Tuesday, September 23, 2014

AFI's 25 Greatest Actresses, Part 6

We have been tracking, in honor of both the late Lauren Bacall and the 15th Anniversary of the AFI 100 Stars list the many great actresses honored on that list.  Please look through Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 as well as reading through this, our conclusion (for the actresses at least).

My brother and I were discussing this series this morning, and I put in the caveat above with "at least," since clearly I'm going to have give the fellas their due after spending so much time on the brilliant actresses of yore.  So expect that write-up at some point later this week (when, that's anyone's guess, but definitely before Sunday).  In the meantime, though, we will wrap up the living women who were nominated for this list (the greatest actors who either A) made their debut at or before 1950 or B) who had died by the time the list was being put together), but didn't make the Top 25.  Like I said above, please make sure and click all five links above if you're new to the fun, and add Netflix movies to your queue for anyone you haven't seen enough of (or particularly, if you haven't heard of), and share your thoughts on them in the comments!  Now, on to our final nine ladies (and one extra, for balance).

Editor's Note: Since this article was written Joan Leslie, Lizabeth Scott, and Luise Rainer have all since passed, meaning only seventeen women on the AFI ballot are still alive.

Joan Leslie (1925-2015)

Oscar Nomintions: Never nominated
Most Famous For: A trio of classic films made in the early 1940's.  Leslie made her film debut opposite Greta Garbo in Camille (how great is it that someone living can still claim they got their first part with Greta Garbo?), but her star didn't truly take off until she signed with Warner Brothers in the early 1940's, starring in three of the biggest films of the era: High Sierra, Sergreant York, and Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Though she went on to star opposite Fred Astaire and Ronald Reagan (Leslie, from what I can tell, was another one of our many long-living Republicans), her career never recovered when she sued to get out of her contract with Warner Brothers, though she went on to do a number of television guest spots (including what is becoming a bit of a pattern here: a guest spot opposite Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote).
Is She Still Working?: No, Leslie retired from acting in 1991, her last role being in the TV movie Fire in the Dark with Olympia Dukakis and Jean Stapleton.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I have somehow never seen Humphrey Bogart in the role that made him a star in High Sierra, so I'd probably go with that amongst Leslie's brief but oddly classic-filled (the film with Ronald Reagan is one of his most beloved: This is the Army, so that brings her up to four major pictures in three years) filmography.

Gina Lollobrigida (1927-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Look at the picture to the left and I'll give you one (err...two) guesses.  Lollobrigida was the Italian sex symbol, a counterweight to the American Marilyn and the French Bardot.  She did make a handful of films with the leading men of the era (Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, Frank Sinatra), but quite frankly it was her incredible beauty and her bizarre change in careers late in life (she became a journalist, and eventually managed to land an interview with Fidel Castro of all people in the 1970's) that made her a household name.
Is She Still Working?: She is not acting, but she does still stay in the papers, recently auctioning off $5 million worth of jewelry to benefit stem cell therapy.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I don't know if I've ever actually seen a Lollobrigida film, so I would probably make it a bit of a marathon to catch up.  I'd start with her Golden Globe-winning work in Come September with Rock Hudson, follow it with her Esmerelda opposite Anthony Quinn in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and finish things with her Solomon and Sheba with Yul Brynner, which has the distinction of being King Vidor's final film.

Dorothy Malone (1925-Present)

Oscar Nominations: One nomination (which she won for-Best Supporting Actress for 1956's Written on the Wind)
Most Famous For: Her soap opera antics on Peyton Place, where she played Constance Mackenzie, the mother of main character Allison Mackenzie (the role which made Mia Farrow a household name). Malone played the role for four years, after already proving her worth on the screen winning an Oscar by playing a nymphomaniac in Written on the Wind.  Malone may also be recognizable for her final film role in the 1992 blockbuster Basic Instinct (a film that launched another sexually charged blonde, Sharon Stone).
Is She Still Working?: No-after Basic Instinct she retired permanently back to Dallas (random fact: she could have played the Barbara bel Geddes role on Dallas but turned it down).
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I have somehow never seen Written on the Wind, even though it is considered the high-point in 1950's melodramas.  I also feel bad that I have never seen any episode of the television series Peyton Place-the movie was dreadful, but I have a feeling that the actual television series would be considerably better.  Any fans out there?

Rita Moreno (1931-Present)

Oscar Nominations: One nomination (which she won for-Best Supporting Actress for 1961's West Side Story)
Most Famous For: For thoroughly enjoying life in Ame-RIC-a.  Moreno starred in one of the great American musicals in 1961, taking over the role made famous by Chita Rivera on Broadway and becoming a household name as a result (as well as an Oscar-winner).  Though at that time she had been featured in three of the best-loved musicals of all-time (she was also in Singin in the Rain and The King and I), she didn't star in a lot of high-profile films again (a Latina actress at that time frequently had to rely on stereotypical roles, which Moreno refused to partake of).  Instead she forged a bold multi-platform career, winning an Emmy, Grammy, and Tony in the 1970's to complete her EGOT.  She is best known from this period for her work on The Muppets and The Electric Company (with Morgan Freeman).  Moreno also had a pretty spectacular personal life, being romantically involved with both Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley during her career.
Is She Still Working?: Absolutely (that Kennedy Center Honor isn't going to earn itself...and man has she earned it at this point, so they better give it to her).  She recently finished a stint as Fran Drescher's mom on the TV Land series Happily Divorced.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've seen her three iconic musicals, so I'm going to go with The Ritz, which earned Moreno a Tony Award on Broadway and a Golden Globe nomination on film.

Margaret O'Brien (1937-Present)

Oscar Nominations: None, though she won the Juvenile Academy Award in 1944.
Most Famous For: Being one of the biggest child stars on the planet.  Margaret O'Brien was to the 1940's what Shirley Temple and Judy Garland were to the 1930's.  She even appeared opposite Garland in the most famous of O'Brien's movies: Meet Me in St. Louis, where she played Tootie.  O'Brien was a major star, but couldn't jump to adult roles like Garland, whom she is oftentimes compared to, and instead only made the occasional television or film appearance.  If you ever want a fun story, read about O'Brien's Oscar and how she lost it for some fifty years before it finally returned to her.
Is She Still Working?: She is, in fact.  I don't know if this is just IMDB pulling my leg, but she and Mickey Rooney of all people will be appearing together in a film of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde out next year (seriously-is this real?  And is it Rooney's final picture?  And most importantly, how can I see it this very second?).
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I'd probably go with the film that made her a star, Journey for Margaret with Robert Young and Fay Bainter, as I've seen (and loved) Meet Me in St. Louis before.

Luise Rainer (1910-2014)

Oscar Nominations: Two nominations (and she won for both-Best Actress for 1936's The Great Ziegfeld and Best Actress again for 1937's The Good Earth).
Most Famous For: Being the original Oscar curse.  For most layman of the Academy Awards who still value their knowledge of filmic history, you may be wondering how you know next to nothing about a woman who won the Best Actress trophy twice.  That's probably because Rainer had one of the biggest take-offs and crashes in the history of Hollywood.  She was signed to MGM in hopes of them replicating the success of Greta Garbo, and she clearly did well to start out, winning an Oscar for The Great Ziegfeld (which may well have been a supporting role today, but she was too much of a "leading lady" for such things), and then following it up with a dramatic turn in The Good Earth, an adaptation of the Pearl S. Buck novel.  She couldn't maintain this success, though, and so based on the advice of her then husband Clifford Odets (the great playwright and screenwriter) she quit Hollywood, eventually moving to London.  And since then every Oscar-winner who had a career setback has been in her shadow.
Is She Still Working?: Absolutely not-after 1943's Hostages she only made one other picture, 1997's The Gambler with Michael Gambon.  She does occasionally stop out for the star on a walk of fame or Oscar cameo, however.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've seen her in The Great Waltz, but haven't seen either of her Oscar-winning roles, the only actor who has won more than one Oscar and I haven't seen either performance.  I must rectify this post haste!

Debbie Reynolds (1932-Present)

Oscar Nominations: One nomination (for Best Actress in 1964's The Unsinkable Molly Brown)
Most Famous For: Wishing us all a LOVELY morning.  Reynolds would star in dozens of pictures after her first big break, but she will forever be Kathy in Singin' in the Rain, jumping out of cakes and onto couches.  Reynolds would of course spend a good chunk of the rest of her career making light-hearted romantic comedies, and be involved in one of the most notorious of Hollywood love triangles, when Elizabeth Taylor stole away her husband Eddie Fisher in a scandal that rocked Hollywood (Reynolds was the Jennifer Aniston of her day).  She also, of course, is the mother of Princess Leia herself Carrie Fisher.
Is She Still Working?: She definitely is.  She recently starred in the multiple Emmy-winning Behind the Candelabra with Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, and will be receiving the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award next January.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I've seen Singin' in the Rain more times than I can count, as well as her Oscar-nominated work in The Unsinkable Molly Brown.  I might go with her 1996 comeback in Mother (she did an hilarious bit at the Oscars with her daughter that year, showing up despite being snubbed for a nomination) but would probably prefer her in Tammy and the Bachelor, one of her most iconic characters and films (Sandra Dee would take over the role in the sequels).

Lizabeth Scott (1922-2015)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Being the ultimate femme fatale.  Scott never quite got the stardom that Barbara Stanwyck (whose rejected roles fed Scott's career) achieved, but she was definitely a cool blonde with a sense of danger, starring opposite the likes of Kirk Douglas, Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, and (before an extremely long self-imposed retirement) Elvis Presley in his second film.  No other actress has appeared in as many film noir movies as Scott.  She is also well known for kicking off the legendary libel suit against the 1950's tabloid Confidential.  Oh, and to cap it all off, she is also a lifelong Republican.
Is She Still Working?: No.  Her last film was 1972's Pulp with Mickey Rooney and Michael Caine, and though she makes the occasional appearance at a film tribute or gala, she hasn't worked on-screen since.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I don't think I've ever seen a Lizabeth Scott film, and considering film noir is my favorite genre at the movies, this is probably the crime I'm most ashamed of in this entire project (Scott is an actress I honestly had never heard of until this write-up, and now I cannot get enough-she looks like Lauren Bacall and Jane Greer had a love child).  I'll probably go with The Strange Love of Martha Ivers with Kirk Douglas and Barbara Stanwyck since it's the film I've actually heard of in her filmography, but I suspect any of her movies would intrigue me.

Jane Withers (1926-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: Being insufferable.  Or rather, playing insufferable, in the Shirley Temple classic Bright Eyes, where Withers plays her bratty nemesis.  Withers became one of the biggest stars of the late 1930's, joining Shirley Temple as a major box office draw despite being a child star, and then eventually going into supporting roles, like her work in Giant (she and James Dean were good friends) and eventually commercials, taking on what would become her most famous role for the Baby Boomer generation: Josephine the Plumber in the Comet commercials (for comparison's sake, think of Flo from the Progressive commercials and her ubiquity).  And continuing our streak, she was in several episodes of Murder, She Wrote and appears to be politically conservative.
Is She Still Working?: From what I can tell her most recent work would be voiceover contributions to The Hunchback of Notre Dame and its direct-to-video sequel, so I'm going to go with no since that was twelve years ago, though who knows-she may still be willing to give it a go.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I mentioned this for Temple, but I think Bright Eyes, Withers' most noted work, would probably have to be at the top of the list.

And finally, though she wasn't nominated by the AFI, I could not list this many conservative actresses without including perhaps the most famous Republican Hollywood starlet of them all...

Nancy Reagan (1921-Present)

Oscar Nominations: Never nominated
Most Famous For: There are other actresses still living who deserved to be on the AFI long list more, but considering that these articles have oddly shifted toward discussing the conservative politics of long-living actresses, I felt that a perfect way to end with an even number would be to talk about the former First Lady of the United States.  For those that don't know this, before she was wearing red to state dinners and "just saying no," Nancy Reagan was Nancy Davis, an MGM leading lady who never quite took off with the public.  She did appear in eleven films though, and in addition to starring opposite her husband, she also appeared with the likes of Barbara Stanwyck, Ann Sothern, and Ray Milland (truly random fact-Reagan was asked late in her life to star in Mother with Albert Brooks, a part she declined which then went to Debbie Reynolds, listed above).
Is She Still Working?: Reagan retired from acting when her husband's political career took off, and while she's frequently seen at political funerals and events for her late husband, she's never returned to the screen.
Glaring Miss in Her Filmography: I'd probably have to go with Hellcats of the Navy, a movie I have always wanted to see if only for the curiosity of it all (it's the only film the Reagans ever appeared together in).

And there you have it-time for the conclusion.  As I stated above I will probably try the actors sometime later in the week, but let's give proper due to the actresses (and also to the fact that it took me days to complete these posts) by sharing your thoughts on these women.  Who would you like me to look a little more closely at by perhaps reviewing a film or two? Who are some of your favorites?  Who had you never heard of before I wrote about them today?  Share in the comments!

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