If you have outrageous luck in life like I have, the one time you really fall deeply in love it ends up being for keeps. I had crushes that ranged from microscopic to titanic. But the real thing only hit me once and I've been married to the woman for many happy years since. (At least they've been happy for me.)
For some there's a downside to finding your one true love -- never experiencing the dizzy elation of losing your heart to another person ever again. But that's not a problem for those of who us also find passion and enchantment in movies. I fall head over heals regularly while watching films. Often with the same dame over and over, sometimes in the same film.
We experience a lot vicariously through movies. Action, horror, space travel and of course romance. How often do even the most jaded and cynical of us go gaga over someone on screen? Yes, maybe it's the actor or actress we love, but real movie love is when we fall for the character. It's a delicious kind of fantasy that we can indulge in at any age and without regard to our "real life" romantic status.
Yes, I know you imagine me a hard bitten old cynic but I'm a soft touch for a pretty face, especially a good looking dame in a movie and most especially when the movie is from Hollywood's Golden Age. The movies were classier and the women appearing in them were too. They knew how to craft roles for leading ladies back in the 1930s and 40s. Female stars were cultivated and given roles just as substantial as the ones for men.
Below are ten screen sirens I've fallen for. In every case its happened more than once, I've just picked one particularly memorable role for each actress. I've swooned over so many actresses of yore that in narrowing this list to a manageable number I left off such personal favorites as Ginger Rogers, Myrna Loy, Alexis Smith, Joan Blondell, Jean Arthur, Veronica Lake, Thelma Todd and Priscilla Lane. Sorry girls.
Barbara Stanwyck as Jean Harrington in The Lady Eve (1941). Truth be told I've fallen for more of Ms. Stanwycks's characters than any other actress'. It's an odd thing considering that she's far from the most beautiful. But just watching her seduce lucky Henry Fonda in this film makes me rue the day I wasn't born in her era (if such a thing is possible to rue). Ms. Stanwyck was that unbeatable combination of smart and sexy. You could imagine being physically intimate with her (to be ridiculously euphemistic), talking politics with her or just gazing at the stars together. *Sigh*
Loretta Young as Gallagher in Platinum Blonde (1931). We're supposed to be watching Jean Harlow here. She's the star, she's the one the leading man marries. But Ms. Young steals every scene she's in. There are those eyes as big and beautiful as twin full moons. She's young, vulnerable, but capable and I want to skip merrily through a meadow with her. Impossibly beautiful.
Joan Fontaine as Lisa Berndle in Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948). Too pretty for words she is. The face of an angel and not a fallen one either. She looks at the man she loves as if he's the most wonderful creature on Earth. Just as in Rebecca (1940), Ms. Fontaine's idyllic love for her co star is the stuff of every man's dreams.
Ann Sheridan as Goldie West in They Made Me a Criminal (1939). In some respects the actress most similar to my own bride. Totally self assured, bordering on tough, but beautiful and loving and soft. Barring the invention of a time machine I'll never have Ms. Sheridan circa 1940, thank God I've got my own missus.
Paulette Goddard as A Gamin in Modern Times (1936). When I'm looking at Paulette Goddard I'm always afraid that I'll melt into puddle. She cavorts happily with co star Charlie Chaplin, the picture of innocence yet clearly a dame who knows her way on the round block. I wish she'd take me for a spin.
Lana Turner as Elizabeth Cotton in Honky Tonk (1941). It's one of those deals where you say, if you look up such and such a word in the dictionary there's a picture of so and so. You look up gorgeous in the dictionary and there's Lana Turner, from pretty much any movie she made. She's impossibly beautiful with a voice you could bask in. But there's also a bit of guile and attitude. In other words, more than just a pretty face.
Jean Harlow as Vantine in Red Dust (1932). This is a tough one to write about on a family blog. Gentleman, I think you know what I'm talking about, especially during the washtub scene. Talk about a woman who looked like a lot of fun! This is my favorite Harlow picture in large part because she's so damn sexy. But don't mess with her. Ya gotta like a woman who can fend for herself.
Marlene Dietrich as Shanghai Lily in Shanghai Express (1932). Okay I'm going to admit right off that in a one-on-one situation with Ms. Dietrich I'd be a bit intimidated, that's how seductive she is. Fine, I'd submit to her will and take my chances. I like the odds. Ms. Dietrich played a number of uber sexy women and you could have a fun argument about which role was best. I'll go with Shanghai lily. Hardly a politically correct moniker these days but a sexually correct woman in any day and age. (Yahvol, Fraulein Dietrich.)
Carole Lombard as Irene Bullock in My Man Godfrey (1936). You know what makes beautiful and sexy into totally irresistible? When you add funny. Ms. Lombard is a crack up whether here or in Mr. and Mrs Smith (1941) or To Be or Not To Be (1942). And if you're funny you're smart. She's got all that and a body that just don't quit.
Olivia DeHaviland as Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). Ms. DeHavilland was a still a teenager when she played Hermia so I'll extricate myself from an awkward situation by saying it's the teenager in me who's got a massive crush on this version of Hermia. Indeed I get a crush on Ms. D pretty much any time I see her. There's so much verve and happiness to her that a pretty face becomes a complete knockout.