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Films with strong female characters from "The Golden Age of Hollywood"


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Ice Cold In Alex. Sylvia Sims

A Cold Wind In August. Lola Albright

Gods Little Acre. Tina Louise

(this one might be a sleeper, but) Defiant Ones. Cara Williams

Friendly Persuasion. Dorothy MaGuire (sp)

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15 hours ago, sagebrush said:

What I could never figure out was why Nora wanted Dr. Talbot. He was a clingy coward and she was smart, talented and compassionate. She should have gone for Phil; at least he was a man!

Maybe Nora got off on corrupting Dr. Talbot in the beginning. And maybe towards the end, when she had seen how ruined he was, she stayed with him out of pity and a sense of responsibility.

Or...it could be that she was attracted to the sort of legitimacy he represented. She wanted to be a doctor's wife, have a nice home with a white picket fence and kids.

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Jezebel (Bette Davis made me believe I could see her dress was red) - she is the one who will take care of Henry Fonda in the end

Claudette Colbert in the original Imitation of Life

Mary Astor in Dodsworth

Gene Tierney in Laura (also Judith Anderson)

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16 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

Stanwyck in her Westerns like The Furies and Forty Guns.  In both films, she will not let anyone take over her territory. 

I would also say Stanwyck in a lot of her films, tbh. Particularly in "Baby Face" and "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers," even though her characters were not so angelic, they certainly were of strong will. 

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What if there were a film from Golden Age Hollywood that showed a number of very strong women performing capably as administrators, teachers, health care workers, and religious leaders?

 

There is. It's called The Nun's Story.

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3 hours ago, sagebrush said:

Elizabeth Taylor in GIANT. 

Diahann Carroll in CLAUDINE. 

Elizabeth Taylor in "Giant" is a great choice.  As the new wife of a big Texas rancher, her character in "Giant" dismisses misogynist condescension and fights for the equal treatment of Mexican-Americans.  Elizabeth Taylor is wonderful as this strong-willed character that was ahead of her time.  I haven't seen "Claudine" but I'll check it out.

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Greer Garson was already mentioned for Mrs. Miniver, but I'd add Blossoms in the Dust, made a year before Miniver, a fictionalized biopic of Edna Gladney who ran an orphanage and a home for girls "in trouble".  The real Gladney was responsible for changing the laws in Texas to remove the word "illegitimate" from birth certificates.

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On 7/24/2021 at 3:02 PM, TopBilled said:

THE LETTER (1940)

There are so many BETTE films to love, I typically forget my own secret favorite super bad-girl BETTE in the masterpiece, THE LETTER

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On 7/24/2021 at 7:03 PM, Dargo said:

never understand what the strong, gorgeous, smart character that Hedy Lamarr played in the film H.M.Pulham, Esq. ever saw in Robert Young's eponymous buttoned-down character

Maybe his weakness.   

And dig it, wasn't her name MARVIN in that movie???  There's also that BETTE n OLIVIA one where they're sisters named... Burt n' Ernie... no, Stanley and...  ?

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Did anybody mention Irene Dunne in Cimarron? She starts off utterly dependent on Richard Dix, but when she has to live 30 years without him becomes quite self-reliant and rises through local society with great success.

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11 hours ago, Allhallowsday said:

Maybe his weakness.   

And dig it, wasn't her name MARVIN in that movie???  There's also that BETTE n OLIVIA one where they're sisters named... Burt n' Ernie... no, Stanley and...  ?

Yes, Hedy Lamarr played a character named Marvin Miles. In This Our Life is the film where Bette is the sister named Stanley and Olivia is the sister named Roy.

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On 7/24/2021 at 7:04 PM, speedracer5 said:

In a different type of "strong" perhaps "stoic" is the right word, I would like to add Greer Garson as the title character in Mrs. Miniver.  As the matriarch of the family, she showed strength when her husband was away doing his part for the British military.  And she stays strong when held at gunpoint by a wounded German pilot, who demands a coat and food.  She even keeps her cool and disarms him when he passes out.  

If stoic is permitted, we should also mention Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948), in which she was ridiculed by her family and community, brutally raped, became an unwed mother and killed the (previously unconfessed) father of her baby to protect the child. Quite a workout for Jane, who had been known mostly for lighter roles but was starting to come into her own as an actress in the late 40's with roles in films like The Lost Weekend (1945) and The Yearling (1946). 

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On 7/24/2021 at 9:05 AM, Toto said:

Despite there being a male dominated studio system during the "Golden Age of Hollywood", studios recognized the importance of making "woman's pictures" and stars such as Rosalind Russell, Bette Davis,  Katherine Hepburn and more played strong female characters that were smart, funny, strong and compassionate.  Do you have any favorite female characters from classic movies?  I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

I highly recommend that you check out Jeanine Bassinger's A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960 (1993). (Kay Francis is on the cover, who is someone who also deserves recognition in this thread.) She gave a great overview of the "Golden Age" and "women's pictures", with particular emphasis on actresses who exemplified or challenged the accepted norms of the era. It's a great read and very informative. Jeanine Bassinger often shows up in documentaries about the era and it's stars, some of which TCM has shown. 

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On 7/27/2021 at 5:18 AM, DougieB said:

If stoic is permitted, we should also mention Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948), in which she was ridiculed by her family and community, brutally raped, became an unwed mother and killed the (previously unconfessed) father of her baby to protect the child. Quite a workout for Jane, who had been known mostly for lighter roles but was starting to come into her own as an actress in the late 40's with roles in films like The Lost Weekend (1945) and The Yearling (1946). 

She was terrific in all these films!

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Others have already posted that Bette Davis played a lot of strong female characters but the film that made me a fan,  is Marked  Women (1937).    

Solid film made after Davis returned from England after her boycott of Warner Bros (because Jack put her in too many stinkers).   This was his way of saying;  forgive me,  but giving her a solid script,  tough of nails character and a high quality supporting cast (Bogart being the male lead).

Marked Woman YIFY subtitlesCelebrating Bette Davis in Marked Woman (1937) – Silver Screen Classics

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Have I missed it somehow, or have we been remiss in not mentioning this actress in this thread so far?...

MV5BMzA1NTg0NzU2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjU5

(...can't recall a film in which Irene Dunne didn't play a "strong woman" in it, anyway)

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2 hours ago, Dargo said:

Have I missed it somehow, or have we been remiss in not mentioning this actress in this thread so far?...

AHEM! I believe this actress has been mentioned previously. Do a little more scrolling!

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On 7/26/2021 at 7:39 PM, Dive Bar Casanova said:

Today’s Disney films have lost romance and romantic adventure since Kathleen Kennedy gained control. 
Female lead character has to be in your face butch. 

Did you participate in the January 6 storming of the Capitol, by any chance?

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16 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

 

AHEM! I believe this actress has been mentioned previously. Do a little more scrolling!

 

On 7/25/2021 at 11:16 PM, sewhite2000 said:

Did anybody mention Irene Dunne in Cimarron? She starts off utterly dependent on Richard Dix, but when she has to live 30 years without him becomes quite self-reliant and rises through local society with great success.

Aaah, yes, just found your earlier mention of her here, sewhite.

(...I swear I went over this thread twice before I posted that, but still overlooked it somehow...sorry)

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9 hours ago, Dargo said:

Have I missed it somehow, or have we been remiss in not mentioning this actress in this thread so far?...

(...can't recall a film in which Irene Dunne didn't play a "strong woman" in it, anyway)

The strongest, I think, would be in I REMEMBER MAMA.

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