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Most people might think of the archetypal American man on screen as someone like John Wayne, Henry Fonda or Gary Cooper. Can you think of a particular actress from the classic era who came close to portraying the American woman?

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Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow seem to me to be the All American type gal. The other queens of Hollywood at that time were a little too patrician (is that the word I'm looking for?). Another might be Barbara Stanwyck, although she is a little more earthy than Loy or Harlow.

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Personally, I really like Brackenhe's suggestion of Barbara Stanwyck. Brash, smart, and bold, she exemplifies everything I want in an actress/icon. If I'm really considering an actress that other countries look to as being a symbol of 'Americana,' I would go with Marilyn Monroe. Not my favorite actress, but she's as much an American institution as Elvis, Baseball, Apple Pie, etc. Also, her own rise from obscurity to fame and wealth is a great example of the American Dream. Interesting topic.....

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I'd say Myrna Loy and always overlooked but very impressive Teresa Wright. She played so many all American type women in so many classics. It amazing how fast Wright went into playing motherly roles.

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Brack I think your suggestion that Barbara Stanwyck is a "typical American woman" is a bit problematic. I have read from more than one source that she was one of those "Women who wear sensible shoes" (and flannel shirts). If she was typical, that would explain why so many women have "headaches" at 11:31 the moment the news is over.

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I never heard this news about my idol Stanwyck. I have a few books (biographies) and that lifestyle is never even hinted at. I read that she wore duds to please her husband Robert Taylor since he was an outdoorsman.

My, my what's next...Mickey Mouse being gay.

 

Mongo

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Close Mongo, the original Minnie was really a dude. At the time they had auditioned 1000's of girl mice for the role. Just when they were about to give up, they saw Marvin Mouse on another set in the dance chorus. His "mannerisms" were were exactly what they were looking for. It wasn't until "Minnies" third film that they replaced Marvin with Mandie Mouse (who took on the stage name of Minnie). If you look real close you can note change in features between her/his second appearance and the third. That is why Minnie always has the bloomers or bottoms on. You notice Daisy Duck does not have this in her wardrobe. :)

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Classicsfan,

 

I LOVE Barbara Stanwyck and whether or not she was gay doesn't change my opinion of her one iota. You asked Slappy3500 for sources alluding to Stanwyck's sexuality. I have seen it strongly suggested in Axel Madsen's biography, STANWYCK: A BIOGRAPHY. The possibility is also mentioned in two other books I've read, which are: BEHIND THE SCREEN-HOW GAYS AND LESBIANS SHAPED HOLLYWOOD, 1910-1969 by William J. Mann. Also, It's suggested in, OPEN SECRET-GAY HOLLYWOOD, 1928-2000, by David Ehrenstein. I've also read the 'rumor' in several other sources in the past that I can't recall just now. Another prevalent rumor states that Stanwyck's nuptials to Robert Taylor were strictly for "convienience."

 

Having said all that, it doesn't change my opinion of her at all. She's still probably my favorite actress of the Pre-Code period. Gay/Bi-sexual rumours also surfaced about Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Marlene Dietrich. Even Clark Gable and later, Cary Grant were fighting stories in the tabloids which had them involved in gay relationships. Who cares? But yeah, the rumour about Barbara Stanwyck's sexuality goes WAY back. Who knows? I still respect and will always enjoy the work of all of these great performers from classic Hollywood. As far as that Minnie Mouse rumour, well I actually Belive THAT one!

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Sorry for the typos on that last post. 99% of the time I proofread my posts, or at least hit spellcheck before posting. What a dunce! Anyway, I want to throw Joan Crawford's name out there for consideration. Perhaps her 'Mommie Dearest' legacy disqualifies her, but before all of that, she was a hero to free-spirited, independent women back in the late 20's and well into the 30's (or so I've read). She really shines in all of her films from the Pre-Code era (and beyond). She was glamorous, outspoken and somewhat in your face. All qualities associated with actresses (and actors) who personified the American experience in their time.

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I've been frustrated trying to respond to this question 'cause everytime I think of someone, and/or their many film roles, who embodies the American woman, I find out (via imdb) that they were born in Japan (De Havilland), England (Garson), or France (Colbert). I guess I was too focused on the "motherhood & apple pie" thing. So, Myrna Loy will have to do. Although, I do think Ann Sheridan (from Texas no less) deserves mention. The "tom boy", "kid sister", "girl from next door" type is what she personifies ... and all of these things are surely American qualities, right? And, what about Rosalind Russell? An intelligent cynic, businesswoman who's also pretty sexy, no?

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Keith, thanks for giving me some "sources" re. Stanwyck. I'm with you that she was still one of our best actresses and I couldn't possibly care less what she, or anyone else, did in their private lives. Too many times, the "rumors" just didn't pan out anyway, but boy do these kinds of "rumors" sell books!

 

I'd like to add the name of Doris Day to this list, if it's fair to come up with a "girl next door" gal whom I believe grew into a lovely American Woman through the years. ML

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I've read all three books that Keith cites, and it's true, there is that info, sometimes "hinted" about Stanwyck...also read info of the kind in Axel Madsen's "The Sewing Circle"...and I once saw a book in Barnes & Noble called "Hollywwod Lesbians" by Boze Hadleigh (which I didn't buy), where Stanwyck (or Stany as some of her colleagues called her), was featured...

 

Thus, this is totally irrelevant regarding Stanwyck as star, and icon, an actress... she embodied perfectly all of these, and whatever she Garbo, Dietrich, Bankehad, did in their private lives is their sole business...

 

One can read whatever one wants, but that stuff maybe it's really better to leave to ourselves, . Everyone can form his one opinion about actors private lives, but writing it on a thread it's pretty sensitive, 'cos we're not entlited to "elucubrate" about other people's private lives, even if they are/were "public faces", much less if they're already death.

 

Well we can say or state sth. but always, at least name the source as Keith did. But one can never tell for sure, 'cos if some actors/people didn't want their private lives exposed, it's absolutelly respectable, and as far as I know the lovely Barbara Stanwyck, was a highly "private" person. Period.

 

Concerning the object of this thread I'd say that Betty Grable, Jean Harlow, Joan Blondell, Ann Sothern, Bette Davis, Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Irene Dunne, Barbara Stanwyck and Carole Lombard, embody and come to my mind as all of the different "types" of the all-american woman.

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sorry for the mistakes:

 

second paragraph: "Bankhead"

 

third paragraph: "...his own opinion about..."

 

 

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Yes, ML, Doris Day ... I had thought of her but neglected to include her in my post. Thanks!

 

Also, concerning Ms. Stanwyck (or any other star and their "preferences"), I found it interesting what was said during the new Cary Grant documentary done recently by TCM - something to the effect that "people of all types admired him and therfore projected themselves or their ideas on or about him" (effectively "claiming" him as one of their own). I think this much is true, and may be applicable to Stanwyck and others as well. Just my thoughts ...

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Path, I totally agree with you about people often "projecting themselves or their ideas" onto someone else, which certainly does make that person "one of their own"....a very "thoughtful" thought on you part. Thanks! ML

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Path has nailed it....what he says, I understand it as that sometimes people use "icons" or "public faces" for "negative purpose" sterotyping, not the "icons" but the people who like them or follow them. i.e.: I've always loved Barbra Streisand, since I was small boy, as my father does, and then suddenly learned-sth. that wasn't known widely in my country in 1977 or 1985, now it is- that in the U.S., since she had a sort of huge gay following, she was sth. of a "gay" icon, just as Bette Davis (I've read) was too (and she wasn't gay at all, it's just that he appealed to gay men I read, which is all right), I'm not bashing gay people, on the very contrary, those who know me here know I'm tolerant...but I don't like stereotypes...a gay man can like Elvis Costello or Shania Twain, a straight man can love Streisand or Judy Garland, etc...

 

I even noticed this prejudice last year at Xmas in my company, when I picked up a gift (randomly) and it was a Streisand cd...and some of the guys, sort of made deririsive comments, after I stated that I loved Streisand and was very lucky with my choice, 'cos here it's already public that Streisand is a gay icon (well,speaking of this, when "In & Out" with Kevin Kline, was shown here, many people realised what was goin' in the States...all that crap about if you like to dance very much (if you're a man) it's "suspicious"...or if you like movie musicals....it's all so stupid!! We don't need those prejudices...

 

The same thing happens with Cary Grant, Stanwyck, et al .... some people tend to "appropiate" or "identify" with them, in what they believe to "see"...or they want "to see" in those public figures...

 

Sth. similar happens here with for example jazz music; here, I don't know in the States but Billie Holiday is highly praised, by all the intellectuals, the ones that speak of her sentiment, her talent (which is grand INDEED) and tend to overlook and minimize Ella Fitzgerald's gifts as a singer...dismissing her about "lacking" feeling in her interpretations, thus only recognising her "technique", being of more "massive" taste....What is all that!!! Both are excellent singers! Both unique! Ella Fitzgerald is my fave american singer of all time. period. I like Holiday but no su much. Many jazz lovers of the "pseudo"-intellectual type, when I tell them I love her so much, and that I don't like that much Holiday...look at me as if I was insane...

 

Isn't one entlited to its own tastes? So you cannot Like Ella Fitzgerald and be smart, or at the same time enjoy Electronic Music or Portuguese Folklore?....The Blonde always has to be air-head? The latin always has to be sort of either latin-lover-muscle type or a blue collar worker? If you come from Brazil you're supposed to be a good dancer always? If you come from Africa, necessarily you have to wear feathers? In South America all of us live in Huts? If you watch European cinema (vanguard) you have to strike a pose of "intellectualness" wear dark-framed glasses and black clothing, and look with an "air of disdain"? All New Yorkers are sophisticated? The girls who use make-up and take care of their appearances are stupid? An the ones who do not care about their appearence, and look sort of like "just awakening" are "smarter" 'cos they use their time for more useful stuff? Something humanity has to stop is to put people in categories and to categorize people because of their appearances, tastes, etc....We have to learn to love diversity...and not try to do "math" with human nature.

 

Excuse me for writing this much.

 

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Path40A does have a point, but whether or not he "nailed" it is up for debate. Sure the rumors of any star's private life is really none of our business, and as long as they are not hurting anyone in the process, it doesn't change my opinion of them at all. But the possibility does exist that certain stars just might gay, and so what? To suggest that homosexuals are projecting themselves or their ideas onto stars they admire is borderline offensive. I agree it does happen, though. But in some cases the facts are just there. It doesn't make me see these performers in a different light, although it might to some. That would be a shame.

 

To me, it's not always a question of categorization, as feaito suggests. It's a point of acceptance. It's hard to argue with talent regardless of who provides it. But I agree, feaito, that stereotypes are ridiculous and most people can see right through them. Or at least I HOPE they can.....Just another opinion.

 

 

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Keith...you have a point too, very respectable indeed. all points of views are respectable, when you are serious and tolerant. And I (again) respect your opinion and what you add. Indeed if a performer is gay or straight, or muslim or catholic, or latino or from Nigeria, or whatever, shouldn't matter as sth positive nor negative, it should be only a fact... his/her talent should be the important "item". And if he or she wants to keep his/her private life "private", the better. I do not like public faces who "trade" their private lives in the media, they're so many of them right now!.

 

I extended myself on the "stereotypes" stuff, 'cos, (I'm gonna share sth. personal with all of you, so I expect a bit of respect please) as boy I was isolated from my classmates in school, because I didn't like football, I wasn't rude, I didn't use "foul" language, and I was isolated and was much harassed. In fact I was so shy that I didn't defend myself, although I was a tall & muscular boy for my age (due to some sort of child trauma, 'cos as a baby I was "stereotyped" as agressive, thus my parents repeated to me, stop!! no!! don't fight)...result: the boy didn't fight back anymore, then the boy ended as an item in his school, sort of an isolated kind, sterotyped as sort of "sissy"..you also know...good student+ bad at sports=not popular... I was also a good student & didn't like sports at all. Luckily, I "reacted" in High School and at University....and I'm a pretty "normal" (psychologically speaking) human being who fell in love with the loveliest woman of them all (at the age of 19), my wife for 11 years..and who can deal with his "sad" past, and do not feel a victim, and who love his parents in spite of their mistakes & do not blame them for it (unintentional anyway). I was the first of five children. Nobody taught mum & dad how to be good parents. they truly believed what they did was the best. and I love them for that.

 

Sorry for all this "personal" stuff, but I wanted to explain why I hate stereotypes and prejudice. I was victim of it most of my life. Thank God, i.e.: I can Love Streisand right now, or whatever, and couldn't care less what other people think (here in my country, where a people are much less tolerant than in the States).

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This is fast becoming a very interesting thread! Thanks to all who have made both personal and thoughtful contributions to it!

 

I would only like to offer for your consideration that with respect to Barbra Streisand, and that she has become an "icon" to gay men (so is Cher, by the way), I believe that it has more to do with the fact that both of these women lend themselves to the gay men who participate in Drag more than that either of them is actually gay, or that gay men are attempting to give either of them a "gay identity". As I understand it, gay men who are very involved in Drag often pick out certain celeb's to dress like and imitate in their performances. That the rest of us often try to attach more meaning to it than this is what disturbs me.

 

Fedo, thank you for offering us your personal childhood experiences where "labeling" has left it's mark on you. From it has been borne your tolerance, and I admire this very much about you. ML

 

 

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Thank you very much M.L. Now it's easier...but it didn't use to be easy to share such "intimate" stuff with people I don't really "know"...but it's part of a "healing" process, and above all, I think TCM boards are one of the most mature, decent & respectful boards ever!

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