Monday, September 22, 2014

AFI's 25 Greatest Actresses, Part 5

Last month, in honor of the late, great Lauren Bacall, we went through four parts of a five part series about the American Film Institute's 25 Greatest Actresses, a list which is fifteen years old this year (see parts one and two and three and four by clicking these links).

However, there was one last portion of this series that I hadn't gotten around to, and that was the living actors that were shortlisted for the list but didn't make it.  In addition to Doris Day, Olivia de Havilland, Sophia Loren, and Maureen O'Hara, there are 19 women still left alive that were listed for the prize.  While some of them weren't remotely close to actually making the list (a couple of these women I'd never even heard of), they still had a significant enough filmography to be shortlisted, and so I figured it would be worth giving them some proper respect (casting directors-if you're looking for a living throwback to Hollywood's Golden Age, here's where you can start!).  Considering nineteen is a lot to cover, we'll do two parts for this before we close out the series-the next part will be coming tomorrow.  And now, let's play "where do I recognize that face from?"

Claire Bloom (1931-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: For her long and illustrious career on the British stage, as well as her many tabloid romances.  Ms. Bloom made her stage debut at sixteen opposite John Gielgud and a young Richard Burton, whom she had a passionate love affair with (Burton claimed he loved two women before Liz Taylor-his wife Sybil and Claire Bloom).  She would continue on in the West End for decades, and continue having tabloid-worthy relationships, including marriages to Rod Steiger and Philip Roth, as well as affairs with Laurence Olivier and Yul Brynner.
Is She Still Working?: Yes!  She actually appeared recently in the Best Picture winner The King's Speech, playing Queen Mary in the film.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: With a lot of these women, I haven't seen much of their work, so I won't embarrass myself by listing my favorite performance, instead focusing simply on misses in their filmographies.  With Bloom it's hard not to pick her first international starring role in Limelight, where she plays a suicidal ballerina in the only film that features both Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Ann Blyth (1928-Present)

Oscar Nominations: 1 nomination (for Mildred Pierce)
Most Famous For: Portraying the selfish daughter from hell in Mildred Pierce.  Her work opposite Joan Crawford won her an Oscar nomination early in her career, and she eventually went on to become a major star of musicals, at one point being a rival for Kathryn Grayson at MGM.  She eventually moved completely away from the cinema, instead starring in a series of television guest spots, including a memorable turn as a potential murderer opposite longtime friend Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote and as an actress with a secret on The Twilight Zone in "Queen of the Nile."
Is She Still Working?: Blyth quit working in film after her work in The Helen Morgan Story with Paul Newman (oddly enough, Polly Bergen, who passed away earlier this week, won an Emmy for the same role several years earlier).  She quit television in the 1980's, though she does occasional do interviews still.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've actually seen Mildred Pierce, so I would probably go with The Great Caruso, one of the biggest hits of Blyth's career and a film which inspired Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to eventually pursue a career in opera.

Danielle Darrieux (1917-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Her incredibly long career in French cinema-Darrieux has been working in the movies for over eight decades, marking one of the longest careers the cinema has ever known.  She briefly worked in American cinema (oddly enough, with Claire Bloom in Alexander the Great), but mostly was focused on the French cinema, starring in a number of classics, eventually winning the Honorary Cesar Award in 1985 (and she went on to gain two more Cesar nominations afterwards, proving you're never too old to continue being excellent).
Is She Still Working?: Yes-she frequently stars on French television, and was part of Francois Ozon's cast of 8 Women in 2002 along with fellow French legends Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardan, and Emmanuelle Beart.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I could well pick 8 Women, but I will instead go with The Earrings of Madame de... generally considered one of the finest films of the 1950's.  I'd follow that pretty quickly with Joseph Mankiewicz's Oscar-nominated 5 Fingers and her banned performance opposite Leo Genn in Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Gloria DeHaven (1925-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: A daughter of show business (her father was a director and her mother an actress), DeHaven was born to be a star, but never quite had the success in the movies that she did in television.  She enjoyed her biggest success in the classic Norman Lear sitcom Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and was a frequent star of soap operas (including Ryan's Hope and As the World Turns).  Her film career started off impressively, with an appearance in Modern Times with Charlie Chaplin (the last living member of that cast), but never really took off, and while she continued acting well into her seventies, she spent most of that time in guest spots on television series.  In her personal life, she did marry actor John Payne amongst her four husbands.
Is She Still Working?: No-her final role seems to have been in Touched by an Angel (an appropriate send-off for the politically conservative actress), but that was fourteen years ago and she doesn't seem interested in making the jump any longer.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: Part of me wants to list Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, a famously bad movie that starred dozens of Golden Age Hollywood stars (seriously-check out this IMDB page for a guide to how you'll win your next round of the Kevin Bacon game), but instead I'll go with the classic Summer Stock with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland.

Rhonda Fleming (1923-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Being the "Queen of Technicolor."  Along with Maureen O'Hara and Arlene Dahl (the latter of which oddly wasn't on the AFI ballot list, though she would have been eligible and is still alive, so clearly being a red-headed movie star is good for your longevity-hooray for Julianne Moore!), Fleming's red hair made her a major motion picture star, and one that photographed particularly well in Technicolor, which was very in fashion during the height of her fame.  Her best known films are probably from the 1940's, when she had supporting roles in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound and the brilliant Out of the Past, but she was a bigger headliner in the 1950's when she appeared opposite Dana Andrews, Ronald Reagan, Burt Lancaster, and Kirk Douglas.  Like DeHaven and Blyth, she was an ardent Republican in her personal life, particularly as an advocate for school prayer.
Is She Still Working?: No-her most recent film would be 1990's Waiting for the Wind with Robert Mitchum, her Out of the Past costar.  She still frequently makes appearances, though, and has participated in the Turner Classic Film Festival.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've seen Spellbound and Out of the Past, so I would probably go with the classic Western Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday.

Mitzi Gaynor (1931-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Being Krusty the Clown's go-to name drop?  Just kidding (Simpsons reference!).  Gaynor was in fact one of 20th Century FOX's biggest stars in the 1940's and 1950's, starring in a number of hit musicals.  While she could boast costarring roles with Bing Crosby and Gene Kelly, it was with Rossano Brazzi, a little-known Italian actor, that she enjoyed her biggest and most enduring cinematic success.  The movie?  Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, with Gaynor as the main character of Nellie Forbush, forever washing that man right out of her hair before a very enchanted evening.  She also had one of the most famous numbers in Oscar history (though she wasn't nominated for or even in the film) when she got one of the longest-standing ovations in the history of the ceremony for her performance of "Georgy Girl" in 1967.
Is She Still Working?: While she no longer acts, she frequently is featured in documentaries chronicling the Golden Age of the musical, and actually won an Emmy for her 2010 documentary "Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle!"
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I'm actually looking through her very strong filmography and feeling pretty ashamed, as I've only seen There's No Business Like Show Business.  I'd probably go wtih a Gaynor marathon of some sorts, getting Anything Goes and Les Girls done first before heading into South Pacific.

Barbara Hale (1922-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: For being the most dependable secretary in the history of television.  For nine years on CBS, Hale played Della Street opposite Raymond Burr on Perry Mason, a role which won her an Emmy.  Hale was under contract with RKO for years prior to that, however, and was actually a pretty solid headliner before she switched gears over to television (which wasn't like it was today-you either did one or the other, particularly if you were on a regular series).
Is She Still Working?: Sadly she is not.  Hale continued playing Della Street for years, and did some small television and film work after the series was done, but largely disappeared from frequent acting afterwards.  Her last television appearance was in an episode of A&E Biography (remember when A&E actually had quality programming...a topic for another time) for her former costar Raymond Burr.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've actually seen a number of episodes of Perry Mason thanks to Nick-at-Nite.  I distinctly remember watching Perry Mason Returns (the episode where Hale's Street herself was on trial for murder) with my aunt and uncle in Wyoming when I was a kid and being entranced by the show and I've seen The Window and wasn't impressed.  Therefore, I'll go with Jolson Sings Again with Larry Parks reprising the role that won him an Oscar nomination (the sequel gained three nominations as well, so someday we may well get there with the OVP).

Marsha Hunt (1917-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Her politics.  You may be wondering where all of the Hollywood liberals are after so many conservatives highlighted on this list, but you're about to get one in Ms. Hunt, a star for both Paramount and MGM in the 1930's and 1940's who watched her career unravel during the 1950's as part of the blacklist.  Hunt was a vocal advocate for free speech and freedom to petition, and refused to denounce her activities protesting Congress on behalf of the blacklist...and therefore didn't work for most of the 1950's, extinguishing her career.
Is She Still Working?: Possibly-she hadn't made a film in some forty years before deciding to appear in a short film in 2008, so who knows-maybe she's still interested in acting after almost eighty years of being in the business.  A song she wrote in the 1970's supporting gay marriage recently was recorded and will be featured in an upcoming documentary about her life, however.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I'm going to go with Born to the West, starring an extremely handsome John Wayne in his twenties, which gives Hunt an unusually robust screenplay to work with for a love interest role in the 1930's.

Angela Lansbury (1925-Present)

Oscar Nominations: 3 (for Gaslight, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Manchurian Candidate, as well as an Honorary Oscar she won earlier this year).
Most Famous For: Well, for starters, she's famous enough that I'm willing to bet you said, "finally, someone I've heard of!" as you saw her name.  Lansbury has enjoyed an incredible amount of succcess throughout her career, principally on Broadway (she has won five Tony Awards) and on television (as J.B. Fletcher on the long-running CBS show Murder, She Wrote).  Of course, Lansbury has had a plethora of film roles as well that have become part of her own personal lore.  Her work in John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate and Disney's Beauty and the Beast would be toward the top of the public consciousness.
Is She Still Working?: Yes!  As recently as June she was doing Blithe Spirit in the West End, and I still think she's got a great film role left in her if there's a director out there who would like to go for it, though most of the work she's done lately has been the stage (can you imagine doing eight shows a week at nearly ninety?!?).
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: Here I've seen enough of her work (I've even seen her on-stage) to have a favorite performance (The Manchurian Candidate, though honestly I've loved almost everything-she's a personal favorite) and have all three of those Oscar-nominated roles done, so I'll go with the comic classic The Court Jester, which I have for some reason never gotten around to and in which she plays Princess Gwendolyn opposite Glynis Johns (who like Arlene Dahl didn't quite make the cut of the 250 finalists for the AFI Award, but is also still alive at age 90 and would have been eligible).

Piper Laurie (1932-Present)

Oscar Nominations: 3 (for The Hustler, Carrie, and Children of a Lesser God)
Most Famous For: We'll continue the list of actresses that you've actually heard of with Piper Laurie, who did make her first screen appearance in 1950 (just making the AFI eligibility cutoff), and who is most known to film audiences as the mother from hell in Carrie (oddly enough, Angela Lansbury arguably plays the cinema's other most famous mother from hell on-screen).  Laurie also was Paul Newman's love interest in The Hustler, and got a Best Actress nomination for it and was Catherine Martell on Twin Peaks.
Is She Still Working?: Once again, I think we have a yes-she hasn't made a film in a couple of years but doesn't seem to be retired.  Her most recent work would be Hesher in 2010 with Natalie Portman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I cannot believe I am admitting this, but I have somehow never seen The Hustler, one of those great films from the 1960's and one of the most important roles of Paul Newman's (and of course Piper Laurie's) careers.  I should get on this quickly.

And there are our first ten-we'll finish up with the final nine (and one more living legend to make things look even) tomorrow, but in the meantime-do you have a favorite performance from any of these women?  Do you know who all of these women are (and if not, how are you going to rectify this situation by seeing one of their films?)?  Share in the comments!

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