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But Can She Act? That's What I Want to Know
by Jon Schuller

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One of our many MatchFlick contributors wrote a short bio about Sophia Loren. Her beauty and talent are legendary. It got me thinking about who would be on a list of screen actresses who combine these essential ingredients so well. Of course with any "list" the number, names and "qualifications" are subjective. But that's OK because their films are still being shown somewhere, every day, every year.

The American Film Institute's list of the "100 Best" in various film categories is usually accurate. As a life-long movie-goer I know talent when I see it; the "beauty" part of my list has other criteria. We all know about "stage presence": that elusive quality that draws you to an actor no matter how small the part. Artists, writers, composers and photographers have been extolling and glorifying their own individual visions of "beauty" for centuries. We just know it when we see it.

So what actually makes a female cinematic legend? Someone recently featured Ingrid Bergman in a screen biography. Her acting talents covered a wide range of roles; her
on-screen presence was magnetic. Her flawless complexion told the Westmore family
"No, thank you". There were no bad close-ups of that famous face and no matter where the camera filmed her the shots were usually perfect. Her fellow actors were always mesmerized by her. Naturally she's just one actress among many who continue to dazzle us with their beauty and unique acting styles.

In no particular order here are some of my personal choices for Talented and Beautiful:

Jean Simmons
Natalie Wood
Lana Turner
Vivien Leigh
Elizabeth Taylor
Audrey Hepburn
Barbara Stanwyck
Jennifer Jones
Sophia Loren
Claudia Cardinale
Grace Kelly
Charlize Theron
Halle Berry
Linda Darnell
Marilyn Monroe
Julia Roberts
Sandra Bullock
Gene Tierney
Greta Garbo
Susan Hayward
Ida Lupino
Ava Gardner
Merle Oberon
Lesley-Anne Downe
Lauren Bacall
Jessica Lange
Salma Hayak


Yes, the list could be longer but that is not what's at work here. I've chosen these names to personify not only what we see on-screen when we watch these ladies, but what we feel
as well. Acting ability is hard to define. What are the exact ingredients, how are they combined, to create a film character within these women? There are many more beautiful movie actresses I might have added to the list but my "ratings" cover a lot of ground. I want to be impressed not only by screen charisma but talent too. Maybe I'm a purist but the beautiful actress must be convincing: Grace Kelly, with James Stewart, in Rear Window transitions flawlessly from sophisticated New Yorker to voyeur before our eyes. Claudia Cardinale hypnotizes Burt Lancaster in seconds in The Professionals. Sandra Bullock looks klutzy in Miss Congeniality but don't be fooled she's no klutz. Ida Lupino makes life more bearable for John Garfield in The Sea Wolf. Lauren Bacall turns Bogie into jello in To Have and Have Not. Elizabeth Taylor's sassy and smart in A Place in the Sun. How do you tame Sean Connery? Lesley-Anne Downe makes it look easy in The Great Train Robbery. Halle Berry trades her famous beauty for a meaty role in Monsters Ball. Jean Simmons plays
Sister Sharon Falconer in the classic Elmer Gantry. Without Marilyn Monroe Some Like It Hot might never have become a legendary movie. No actress (among hundreds) except Vivien Leigh made David O. Selznick's cut for Scarlett O'Hara.

There are many more of course. We have new actresses today who've donned the mantle from their famous predecessors. Here are some names to look at. Some you know and some may be new:
Carla Gugino
Ellen Barkin
Ameria Heinle
Amy Adams
Andie McDowell
Barbara Hershey
Kathleen Turner
Melanie Griffith
Brande Roderick
Carrie-Anne Moss
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Dahliah Lavi
Debra Winger
Diane Lane
There are many more of course. We have so many talented and beautiful actresses who've donned the mantle from their famous predecessors. To name just one, Gwyneth Paltrow, who can joust with the likes of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in the Ironman films. You do take her seriously she isn't just another pretty face. Now that I've got you thinking about them, put your own list together. It's really a lot of fun.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.


Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Have You Been Spying On Me Lately? For How Long?

They're Not the Same People They Used To Be

Time Does Fly When We Watch Movies

Before Minimum or Maximum, There Was Only Prison

A Story of Bravery, Truth and Devotion

All Columns


Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).



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