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One actress who could easily be SOTM every year


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I am going to say something controversial here, because everyone has their favorites.  But I think there is one actress who could easily be SOTM each year on TCM without people tiring of her or complaining (because she has that much across-the-board appeal):

 

1. Major Hollywood player during the golden age of Hollywood-- always the lead female in her movies, from 1927 to 1961-- 65 features.  That has to be some sort of record, especially considering how the majority women in movies usually do not hold on to their leading status for more than a decade, without slipping.

 

2. She made films at all the major studios.  Never worked at a poverty row studio.  Never had to.

 

3. She made films in English and French.

 

4. No scandals.  The gossip columnists always had positive things to say about her-- Hedda Hopper particularly praised her, on more than one occasion.  In fact, I cannot found one negative thing written or said about her by fellow industry professionals.  In a cut-throat business, that has to be some sort of miracle.

 

5. Gracefully transitioned to mother roles when she was still able to play romantic parts.  In a few of her films, she plays the ingenue in the flashback, and the older mother figure in the present day. What versatility!

 

6. Impossible to dislike.  Easy to admire.  A consummate professional whose film performances often do not seem a product of their time, but convey a timeless essential quality.

 

7.  More than anyone else before or since, her name symbolizes good movies.

 

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Well, she worked beyond 1961, and in roles not so major.  But I think that was HER decision to slow down.

 

And you're correct.  They could make Ms. Colbert SOTM twice a year, and I'd have no gripes.

 

Sepiatone

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Well, she worked beyond 1961, and in roles not so major.  But I think that was HER decision to slow down.

 

And you're correct.  They could make Ms. Colbert SOTM twice a year, and I'd have no gripes.

 

Sepiatone

What inspired this thread was my watching THE SECRET HEART on TCM yesterday.  I had recorded it, and I watched the first part where she meets Richard Derr and looks so incredibly young.  I paused the playback and returned to the movie this morning to finish it, picking up where she has aged and June Allyson is now playing the grown daughter.  It was incredible.  I felt like I was watching two movies in one, or that the first part had been filmed years earlier and the second part was filmed later.  That is how convincing she was at playing these different phases of the character.  

 

By the way, I think her best film is IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, closely followed by Ernst Lubitsch's BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE, where she is paired with Gary Cooper.  And I give high marks to the original IMITATION OF LIFE and REMEMBER THE DAY (again where she convincingly plays a woman who ages dramatically).  And a lot of people have probably never seen TEXAS LADY, a routine western she made for RKO in the mid-fifties, but she is superb in it.  She ties with Stanwyck in terms of skill across genres, and like Stanwyck, she worked with every major director of her generation (with the exception of Hitchcock) and she had the best leading men.

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One of my favorite Claudette Colbert performances is in the 1939 comedy Midnight, with John Barrymore and Don Ameche. All three leads are absolutely delightful, and I've always felt that the film is not nearly as well-known as it should be. 

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One of my favorite Claudette Colbert performances is in the 1939 comedy Midnight, with John Barrymore and Don Ameche. All three leads are absolutely delightful, and I've always felt that the film is not nearly as well-known as it should be. 

If you like her in MIDNIGHT, seek out GUEST WIFE.  It's another comedy with Don Ameche, and it's not only well-produced for an independent film, but very funny.

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Am I correct in assuming you're referring to Claudette Colbert?

So you asked a question you already knew the answer to.

 

I nominate Evelyn Brent, Margot Grahame, and Marian Marsh. They can share the honor, assuming they have enough movies. If not, add Jeanne Eagels and Peggy Cummins. Still not enough, add the lovely, wonderful Carole Lombard.

 

Colbert wasn't bad, but she wasn't all that either.

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I just looked up Colbert's stage credits. She was on Broadway in 19 different productions-- 12 before she started making movies.  But in the fifties she returned to the stage and wound up with a Tony nomination for lead actress.  She was still appearing on Broadway in the 1980s.  She seems like a workaholic-- someone who truly loved her craft.

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The more I've seen of Colbert, the more I've come to appreciate her.  My two favorites of hers both come from 1950:  The Secret Fury and Homecoming, but there are others that are nearly as good.

 

But she ain't no Barbara Stanwyck.  Stanwyck had an emotional range that was the equivalent of a six octave singer, which gives her characters a consistently realistic quality that no other actress (or actor) can match.  I'd have to see a lot more of Colbert's earlier work to convince me that she was capable of that level of performance.

 

(Which come to think of it, would make for a great SUTS day:  24 hours devoted exclusively to  Colbert's silents and pre-codes!  That might be enough for me to put her up into the Bette Davis category, if not to Stanwyck's.)

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Two roles that slipped through Colbert's fingers were: Joan of Arc, which she almost made in the late 30s (a decade before Ingrid Bergman did it) and Hildy Johnson in HIS GIRL FRIDAY, which she turned down.  She probably regretted passing up the opportunity to work with Cary Grant, though she did get to dance with him in a quick scene from WITHOUT RESERVATIONS where he stops by for a cameo appearance.

 

A very good role of hers is in MAID OF SALEM, where she she plays a woman on trial for witchcraft. She was getting typecast in romantic comedies so she decided to go against type and turns in an exceptional dramatic performance.

 

She would still make romcoms, but there were noteworthy exceptions.  Such as her first Technicolor film-- DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK-- directed by John Ford. And later she would reinvent herself in war films, like SO PROUDLY WE HAIL and THREE CAME HOME.

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Two roles that slipped through Colbert's fingers were: Joan of Arc, which she almost made in the late 30s (a decade before Ingrid Bergman did it) and Hildy Johnson in HIS GIRL FRIDAY, which she turned down.  She probably regretted passing up the opportunity to work with Cary Grant, though she did get to dance with him in a quick scene from WITHOUT RESERVATIONS where he stops by for a cameo appearance.

 

A very good role of hers is in MAID OF SALEM, where she she plays a woman on trial for witchcraft. She was getting typecast in romantic comedies so she decided to go against type and turns in an exceptional dramatic performance.

 

She would still make romcoms, but there were noteworthy exceptions.  Such as her first Technicolor film-- DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK-- directed by John Ford. And later she would reinvent herself in war films, like SO PROUDLY WE HAIL and THREE CAME HOME.

She lost out on two other roles--All About Eve becasue of injury and State of the Union because she couldn't work the hours they wanted. Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn stepped into the roles and Bette, at least, got a career defining role out of it.

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She lost out on two other roles--All About Eve because of injury and State of the Union because she couldn't work the hours they wanted. Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn stepped into the roles and Bette, at least, got a career defining role out of it.

 

Great a talent as Colbert was, I can't even imagine any other actress acing Margo Channing the way that Bette Davis did, in what was truly  a performance for the ages.  It's the combination of a fierce intelligence and malignant wit that sets her apart in roles like that. Colbert couldn't have pulled it off with the same degree of authenticity.

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Claudette would make an excellent star of the month. She was good in everything she did.

There are a few of her films I haven't seen, but given her consistent level of quality, I am sure they would be worth seeing-- just for her, if nothing else.  

 

ZAZA, released by Paramount in 1938, is an expensively mounted soaper that has her as a French music hall girl falling for a married aristrocrat (played by Herbert Marshall).  Excellent supporting cast includes Constance Collier, Helen Westley and Genevieve Tobin.  Directed by George Cukor.

 

TOVARICH is a Warner Brothers screwball comedy from 1937 that casts her with Charles Boyer.  They play Russian royals who have fallen on hard times and must take jobs as a maid and butler.  Anatole Litvak directs, and Basil Rathbone costars.

 

BRIDE FOR SALE is an RKO comedy from the late 40s that pairs her with Robert Young and George Brent. She had worked with both leading men in previous films.

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She lost out on two other roles--All About Eve because of injury and State of the Union because she couldn't work the hours they wanted. Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn stepped into the roles and Bette, at least, got a career defining role out of it.

 

Great a talent as Colbert was, I can't even imagine any other actress acing Margo Channing the way that Bette Davis did, in what was truly  a performance for the ages.  It's the combination of a fierce intelligence and malignant wit that sets her apart in roles like that. Colbert couldn't have pulled it off with the same degree of authenticity.

I agree. Colbert's Margo would have been very different--you get the feeling that Bette's Margo fought and clawed her way to the top and holds on by a combination of sheer talent and stubborn will power. Colbert's Margo would have charmed her way up. I have trouble picturing Colbert with claws--perhaps she'd have taken a more "fist in a velvet glove" approach.  There's also the fact that Anne Baxter physically looked more like Claudette Colbert--makes me wonder if that had something to do with the original casting?

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All About Eve would seem to have a different feel with Colbert in the roles.  I am okay with Davis as Margo.

 

Thanks, TopBilled for the photo, and for jogging my memory about one of my favorite films.

 

TopBilled wrote:  TOVARICH is a Warner Brothers screwball comedy from 1937 that casts her with Charles Boyer.  They play Russian royals who have fallen on hard times and must take jobs as a maid and butler.  Anatole Litvak directs, and Basil Rathbone costars.

 

Tatiana: Do you love your pigeon?

 

Mikail: Every feather, my darling!

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All About Eve would seem to have a different feel with Colbert in the roles.  I am okay with Davis as Margo.

 

Thanks, TopBilled for the photo, and for jogging my memory about one of my favorite films.

 

TopBilled wrote:  TOVARICH is a Warner Brothers screwball comedy from 1937 that casts her with Charles Boyer.  They play Russian royals who have fallen on hard times and must take jobs as a maid and butler.  Anatole Litvak directs, and Basil Rathbone costars.

 

Tatiana: Do you love your pigeon?

 

Mikail: Every feather, my darling!

I don't remember ever watching TOVARICH on TCM, but apparently it has been broadcast in the past.  I would love a chance to see it.  Colbert and Boyer were close friends, and he credited her with pushing him to learn English.  

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Well, she worked beyond 1961, and in roles not so major.  But I think that was HER decision to slow down.

 

And you're correct.  They could make Ms. Colbert SOTM twice a year, and I'd have no gripes.

 

Sepiatone

Right. Scratch Susan Hayward from the possibility of EVER being SOTM, and make Claudette Colbert SOTM twice a year, every year. Why didn't I think of that?

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Right. Scratch Susan Hayward from the possibility of EVER being SOTM, and make Claudette Colbert SOTM twice a year, every year. Why didn't I think of that?

Mmmmm, good idea. Hayward and Lupino. That would be cool. And Mitchum movies that aren't garbage movies, which were shown recently.

 

Colbert was okay, but contrarily, she wasn't all that. Remember what darkblue said: we can say anything we want. :D:D:D:D:D

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There's also the fact that Anne Baxter physically looked more like Claudette Colbert--makes me wonder if that had something to do with the original casting?

 

 

That was one of the salient ironies had Colbert and Baxter costarred, their resemblance would have added another layer to the age angle. However, that kind of fell into place (and then fell out again) when the original Eve, Jeanne Crain, became pregnant once more, and dropped out of AAE, and replaced by Baxter.

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All About Eve would seem to have a different feel with Colbert in the roles.  I am okay with Davis as Margo.

 

Thanks, TopBilled for the photo, and for jogging my memory about one of my favorite films.

 

TopBilled wrote:  TOVARICH is a Warner Brothers screwball comedy from 1937 that casts her with Charles Boyer.  They play Russian royals who have fallen on hard times and must take jobs as a maid and butler.  Anatole Litvak directs, and Basil Rathbone costars.

 

Tatiana: Do you love your pigeon?

 

Mikail: Every feather, my darling!

 

TOVARICH had been bought by WB expressly for Kay Francis, and it was their decision to not give it to her that led to the final, tragic showdown for Kay eith the studio. It remains a classic comedy with great leads nonetheless.

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