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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Five Stars - National Classic Movie Day Blogathon


Today we join Rick at the Classic Film and TV Café blog for his Five Stars Blogathon to celebrate National Classic Movie Day.

The simple exercise is to name five classic film stars and why we like them; but that is not so simple.  I don't think I can narrow down my favorites to five, but the names I list here are certainly among my many favorites.

Teresa Wright, for her natural ability to project clear honesty and decency in her roles, not because they are role models, but because they are common variety people we feel we know, but whom her ability to elevate them to memorable and worthy characters is always astonishing and actually somewhat breathtaking.  Her work in the Fred's nightmare scene of The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) will always be an example of what Hollywood could do when it did its best.  Interestingly, the posed publicity photos of Teresa Wright all seem stilted and awkward, perhaps because she was not interested in stardom, but in acting.  Any frame of her
Shadow of a Doubt (1943) is far more lovely and intriguing than any posed photo I have seen of her.  Her staged photos could be used to sell soap; her Young Charlie is fascinating despite being the girl next door.


Ann Blyth, for reasons so numerous it took me a year of writing about her to express them.  I will simply summarize here by naming her versatility as my reason for including her on my list.  For elaboration, please see my Year of Ann Blyth posts beginning here, or have a look at my book Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. for the rest of it.  I think she's swell.

Joseph Cotten, whom we covered here in The Man with the Cloak (1951), is, probably like Teresa Wright, if not awkward then at least ordinary looking in his publicity photos.  Though he is handsome, there is not the same glamour of other male heartthrobs of the era, and so his film characters, like Wright's, do not jump out off the screen at us, but invite us and even captivate us with work that is not showy, and more low-key and honest.  The anxiety attacks of the soldier with PTSD in I'll Be Seeing You (1944), the struggling artist at the end of his rope in Portrait of Jennie (1948), the wolfish but sentimental family friend in Since You Went Away (1944), all turned around by the evil Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) -- these are fascinating examples of an actor who was a star, but whose repertory training never left him.  Repertory actors could be anybody.

Paul Lukas, whose work in Watch on the Rhine (1943), one of my favorite films, is notable for the delicate balance of heroism and fanaticism of the character.  Though Lukas, with his light Hungarian accent, played characters of European background and sensibilities, he almost appears like an American Abraham Lincoln/Gary Cooper/Davy Crockett in this movie, a straight, tall man of principle and stubborn fealty to honor -- yet a man who easily succumbs to violent measures to preserve it.  He is tortured by this, but carries it as both a sin and a duty.  I am surprised that Hollywood allowed him to reprise this stage role, since that was not their usual course, but I'm glad they did.  I really can't think of another popular actor of the day that could have played the role so brilliantly.

Wallace Ford, because he was always there, always reliable, and had the talent to be more than a supporting character player, but who raised the bar when it came to playing supporting character players.  From his youthful IRA gunman in The Informer (1935), to his Depression-era turns as the palooka husband/out of work boyfriend/store employee (as in Employees Entrance (1933), which I hope to get to later this year)/bank robber/detective (as in Crack-up - 1946) and in the previously mentioned Shadow of a Doubt/ex-safe cracker as in Dead Reckoning (1947), to his scruffy senior years of paunch and stubble face wily galoots, Wallace Ford is one of those names classic film fans cheer when they see the credits, and that's about as high an honor as it gets.  He starred on Broadway in Of Mice and Men, and that would have been something to see.  He had a remarkable personal life, which requires more space than I can devote to it here, but the hair-raising experiences of this Everyman were barely detectable in his cocky smile, his eyes that twinkled with humor, irony, and pain.

For more favorite stars of your favorite movie bloggers, head over to Rick's Classic Film and TV Café blog for his Five Stars Blogathon to celebrate National Classic Movie Day.

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The audio book for Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is now for sale on Audible.com, and on Amazon and iTunes.

Also in paperback and eBook from Amazon, CreateSpace, and my Etsy shop: LynchTwinsPublishing.






17 comments:

R.B. Armstrong said...

You know, I thought Ann Blyth might be on this list! I love your selection of Teresa Wright. I would adore her if she had done nothing but SHADOW OF A DOUBT. In a film of excellent performances, hers is the key one. The expression on her face when she beings to doubt Uncle Charlie is not easily forgotten. Joseph Cotten is another great choice (and has been on several lists today). He was a versatile star as evidenced by the movies you listed (my fave being PORTRAIT OF JENNIE).

Caftan Woman said...

Oh, my. I love how you wrote about these favourites. Such sincere admiration is their due.

To see Paul Lukas and my guy Wally Ford (that's how I refer to him) included here made me cheer.

Elaine Classic Movie Treasures said...

Love all five of your choices. I had a really hard time picking my five because there are so many favorites. I invite you to add it to this week's The Classic Movie Marathon Link Party http://classicmovietreasures.com/classic-movie-marathon-link-party-8/

toto2 said...

What a fun list! I love Teresa Wright in "Shadow of a Doubt" and am delighted to see her top your list. She was an excellent contrast to Joseph Cotten: sweet and innocent yet perceptive to his calculated, cool, and confident character.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

How wonderful to see such admiration for Teresa Wright! I agree that it is a very difficult thing to narrow down one's favorites to only five. I'm sure we all have at least 50 we could name. Looking forward to reading your choices as well!

The Metzinger Sisters said...

Wow, what great choices! I feel ashamed for not thinking of Teresa Wright, when I adore her films so much. I love how you wrote about her screenshots being so much more beautiful than her posed publicity photos, an excellent observation and so true. She was a gem. I also like your selection of Joseph Cotten and Paul Lukas.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks, Metzinger gals! All of us classic film bloggers scurrying over to check out each other's blogs on this special day is going to keep us pretty busy!

Brittaney said...

Oh, I adore Teresa Wright and really wish she had made more films than she did. I much prefer her over her over rated contemporary Jennifer Jones. She just has such warmth and compassion.

Citizen Screen said...

A list bursting with character!! Why does this not surprise me?

Aurora

Christian Esquevin said...

Wonderful selections Jacqueline-although I must say I am most enthralled with your female selections - actresses I have much admired myself. But these are fine actors that worked in great movies.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Brittaney, your mention of warmth and compassion is probably the attributes of Teresa Wright's screen presence that appeals to so many people.

Thanks Aurora, and Christian. So many blogs to follow today!

John/24Frames said...

Ann Blyth? I had no idea you were an admirer! Seriously, since reading your book, I have been on the hunt for films with Ms. Blyth and have managed to catch a few. Wright does not seem to get the attention she deserves. For me, Joseph C. Is always at his best when he plays dark roles like in Niagara and Shadow of a Doubt. Wallace Ford and Paul Lukas were nice surprises.

Tampa Bay Gal said...

Great takes on these movies. I love Teresa Wright. She was wonderful as Gary Cooper's wife in Pride of the Yankees, sweet, demure but strong. My favorite Joseph Cotton role is, no doubt, Jedediah Leland in Citizen Kane, a perfect complement to Orson Welles, as he is in all movies they were in together. Doesn't matter who stars in a movie with Bette Davis, she always makes them shine. She still shines above them but it's as if she's directing them to bring out their best.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

John, I liked Cotten in NIAGARA, but especially in THE MAN IN THE CLOAK.

Welcome, Tampa Bay Gal! Looks like Teresa has a lot of fans, and Bette was great.

FlickChick said...

Love your addition of Wallace Ford - an interesting actor and an interesting man. The first time I saw Joseph Cotten was as a kid in "Hush, Hush sweet Charlotte" and he scared me to pieces. It took me years to be able to just look at him again! However, I've seen grown and now appreciate what a truly fine actor he was.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Yeah, Wallace Ford is swell. How interesting that HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE was your intro to Joseph Cotten. That would be an interesting blogathon or meme: in what movies did we first see the great stars.

Silver Screenings said...

I like that you included Wallace Ford. He definitely deserves some fandom on National Classic Movie Day!

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