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1927-8 Janet Gaynor (Laura Gainor 1906-84)
Godfrey Phillips Cinema Stars (1929)
She made her first real impact in 1926 having spent four years playing bit parts. Although she did make the transferance from silent to talkies it was not ever wholly succesful. In the silent movies she had created a wide-eyed innocent as a character and there is only so many years you can pull that stunt. She actually won the Oscar for three films she did that year. It did not help that she argued with her studio in 1930. In 1938 she retired and for no apparent reason came back in 1957 in Bernardine as Pat Boone's mother.
1929 Mary Pickford (Gladys Marie Smith 1893-1979)
Major Drapkin Cinematograph Actors (1913)
Mary Pickford seemed to be forever locked into 'young' roles. At the age of 30 the movie going public wanted to see her playing parts like Heidi and Cinderella, indeed efforts to keep her looking young led to significant advances in lighting techniques. To only concentrate on her films would be to miss just how influential she was in early cinema. Together with Fairbanks (Coquette the Oscar winning performance was the only film they made together) they made a formidable partnership. By 1916 she was taking home $10,000 a week (and that was quite a bit of money even in those days). When she retired, making only 3 more films after Coquette she went on record saying, 'I left the screen because I did not want to happen to me what happened to Chaplin...'
1930 Norma Shearer (Edith Norma Shearer 1904-93)
Wills Cinema Stars (1928) 2nd
Norma's career can be split into two phases, an almost successful one and then a very successful one. Lillian Helman spoke of a woman who had a 'face unclouded by thought.' At first interested in music she was pushed into movies by a determined mother. Norma rarely got beyond the bit part stage and left to become a model (most notably as Miss Lotta Miles in tire ads.) In 1922 she went back to the movies where she had a modicum more success. She came under the gaze of industry giant Thalberg and in 1927 despite not really proving herself he career took off. After 1936 her star was fading and although she appeared in films it was a strained relationship she had with the MGM studio. So what made the dfference? Well in 1927 she married Thalberg and in 1936 he died. If you think I am being unfair to the woman it is nothing to how unfair fate was. In later years her looks deserted her then her memory fled her and she suffered depression. One of her last male visitors was detained as she held his hand, 'Are you Irving? Were we married?'
1931 Marie Dressler (1869-1934 Leila Marie Koerber)
Wills Cinema Stars (1931) 3rd
What an incredible link from old to new this woman represents. Starting in vaudeville moving onto stage she had basically retired by the 1920's and was all washed up on the verge of suicide when the movies revived her career, amazing for an industry so determined to remain young forever. In the last few years of her life she was a hiuge box-office success. Mayer said he only had three great actors, Garbo, Tracey and Dressler.
1932 Helen Hayes (Helen Brown 1900-1993)
Godfrey Phillips Film Favourties (1934)
Again Hayes career can be split into two. Both were succesful as she made the transition from young roles to older roles something which seems a very tricky thing to do and it certainly was no easier back in the good old days. Her young success was not really in movies though and was based more on the theatre work she was doing. Despite Oscar success she appeared in plenty of turkeys afterwards and her career stuttered. By the 1950's she was back playing older roles where perhaps her looks suited her more. Audience acceptance came. Her 70's output include Airport (Oscar for supporting role) Herbie rides again, One of our Dinosaurs is missing et al. (You can see my snobby nose turning up cant you)
1933 Katharine Hepburn
Gallaher Champions of Screen & Stage (red back) (1934)
What can I say, certainly nothing to add to the words of marvel already heaped upon this woman. 12 Oscar nominations, 4 Oscars (3 after turning 60) and a film career with real sparkle. Her first 10 years produced 17 movies. The next thirty years produced 21 movies and even in this number she managed to star in some howlers. It was difficult for movie goers to warm to her because it seems she really did not want to be warmed too. Amazingly she brought real humour to her many comedy roles and if you were to look at the woman someone less likely to be doing comedy roles you could barely imagine. Truly a great.
1934 Claudette Colbert (Claudetter Lily Chauchoin)
Gallaher Film Partners (1935)
Imagine a film where an actresses continually wanted to show the left side of her face to camera which was only one example of ways in which she was fixed in the manner of her work. Well imagine no more. Claudette Colbert made a career whilst doing just this. She made one silent movie but sound was her medium. She was more at home with roles that had an edge of comedy. During the 1930's she had Paramount top star status. She appeared with Gable and Tracy in Boom Town in 1940 and as such can do no wrong in my simple eyes. Here output fell after the Second World War and in the 50's moved from America to Europe.
1935 Bette Davis (Ruth Elizabeth Davis 1908-89)
Gallaher Signed Portraits of Famous Stars (1935)
'Shes got Bette Davis eyes' was something of a hit as a pop record. Pop being a pretty good description of the eyes also. There is no doubting this womans professional abilities and if there was any doubt she would quickly dispel them by telling you just how professional and amazing she was. Even better than people said she was, in fact she was a one woman film industry, couldn't put a foot wrong, all faults were other peoples. If you are beginning to get the idea I have the knife in and am twisting it you bet I am. In a mean spirited unpleasant way I did not like this woman. I think I have foamed at the mouth enough without any real arguement to back up what I say.
1936 Luise Rainer
Players Film Stars (1938) 2nd
Two years in a row. Who is Luise Rainer, and where did she go? Well this has to be the shooting star of the 1930's. There is very little to say about this woman simply because there is very little to say. Her career collapsed under the burden of double oscar wins. The wins were bizzare to say the least. Both awards were for playing the down-trodden character something she did well but seemed almost physically incapable of doing anything else. She retired in 1938 appearing briefly in 1943 and then amazingly in a TNT production about the history of MGM which was in 1991 and ageing had done her the power of good which was great to see for once.
1937 Luise Rainer
Gallaher My favourite Part (1939)
1938 Bette Davis
Players Film Stars (1934) 1st
Even winning a second Oscar has not mellowed my opinion of this woman. Some people you just don't like and that is all there is to it.
1939 Vivien Leigh (Vivian Mary Hartley 1913-1967)
Ardath From Screen & Stage (1936)
I am not going to get very far if I do not mention 'Gone with the Wind'. She did other stuff but who cares. The story goes she almost got the part by chance. For the most part she was more interested in being Olivier's mistress than being a movie star. It is unfair as she worked extremely hard on Gone with the Wind and had done movies previously. She did films afterwards, notably A Street Car named Desire with Brando although this rather showed up the weaknesses within her acting ability. There was also the matter of increasing mental instability which was to really finish her career. Rack up another one for those that see but a small line between genius and lunacy.
1940 Ginger Rogers (Virginia Katherine McBath 1911- )
Gallaher Famous Film Scenes (1935)
Here is someone that needs zero introduction. I don't like musicals but cannot imagine not appreciating the amazing talents of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Before that partnership Rogers had made 19 movies. The partnership always had an edge to it as they were very different personalities on and off screen. Eventually Rogers wanted to develop more as an actress. This she did and worked hard at becoming better which is not altogether a good thing for an actor to have to do. After the second world war her career was in decline.
1941 Joan Fontaine (Joan Fontaine de Havilland 1917
A. & M. Wix Cinema Cavalcade 2nd series (1940) multisize set
Younger sister of Olivia de Havilland. Starred in Rebecca the Hitchcock classic and did so by beating off some illustrious rivals for the role. This was followed by Suspicion and the Oscar winning performance. Oscar obviously had woken up to the fact they had missed the first opportunity to give her an Oscar and were glad to be given a second chance. She did not appear as if by magic on the set of Rebecca she had done earlier work and indeed in 1937 played opposite Astaire in A Damsel in Distress. Although some of her roles showed her to be a considerable talent most of her film output did not match the promise which leaves you wondering about the validity of the good work in the end.
1942 Greer Garson (1908
Bridgewater series 8 (1940)
First appearance was in Goodbye Mr Chips (1939). She then spent some pretty workman like years shoring up the war effort until she played opposite Walter Pidgeon in Mrs Miniver which won her the Oscar. She was in fact nominated for an Oscar every year between 1941 and 1945. Perhaps it was the roles she played or perhaps it was the new role everyone else had to play but after the war years her success left her.
1943 Jennifer Jones
NO card NO comment
1944 Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982)
Carreras Turf Cigarettes Film Stars (1947)
Quite possibly more famous for being famous than actually much else. It is a trick Sir Peter Ustinov seems also to have managed and various IT girls manage fleetingly before becoming famous during their own lunch times. Certainly she is more famous for the self-destructive manner in which she was determined to lead her life than anything she really did in film. Quite how we view this behaviour in the modern world is a tricky one. In 1937 she had to make a choice between a continuing career in German cinema or switch to America. For many reasons she made the right choice. In 1942 she appears in Casablanca and so is touched by the greatness of that film which like any masterpiece is greater than the sum of its parts. She was best at downbeat self-destructive type roles and I am always attracted to that because that is what the world is like. Lord for one so fortunate am I depressive.
1945 Joan Crawford (Lucille Fay Le Suer 1906-1977)
Ardath Film Stage and Radio Stars (1935)
If ever there is a reason to write an auto-biography this is it, hopefully it stems the tide of biography. Faye Dunnaway plays the role of Joan Crawford in the movie adaptation of the book, Mommie Dearest, a biography of Joan Crawford by her daughter. This is a book which looks at the world the other side of the camera and is revealing in many different ways. Not least of which how it pollutes the minds of everyone around the industry. Get this book out of the library or rent the video.
1946 Olivia de Havilland
Players Film Stars 3rd series (1938)
Older sister of, well you know that already. 1943 saw her in a contractual disagreement with Warners which took two years to resolve. She won it as Bette Davis had before and was another blow for the studio system . She appeared in Gone with the Wind and was nominated for supporting actress but this was a film where a table would have been nominated for some sort of award for appearing in it, rather like The Titanic mny years later. The court case was a turning point in her career and one for the better.
1947 Loretta Young (Gretchen Michaela Young)
Ardath Famous Film Stars (1934)
More legality, this time 1971 and a court case designed to stop TV companies showing her old movies. It was actually brought by Young, it would have been nice if the TV viewers had brought the action, far more fun. She did not have much to worry about mind. She began in silent movies and progressed steadily through the ranks during the talkies. Played with Gable in Call of the Wild (1935) a recent book by her adopted daughter claims she is actually the biological daughter of Young and Gable (only in Hollywood). her career was on a slide by the time the Oscar came around and it did not halt the slide a great deal.
1948 Jane Wyman (Sarah Jane Fulks)
Carreras Glamour Girls of Stage and Films (1939)
Oscar deserved and a film career which covers a lot of ground and ended up washing up on the shores of Falcon Crest the long running TV series during the 1980's, everyone has to pay the mortgage.