Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Whatever Happened To Fay Wray?

"Whatever happened to Fay Wray? That delicate, satin-draped frame...
As it clung to her thigh, how I cry-hy-hyyyy...
'Cause I wanted to be dressed just the sa-haaammme..."

Perhaps a blog about actresses old enough to be my grandmother or GREAT-grandmother isn't necessarily your idea of "absolute pleasure," but I've been thinking about screen-babes of yore lately. This comes mostly from the new fascination Miss Tessmacher and I have with watching our old movies. I gave her a Gene Kelly DVD set on her birthday, and I've learned all over again how MAGNIFICENT it is to watch him dance. Fred Astaire is great, but when I watch Kelly I just want to laugh with joy. (Actually, I typically find myself literally doing just that!) But anyway, with the holidays here we've also recently watched Holiday Inn and It's A Wonderful Life, and through these viewings I'm realizing that I have a "thing" for screen hotties of yesteryear.

I suppose Hollywood crushes are anything but unique. Spend enough time drinking with good friends (could you EVER spend "enough time" doing that?!?) and eventually someone will bring up the concept of The List. "Who's on your List?" someone will ask, and the answers start to fly. The List, as far as I can tell, is made up of those movie stars you'd like to fuck and feel comfortable announcing in front of your wife/partner/significant other because, frankly, there's not a hope in hell of the opportunity ever presenting itself. "Drew Barrymore? Oh, HELL yeah, she'd be on my list!!" These kinds of prophetic announcements never seem to sit right with me, even though of course I've contributed my own list on occasion.'re just supposed to ignore the fact that your partner has a sort of not-so-secret-anymore list of people he/she'd genuinely like to shag? So, yeah, I'm always a little uncomfortable with that kind of thing. Plus, it seems like even though the listER gets older, the folks ON the list ("listees?") stay the same just-barely-legal age. "Hayden Panettierre? OH yeah!" Um...dude, she's young enough to be your DAUGHTER! Ew.

So, while I will play the game if pressed (Drew Barrymore, Sandra Bullock, Zooey Deschanel, Gabrielle Anwar and Claire Danes, okay?), I'd rather present the much safer screen scorchers from decades past. 'Cause, y'know, they're safe...and DEAD. Here, then, are the movie women who move me:

Mary Pickford (1892-1979): Technically America's FIRST "sweetheart," the Canadian-born silent movie actress was among Hollywood's first royalty, sharing equal screen time with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Buster Keaton. IMDb claimes that she "retired" in 1934 after making 236 movies, but I suspect she simply couldn't - or wouldn't - make the switch to talkies. Check her out in Tess of the Storm Country.

Katherine Hepburn (1907-2003): The daughter of fiercely liberal parents (both fought for women's suffrage), Kate was pure Hollywood royalty. When I think of the glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age, Kate's is the face I see. One legend has it that a male producer once saw her walking the studio lot wearing pants; when he told her he didn't want to see her in pants on the lot again, she said "Okay, Mac!" and doffed them then & there, walking away in her skivvies. The Philadelphia Story comes to mind for many people, but I rather like the loonyness of Bringing Up Baby.

Fay Wray (1907-2004): Frank N. Furter may have wanted to dress like her, but that's not the first thing that comes to mind when I see THIS photo. grrrOOOOWWWlll! Often cast as a blonde, I think her true brunette looks are as scorching as any lingerie model you might see today. I have to remember to stay away from recent photos of her, as I never EVER want to be reminded that she got old! She appeared on TV throughout the '50s and '60s, but I still think your best bet is 1933's King Kong.

Paulette Goddard (1910-1990): Probably best known now - if at all - as one of Charlie Chaplin's innumerable young wives, Paulette had had several uncredited roles at the dawn of the talkie era before Chaz cast her in the anachronistically-silent Modern Times. She had a prolific career throughout the '40s and '50s, but cel for cel I'd seek her out in the Chaplin masterpiece.

Donna Reed (1921-1986): Both a smoking-hot sex symbol AND the girl next door (although next door to WHO I have no neighbor of MINE ever looked like this!) I think Donna is the precursor to somebody like Sandra Bullock. I think her '50s/'60s-era TV show was some pretty dorky stuff, and I will NEVER forgive her for playing Miss Ellie during the year Barbara Bel Geddes was gone, but her movies were pretty great. In black & white I don't think there's much better than Wonderful Life, but if you want her in color check out The Benny Goodman Story.

Grace Kelly (1929-1982): Seems like lots of people natter on & on about Marilyn Monroe, the "blonde bombshell" and all that...she never really did it for me. It's like she TRIED to be too sultry, y'know? Princess Grace, though...whew! Hottness, right there. She had the regal look and attitude that was so perfectly mated to her literal title, plus she could just walk into a room onscreen and the temperature in the theatre would rise several degrees. Like that closeup Hitchcock pulls in on her in Rear Window. Check it out...then try to figure out why Jimmy Stewart kept her at a distance.

Debbie Reynolds (born 1932): The only living person on my list, Debbie combines perky cuteness and sweet sensuality in her younger years. The older Debbie is still funny as a stitch whenever I catch her on a talk show, but it's the starry-eyed screen ingenue from Singin' in the Rain that gets me every time. Rumor has it that her first kiss EVER was when she kissed Gene Kelly on-camera...and that he promptly stuck his tongue down her throat. And him old enough to be her daddy, for heaven's sake!

So that's my list. Hollywood hotties of enough to desire, old enough to be grannies, and mostly dead. Who's on YOUR list of aged actors?


Blogger Nitmos said...

Here's a vote for Audrey Hepburn!

1:46 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

I tend not to get excited by old Hollywood guys because most old Hollywood roles for men involved them being either brutish or paternalistic towards women, which makes them look sorta unappealing. But if pressed, uh, Cary Grant was lovely, and Paul Newman...yeeeow. I was disturbed how attractive I found in him even in the not-terribly-old Nobody's Fool, in which he can't be a day less than seventy.

I've always thought Tess looks kind of like an old-school screen queen. In a completely understated and classy way.

1:49 PM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

I completely agree with your assessment of Donna Reed. She IS a precursor of Sandra Bullock!!

7:58 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Cary Grant, young Robert Redford (Brad Pitt, eat that!) and Frank Sinatra (I like his jug ears).

8:48 PM  
Blogger Strangeite said...

The beauty of Rita Hayworth surpasses all other actresses past and present, with the possible exception of Grace Kelly.

But then again, how can I leave out Ingrid Bergman? Or Dorthy Dandridge? Or Sophia Loren?

10:57 AM  
Blogger Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Sean Connery - no matter how old he gets, I'd still so totally do him!

I also always thought Yul Brynner (sp?) had that sexy-bald-man vibe going. (Go ahead, laugh, you know you want to!)

Gene Kelly, And Steph, I gotta say, Cary Grant is on my list, too!

Those are the only stars of yester-year I can think of who are on my list.

2:44 PM  

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