Tuesday, May 16 happens to be National Classic Movie Day (the third annual celebration of vintage cinema), and this Carole Lombard fan is participating in an event sponsored by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. Specifically, it's called the Five Stars Blogathon.
The premise is simple: List your five favorite film stars and explain why you love them.
I only learned about the blogathon Monday, but got the green light to take part from Rick, who runs the site. (Thank you, sir.) Since this is a Lombard blog, you can guess who leads my list. The other four souldn't surprise you very much if you're familiar with my cinematic interests.
My time range is limited to what's loosely defined as the classic era, and all of my selections covered that period (although several worked into the 1970s and '80s). If I didn't choose one of your favorites, don't take it personally -- it doesn't mean I don't care for them or are denigrating their skills. They simply don't elicit as much passion from me as the five stars I chose. OK?
With that out of the way, here goes:
* Carole Lombard: She's been my all-time favorite actress for more than three decades; what makes her so special to me? Sure, she's ethereal in her beauty and a talented actress (especially in comedy, by far my favorite genre). But the more you read about Carole, the more you fall under her spell.
Lombard may have left this earth more than 75 years ago, but in terms of style, humor, personality and approach to life, she's as modern as tomorrow. I've frequently written that if all the stars from the mid-1930s were herded into a time machine and dropped into right now, she probably would have the least problem adjusting.
Carole was a feminist when feminism wasn't cool, regularly looked out for others lower on the totem pole than her and truly enjoyed the entertainment industry -- not so much the fame and riches it gave her, but its "inside" and technical aspects. It's no wonder many "what-ifs" of Lombard envision her as a movie producer as much as an actress. She was no saint by any means, but it's easy to see why she was so beloved during (and after) her lifetime and remains incredibly iconic.
* Myrna Loy: My second all-time favorite classic actress. Her comedic style was subtle in its charm, low-key yet sharp, somewhat in contrast to the more exuberant Carole. (If only Lombard and Loy, friends in real life, had done a film together.) Myrna made many movies with Carole's husbands William Powell and Clark Gable, as well as Cary Grant and other legendary leading men. She was a superb complementary actress, often easy to overlook, perhaps one reason she was never even nominated for an Academy Award.
Myrna made the adjustment to post-World War II films with minimal difficulty, and unlike several of her contemporaries, declined to go the Grand Guignol route of camp horror during the 1960s. She was admirable in other ways as well. Forward-thinking politically (Loy was among the first industry notables to complain about the stereotyped roles given black actors), she took several years off in the 1940s to aid the war effort as a nursing volunteer, then campaigned for fair housing when she lived in Washington during the '50s. Read her autobiography, one of the best recollections of classic Hollywood.
* Barbara Stanwyck: No. 3 on my all-time actress list, but for sheer versatility, an easy No. 1. Drama? Check (from pre-Codes such as "Baby Face" to '80s TV). Comedy? Check (romantic to screwball). Film noir? Check (and not just "Double Indemnity," arguably the greatest of that genre). Westerns? Check (this Brooklyn gal did many of her horseriding stunts, and deservedly is in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame). Who did os many genres, and did them so well?
Add a thorough sense of professionalism, smartness and understated sex appeal, and it's easy to understand why she was almost always working up until the end, making a seamless transition from big screen to small.
* William Powell: My all-time favorite actor, someone now appreciated as a role model for urbane gentlemen -- that wit, that charm, that voice! (It's no wonder Roger Ebert once wrote that "Powell is to diction what Astaire is to dance.") And Bill was a brilliant actor in both drama (watch "One Way Passage" for proof) and comedy (his fishing scene in "Libeled Lady" reveals his often-underestimated skill at physical comedy).
Only a gentleman such as Bill could woo blonde goddesses Lombard and Jean Harlow, as well as gracefully exit the screen many years later in the wonderful "Mister Roberts." If I could become any classic actor, Powell is whom I would be...and I'm certain many other men would do likewise.
* Fred MacMurray: For younger generations who only viewed MacMurray through the prism of Disney movies or TV's "My Three Sons," his earlier work is a revelation -- not just "Double Indemnity," "The Caine Mutiny" or "The Apartment," but the many romantic comedies he made in the '30s and '40s. And his leading ladies! Four appearances with Lombard and Stanwyck, even more with Claudette Colbert and a comedy with Marlene Dietrich. Like Loy, Fred was a fine complementary actor, not the easiest role to fill.
Invariably reliable in comedy, drama, even the occasional western, MacMurray -- who came to Los Angeles as a musician, playing with Gus Arnheim's orchestra -- was a smart actor off-screen as well, parlaying his success into a fortune in southern California real estate (he owned many notable properties, including the Bryson, the first of the Wilshire Boulevard high-rises). I'm delighted to see his acting persona rehabilitated.
There are my five -- see whom others chose at http://www.classicfilmtvcafe.com/2017/03/national-classic-movie-day-blogathon-2017.html. Your thoughts?