I am extremely excited to be partaking in this blogathon celebrating iconic and talented stars of the silver screen on National Classic Movie Day (May 16). This was a very difficult decision to make, but I have narrowed down the list to five. I simply cannot rank them in any order! Please let me know what your thoughts are, and head over to Classic Film and TV Cafe for the Five Stars Blogathon to read other wonderful posts!
Although she passed away at the very young age of 26, Harlean Carpenter left such a strong legacy in the world of classic cinema. She was impeccably glamorous, and is the original “blonde bombshell”. However, her comedic timing, fiery personality, and electric chemistry with her co-stars cemented her talent in Hollywood and her important contribution to the screwball comedy. Libeled Lady is my favourite classic film, and that is in a large part due to Jean’s effervescence, style, and wit.
Yet another master of comedy enters my list! Born in an elevator in a Massachusetts hospital, Lemmon’s acting bug bit him at a very young age. He was a frequent collaborator with one of the master directors of cinema, Billy Wilder. Jack’s versatility was quite apparent when accounting for his breadth of filmography. Mister Roberts, Some Like it Hot, The Odd Couple, and The Apartment are just some of the classics in which Lemmon’s star shone brightly yet very humbly. He had a down-to-earth quality which made him very relatable, and I feel that this accounts to his longevity.
On to another legend with a great sense of modesty and down-to-earth personality. If Tom Hanks could be transported back in time, I think he would be best buds with this class act! In most of Stewart’s roles if not all (at least the ones I have seen), the audience is rooting for his character to overcome unthinkable obstacles. It’s A Wonderful Life, Vertigo, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and especially Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are some prime examples. As with Mr. Lemmon, his range and versatility were apparent through his body of work. Jimmy Stewart also heavily reminds me of my late maternal grandfather, to whom I was extremely close. I think my connection with my grandfather has transferred on to my great admiration for this star.
Ruby Stevens had an extremely difficult childhood, living in multiple foster homes and losing her mother at a very young age. She escaped into the world of film, and eventually transformed into the classic star we know as Barbara Stanwyck. Again, her roles demonstrated her wide range from slang spewing comedic nightclub performer to devoted mother to ruthless femme fatale and then some. However, I feel that all of her performances demonstrate a level of grit and conviction that can only be drawn upon from life-altering and life-changing experiences. It is still unfathomable that she did not win any Academy Awards for specific roles. However, classic film lovers greatly recognize her depiction of strong females and the ultimate impact that would have on women’s representation in society.
And last but certainly not least…
Hailing from Germany, Dietrich got her start playing violin, acting on the stage, and eventually started acting in silent film. Her breakthrough role was The Blue Angel, attracting attention from Hollywood executives. Her charisma, seductiveness, and commanding presence created classics such as Morocco, Shanghai Express, . and Destry Rides Again. However, her most impressive work was her dedication towards and support for troops fighting in WWII. Her conviction and bravery was reward, as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1947. The longevity of her career, fearlessness, and allure blend together to create a unique and provocative icon of the silver screen.
Honorable Mentions: Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Giulietta Masina, Liv Ullmann, Toshiro Mifune, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers (they were a TEAM!!), and Ingrid Bergman.
I do not own any of the pictures in this post.