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Kay

Lack of Diversity in *Women's Roles*?

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Hi there. This may just be me, but whenever I put my favorite actors together in my head I've noticed that I come up with distressingly few women on the list. Mind you, my taste in actors generally veers toward character actors. Movie villains have always been favorites of mine, preferably showy, animated ones; Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Dan Duryea, Hume Cronyn... Also versatile "star" favorites such as Lionel Barrymore and Ralph Richardson always bowl me over with their humor and virtuosity. More recently, as I watch more early TV shows, like westerns, I've become mesmerized by a whole new host of enigmatic character types that show up again and again in a variety of colorful roles, (John Dehner, Strother Martin, Royal Dano...)

I guess what I'm saying is that the kind of actors I find I like the most are a type that was very rare for women. And the kind of roles I like most are the kind that women (of a certain era?) virtually never got. Seems like a lot of the character roles available to women were either motherly types or ditzy types, usually played for humor, rarely the focus of a story and usually regarded without seriousness or... gravitas. It just doesn't seem like a whole lot to chew on, (not that I don't love some of 'em- Joan Blondell and Elsa Lanchester are especial favorites.) I also have a particular liking for Shelley Winters, largely because of the difficult, often thankless roles in which she specialized and excelled. She practically cornered the market on pathetic, unlikable, annoying women, to whose (frequent) death the audience was to feel utterly indifferent, if not somewhat satisfied. What a career.

Many of my other favorite performances by women are sort of isolated instances by actresses who had relatively few defining roles, often in foreign films... But I've already talked too much (and yet said so little,) and I'd like to know if anyone around here has ever felt this same way. Doesn't seem to me like most other people have the same issues with the actors of the fairer sex that I seem to have. What do you think? Is it me or society that's wrong?

Edited by Kay
Changed title from "Lack of Diversity in Actresses?"
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16 minutes ago, Kay said:

Hi there. This may just be me, but whenever I put my favorite actors together in my head I've noticed that I come up with distressingly few women on the list. Mind you, my taste in actors generally veers toward character actors. Movie villains have always been favorites of mine, preferably showy, animated ones; Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Dan Duryea, Hume Cronyn... Also versatile "star" favorites such as Lionel Barrymore and Ralph Richardson always bowl me over with their humor and virtuosity. More recently, as I watch more early TV shows, like westerns, I've become mesmerized by a whole new host of enigmatic character types that show up again and again in a variety of colorful roles, (John Dehner, Strother Martin, Royal Dano...)

I guess what I'm saying is that the kind of actors I find I like the most are a type that was very rare for women. And the kind of roles I like most are the kind that women (of a certain era?) virtually never got. Seems like a lot of the character roles available to women were either motherly types or ditzy types, usually played for humor, rarely the focus of a story and usually regarded without seriousness or... gravitas. It just doesn't seem like a whole lot to chew on, (not that I don't love some of 'em- Joan Blondell and Elsa Lanchester are especial favorites.) I also have a particular liking for Shelley Winters, largely because of the difficult, often thankless roles in which she specialized and excelled. She practically cornered the market on pathetic, unlikable, annoying women, to whose (frequent) death the audience was to feel utterly indifferent, if not somewhat satisfied. What a career.

Many of my other favorite performances by women are sort of isolated instances by actresses who had relatively few defining roles, often in foreign films... But I've already talked too much (and yet said so little,) and I'd like to know if anyone around here has ever felt this same way. Doesn't seem to me like most other people have the same issues with the actors of the fairer sex that I seem to have. What do you think? Is it me or society that's wrong?

Interesting post. I especially like and agree with your comments about Shelley Winters. Her characters seem a bit more real than the characters other actresses play...I think that's because of her technique, more than the types she usually plays. Even in the most far-fetched dramas, she seems like someone you could potentially meet in real life.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

Interesting post. I especially like and agree with your comments about Shelley Winters. Her characters seem a bit more real than the characters other actresses play...I think that's because of her technique, more than the types she usually plays. Even in the most far-fetched dramas, she seems like someone you could potentially meet in real life.

I know what you mean. Her authenticity is probably what led to her being given such challenging roles. Tho it seems like the roles she got would not only be hard for most actresses to play, I feel they might be undesirable for other actresses, also. Bette Davis, I've heard, at times had a way of pursuing parts that other actresses had scoffed at, presumably because she thought they were good opportunities to perform. I sorta wonder if Shelley Winters had the same motivation, or if she was more subject to type-casting, (considering she didn't have Davis' star trajectory?)

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3 minutes ago, Kay said:

I know what you mean. Her authenticity is probably what led to her being given such challenging roles. Tho it seems like the roles she got would not only be hard for most actresses to play, I feel they might be undesirable for other actresses, also. Bette Davis, I've heard, at times had a way of pursuing parts that other actresses had scoffed at, presumably because she thought they were good opportunities to perform. I sorta wonder if Shelley Winters had the same motivation, or if she was more subject to type-casting, (considering she didn't have Davis' star trajectory?)

Well, Shelley was groomed as a star at Universal. With the exception of WINCHESTER '73 and maybe FRENCHIE, TCM never airs the films she made at Universal in the late 40s to mid-50s. She made quite a lot of them. She was very sultry in that phase of her career, often playing femme fatales and saloon gals. It wasn't until after she went to Europe for awhile and became a more serious method actor, that she shed the glamorous image and took on earthier roles. But anyway, she definitely had a star trajectory.

Bette still tried to cling to her stardom after she aged out of lead roles. But Shelley seemed to embrace getting older and relished character roles. Shelley didn't seem to care about being THE star, as long as she was in a good film and had a juicy part to play. As a result Shelley had a long career in Hollywood "A" films.

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Maybe women are just bland in general? Yeah, you heard me. I said it out loud. Heck, its not like no one else ever commented on this before. Can anyone here wrap their heads around this concept without their cranium exploding? Talk to any guy who has boffed a lot of babes (as I have) and you will find this notion fully validated. Women are often boring and generic; which is why it is so thrilling to a man to find one he truly loves and is intrigued by.

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17 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Maybe women are just bland in general? Yeah, you heard me. I said it out loud. Heck, its not like no one else ever commented on this before. Can anyone here wrap their heads around this concept without their cranium exploding? Talk to any guy who has boffed a lot of babes (as I have) and you will find this notion fully validated. Women are often boring and generic; which is why it is so thrilling to a man to find one he truly loves and is intrigued by.

Well you certainly don't hold anything back... :lol: 

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;) Maybe people just suck in general. I won't even bother with fine distinctions.

Is the concept so alien in this strange snowflake era? But what is love except approval of just one person and ...to hell with everyone else? I'm down with that. Why do I have to care about a 300 million individual strangers? Who are they, to me?

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4 hours ago, Kay said:

Hi there. This may just be me, but whenever I put my favorite actors together in my head I've noticed that I come up with distressingly few women on the list. Mind you, my taste in actors generally veers toward character actors. Movie villains have always been favorites of mine, preferably showy, animated ones; Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Dan Duryea, Hume Cronyn... Also versatile "star" favorites such as Lionel Barrymore and Ralph Richardson always bowl me over with their humor and virtuosity. More recently, as I watch more early TV shows, like westerns, I've become mesmerized by a whole new host of enigmatic character types that show up again and again in a variety of colorful roles, (John Dehner, Strother Martin, Royal Dano...)

I guess what I'm saying is that the kind of actors I find I like the most are a type that was very rare for women. And the kind of roles I like most are the kind that women (of a certain era?) virtually never got. Seems like a lot of the character roles available to women were either motherly types or ditzy types, usually played for humor, rarely the focus of a story and usually regarded without seriousness or... gravitas. It just doesn't seem like a whole lot to chew on, (not that I don't love some of 'em- Joan Blondell and Elsa Lanchester are especial favorites.) I also have a particular liking for Shelley Winters, largely because of the difficult, often thankless roles in which she specialized and excelled. She practically cornered the market on pathetic, unlikable, annoying women, to whose (frequent) death the audience was to feel utterly indifferent, if not somewhat satisfied. What a career.

Many of my other favorite performances by women are sort of isolated instances by actresses who had relatively few defining roles, often in foreign films... But I've already talked too much (and yet said so little,) and I'd like to know if anyone around here has ever felt this same way. Doesn't seem to me like most other people have the same issues with the actors of the fairer sex that I seem to have. What do you think? Is it me or society that's wrong?

Two actresses that I enjoy who often played unsavory or villainous types are Gale Sondergaard and Agnes Moorehead. 

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50 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Two actresses that I enjoy who often played unsavory or villainous types are Gale Sondergaard and Agnes Moorehead. 

Hmm, yeah, Agnes Moorehead occurred to me, too. I enjoy her a lot. There are a few exceptions... trouble is, there are SO few exceptions...

So then... what am I even saying with this thread? That women had worse acting opportunities than men?... Stop the presses, amirite?

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1 hour ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Maybe women are just bland in general? Yeah, you heard me. I said it out loud. Heck, its not like no one else ever commented on this before. Can anyone here wrap their heads around this concept without their cranium exploding? Talk to any guy who has boffed a lot of babes (as I have) and you will find this notion fully validated. Women are often boring and generic; which is why it is so thrilling to a man to find one he truly loves and is intrigued by.

Well, TCM taught me that women make lousy directors, so you may just have a point.

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5 hours ago, Kay said:

So then... what am I even saying with this thread? 

When I first saw the thread title, I thought it was about women playing diverse characters on screen. But then I realized you meant a diverse range of actress types. Though you have to ask yourself, how many different "types" are there in Hollywood?

Obviously Sophia Loren is a different type than Judy Holliday who's a different type than Glenn Close.

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7 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Maybe women are just bland in general? Yeah, you heard me. I said it out loud. Heck, its not like no one else ever commented on this before. Can anyone here wrap their heads around this concept without their cranium exploding? Talk to any guy who has boffed a lot of babes (as I have) and you will find this notion fully validated. Women are often boring and generic; which is why it is so thrilling to a man to find one he truly loves and is intrigued by.

Well, not being the Lothario you lie...er...CLAIM to be  ;) .....   I WAS lucky enough to find such a woman, and yep, it was thrilling.

I'm amused at the OP's claims.  Sounds quite a bit like she's name dropping.  I mean, I'd NEVER consider including HUME CRONYN  in a list of "showy, animated" villains. 

And along with the oft seen character actors she claimed to see often in old TV westerns, ( Dehner, Dano,  and the not so really often Strother Martin) she could also throw in JOHN ANDERSON, RICHARD ANDERSON, DABS GREER, HARRY DEAN STANTON, EDGAR BUCHANAN, CLAUDE AKINS, LEE VAN CLEEF and CHUBBY JOHNSON to name but a very few. 

But I do see what she means....  As far as "character" roles for actresses, most do get "pigeon-holed"  into similar roles most of the time.  Like MARJORIE MAIN, until hitting upon the MA and PA KETTLE franchise usually landing roles as housekeepers or such.  Hollywood was/is rife with actresses who either didn't have or were never allowed or otherwise didn't get the chance to show much range.  They seemed(and mostly in the "golden" and "classic" era) to be mostly "window dressing" and treated as second class citizens. With maybe only a FEW exceptions.

Sepiatone

 

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7 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

;) Maybe people just suck in general. I won't even bother with fine distinctions.

Is the concept so alien in this strange snowflake era? But what is love except approval of just one person and ...to hell with everyone else? I'm down with that. Why do I have to care about a 300 million individual strangers? Who are they, to me?

Somebody's been hitting the bottle again.

Sticking to movies, what do you think of actresses in the classic years like wisecracking Glenda Farrell or Eve Arden?

 

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Didn't mean to hijack the thread, whoops. Just channeling Leonard Cohen sentiments I guess. Things in general look like they're constantly getting more uniform and more cookie-cutter (at least to my eyes) and I kinda wonder where it all started? American society (as represented in classic Hollywood movies) used to be genuinely diverse not just this 'lip-service' veneer over blatant globalism we got today. All I can say is that every one of my guy buddies except one (co-workers, guys in my neighborhood and college chums), are divorced, separated, in counseling, suicide, or addicted to cheating / or other vices. Materialism! All of them very materialist-minded...

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14 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Two actresses that I enjoy who often played unsavory or villainous types are Gale Sondergaard and Agnes Moorehead

I agree with you Larry, further to your two choices, I will add Ethel Barrymore and Marie Dressler.  All of these actresses are diverse and leave a lasting impression for me.

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25 minutes ago, LatriceRoyale said:

I agree with you Larry, further to your two choices, I will add Ethel Barrymore and Marie Dressler.  All of these actresses are diverse and leave a lasting impression for me.

How are you defining "diverse"...? Just curious. 

Does it mean not a starlet, not a sexpot. Is it a synonym for character actress?

To me, diverse means actresses of color, out lesbian actresses, actresses who are younger or older than the typical leading lady in a big budget Hollywood film might be. But diverse also means a wide range of talent that goes beyond just acting in a scene.

I don't think diverse necessarily has to mean character actress or character actor. 

Thoughts...?

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I'd like to give a shout out to Isabel Jewell. Never a leading actress, but always interesting. She shows up in the darndest spots in films and a fair amount of the time she is uncredited. Her characters are always memorable, though, to me.

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10 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

I'm amused at the OP's claims.  Sounds quite a bit like she's name dropping.  I mean, I'd NEVER consider including HUME CRONYN  in a list of "showy, animated" villains. 

And along with the oft seen character actors she claimed to see often in old TV westerns, ( Dehner, Dano,  and the not so really often Strother Martin) she could also throw in JOHN ANDERSON, RICHARD ANDERSON, DABS GREER, HARRY DEAN STANTON, EDGAR BUCHANAN, CLAUDE AKINS, LEE VAN CLEEF and CHUBBY JOHNSON to name but a very few.

I probably could have given better examples of what I am talking about, but I tried to name a lot of people that I particularly like in an attempt to give an idea of my own taste, just so you know where I'm coming from when I start talking down about other actors. Obviously I don't want to write a whole who's-who of character actors.

One impressive character actress you could throw in with that lot is Jeanette Nolan. Sort of the quintessential prairie mom in westerns, tho I'm frequently surprised to see her showing up in a lot of different roles. She's pretty awesome.

...and, heeey, I happen to think Hume Cronyn really evokes a lot of evil and nastiness in his villains. I also named Elisha Cook, who is usually not so much a villain as a deserving victim, but the actor's ability to develop a specialty in such weird roles is the sort of thing I'm thinking about.

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3 hours ago, LatriceRoyale said:

I agree with you Larry, further to your two choices, I will add Ethel Barrymore and Marie Dressler.  All of these actresses are diverse and leave a lasting impression for me.

Marie Dressler is a good example of an actress we never saw the likes of again after she was gone.

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11 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

I mean, I'd NEVER consider including HUME CRONYN  in a list of "showy, animated" villains. 

Have you seen Brute Force?

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11 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

I mean, I'd NEVER consider including HUME CRONYN  in a list of "showy, animated" villains.  

I thought of something else to say about Hume Cronyn...

One of the reasons he sticks in my mind is the incongruous variety of roles that he got very early in his career. I don't think it's his distinction as a villain that is standing out to me so much as the lack of type-casting he was subjected to. After his comic supporting debut (Shadow of a Doubt) he immediately followed up with a integral heroic supporting role (The Seventh Cross), and then an elderly Irishman (The Green Years, which I haven't seen all of) and even a lead in a romantic comedy (A Letter for Evie, which was pretty funny, I thought,) and then some classic baddies (Brute Force, and esp. The Postman Always Rings Twice where I think he REALLY steals the film.)

Sometimes I forget that Hume Cronyn was really not so prolific in films just because of the variety of characters they had him playing from early on. There seem to be a number of character actors who had an occasional leading role, or got their side roles built-up for more time. Many of the people I named initially had gotten opportunities like that.

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40 minutes ago, Kay said:

Sometimes I forget that Hume Cronyn was really not so prolific in films just because of the variety of characters they had him playing from early on. There seem to be a number of character actors who had an occasional leading role, or got their side roles built-up for more time. Many of the people I named initially had gotten opportunities like that.

This is where I think we're confusing character actors and actresses with diversity. There can be diversity with the lead stars, too. Diversity and character acting are NOT synonymous terms.

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48 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

This is where I think we're confusing character actors and actresses with diversity. There can be diversity with the lead stars, too. Diversity and character acting are NOT synonymous terms.

I get that. True enough, a lot of my favorite actors definitely had types they specialized in, and were not necessarily suited for every role in the book. When I used the word "diversity" in my title I wasn't really thinking of the diversity of a single particular actor's role variety as opposed to another, but rather a more general diversity in "types" and role opportunities available to women as opposed to men. I do think I mean character opportunities in particular, because there were (are?) (unfortunately) generally less variety in LEADING types for men or women, in my opinion, (tho probably still less for women.) Mind you, I do find "lead" roles far more interesting when they have more "character" to them.

Is that less confusing?

In regards to this:

5 hours ago, TopBilled said:

To me, diverse means actresses of color, out lesbian actresses, actresses who are younger or older than the typical leading lady in a big budget Hollywood film might be. But diverse also means a wide range of talent that goes beyond just acting in a scene.

To be honest, the personal life or heritage of an actor is something I've never felt was any of my business, unless their own personal "diversity" directly affects what I see on the screen. Albeit, the lack of character types available to women does seem to correlate to a lack of physical variety in actresses, don't you think? I'll elaborate on that when I have more time.

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