Rick, over at the Classic Film and TV Café, is hosting this blogathon about five favourite classic era stars. I can’t wait to read all the other entries to see which actors people have chosen as their favourites.
I’ve picked five stars who each hold a special place in my heart. I’ve picked my favourite performance from each, and I have listed five films for them all that I highly recommend people see. I’m posting this a day early, as I won’t be able to post it tomorrow.
Maddy’s Five Favourite Classic Stars
1- Claude Rains
Born in London, in 1889, Claude went on to became one of the most talented of all the classic era screen actors. He starred in over 70 films.
I love Claude for how he could steal any scene, often with just a look or by the way he delivered a line. He always came across as witty and classy. He made everything he did on screen look effortless.
Claude had one of the greatest voices in film history. He used this to great effect in all of his films. In The Invisible Man(1933)he particularly relies on his voice alone to convey the menace and feelings that his unseen face cannot convey. For me this is one of the greatest vocal performances in film history.
Claude died in 1967.
My Favourite Claude Rains Film Performance? Justin in The Passionate Friends (1949). Claude is excellent here as the husband who discovers his wife(Ann Todd) is having an affair with her ex(Trevor Howard). He still loves her, but can he find it in his heart to forgive her? Claude makes you really feel for Justin and gives you the impression that although not passionate, he is never the less a good man who loves his wife.
Five Must See Claude Rains films: Deception, The Passionate Friends, The Invisible Man,Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
2- Vivien Leigh
Born in India, in 1913, Vivien Leigh would go on to become one of Britain’s greatest stage actresses. Vivien was married to Laurence Olivier from 1940 to 1961 and the couple starred alongside each other in several plays and films.
Despite her great talent Vivien only ever ended up starring in 20 films. I think that is a great shame,she is someone I would dearly love to have seen more often on screen. Vivien won two Oscars for Best Actress (Gone With The Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.)
Vivien easily rivals Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor for the title of most beautiful actress of all time in my opinion.
I love Vivien for the strength, vulnerability and enchanting quality she gave to so many of her characters. Vivien is another actor who steals every scene she is in. I also admire Vivien because she continued working on stage and screen whilst struggling with her Bipolar Disorder, that cannot have been easy for her; especially in a time when mental illness had such a stigma attached to it.
Vivien died in 1967.
My Favourite Vivien Leigh Film Performance? As the iron willed Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind (1939). Doing what she has to do to survive, even if those things make her unpopular. Scarlett is resourceful, beguiling, vulnerable and admirable. This was Vivien’s breakthrough film performance and it is the one that made her a worldwide star. Vivien makes you admire Scarlett, even when we may not agree with some of her actions.
Five Must See Vivien Leigh Films: A Streetcar Named Desire, That Hamilton Woman, Waterloo Bridge, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Gone With The Wind.
3- George Sanders
Born in Russia, in 1906, George Sanders would become the go to actor for playing cads and villains. Suave, effortlessly charming and possessing one of the most distinctive voices in film history. George could often be seen playing heartbreakers and oily villains. Between 1939 and 1941, he played the heroic Simon Templar in The Saint film series; these films proved he could play a good guy and he played a similar character in The Falcon series.
I love him because he made everything he did appear effortless. He had a special way of delivering his lines, making them witty and full of dry humour.
A couple of years ago I was delighted to discover that in 1958, Sanders recorded and released a song album called The George Sanders Touch: Songs For The Lovely Lady. Having heard a few of his songs I can report that his singing voice is lovely, and I’m surprised he didn’t release more songs. I was very pleasantly surprised when I first heard his singing.
George died in 1972.
My Favourite George Sanders Film Performance? As Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (1950). As the theatre critic with the acid tongue, he steals every scene he is in(even from Bette Davis!). Sanders looks like he is having great fun throughout, he makes DeWitt a charming friend and a dangerous enemy.
Five Must See George Sanders Films: All About Eve, The Black Swan, The Saint In London, Foreign Correspondent, The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry.
4- Setsuko Hara
Setsuko was born in 1920, in Japan. She began working in films when she was a teenager. During the 1940’s and 50’s, Setsuko was one of the most popular stars of Japanese cinema.
Working frequently with director Yasujiro Ozu, Setsuko became synonymous with her frequent screen character Noriko. Her screen persona was often that of the dutiful and gentle daughter, putting her own desires aside for the sake of her family.
I love Setsuko because she is such an expressive actress, she really conveys the emotions of her characters in such a realistic and genuine way. Setsuko really makes you feel what her characters go through (be that happy or sad times.) She also had one of the most beautiful smiles ever to be captured on screen.
Setsuko retired from films in 1963(the same year that Yasujiro Ozu died) and she died in 2015.
My Favourite Setsuko Hara Film Performance? As the dutiful Noriko in Late Spring(1949). Setsuko plays a daughter who is happiest at home with her father. Leaving home to get married breaks her heart. A moving portrayal of a daughter’s love for her father. Setsuko makes my heart break for her character and makes me wish her all the best for her future.
Five Must See Setsuko Hara Films: Early Summer, The Ball at the Anjo House, Late Spring, Tokyo Story, Late Autumn.
5- Cary Grant
Cary was born in Bristol, England in 1904.Cary joined a circus act in which he learnt to become a skilled acrobat and physical comic. Those skills would come in handy when they featured in several of his films. He headed to Hollywood and worked his way up from bit player to one of the most beloved stars of the classic era.
Cary was suave, charming, stylish and a highly skilled physical comic. Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to be with him.
I love him because I greatly admire how he worked his way up to become a star. Cary overcame a very sad, working class childhood and went on to become a wealthy success.
I love how he made so many of his roles fun. Cary can often be found amusingly breaking the fourth wall and looking directly at us on screen; this makes the comic situation he’s reacting too even funnier for me.
Although best known for his romantic and comic roles, Cary was a very good dramatic actor too. I prefer him in his more serious roles, such as Notorious. I wish he had been given more dramatic roles in his career.
Cary died in 1986.
My Favourite Cary Grant Film Performance? Peter Joshua in Charade (1963). Cary plays a spy, who may or may not be a man that Reggie(Audrey Hepburn)can trust. This role for me is the perfect combination of all his screen skills. Here Cary gets to be a man of action and be romantic, funny and serious.
Five Must See Cary Grant Films: Only Angels Have Wings, North By Northwest, Charade, Notorious,The Awful Truth.
Well, it was tough narrowing down my favourite actors list to just five, but I managed to do it in the end. The five I chose are actors whose work I return to again and again, and who always seem natural to me in their on screen performances.
Here are ten runners up. More of my classic era favourites(five men and five women)with some must see films from them.
William Holden: Stalag 17, Breezy, Network, Paris When It Sizzles, Golden Boy.
Takashi Shimura: Stray Dog, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Scandal, Godzilla.
Michael Redgrave: The Browning Version, Time Without Pity, Dead Of Night, The Years Between, The Lady Vanishes.
John Mills: Ice Cold In Alex, The Long Memory, Tiger Bay, It’s Great To Be Young, Ryan’s Daughter.
Stanley Baker: Hell Is A City, Zulu, A Prize Of Arms, Hell Drivers, Campbell’s Kingdom.
Margret Lockwood: The Wicked Lady, Love Story, Jassy, The Lady Vanishes, Madness of the Heart.
Dorothy Dandridge: Moment Of Danger, Carmen Jones, Tamango, Bright Road, Island In The Sun.
Deborah Kerr: The Innocents, The Chalk Garden, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, From Here To Eternity, The Sundowners.
Clara Bow: Call Her Savage, It, Wings, Hoop-La, Get Your Man.
Ingrid Bergman: Notorious, Stromboli, The Bells of St. Mary’s, A Woman Called Golda, Anastasia.
Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out all the other posts over on Rick’s site.
Please share your thoughts on any of the actors I’ve written about. Share your five favourites in the comments section.