A couple posts ago, I offered Thistle’s and my top 10 actresses, and noted how difficult it was to come to our final conclusions. Everyone on the list has played an integral part in our lives, for better or for worse; they have entertained and inspired us, aggravated us, delighted us, made us laugh and weep. Presented forthwith is our long list: it should make it pretty clear to all that view our self-appointed task lightly, nor make our decisions with flippancy or callowness.
Just in case you don’t recall the final 10, they are: Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Maggie Smith, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Kathleen Turner, Dianne Weist, and Kate Winslet. In no particular order, save as they were written on our poster:
How can you choose between them?
Rachel Weisz (Oscar Winner, The Constant Gardener), Anne Bancroft (Oscar Winner, The Miracle Worker), Nicole Kidman (Oscar Winner, The Hours),
Winning the Oscar for playing against type in The Hours, Ms Kidman’s statuesque beauty has never served her so well as it did in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! Never one to stick to a type, Ms Kidman has played both pursued (in Deep Calm) and predator (in To Die For). She has done marvelous work both above and below the hemisphere.
Tilda Swinton (Oscar Winner, Michael Clayton), Samantha Mathis, Diane Lane, Vanessa Redgrave (Oscar Winner, Julia), Robin Wright, Gwyneth Paltrow (Oscar Winner, Shakespeare in Love), Ingrid Bergman (Oscar Winner, Gaslight, Anastasia, Murder on the Orient Express),
One of the most beloved actresses of all time, Ms Bergman was ostracized from the Hollywood film community for some time because of her relationship with the Italian director Roberto Rossellini–Isabella was the product of that particular collaboration–but returned triumphant, winning her second Oscar for her titular role in Anastasia. Notoriously abused by Cary Grant in Notorious, Ingrid Bergman will forever be a cinematic icon for her role as Ilsa in Casablanca.
Holly Hunter (Oscar Winner, The Piano), Jodi Foster (Oscar Winner, The Accused, Silence of the Lambs),
Two time Oscar winner Foster achieved new heights with her Cecil deMille winning speech at this year’s Golden Globes. From Disney to Demme she has proven herself a formidable actress, and she has expanded her role into that of producer/director. I will always think of her as Clarice Starling, with her “good bag and cheap shoes” seeking to save the lambs in her endless Sisyphean cycle.
Cate Blanchett (Oscar Winner, The Aviator), Jami Gertz, Angela Lansbury,
While Angela Lansbury has had an illustrious film and television career spanning close to 7 decades, she has achieved her greatest success on Broadway; the winner of 5 Tony Awards (Mame, Dear World, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, and Blithe Spirit), she has been unaccountably ignored by the film and television academies. (Really, she never got an Emmy for Murder, She Wrote? Really?) In the movies, she has generally played unsympathetic roles, and her portrayal of Mrs Eleanor Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate is one of the most horrifying, haunting, and harrowing in American cinematic history.
Myrna Loy, Mary McDonnell, Martha Plimpton, Claire Danes, Goldie Hawn (Oscar Winner, Cactus Flower), Joan Crawford (Oscar Winner, Mildred Pierce),
Considered one of the greatest “stars” of all time, Ms Crawford’s career lasted from the silent era through the age of television soap opera, where she played her daughter’s role. She feuded famously (and perhaps apocryphally) with Bette Davis, culminating in their grande dame guignol opus Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Though she turned out some of her best performances in the 1930s, in Grand Hotel, Rain, and The Women “Thanks for the tip. But when anything I wear doesn’t please Stephen, I take it off”, her acting career has been eclipsed by her role in her daughter’s scandal biography, Mommie Dearest.
Gillian Anderson, Rosalind Russell (winner of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award), Kathy Bates (Oscar Winner, Misery), Ginger Rogers (Oscar Winner, Kitty Foyle), Julie Christie (Oscar Winner, Darling), Madeline Kahn, Olivia DeHavilland (Oscar Winner, To Each His Own, The Heiress), Isabella Rosellini, Diane Keaton (Oscar Winner, Annie Hall), Audrey Hepburn (Oscar Winner, Roman Holiday),
Audrey Hepburn added class and elegance to every role she played. She won her only Oscar for her breakthrough role, but will forever be remembered for such romantic roles as the eponymous Sabrina, Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, a role for which she was initially looked down upon as stealing it from Julie Andrews. In later life, Audrey Hepburn embraced philanthropy as a spokesperson for UNICEF.
Jessica Tandy (Oscar Winner, Driving Miss Daisy), Hattie McDaniel (Oscar Winner, Gone With the Wind),
Hattie McDaniel was the first person of colour to win an Oscar, not seconded until Sidney Poitier won for Lilies of the Field in 1963. While Ms McDaniel was sometimes criticized for her choice in pursuing a film career of playing domestics, it certainly cannot be denied that she earned her Oscar: her scene with Ollivia DeHavilland describing Rhett Butler’s grief at the death of his daughter is one of the most moving in movie history.
Estelle Parsons (Oscar Winner, Bonnie and Clyde), Teri Garr, Julie Walters, Helen Mirren (Oscar Winner, The Queen), Anjelica Huston (Oscar Winner, Prizzi’s Honour), Laura Dern, Cher (Oscar Winner, Moonstruck),
Chere has been selective in the movies she has made, seldom making a wrong turn (Stuck on You the exception that makes the rule.) She was never as marvellous in her career as she was in her award-winning performance in Moonstruck.
Julie Andrews (Oscar Winner, Mary Poppins),
It would be a sin not to post the aureoles of Mary Poppins and Maria VonTrapp. And I’m hardly a breast man. Poultry notwithstanding. Many have scoffed at her Oscar for Mary Poppins, but I would declare it to be as iconic a role as that of Princess Leia or Indiana Jones, or Harry Potter, and if you have the chance at a gold statue, grab it when you can. She’s had numerous roles on screen and on stage; my favourite of them all is that of Victoria Grant in her husband’s best film Victor/Victoria.
Sophia Loren (Oscar Winner, Two Women), Lucille Ball,Sally Field (Oscar Winner, Norma Rae, Places in the Heart), Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange (Oscar Winner, Blue Sky, Tootsie), Renee Zellweger (Oscar Winner, Cold Mountain), Olympia Dukakis (Oscar Winner, Moonstruck), Stockard Channing, Ellen Burstyn (Oscar Winner, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), Joan Cusack, Imelda Staunton ,Annette Bening,
Ms Bening has never won an Oscar. This is one of the most egregious oversights in the history of the Academy Awards. Nothing else need be said.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not a great fan of Glenn Close, or, The Whore of Satan, as I affectionately refer to her. transparency insists that I admit that she was quite marvelous in Dangerous Liasons, but like Medea and the Old Testament god before me, I cannot forgive her for stealing Patti’s part in Sunset Blvd on Broadway.
Faye Dunaway (Oscar Winner, Network),
Neither Thistle nor I can quite explain how Ms Dunaway managed to escape our top 10. I think that somewhere in-between Judy Garland and Kathleen Turner, she got the boot. That said, from Bonnie and Clyde, to The Thomas Crown Affair, to Chinatown, to her award-winning performance in Network, she was amazing and cool. She shot herself in the spleen with Mommie Dearest (which isn’t as bad as people give it credit for) and has never really recovered. Remind me about the day she made me cry. In person.
Joan Fontaine(Oscar Winner, Suspicion), Laura Linney, Julianne Moore,
Julianne Moore’s acting career has ranged from the rollerskate girl in Boogie Nights to dinosaur fodder in the Jurassic Park franchise to an aesthetic misstep in Hannibal, to preter-“Mad Men” roles in Far From Heaven and the Single Man. She has managed to make each role her own, even when playing that awful woman from Alaska.
Mary Tyler Moore (should have won the Oscar for Ordinary People), Sandra Bullock (Oscar Winner, The Blind Side), Susan Sarandon (Oscar Winner, Dead Man Walking), Marisa Tomei (Oscar Winner, My Cousin Vinny), Elizabeth Taylor (Oscar Winner, Butterfield 8, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf),
Considered by many to be the most beautiful woman of the 20th century, I’ve always believe she rather got above herself as an actress. (Consider what …Virginia Woolf? might have been with Larry and Vivien… Her own romance with richard Burton was both passionate and publicized. Ms Taylor indubitably had her role to play in popular culture, in the business of matrimony, and in later years was a formidable speaker against the scourge of AIDS. Debbie Reynolds will never be a fan.
Jean Simmons, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Thelma Ritter,
“Where do you suppose he cut her up?” from her debut in Miracle on 34th St to All About Eve to Rear Window, Ms Ritter was the genesis of the Elaine Stritch role in popular culture. “Of course… the bathtub. Where else are you gonna catch all that blood?”
Tina Fey, Patti LuPone,
I just adore my Patti. She’s more Evita than Eva Peron.
Whoopie Goldberg (Oscar Winner, Ghost), Juliette Binoche (Oscar Winner, The English Patient), Shirley Maclaine (Oscar Winner, Terms of Endearment), Sissy Spacek (Oscar Winner, Coal Miner’s Daughter), Greta Garbo, and Miranda Richardson.
Obviously, it goes without saying that the long list is the judgement of Thistle and me. The commentary is mine alone. I encourage you to decide for yourself, with the following caveat: you should believe what you choose, but if you disagree with me (and I say this in the most timid and meek way possible) you are wrong.