But Why?

 

Here are 16 classic movie stars that baffle me.  What was their appeal?  I just can’t see it.  Why were they famous?  What movies of theirs should I watch to understand?  If you have any insight into one or more of these golden age actors please enlighten me.  I want to understand, I really do.

 

W.C. Fields, Jayne Mansfield, Hedy Lamarr, Laurence Olivier, Loretta Young, Melvyn Douglas, Vivien Leigh, Paul Muni, Jeff Chandler, Van Heflin, Janet Leigh, Randolph Scott, Mae West, Joan Fontaine, Jeanne Crain, and Lana Turner.  Yes, these puzzle me.

Thanks for your help!

 

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6 thoughts on “But Why?

  1. Some of these baffle me too… Joan Fontaine I found somewhat boring, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a WC Fields movie. Lana Turner, Loretta Young, Jayne Mansfield – nope, do’t get those either despite the ‘sex appeal’ of the two blonde ladies. However, while none of these are my faves, I do see the appeal of Laurence Olivier (it’s the brooding hero thing), Vivien Leigh (because of Gone With the Wind – she was not a very nice person in that movie but boy, did she play it well and she was beautiful) and Melvyn Douglas (because of Ninotchka with Greta Garbo, he had this twinkle in the eye). And Mae West – I never used to get that either but in later years I came to understand how outrageous she must have been for her time, challenging sexual morale, and have to admit a respect for her for not giving a shit about what others thought of her and standing up for freedom of speech (she was often censored).

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    • Great thoughts here Esther. Yes, Vivien did a wonderful job as Scarlet! I do have to admit that. : ) I also really like Ninotchka. But I can’t help thinking how it would have been even better with Cary Grant or William Powell in the Melvyn Douglas role. But hey, Melvyn lucked out! Can you imagine getting to spend time with Garbo? Wow!

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  2. W.C. Fields – perhaps an acquired taste, but I find his delivery quite funny, and his dialogue very quotable. He seldom plays a likeable person, but in fields’ world he is perhaps the most likeable character standing.

    Jayne Mansfield – A slightly more calculated Marilyn but without her extraordinary charisma. Nevertheless, Mansfield is great in a couple of Frank Tashlin comedies where she is used basically like a cartoon character with heart: The Girl Can’t Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

    Laurence Olivier – I love all his old man parts where he slices the ham thick but I’ve always found his younger parts a bit cold. My favorite Olivier roles: Sleuth, A Little Romance, & Marathon Man.

    Vivien Leigh – Her Scarlett is indelible and she’s gorgeous.

    Janet Leigh – Her performance in Psycho is extraordinary. Much of it relies on her expressions alone as she is by herself in a number of her scenes. She is also terrific in Touch of Evil, and I can’t fault any of her other performances. I was recently surprised by her range when I saw her as a cold-blooded assassin in a Man From Uncle Movie, The Spy in the Green Hat which was compiled from a couple of TV episodes.

    Randolph Scott – One of the most iconic western stars thanks to his run of films with director Bud Boetticher. He has a great final performance in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, taking the role that Joel McCrea turned down because he didn’t want to tarnish his good guy image – both actors pulled off career bests with this film. He had the range to do comedy too – see My Favorite Wife.

    Mae West – I am less enamored with Mae West than I am WC Fields, but they made great comedy together and her persona is a part of our culture.

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