cromwell is that he's too pretty and it interferes with the romances he's supposed to have (like in Poppy). It was even worse when he was younger, I couldn't take him seriously at all. I've never seen Lives of a Bengal Lancer, as films about colonialism are usually far down on my must-see list. I've never seen The Four Feathers, either. I did make a few exceptions (Gunga Din, The Man Who Would Be King), but generally stay away from the genre, especially after the misfortune of seeing Prestige recently.

Karen said...

I can understand your aversion to celebrations of colonialim--best enjoyed on a meta level, I believe--but I have to say the combination of Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone, and C. Aubrey Smith is pretty irresistible to me.

The Siren said...

The original Four Feathers certainly buys into the myths but there is a lot going on underneath, specifically about the nature of manhood and a suggestion that the colonial enterprise is slightly insane. Plus you have a great performance by Ralph Richardson and Technicolor cinematography by Georges Perinal. Lives of a Bengal Lancer is just fabulous in the same way the (equally objectionable) Gunga Din is.

I have no idea why we are discussing what we're discussing here but have decided to just go with it, lol.

Yojimboen said...

“…I have no idea why we are discussing what we're discussing here…”

Oh, I think you do. You, our gracious hostess, are cleverly leading us to a symmetrical conclusion to this thread; a weaving together of the various strands; a round-up, if you will, of the wandering herd of resolutely disparate facets of this, or any other meme.

Viz: Your cunning mention of Four Feathers, starring not just Ralph Richardson, but also that singularly exotic beauty, June Duprez, lovely and talented enough to merit a place on someone’s 20 Favorite Actresses List. Miss Duprez also qualifies for the above-discussed B-list of actresses who might have had A-list careers, but for managerial hubris. (Heap curses on at least two of the Korda brothers for failing to capitalize on her performance in The Thief of Baghdad!)

Which leads us inevitably to Miles Malleson, playwright, screenwriter etc., who gives us in Thief a superb comic turn as the Sultan. The delightful Mr. Malleson connects with the equally delightful Peter Ustinov in The Magic Box - one those “Rosetta Stone” movies with everybody in it (Around the World in 80 Days is another) so vital in playing that game of connect the actors. (I believe it’s called Six Degrees of Kevin Somebody; but when we played it back in London Film School in 1964(!) it wasn’t called anything, and the rules were a lot stricter: you couldn’t use a movie to link two actors unless you could name the year, the studio and the Director. Kids today have it so easy, with their iPods and MP3s and downloads! When we were their age we had to take drugs and go to concerts!)

Where was I? Yes, The Magic Box; another film owned by Martin Scorsese, who was kind enough to lend his extremely-rare print to BAFTA Los Angeles a few years back for a 50th Anniversary Screening. The Magic Box also features Peter Ustinov - Ringmaster Extraordinaire of Lola Montes and, not incidentally, one of the stars of We’re No Angels. (Did I mention that’s my favorite Xmas Movie? Yes, but did I mention it today?)

Well done, Madame Sirène – you’ve steered us beautifully to yet another thrilling climax!

Happy Holidays to all our readers.

Karen said...

Yes! It's Six Degrees of Self-Styled Siren!

On a slightly different note, tho' still on actresses, did anyone catch DeMille's 1929 The Godless Girl on TCM last week? Besides starring Lina Basquette (Hitler's self-professed "favorite American actress"), it features Marie Prevost in a scene of such meta black comedy I gasped. Working in a reformatory butcher shop, she drapes herself in a string of freshly-made sausages like a boa and struts around. "I'm just puttin' on a little dog!" the title card proclaims. Oh my heavens--did someone show her dachshund that movie?

The Siren said...

For Karen. Ack, poor Marie indeed. Like almost everything else, Kenneth Anger had it wrong in Hollywood Babylon. She wasn't from the Bronx (Canada) and her voice wasn't half bad. She was losing her looks by the early 1930s though and I suspect that's a big part of why she had trouble transitioning.

The Siren said...

P.S. I saw Prevost in Hands Across the Table and she was good. She might have been a nice sidekick in supporting roles, a la Patsy Kelly, but it was not to be. Interesting tidbit from Wikipedia, that I hope is correct: Joan Crawford paid for her funeral.

Karen said...

Thanks for the Nick Lowe, Siren! That's actually the exact video I sent to my sister when I was telling her about The Godless Girl.

I hope that's true about Joan Crawford, too. She had incredible loyalty to the people who were good to her in her early days (I'm thinking about Billy Haines). I see that she and Prevost only co-starred in one film (Paid, which I've never seen), but you never know how Prevost may have helped Joan out elsewhere.

Joel Bocko said...


Argh - as a New Englander I had a power outage when The Godless Girl, which I had set to record on my DVR, was aired. It's doubly frustrating because I'm doing a DeMille series next years, and this is one movie that's unavailable on Netflix.

Karen said...

MovieMan0283 -- check to see if Netflix has something called "Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film." It's a 4-DVD boxed set, and The Godless Girl is on disc 3, I believe. I don't know what version they have--whether they have the stunning remastered print that TCM ran or the re-shot version that includes talking scenes at the end, but they have something.

Joel Bocko said...


Thanks for the tip-off; unfortunately Netflix does not currently have that in stock. What's with the reshot version; is it compiled of outtakes (like Passion of Joan of Arc) or was it refilmed later?

Hopefully TCM reruns The Godless Girl. If any of you TCM higher-ups read the Siren, please have pity...

Karen said...

It was refilmed at the time. The Godless Girl was made in 1929, just as the talkies were squeezing out the silents. The studio heads figured they could cash in on this new fad by throwing in some talking scenes near the end. So they reshot them with sound.

If you read the IMDb comments, you can see that the first commenter (from 2003) appears to have seen that version. It also seems to be cut to tell the story a little differently than in the personal DeMille version that TCM screened. Or maybe the commenter is just uncommonly prurient.

The Siren said...

MovieMan if anyone at TCM reads my blog they would have shown Desire a long, long time ago.

Karen said...

If I may thread-jack, unapologetically: anyone who knows me, knows I love the Fleischer brothers' cartoons. I've seen all the Popeyes, all the Supermans, all the Betty Boops (including the long color Cinderella one). But I haven't seen Mr Hoppity, their feature-length cartoon, which is showing at Film Forum over the holiday weekend. So I'll be at the 1 PM showing on Friday the 26th--natch. If any fellow Sirenes are there, I'll look forward to seeing you!

mndean said...

TCM programmers get a lot of requests for movies, and guess which ones are requested the most. That's right, recent hits! The programmer that visits the chat boards is an excuse maker, and no help in getting accurate information on why movie showings are cancelled. I've put in so many requests (and so few of them have appeared) that I threw up my hands and quit. Unless a large group of us can blogswarm TCM with requests for a film, they just aren't going to capitulate. There's a problem in getting Paramount and Universal films from the '30s and '40s and Fox has their own channel as well. I think they're eventually going to deteriorate into the Boomer Classic Channel. If you've seen the schedule for the first two months of next year, there's a lot of '70s and '80s films for TCM to show. Excessive repeats are becoming a problem, too. They showed The World of Henry Orient (okay, it's a cute movie) four times in six months. The older movies are being relegated to early morning hours (just like FMC), and the surprise batches of films from underappreciated older actors are happening less often as well. We get a lot of Jack Lemmon and others who are easy to rent. If they move in the direction of FMC (old movies early in the a.m, movies from recent times the rest of the day), I'll still keep them, but as it is now, I watch them maybe one-fourth the amount I did last year. What pleasant surprise is there next month? One is The Whole Town's Talking. There are a few others scattered about that they haven't shown either at all before or not for awhile, but relatively few.

Gloria said...

"There's a problem in getting Paramount and Universal films from the '30s and '40s"

And this is why I have opted for a dvdtheque rather than subscription to a channel: with the price of a monthly subscription tp a channel I can usually get two or three great films (well, a bit less if they are on the "special edition" league)... And these you can watch as often as one wants.

(plus, I work in rotating shifts, so watching TV in the classical way is something I cannot afford any longer)

mndean said...

TCM requires no subscription - if you have cable, you have TCM (probably not available in all areas, but in most of North America except Mexico). FMC does require subscription. I found Netflix problematic - if there was a film released both in a PD and restored studio versions, invariably you'd get the PD. Similarly, the list isn't as good as one would wish. I had over a dozen films in my to-be-released section that never got released in the year I had Netflix.

I have no idea what dvdtheque is except a program for managing DVDs. Don't think that's what you're referring to. I have about 550 recorded DVDs, and I edit copies of movies I like with Nero.

Gloria said...

Mndean, alas, not in my country: we have no cable proper here, so one has to subscribe if one wants to watch TCM or other similar channels. The cost is usually between 30 euros monthly, a sum with which i'd rather purchase three DVDs I like than suffer the programmer's whim.

(By dvdtheque I meant a set of shelves where one's dearest DVDs are kept/stored ;D)

mndean said...

It's always a pity we never can find out where each of us is actually posting from, at least by country.

I hadn't a clue of what a dvdtheque was, except to assume it was a sort of private dvd sharing group. That would work pretty much anywhere inside a country where home recordings could be shared. I could share my TCM recordings with anyone in the US for a nominal postal and media cost - just burn a copy with Nero and mail. It shouldn't even have to be sent back. I'm amazed clubs aren't common, as I'm sure I have things others want, as I want things others have that aren't out commercially. The problem would be the folks who would copy commercial DVDs and send those.