Classic Beauty: Anna Magnani

Quite possibly the greatest actress who ever lived, Anna Magnani was so good because whatever character she played, she was always playing herself.  No better description of her acting is this one:  “Whenever Magnani laughs or cries (which is often), it’s as if you’ve never seen anyone laugh or cry before: has laughter ever been so burstingly joyful or tears so shatteringly sad?”

And her best quote ever:

“No man can control me, although many have tried.”

Classic Beauty: Suzanne Pleshette

I’ve loved this extraordinary woman since I was a 6-year-old boy, when I tagged along with my parents to see Roman Holiday  (a.k.a. Lovers Must Learn ), coming soon to TCM.  OMG that face, that laugh, and that voice

Not to mention her other attributes:

Here’s a political joke:

If I’d ever woken up next to her, you’d have had to pull me out of bed at gunpoint — with no guarantee of my compliance, either.

Classic Beauty: Greer Garson

It is a great pity that most memories of flame-haired beauty Greer Garson are going to be in black-and-white, because she was extraordinary even by the standards of her time.

The best part about Garson is that initially, she never had any intentions of becoming a movie actress. She graduated from university with a degree in French and 18th-century literature and worked in an ad agency in her native London. Then she got into some stage acting, and when she was spotted at a performance by L.B. Mayer, he offered her an acting contract on the spot. Her effect was immediate: she got an Oscar nomination (the first of seven) for her very first movie role in Blossoms In The Dust, and won Best Actress for Mrs. Miniver  just a couple years later.

Most British actresses were portrayed in the contemporaneous stereotype of the calm, classy woman, but Greer Garson somehow managed to escape the typecasting occasionally, such as the dancer in Random Harvest (coincidentally, one of my all-time favorite romantic movies, by the way):

…and she was also capable of being not just beautiful, but sexy as well. Here she is in (yet another of my favorite movies) Mrs. Miniver, showing off her new hat to her husband, wearing a nightgown which… I don’t wanna talk about it:

Maybe it was an inadvertent act on the part of the movie’s director (I doubt it), but that scene is one of the most understated yet sexiest ever filmed — no nudity, no sexual banter, nothing but Greer Garson’s astonishing beauty. And in both the above movies (they came out in the same year, 1942) she was already thirty-eight years old, an advanced age by Hollywood standards.

Here are a few more examples of what I’m talking about:

If only they’d been taken in glorious Technicolor… but hey, I’ll take what I’ve been given.

Classic Beauty: Ruth Roman

I was re-watching a 1957 movie called 5 Steps To Danger on TCM (Turner Classic Movies), which featured Sterling Hayden and Ruth Roman, and once again was bewitched by Ruth’s low, sexy voice.  Her problem was that her face was too similar to Ava Gardner’s, and Gardner already had that space occupied.  Still, here she is:

She also had a steaming pair of legs, if that counts:


With all that, it’s still the voice that gets me on my takeoff run.  Watch 5 Steps  if you can find it — but be warned, the plot is typical of late-50s suspense not directed by Hitchcock, i.e. awful and cheesy.  She makes it worthwhile, though.

Classic Beauty: Myrna Loy

I was watching The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer  the other night (for about the tenth time), and once again was struck by the beauty of Myrna Loy.

As a silent star, she was girlish:

…and then she grew up into the early 1930s-era of cute, witty and sexy women:

…and finally blossomed into full, sophisticated womanhood:

And she did all this despite having had the world’s worst hairstyles inflicted on her.