When I did my top 5 last week, I had trouble with selecting actresses and comparing modern techniques to more established ones. I decided because I am always looking for material anyway, to separate the top 5s into modern and classical. For Classical my criteria were to use only actresses that are no longer alive and had many awesome movies from the beginning of film to about the 60’s. The reason for this is because most of film changed after the sixties which produced different types of actresses that I covered in my Modern list.
5. Guiletta Masina
This actress is probably not very normal name for anyone who only watches American films. However any cinephile that has explored Italian cinema and Fellini in particular are very familiar with this actress. Fellini made several films with her (she ended up being his wife) and in all of them she shown with beauty. She has a unique appearance that she can transform into being younger or older than she was at the time she protrayed the roles. The only reason she is only five is because I haven’t seen anything she did do without Fellini. I would love to see other films with her in it. Her best film: Nights of Cabiria. Films I Want to See: Variety Lights, Europa ’51, Il Bidone, Ginger and Fred
4. Vivien Leigh
I also have not seen a lot of films with Vivien in it. However one of my favorite sick day films, Gone With the Wind, would not be possible with her amazing performance. A lot of people think she is being overbearing and obvious with this performance, but if you read the book and really listen to the plot line, I think she is doing everything on purpose. A contrast to this performance would be hers in A Streetcar Named Desire, which is one of my favorite play adaptations. She is Blanche Du Bois. (biographies suggest that she was literally Blanche, because of her bipolar disease and manic depression) I love her cockeyed smile and sultry eyes. She is a pretty awesome actress. Favorite Film: Streetcar Named Desire. Films I Want to See: Waterloo Bridge, That Hamilton Woman, Caesar and Cleopatra, Anna Karenina
3. Ingrid Bergman
Her ability to play a strong yet vulnerable woman is showcased in various films that she has done. When she comes on the screen, the film automatically gets better. I love her ability to become a muse for many genius directors seemingly effortlessly. Her most famous role, Casablanca, is just a hint of what she can do. Favorite Film: Gaslight. Films I Want to See: Autumn Sonata, Anastasia, Journey to Italy, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
2. Bette Davis
Although considered, ugly by conventional standards at the time, she grew into one of the best actresses of all time. What hasn’t been said about Bette’s ability to steal a scene, to act like she is acting, to be ugly and beautiful at the same time? She is elevates every picture she is in, even ones that are considered mere melodrama. Favorite Film: The Little Foxes. Films I Want to See: Dangerous, The Petrified Forest, Satan Met a Lady, Jezebel, The Letter
1. Katherine Hepburn
I first saw her in what turned out to be one of my favorite films of all time: The Philidephia Story. Also starring two of my favorite actors of all time, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, she held her own with such finesse that I imediately wanted to know more about her. Her accented voice, fast talking, and long, lean stature all compliment the ease in which she embodies characters. Every character she plays, I could think of no other person but her in that role. One time I heard a monologue Jane Fonda did about her experience filming On Golden Pond with her. Although she seemed standoffish at first, she quickly warmed to Jane and gave her some advice that Jane would quickly come to embody. I will always picture Katherine the way Jane described her. I love her so much that I will watch of all her films back to back without stopping if I could. Favorite Film: The Philidelphia Story. Films I Still Need To Watch: The African Queen, Morning Glory, Alice Adams, Stage Door, Woman of the Year, Pat and Mike, Suddenly, Last Summer, A Long Day’s Journey into Night