My Favorite Leading Men

Here we are – already almost through the first month of the year! Very hard to believe. With that said, I’ve realized that I haven’t done any favorites lists on this blog yet and thought it would be a fun way to spice things up a little. So today, I’ve decided to look at those men who helm the whole picture, opposite the fabulous leading lady of course! I’m going to list my favorites, the role(s) that made me a fan of them, and any other tidbits that I found interesting. Without further ado, let’s begin!

“For me, acting is not an all-consuming thing, except for the moment when I am actually doing it.”

william holden

One of my most watched movies as a teenager was Sabrina (1954). I loved the romance of the Cinderella story, Sabrina’s transformation in Paris, and the characters that inhibit the story. Another aspect I loved about this movie was Sabrina’s crush, David (William Holden). He was charming, handsome, and had a smile that could melt any girl’s heart. I loved the song “Isn’t it Romantic” and still think about David and Sabrina dancing whenever I hear it. What came through to me in this film were Holden’s playful and romantic sides. This was my first Holden film, and it wasn’t until later that I discovered he was much more than a romantic lead.

Ah, I love this film for so many reasons! Judy Holliday is absolutely marvelous in Born Yesterday (1950) as Billie, the uneducated arm candy mistress of a criminal boyfriend. In comes Paul Varrell, (William Holden) and treats the girl as if she were a princess. He listens to her uncritically, nonjudmentally, patiently, and then teaches her to think critically for herself. The chemistry between these two is just lovely as is evidenced by both the romantic and comedic moments.

What stood out to me in this film was how kind Paul is to Billie. His innate goodness shines through the character in a way that I haven’t seen in too many other leading men. It’s so beautiful to see. A little backstory, I’ve heard that it takes leading actors a great deal of humility to take on a role where they know they are going to play second fiddle to someone with a scene stealing part and some will even refuse to “stoop down” to that level. Holden was not of that mindset and supported Holliday (in her Oscar winning role) with grace and dignity.

“I’m no actor and I never have been. What people see on the screen is me.”

clark gable

Clark Gable. The King of Hollywood. In my opinion, Clark Gable was one of the best personalities to ever grace the silver screen. Actually, he commanded it. I love his no nonsense attitude, his sense of humor, his calm, steady manner in times of crises, but most of all, I appreciate the vulnerability that came through in his performances. Underneath all of his bravado and machismo, there beat a gentle heart that needed love and care. In addition, he passed on his sensitive understanding of humanity to others.

Red Dust (1932). Screenshot by me.

Watch the scene in Red Dust (1932) when Clark is about to tell Gene Raymond how he and Mary Astor love each other. Gene Raymond tells Clark his and Mary’s plans for settling down and raising a family and of Mary’s love for their close knit family and friends. Clark’s manner and expression changes from being confident and in control, to sad and reflective, as he knows that he will have to give up Mary. It is a subtly effective, beautiful moment on film.

One of the many pleasures of watching Gone with the Wind (1939) is Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler. Rhett, besides Mammy, is the only one who sees right through Scarlett’s shenanigans and isn’t fooled by the innocence that she masquerades in front of others. He knows exactly who she is and sardonically calls her out on it, but loves her anyway. With Rhett, what you see is what you get. He is bold and honest, and respects those who are the same.

When Melanie comes to comfort Rhett after Scarlett’s accident, Clark gave us one out of the many golden scenes in Gone with the Wind. He encompasses Rhett’s guilt and pain, the tenderness and trust of his friendship with Melanie, and his doomed, tortured love for Scarlett all in one short scene.

“To grasp the full significance of life is the actors duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it is his dedication.”

marlon brando

Marlon Brando is a fairly new discovery for me. I know, I know, how can you be a classic movie fan and not know Marlon Brando? Crazy, right? I’d seen Guys and Dolls and heard about all the accolades for On the Waterfront through the years; but I wasn’t in a rush to see it as I thought it was all hype – that is, until I saw it.

In On the Waterfront, (1954) Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is a product of his unfortunate circumstances. He is caught in the middle of his allegiance to Johnny Friendly, the corrupt union boss who rules the docks, and his own moral compass. His goodness is brought to the forefront by his love for the sweet and innocent Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint). It is through their relationship that the tender side of this tough, hard nosed ex-prize fighter comes out, which Marlon beautifully portrays with the emotional sensitivity that became his trademark.

As a sculptor molds clay or a painter wields his paintbrush, Marlon becomes Terry before our very eyes taking us through each stage of Terry’s development and his emotional journey. Throughout the film, he transitions from a victim/accomplice into a courageous man who recognizes his own personal power and embraces it despite the great danger and opposition surrounding him. Marlon won an Oscar for his performance, and it’s not hard to see why. It is a towering performance, both heartbreaking and empowering, flawless in its execution, and should not be missed.

Now it’s your turn! Who are some of your favorites?

Image: Pinterest

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Book Nook – The Charms of Miss O'Hara: Tales of Gone with the Wind & the Golden Age of Hollywood from Scarlett's Little Sister by Phillip Done

Gone with the Wind. When I first saw it, I fell in love. It had everything a great movie should have: an amazing cast; costumes that took my breath away; elaborate sets; not to mention a glorious score; and a story that is both heartbreaking and strangely encouraging at the same time. Some say there will never be another movie to its equal. Some think it’s vastly overrated. It is certainly controversial by today’s standards, but no matter one’s preference it has certainly infiltrated our culture and become part of our vernacular. Gone with the Wind is here to stay.

Beyond the vastness of the movie and the legend comes a true story about an author who had a chance meeting with the woman who happened to play Carreen in Gone with the Wind. You may also know her as Andy Hardy’s long suffering girlfriend in the Andy Hardy series. Her name? Ann Rutherford. In this delightful biography and tribute, author Phillip Done takes us through his encounters with Miss Rutherford, his visits to her home, and the wonderful stories she lovingly tells about her life as an actress in Old Hollywood.

Reading this book is like sitting down with Miss Rutherford and listening to her recall her life’s story. The book is so warmly written, and her adorable, vivacious personality jumps off its pages. For instance, she refers to Gone with the Wind as The Wind. Miss Rutherford had a wonderful sense of humor, a joy for life, and by the end you feel as if you have gained a dear friend.

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) with Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, and Lana Turner

For a number of years, Ann was under contract to the studio who boasted they had “more stars than there were in the heavens.” Ann’s recollections of the inner workings of her most beloved MGM and the glittering actresses who worked there are fascinating. Some of the stars she mentions are Greer Garson, whom she called Greer Dear, Lana Turner, and she reflects on the first time she heard Judy Garland sing (as part of The Gumm Sisters).

Gone with the Wind (1939)
-Screenshot by me-

I particularly enjoyed reading the behind the scenes tidbits on The Wind: how Ann got the part; how she influenced Selznick’s choices in the makeup department; her memories of filming; her opinions of her cast mates; and her exciting experience of attending the premieres and Oscar ceremony.

Ann with Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton) at the Hollywood premiere – 1939

I also appreciated Ann’s never ending commitment to the promotion of the picture by donating her memorabilia to the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum in Atlanta and proudly attending various events honoring the film throughout her life.

Olivia de Havilland, Evelyn Keyes, Ann, and Victor Jory at the 1960’s showing of the film

Image: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/37/17/15/371715fed4e28326df0a91ec19a8df8a.jpg

Evelyn Keyes (Suellen O’Hara), Ann, and Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton) – 2002

Image: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/12/movies/12keyes.html

The story of how Ann got into the movies is quite fun in itself, and the lengths she went into preparing for her first roles are both astounding and hilarious; however, that just barely scratches the surface of what this book contains. Throughout her career, Ann worked in radio, television, and built up an extensive filmography. Her leading men included John Wayne, Gene Autry, Jimmy Stewart, Errol Flynn, and Red Skelton.

The Lawless Nineties (1936) with John Wayne; Of Human Hearts (1938) with Jimmy Stewart; The Adventures of Don Juan (1948) with Errol Flynn

Images: Pinterest

Several surprises lie in wait for those who go on to read The Charms of Miss O’Hara. I don’t want to spoil the fun by giving everything away!

Whistling in Dixie (1942) with Red Skelton and Diana Lewis

For this classic movie fan, this book is paradise. I’ve read my copy twice already, and I know that I will read it again and again. It’s like stepping into a time machine and going back into the glorious, magical days of Old Hollywood led by a friend who knows all the people you’ve always wanted to meet and who’s been to the places you’ve always wanted to go.

Thank you, Phillip Done, for such a wonderful book and tribute to an inspiring lady who was truly as charming as the title indicates.

You can buy today’s lovely book by clicking here.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

-Images are in the public domain unless otherwise noted-