Eye Candy Part 3: Hollywood’s Classic Beauties

It’s been a while since I did my eye candy posts—lists of the Hollywood and Bollywood actors I think top the class when it comes to sheer good looks (nobody’s talking acting ability here). And in case you thought I’d forgotten about the ladies: no, I hadn’t. And yes, here they are: a list of the ten women I think were the loveliest in English-language cinema during the golden years.
Yes, I know I should’ve included her and her and her, and yes, how could I’ve forgotten her, but hey: this is my list! Enjoy, and tell me who your favourites are.
These, by the way, are more or less in order.

Hollywood's classic beauties

1. Ingrid Bergman: I just so adore this woman, with her soulful eyes and that perfect face. And such an accomplished actress too: whether I’m watching Notorious or Gaslight, Spellbound or The Bells of St Mary’s, she can make me forget this is the gorgeous Ingrid Bergman: she just becomes the character she plays.

Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca

2. Grace Kelly: This is one of those actresses with a really apt name. Elegance personified, Grace Kelly was the one lady I’d have expected to marry a prince. There’s something just so absolutely regally flawless about her.

Grace Kelly in Rear Window

3. Elizabeth Taylor: Britain contributed some of the loveliest women on the silver screen, and Ms Taylor was one of them. Look at those eyes. Look at those high cheekbones. Look at that mouth. Wow.

Elizabeth Taylor in Ivanhoe

4. Vivien Leigh: Another example of Britain’s beautiful women (and—yippee—we have a link to her too! She was born in India, in Darjeeling). What a perfect face, and what superb acting. I used to think of her always as the gritty and selfish Scarlett of Gone with the Wind, but ever since I saw Waterloo Bridge, to me she’s Myra, doomed and deeply in love… and I’m sure, with the next Leigh film I see, she’ll be someone totally different.

Vivien Leigh in Waterloo Bridge

5. Marilyn Monroe: Nunnally Johnson, writer of How to Marry a Millionaire, once said: “Marilyn’s a phenomenon of nature, like Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. All you can do is stand back and be awed by it.”
Personally, I think Marilyn is best appreciated not in dumb blonde roles like that of How to Marry a Millionaire’s Paula. See her in River of No Return, without the greasepaint and the wide-eyed look. Watch her enchant a little boy as she sits, clad in jeans and a blouse, strumming on her guitar and singing Down in the Meadow. This is Marilyn at her beautiful, untouched best.

Marilyn Monroe in River of no Return

6. Kim Novak: Not one of the big stars, not eye-poppingly beautiful, but somehow very striking (it’s probably the combination of blonde hair and darker eyebrows). `The Lavender Girl’ has a certain self-confidence and a been-there-done-that air about her that makes her what she is. No wonder James Stewart’s character in Vertigo falls so badly for her.

Kim Novak in Vertigo

7. Eleanor Parker: I must admit I’ve only seen three Eleanor Parker films, and in two of those, she (on the surface, cheerfully) gives up the hero for another. Why, I wonder, did this stunning woman end up doing so few films as a lead actress?

Eleanor Parker in The Sound of Music

8. Greer Garson: Remember what I said about British actresses? This is another one of them, and the classic `English rose’ too: radiantly, luminously lovely.

Greer Garson in Random Harvest

9. Jane Russell: If Greer Garson’s the English rose, Jane’s the American sunflower: bright and unabashedly showy. There’s something about that self-assured, sexy, slightly brash air about her. And guess what? Alaska actually named twin mountain peaks after Jane’s assets!

Jane Russell in Macao

10. Priscilla Lane: The antonym for Jane Russell: wholesome, sweet, girl-next-door. The pretty Priscilla, regrettably, did only a handful of films, but there’s a dewy innocence about her that’s perfect for roles like the one in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Priscilla Lane in Saboteur

And, since this is now a tradition that began with the first of these posts, two more whom I couldn’t slot, but like a lot:

1. Deborah Kerr: Yes, she is one of my favourite actresses, but I still wouldn’t class her as truly beautiful, even though the `English rose’ tag was hers for a long, long time. The lips, I think, are too thin and the voice is a little quavery. But I love Deborah.

Deborah Kerr in The Prisoner of Zenda

2. Jean Simmons: Also British, like Garson, Leigh, Taylor and Kerr. And, like Taylor and Leigh, with hauntingly beautiful dark eyes and hair. There’s something about the mouth, however, that can at times make her look older than she is.

Jean Simmons in The Robe

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41 thoughts on “Eye Candy Part 3: Hollywood’s Classic Beauties

  1. Havent seen a lot many hollywood flicks, but I just adore Ingrid Bergman. She is the one I name when I am asked about my favorite hollywood star. Marilyn is simply iconic. I also like my namesake, Ava Gardner.

  2. Grace Kelly was an absolute favourite at one point, but Ingrid, Marilyn, and co are all up there. Gaslight was just wonderful
    As I went Lubistch at one point, and collected all his films (kindly shown on TV here before even public TV went commercial), just loved his fast-talking heroines, even Greta Garbo in the only comic role I have seen!
    Totally recommend most of them

    http://www.lubitsch.com/

    In your screen cap, Jean Simmons looks like she needs a desi waxing job!!

  3. Ava: Yes, I agree your namesake’s beautiful – though I must admit I don’t remember seeing any films of hers, have only seen her in stills. Must amend that ASAP!

    bawa: Thank you for the Lubitsch link. I recall seeing only a couple of these films, including the first one – The Shop Around The Corner, which I love (I also like its remake, In the Good Ol’ Summertime very much). And please, do tell me which was the Garbo comic role (was it Ninotchka?). The only films I remember her in were tear-jerkers, and I’d love to see more of her, especially in something light-hearted.
    P.S.. LOL! Yes, I think the combination of bad lighting + bad makeup + general unhappiness in the shot resulted in that!

  4. Great list, Dustedoff. They are all so beautiful! Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly and Vivien Leigh are absolute favorites. I remember seeing Leigh in A Yank at Oxford and couldnt recognise her as the same actress who played Scarlett O’Hara – she changed so much with her roles! I love Marilyn Monroe too, but her dumb-blonde roles get a bit annoying after a while. I need to get hold of some of her serious stuff…

    My list would also include Hedy Lamarr and Ava Gardner. Lamarr was drop dead gorgeous and had some fun films too – my favorites are Comrade X and Come Live With Me. For Ava Gardner, I’d recommend The Little Hut (a great comedy, and it has Stewart Granger, too!) and Mogambo – she is gorgeous in both!

  5. Yes, Marilyn in those dumb blonde films can be really irritating. I think my favourite Marilyn film is River of No Return: she’s lovely in that, in an intelligent, sensitive way. Very likeable! And the fact that it stars Robert Mitchum makes it all the more attractive for me.

    Oh, thank you so much for the Lamarr and Gardner suggestions – will definitely look out for these films (especially The Little Hut)!

  6. Yes, it was Ninotchka, a must-see. As I love James Stewart, I liked the Shop Around the Corner: he is so young in that one!

    Others I esp like are Heaven Can Wait, That Uncertain Feeling, and the tongue-in-cheek, One Hour With You, which seems to be poking fun at its own genre, the musical.

    To Be or Not To Be is another must-see, and it was Carol Lombard’s last film before the plane crash. She and Gable must have made such a great couple.

  7. Thank you, bawa! I’ve created a Notepad file now with a list of `must-see’ films and am going to search for them. It’s a pity that a lot of these lovely old films aren’t available on DVD.

  8. Finally! I thought you had forgotten about the list.

    What a lovely post! Grace Kelly is luminous and so is Ingrid. While Marilyn is something of an icon, she is a little artificial — but, what the heck :-)

    I know it’s your list, but how can you not mention Audrey Hepburn and Rita Hayworth? I am stumped :D

  9. Yep, I always thought Marilyn was more the icon than really lovely, but I sort of changed my mind after seeing River of No Return. For the major part of the film, she’s an unglamorous girl on the Canadian frontier, none of that pouting and the glossy platinum blonde look… it converted me!

    Ah, Rita Hayworth: yes, I’m kicking myself for forgetting her! But I think she’s a little like Jane Russell, so maybe the look figures on my list. ;-)

    As far as Audrey Hepbum is concerned, I thought about that a lot – but then didn’t include her, because I find her excruciatingly thin. Not just her figure (which is fine by me) but her face as well… I can understand why a lot of people might think her beautiful and she does have a gamine charm, but I wouldn’t class her as drop-dead gorgeous.

  10. great list, dustedoff!
    am missing Audrey Hepburn as well. that is the way with tastes, isn’t it?
    Just like everybody above just adore Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor and Grace Kelly.
    I also missed Sophia Loren, Lauren Bacall and Shirley Maclaine!
    Thanks!

  11. Yes, it is a pity. Only the more well-known ones are available on DVDs but then how to get hold of even those without paying the earth?

    As I said, i was lucky that in the 90s, Spanish TV ran a retrospective of Lubistch (good old days..sigh), and we taped the whole lot, a few dubbed, but most in original version with large yellow subtitles (some of them competing with hindi subtitles for craziness) across them. But they are so delightful that I will turn the colour down on the TV (which turns them into large white subtitles) and watch anyway.

    Over recent years, there have been collections of classics on offer with newspapers, magazines, etc. etc. but they all seem to repeat the same 20 classics over and over again, some of them not what I would choose either.

  12. harvey: True, true! As one of the characters in Westward the Women says, “One man’s eye for beauty is another man’s eyesore!” But seriously, I do think all the ladies you’ve listed are beautiful (very definitely not eyesores!) – maybe not just the type to feature on my list!

    bawa: It’s the same with old and obscure Hindi films too. Sometimes I wish I’d been a little older when Doordarshan screened classics like Achhut Kanya and Duniya Na Maane: at least I’d have remembered them! Now, I just know that I’ve seen these (and similar films, some much later but still obscure), but I don’t recall any of them!

  13. I would definitely have Garbo on my list (even though I’m not a namesake, at least we share a name right?), and also Gene Tierney. And Rita Hayworth.

    If I could look like anyone I wanted, it might be Vivian Leigh though—what a face she had. Great actress too…

  14. I was thinking of Garbo too – perhaps in one of her early films. I haven’t seen much of her, unfortunately: only a couple of the films she made at the fag end of her career. Gene Tierney, unfortunately, I’ve seen only in two films where she didn’t look great – The Ghost and Mrs Muir and The Left Hand of God. My education is obviously incomplete! But oh, what I’d give to have a face like Vivien Leigh’s. Or Grace Kelly’s. Or well, any of these ladies on my list – and the ones everybody’s suggested.

  15. “One man’s eye for beauty is another man’s eyesore!”

    Great Quote! Agree completely.
    And it would be sooooooooo boring if everybody had the same opinion!
    :-)

  16. You’re so right that it would be boring if everybody had the same opinion! And I’ve seen that sometimes I’ve changed my opinion simply because I’ve tried to be broadminded enough to see something (and someone?) through somebody else’s eyes!

  17. *sometimes I’ve changed my opinion*

    Yes, I noticed it!
    For e.g.,
    1. Mala Sinha! You changed my opinion on her as well!
    2. Marlon Brando: You regretted not including him in your Hollywood actor’s list!

    Self-Reflection is a hard to find virtue. Treasure it!
    (I mean it)

    I’m really looking forward to your list of 10 most Bollywood actresses.
    (I completed mine today morning and can’t wait to compare it with yours. But Shhh!)

  18. Yep, I think it’s important to keep one’s mind open when it comes to such things!

    I decided to keep my Bollywood actresses list for the end simply because I’ve had to labour so hard over it… I’ve come across lead actresses in Hollywood who were less than beautiful (in my opinion, Mae West is a stellar example) but Bollywood? It’s very hard to find even one lead actress who wasn’t lovely in some way or the other, at some time or the other. And then there were others, all really beautiful, who never quite made it to lead except in perhaps B-grade films – sometimes not even then. A very, very hard list to create, but I’ll be posting it next week.

    And will be looking forward to reading your list too!

  19. Hello Dustedoff,
    Mmm… very nice list! I especially agree with Ingrid Bergman: have you seen her in Dr Jekyll and M. Hyde (with Spencer Tracy)? She’s temptation made woman. And in that movie, there’s also Gene Tierney: now that was a girl.
    My favourites also comprise Linda Darnell. Do you know her?
    You’re right about Audrey Hepburn being thin, and that’s a downer for me too. But I recently saw her in Sabrina, and… well, she’s so magnificent that I would’ve made an exception!
    cheers

  20. Yves, thank you for dropping by! (Also good for me, because I’ve discovered your blog).

    I haven’t seen Dr Jekyll and M. Hyde, but will definitely add it to my list… anything with Ingrid in it is grist for my mill. Gene Tierney I’m not so sure about; unfortunately, she didn’t look that great in either of the two films I’ve seen of hers (The Left Hand of God and The Ghost and Mr Muir).
    It’s a coincidence that just an hour ago, I first heart about Linda Darnell! I’d been watching The River of No Return, directed by Otto Preminger, and as part of the trivia attached to the film, I discovered that Marilyn Monroe (who starred in the film) and Preminger hated each other so much that they wouldn’t talk on the sets. Someone commented that it wasn’t just Marilyn’s fault; Preminger was apparently so nasty that even Linda Darnell – who got along with everybody – also didn’t like him! I looked through some still shots of Linda, and she sure looks pretty. Will look out for her films too.
    Hmm, I have to see Sabrina (I’ve only seen the Harrison Ford remake)… I like Audrey Hepburn as an actress, so even if she’s not absolutely gorgeous, I don’t mind!

  21. Was that Eleanor Parker, the first picture on the upper left corner of the collage? If it’s her, then I must say, she suits brown hair better. ;)

  22. I’m so glad you included the often forgotten Eleanor Parker on your list. The funny thing about her is that she was the leading lady in over 25 films in the 40s and 50s but no one remembers her. If you want to see her at her most lovely you should check out “The Naked Jungle” with Charlton Heston. She shines in that movie. Also good are “Many Rivers to Cross” in which Eleanor plays a Maureen O’Hara type western woman, and “Escape from Fort Bravo.” Eleanor is radient in all of them, and she is much younger than she is in the “Sound of Music” which came in the later part of her career.

  23. I’m yet to see The Naked Jungle, but I’m putting it on my wishlist right away! Of the three films of hers that I mentioned having seen, Many Rivers to Cross was one – so cute! I’ve also seen Escape from Fort Bravo, which was enjoyable enough – plus she looked gorgeous. Another good Eleanor Parker film (which I’ve seen recently – after I wrote this post) is Home from the Hill. It’s one of her later films, in which she plays the embittered wife of an adulterous husband. Her acting’s excellent in it.

  24. She’s beautiful as the Baroness, in a regal sort of way. Do see some of her earlier films (Scaramouche, for example, or Escape from Fort Bravo) – she’s equally gorgeous, but in a more everyday way!

  25. Wow… Most of my favorite actress was here… Eleanor Parker, Vivien Leigh, Deborah Kerr and gosh Grace Kelly she was a goddess!!! I must admit to myself that though many young people my age didn’t appreciate classics nowadays i still admire these great women… They’re really gorgeous, elegant, classy, sophisticated, chic and Great… too bad I’m not born in their days!!!

  26. Yes, I too was born long after most of these women had stopped acting in films – or at least weren’t in leading lady roles. But oh, they were so beautiful, so classy and elegant! Really, truly, lovely.

    This list was made a while back, and since then I’ve seen and admired more actresses. Hedy Lamarr, for instance. Maybe in a few months’ time, I should do an updated list (it won’t stop at ten, though!)

  27. I love Ingrid Bergman, really. She is on the top of my list of favorite Hollywood actresses.

    Have you seen Casablanca yet? Ingrid is still young there, and she’s STUNNING. And the thing with her eyes is but agreeable; just one look and you’ll see every emotion coming from within.

    Vivien Leigh is one of my ultimate faves, too!

  28. Yes, Ingrid is lovely in Casablanca (by the way, the screen cap I’ve used in this post is from Casablanca). She’s also gorgeous in Spellbound and Notorious – both Hitchcock films, and very good.

  29. Hello,
    If you are interested in Ingrid Bergman’s amazing screen presence, I think one of her best performances was in Fleming’s Dr Jekyll and M. Hyde. I never saw her more stunning!
    cheers

  30. Love Greer Garson and Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. So much inner beauty.And I am so glad Priscilla Lane is in there.She had so much animation in her face. I thought I was the only person in the modern age to remember her :)

    • I guess my love for Priscilla Lane dates back to when I saw Arsenic and Old Lace as a teenager. She was so luminously pretty, I couldn’t help but like her! Such a wholesome loveliness to her. :-)

      • Lmao. Same here. Arsenic and old lace. Especially when she whistles in Grant’s ear. Also loved her in those John Garfield movies.

  31. Ah, I’m going to have to disagree with a bunch once again.

    First of all, surely my number one would be Audrey Hepburn. The most beautiful face, without a doubt. I would also put Liz Taylor at number two, Grace at number 3 and Ava Gardner at number 4. I’ve always maintained that Madhubala was more like Ava than Marilyn, she had that kind of earthy sensuality. I am also missing Lauren Bacall – very beautiful lady. Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck were not classically beautiful but they had something that put them above many of their more conventional, but duller, counterparts. Oh, and Hedy Lamarr! I cannot forget her. So lovely. Eva-Marie Saint, the quintessential Hitchcock blonde.

    Ingrid Bergman was utterly beautiful, needing very little enhancement. Vivien Leigh had a brittle English beauty that I love. Eleanor Parker was also lovely.

    I would strike Marilyn off the list entirely. Too artificial and overexposed, in my opinion. Also remove Jane Russell. Very sexy undoubtedly but has as much reason to be here as Jayne Mansfield IMO. :-) Greer Garson et al…don’t do much for me. Sorry. :-)

    • Ah, we’re pretty much poles apart on this one, because I don’t like the looks of either Lauren Bacall or Katharine Hepburn or (yes, iconoclast, I know!) even Audrey Hepburn much – she always looks so terribly anorexic to me. The only film of hers where I thought she looked pretty was War and Peace. In films like Charade or Wait Until Dark, she looks like she needs to be strapped down and force-fed! But, a brilliant actress.

      • Poor Audrey grew up in war-torn Netherlands, which experienced severe famine due to food shortages, particularly in 1941 which was the most severe winter also in a very long time. So that would probably explain her thinness! They researched that generation of children and found permanent metabolic changes due to starvation.

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