Sunday, January 19, 2014

Top 10 Crushes From Hollywood's Golden Age

Could this be the start of a tradition here on The Bimillennial Man?

Some of you may recall a few months back when I posted the Top 10 TV Crushes of My Youth. It turned out to be a very popular post which brought in a lot of hits to this site. And so I thought it would be fun to follow up with another Top 10 Crushes list -- but this time hailing back, back, back to way before I was born. That's right, to Tinsel Town's heyday, when studios were only as big as the glamorous stars they contracted to headline their films.

You might think I'm too young to have been influenced by some of the greatest beauties to grace the silver screen ... and you'd be thinking wrong! I happen to be a movie buff, sure, but actually I used to watch a lot of black & white movies on tv as a kid with my grandma. Not only on broadcast and cable television, but by way of the rather extensive video collection she, my aunt and my uncle kept in the house. When we moved in with them, curiosity and sheer boredom alike provided the twin impulses to check out a lot of these films. And with them, the opportunity to develop major crushes on some of Hollywood's biggest names of the day.

Below are the 10 most influential women in classic film for me. I've included their names along with the film I identify most strongly with each actress. In other words, the films in which I developed my crushes. The majority of these I became acquainted with during early adolescence--a crucial time in a boy's development when first loves can set a pattern for all future ones to come. This was no less true for myself. Some of the stars on this list would provide the template by which I would measure all other women to come--be they in showbiz or not.

What can I say? I'm either highly impressionable, or these actresses were seriously irresistible. You decide for yourselves.

As usual, click on a pic to see a larger version. And now, drumroll please . . .

The Top 10 Crushes of Hollywood's Golden Age.

10. Natalie Wood -- West Side Story (1961).

I was first made aware of Natalie when she played the little girl in 1947's Miracle on 34th Street. Which, coincidentally, is the same movie in which I would develop my crush for No. 7's selection farther down on this list. Natalie was only 8 years old in this movie, however, so I was definitely not developing any crushes on this gifted actress then. In fact, I didn't really like the little girl she portrayed: she seemed a bit bratty! I know, I know -- she was actually a very sweet little girl; the only one who believed that strange old man was really Santa Claus! However, it was only after watching her star alongside James Dean in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause that I was first struck by this starlet's beauty, as well as her acting. By the time she was playing her now iconic role as Maria in West Side Story--from which to this day I remember her best of all--I had gained a full-blown crush. "The most beautiful sound I ever heard ... Maria!"

9.  Joan Crawford -- Mildred Pierce (1945).

I've honestly watched Joan in too many movies to count, but she just has that face I could never forget even if I'd only seen one. To me, when I think of early Hollywood glamour stars--I think of Ms. Crawford reigning supreme. Sorry Marlene Dietrich fans! But, of course, it was in Mildred Pierce that she displayed what a truly gifted actress she was to a young 12 year old me just cutting his teeth on the old black-and-white classics. She wowed me with her sheer strength of will and perseverance as Mildred, a woman way ahead of her time in a world dominated by men. And although her stubborn determination does have some cruel repercussions on her children, in the end Mildred was still a glory to behold. One of my favorite movies starring one of favorite Golden Age actresses. The recent HBO mini-series remake with Kate Winslet wasn't so bad, either.

8.  Rita Hayworth -- Gilda (1946).

I knew of, and was crushing on, Rita Hayworth long before the movie Shawshank Redemption (in which she's memorialized by a group of rowdy inmates) came out, but directly because of the 1982 novella the film was based on, Stephen King's "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," which I had read sometime around the cusp of adolescence. The first thing I did after reading that story and wondering who Ms. Hayworth was, was to find the classic movies channel--or the "blackey-whitey station" as we used to call it--and check to see if any of her films were coming on. As luck would have it, the next of Rita's movies that was going to be showing about 2 days later was Gilda itself--the same film that would be visually referenced in the movie Shawshank Redemption many years later. But I saw it myself for the first time at age 13. And--wow! I was blown away by her on-screen charisma. That smile . . . that figure! To this day I stand by the assertion that Rita Hayworth was sexier, and a far better actress, than Marilyn Monroe. That's right, I went there! What? And yes, as Red so eloquently put it during that one iconic scene: "This is the part I really like--this is when she does that shit with her hair." Yup, it got me too, Red. It got me, too! Incidentally, you can check out the very scene he speaks of from Gilda by clicking here. Probably the most famous hair toss in history!

7.  Maureen O'Hara -- Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

Maureen is on this list by sheer virtue of being in one of the most cherished Christmas movies from my childhood: Miracle on 34th Street. Of course, she's on here for much more than that. She predated all the others on this list as I believe I've watched this movie every year now since around the age of 6 until present day. And right from the beginning I had a big old kiddie crush on O'Hara! I thought she was the best actress ever at the time, and I began to measure up all other actresses to her physical beauty--as well as acting--standards. A few years later, being the huge Disney movie aficionado I was at the time (and which kid wasn't, right?), I was delighted to find her starring in 1961's The Parent Trap. For me it had only been a couple of years between films thanks to the miracle of video rental stores, but it was an interesting sight to see an older, more accomplished, and no less stunning Maureen O'Hara starring over a decade later in yet another soon-to-be childhood classic. I miss her!

6.  Ingrid Bergman -- Casablanca (1942).

You can't have a list about starlets from Hollywood's Golden Age without including Ingrid Bergman. I don't care who you think you are. Just on Casablanca alone--one of the greatest films of all time!--she's more than earned her street cred. And that's where I first saw her. In some ways she reminds me of a cross between Nos. 10 and 7 on this list: down to earth and girl-next-door like Maureen one minute, or a dark mysterious beauty like Natalie the next. I love that! I've seen Ingrid in only two other movies since then: 1945's The Bells of St. Mary's, and 1956's Anastasia, which I believe was the first time I'd ever seen her in color. I've watched the former movie more times than I can count, in fact, and is perhaps where I truly solidified my lifelong crush on Ms. Bergman. Her beauty was always refined and approachable, and her personality so serene at times. A true A-lister with class, and one of my all-time faves!

5.  Ava Gardner -- The Killers (1946).
I've made it no secret on this blog before--and those who know me can attest to this--but there is a certain type I'm very attracted to: thin; angular; oval-faced; long, flowing black hair. Ava embodies all these traits! In fact, I believe she is where it all began for me. Why I'm so enamored with women who share her dark, lustrous looks. Thank you, Ms. Gardner! I first saw her in my pre-teens starring in the 1946 classic, The Killers. Two words: Kitty Collins! Mmm .... meow! Wow, she reeled me in with such a dazzling, smoldering performance. I was in love from that movie on! This was also my first introduction to "film noir," a sub-genre I would become totally obsessed with in college. But it was really in 1954's The Barefoot Contessa that I was bowled over by this Hollywood icon's stunning beauty. She's really irresistible, to be honest, and although it sounds like such a cliche--there's never been anyone quite like Ava ever since. Brava!

4.  Elizabeth Taylor -- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).
I first became aware of Elizabeth in 1944's National Velvet. She was only 11 or 12 in that movie, but even at that age she was clearly going to grow up to be a great beauty. Since I was only around 10 or 11 myself when I first saw this film, I can say without shame that my crush was cemented immediately on sight! And while Ms. Taylor's dalliances and marriage exploits are now the stuff of Hollywood legend, it's Liz's earlier days that I prefer to remember best of all. I always thought she was beautiful in every movie I'd ever seen of hers, but it wasn't until one of my favorites, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, that I really sat up and took notice of her acting abilities. Of course, she was stunning in that too, and this certainly helped. And also true, as one of the biggest names on this list, it's very easy to see why she would be positioned so near to the top (or bottom, in this case), close to the most worthy of my crushes. But I think her storied past and sordid exploits sometime eclipse the fact that Elizabeth Taylor really was one of those rare, classic beauties whose acting transported you to a whole other realm of possibility and wonder. Like Ava Gardner earlier, her supreme beauty totally influenced the attraction I would have toward a certain look so many years later. And that, my friends, is the true definition of a worthy crush in my book!

3.  Grace Kelly -- Rear Window (1954).
As you can see, the closer we get to Number 1 on this list the more we're dealing with true Hollywood royalty here. And no one fits that description more aptly than the incomparable Grace Kelly. True, Rita Hayworth was the first starlet to ever marry an honest to gosh prince, but it was Grace Kelly's marriage to the prince of Monaco that was all the big news of the time. I'm not ashamed to admit it, but my crush on the beautiful Grace Kelly came solely by way of Alfred Hitchcock, whose films I was simply addicted to as a teenager. Ms. Kelly starred in three of them, but Rear Window was my absolute favorite, hands down! Her common name was certainly well chosen, for I simply loved her demeanor--cool, poised, and calm under pressure. Qualities I admire in any human being, not just in the opposite gender. But in addition to that, Grace Kelly also happened to be extremely beautiful. That certainly never hurt! Since watching her in that particular movie, I've been smitten ever since.

2.  Audrey Hepburn -- Roman Holiday (1953).
As usual with these lists, controversy begins and ends with the top two selections. By all rights, Audrey should have been in the No. 1 spot; I don't just have a crush on this chic, super influential starlet, but a full on love affair! Her slender, delicate frame; that elfin face; those large, beautiful brown eyes! To this day, the combination is deadly for me! In my opinion, as well as that of many others it would seem, Audrey Hepburn is the very icon of Hollywood royalty--everyone knows her name, and so many have tried to emulate her. But there is only one Audrey! If I were pressed to choose a single word that truly encapsulates all the wonderful traits she possesses, it would have to be: Class with a capital 'c'. But here are some more: Glamorous, erudite, witty, and sexy. She was all these things and more, yet her down to earth, petite spunkiness and bravado endeared her to the every man and woman as well. Yours truly included! I was first intrigued by Ms. Hepburn in 1954's Sabrina--only her second big Hollywood movie, but by this time she was already an Oscar winner. And that top accolade was received for the movie that put her name on the map a year prior, in 1953's Roman Holiday. It was with this film that I fell in love with Audrey. Wow! She had it all as far I was concerned--looks and intelligence, grace and determination. In fact, I thought she was the most dynamic woman I'd ever seen on screen, even if that screen happened to be a television one at the time. I know everyone will bring up 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's as the actress's most beloved and iconic work--and don't get me wrong, she's absolutely fantastic in it!--but Roman Holiday will always be my personal, quintessential Audrey.

1.  Donna Reed -- It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
Yes, I'm sure I'm going to catch some flak for this choice. I mean, Donna Reed definitely belongs on any list of Hollywood's greatest for sure, but I think very few people understand how much I adore this woman. In fact, only one other person does: my grandmother, with whom I used to watch all these great classics. According to her, Donna Reed was the most beautiful actress in showbiz. She used to tell me this as early as age 7, and such praise stuck! Primarily we watched her on The Donna Reed Show, which certainly made her a household name in America. But of course it was in It's a Wonderful Life that everyone probably remembers her best of all as Martha: the sweet, even-tempered but courageously strong wife of George Bailey (played by the incomparable Jimmy Stewart). This just happens to be my favorite Christmas movie of all time--I love it even more than Miracle on 34th Street! And each time I watch it, I fall even more in love with Donna. She's a quiet, reserved beauty. So endearing not just because of her breathtaking good looks, but also because of her kind heart, which is always so evident in the roles she picks. Even when she's playing much edgier roles like that of Alma in 1953's From Here to Eternity, she still comes across as gorgeous yet vulnerable. The contrast just drives me crazy! As much as I love the Audrey Hepburns and Elizabeth Taylors out there (and believe me, I do!), Donna Reed always was and will always be my model for the perfect, wholesome woman. To this day I cannot escape the enchantment of such a beautiful face as hers. She simply is Golden Age Hollywood to me, no debating it.

So, how about those picks, huh? How does this list compare to yours? As usual, please sound off in the comments section below. In particular, I want to know who YOUR pick for the number 1 slot is. Remember, she has to have been a Hollywood star from the so-called "golden age" -- roughly 1930 to 1965. You don't necessarily have to have had a crush like I did, but someone you identify as being the very embodiment of grace, beauty, intelligence, and acting ability from this time period.

You've seen mine. Now who's yours?


  1. Hands down, Liz Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Natalie Wood, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelley. Now THAT was beauty. I agreed with all of your choices except Donna Reed. Not sure she would fall into this particular category. And yes I know it's your blog and your post. Blah. Haha, I'm just sharing my point of view. :)

  2. LOL! You know, I was going to add Sophia Loren to the list . . . but then I realized I'd only seen her in one movie -- El Cid. And I'm not sure if that one qualifies as Golden Age. I could have sworn I'd seen her in more, though. She was very fetching in her younger days, I must admit. Dear lord! :)

  3. They are all beautiful . . . I always liked Maureen! I think it was the red hair and spunk :D

  4. Donna Reed, number 1. Really? No way. The number one spot should have been Audrey Hepburn. Liz Taylor at number 2. Why no Bette Davis? Wasn't she part of the golden age of Hollywood? I wonder what the list would be for the men from this generation.

  5. Kim -- Yes, she definitely had all that and then some! I love her! :)

    Cin -- Bette Davis? Ugh! I seriously have zero attraction to her. She so doesn't do it for me. Never has. Double ugh! You do realize that this is a list of my crushes, right? :) Only those who I legitimately had a crush on will be included -- and not just any actress from the time period. I like Liz Taylor, but not as much as I like Grace, Audrey, and Donna. Simple as that. Also, I had to consider that I've seen the actresses in the top 3 spots in way more movies than I have Liz. So recognition and familiarity also play roles in theses rankings. They're not based on just pure looks.

  6. Just stumbled across this and even though I'm a bit late thought I'd comment anyway.

    These things are so subjective, that's why I think it's great that Donna Reed tops your list. An interesting actress and beautiful in a more wholesome way than cyclones of glamour like Gardner, who I came to love later-she's amazing in The Night of the Iguana, and Taylor. I like all your choices, and that picture of Crawford is one of my favorites-it shows her amazing beauty when she was young but the toughness that became so much of her persona later is right there.

    I'm going to stay in your definition of who my first crushes were when I was a kid, except for my number one who will always hold that spot the others might have changed places, maybe even out of my top ten now, replaced by actresses I discovered later, but I still love all these ladies.

    I'll preface this by saying I suspect that our viewing habits were different in childhood. I was a kid before video tapes and most assuredly before DVD so we relied on The Movie of the Week where one film played at least twice a day every day for a week. That's where I discovered most of these actresses and so once smitten was able to absorb a particular performance to a ridiculous degree.

    My top 10 with first movie I saw them in, their best film in my opinion and my favorite(s) of their work if it's a different film(s).

    1. Linda Darnell-Gorgeous and sadly underappreciated I fell for her when I was about six and she remains my favorite to this day. 1st film-Blackbeard the Pirate-Saturday matinee heaven in Technicolor with Granny Clampett as her maid!! Best film-A Letter to Three Wives. Favorites-Summer Storm, This is My Love and Wives.

    2. Susan Hayward-One tough tomato with beautiful coloring and an underlying warmth. 1st film-With a Song in My Heart. Best film-I'll Cry Tomorrow. Favorite film-The President's Lady.

    3. Ida Lupino-Her huge eyes struck me the minute she came on screen as well as her nervous intensity. 1st film-They Drive by Night where she goes wonderfully crazy on the witness stand. Best film-High Sierra. Favorite film-The Man I Love.

    4. Gloria Grahame-Like you with Donna Reed I fell for Gloria as Violet Bick in It's a Wonderful Life, she was just so distinctive with her unique voice and striking looks. Best & favorite film-The Big Heat.

    5. Judy Garland-What can I say? One of the most talented people ever born and in her youth so delicately beautiful. 1st film-The Wizard of Oz of course. Best film-A Star is Born. Favorites-I Could Go On Singing, Ziegfeld Girl & Star.

  7. 6. Veronica Lake-Saucy, sly and ethereally beautiful. Happily she's enjoyed a very deserved rediscovery since L.A. Confidential resurrected her work. However I remember when she passed away, during that crazy month in '73 that started with Fay Holden's death and continued until Bruce Lee died almost exactly four weeks later when a famous actor or actress died almost every day, she was virtually forgotten. 1st film-I Wanted Wings. Best & favorite films-This Gun for Hire and I Married a Witch equally good in their ways and I love both.

    7. Marilyn Monroe-That famous flesh impact that she had on screen, perhaps not the greatest actress but she relates to the camera in a way no one else does.
    An expert comedienne. 1st film-River of No Return. Best film-Some Like It Hot. Favorites-Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Niagara.

    8. Rosalind Russell-A long tall drink of dignity. I fell for her cool, crisp way of speaking and her wisecracking air. 1st film-No Time for Comedy. Best film-Auntie Mame. Favorites-The Velvet Touch, Gypsy and Auntie Mame.

    9. Glynis Johns-A totally bewitching minx with a delightful accent. 1st film-The Court Jester. Best film-Miranda. Favorites-Aside from Jester, All Mine to Give and The Chapman Report.

    10. Alexis Smith-An incredibly lovely woman wasted by Hollywood in one glamorous girlfriend part after another she broke out later and was recognized for how really talented she was. 1st film-Stallion Road, my sister loved her character so much that she named one of her daughters after her though she went with the more formal Aurora rather than Rory as she was called in the film. Best film-The Sleeping Tiger. Favorites-This Happy Feeling and The Doughgirls.

    Sorry I got carried away but the subject inspired me.

  8. Joel -- Oh man, Veronica Lake!!! She's one of my faves, too. And Susan Hayward. Dammit! I somehow forgot these two. Then again, I only had 10 slots. :)

    But, wow, you have an impressive list! Thanks so much for commenting and adding to the discussion. It's a real pleasure to come across another huge fan of yesteryear Hollywood.


Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...