My top tens always seem to create a great deal of controversy; and I know I will be in for some trouble with this, perhaps the ultimate, Hollywood list. Each of these stars were chosen, first by the moguls, but ultimately by millions of movie goers over the decades.
Each is an icon exhibiting that distinctive je ne sais quoi that kept them in our collective consciousness for the better part of a century. All but one of these ladies are gone, but they continue live on the screen and thanks to the magic of the laser disc we can visit them whenever we like. It’s good to be the DVD Movies Examiner.
- Greta Garbo; no one in the history of the cinema has such a presence on the screen. See her in Rouben Mamoulian’s Queen Christina 1933. In the transcendent final scene we see a thousand thoughts possess her as she is transformed into the ship’s figurehead.
- Katharine Hepburn is unequaled as the charming yet crafty ditz who captivates Cary Grant in Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby 1938–one of the greatest of the Screwball Comedies.
- Bette Davis always has an edge; a small woman, but she dominates the screen as no other. Many have attempted to play the Virgin Queen, but she reigns supreme over Errol Flynn in Michael Curtiz’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex 1939; And, of course, she has “Bette Davis Eyes”.
- Joan Crawford, is captivating with her wondrously huge eyes that have a relentless intensity in Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce 1945.
- Audrey Hepburn has a coquettish innocence that she never lost, even in her later years. She is the perfect ingénue, upstaging Gregory Peck in William Wyler’s Roman Holiday 1953
- Ingrid Bergman has that extraordinary transparent quality that Michael Curtiz wanted for Casablanca 1943. She plays Bogie like a Stradivarius.
- Elizabeth Taylor is not only ravishing on screen, she brings a fiery intensity that is unmatched. She gets the best of Richard Burton in Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf 1966.
- Judy Garland stole our hearts and never let them go as the sweet yet resilient Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz 1939.
- Marlene Dietrich has that exotic Teutonic charm that captivated a very young lawman James Stewart in George Marshall’s Destry Rides Again 1939.
- Marilyn Monroe uses her naïf vulnerability to put Tom Ewell under her spell in Billy Wilder’s Seven Year Itch 1955.