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Household names - Who should or shouldn't be?

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We have our icons of classic movies, names and faces that are personifications of classic movies, names that are household names like Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland.


These are names I knew before I became a fan of classic movies.

When I got into classic movies I tried to get into these legends but I couldn't, it seems I became a fan of the underdogs, the unsung talents, the ones who were big in their time but forgotten today.


It seems the classic movie industry, researchers, and writers want to keep the icons mentioned above always in the public's eye, (their popularity grows more and more) instead of giving lesser known but deserving ones their recognition. Is it business or favortism? The icons have plenty left to keep them remembered forever, personally and professionally, the ones forgotten seem to be forgotten because they have left nothing behind and haven't told their stories.


Kay Francis for instance was one of the top female movie stars of the 1930's alongside Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford but no one knows Kay much today. I find Kay more fascinating than Crawford and Shearer. I would pick Barbara Stanwyck over Bette Davis anyday.


It's like this when people throw someone in your face and you constantly hear and see them, naturally, they'll grow on you and you'll start thinking their the only talents. I wish they would throw ones in my face I know nothing about.

Today, you got researchers and writers who can take a forgotten actress and make them a legend.


Are there any movie stars you'd feel should be household names and why? Have you ever question why some are household names more than others and why?


My list of ones who should be household names.... Kay Francis, Joan Blondell, Barbara Stanwyck, Ann Sothern, Ann Sheridan, Nina Mae McKinney, Nancy Carroll, Myrna Loy, and Dick Powell.

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I hear what you're saying and I can relate to having long known the names of certain ones way before I'd ever seen any of their work. It took me a few years to work out for myself if I truly liked Bette Davis, for instance, for her work and skill or because she was *Bette Davis*. (I've come to the conclusion I do like her work!)


There are some "legends" that I believe you either had to really "be there" (era-wise) to understand the hype - or simply be left thinking it must have been hype. But that could be just me on those particlur people and I just don't get them.


I adore Greer Garson and wish her name came to everyone's mind (no matter their age) as instantly as Hepburn or others when you say "legend" or "movie great".


By the way, I like your list of household names... and they are in my household! And definitely on the household names list should be plenty of "character" actors/actresses - sometimes they "made" the movie! What would Gone With the Wind be like without Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen?!


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One of the differences between the classic stars that

are remembered today and those that are almost

forgotten is the movies. Most of the greats are

remembered not just for being big stars, but for

appearing in great films. I love Kay Francis, but she

never made a truly great film -- even her finest work

doesn't belong on anyone's best movies list. Same for

Blondell, Stanwyck, Loy, etc.





That's true,although I don't feel that Myrna Loy or Barbara Stanwyck can be classified as "forgotten gems", they are both quite famous. Myrna Loy,for example,will always be legendary for the "Thin Man" series, and she was in at least one great film,"The Best Years Of Our Lives".




But for the rest, I agree with you. The greats are "hyped", because they were great-as actors,for the films they appeared in,etc.

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I think Barbara Stanwick is a household name......Double Indemnity and Titanic were two of her most memorable. In double Indemnity she showed how bad she was by wearing an anklet...a sure sign of a loose woman in those days. In Titanic her co-star was Clifton Webb and her performance was wonderful. particularly when she realizes her son was left on the ship. She actually cried real tears as she thought of the sadness of it all....What an actress! I also love Richard Widmark for his body of work, Sidney Poitier....the first black man to win an academy award, and I loved Alec Guiness for his choice of black comedy roles.

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Actually Barbara Stanwyck was very good in many of her movies. My favorite being No Man of Her Own. She and the movie as a whole are excellent. If you get a chance to ever see it, I truly recommend it. I recently re-acquired my copy from a friend, that had mine. He had for about 4 years, so I was very excited to get it back! Showed it to other friends that loved it as well.

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I have to agree about Barbara Stanwyck. "Stella Dallas," "The Lady Eve," "Ball of Fire," "Meet John Doe," and "Sorry, Wrong, Number" are all classics as well. And don't forget the perennial Christmas fave, "Christmas in Connecticut." I think what really makes Barbara Stanwyck a household name, however, and ask about anyone if they know who Barbara Stanwyck is and they'll usually say, "Ah, yes, the lady on "The Big Valley!"

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Great idea for a subject, but I beleive you are very mistaken if you beleive that Babara Stanwyck is not well known. I would say that she is one of the five biggest stars of all time, and Double Indemnity is a true classic.


I would like to add a few names to your list. How about Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Alan Ladd, Sterling Hayden, and Montgomery Clift.


A couple of females, Ida Lupino, Gene Tierney, and in my opinion the most underrated of them all Jean Arthur.

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Almost all of the people were household names in their own time. Francis and Powell in the 30's, Stanwyck, Tierney and Arthur in the 40's, and Ladd in the 50's. How many of you saw "Double Indemnity" a in a theater when it was released? I thought so. They may not be well so well known today but that's what you would expect. I didn't know a lot of the famous silent film stars when I was growing up.

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Hiya classicB&W.


I remember, as a lad, I used to note in TVGuide that 'B&W' meant 'black and white." How curious a recollection for an American lad, given the history of those colours in this nation, and the notion of nostalgia.


But I digress before I begin. :P


//Are there any movie stars you'd feel should be household names and why? Have you ever question why some are household names more than others and why?//


I regard the notion of 'household naming' (along with name-dropping) as something contemptible in its tabloidesque-inspired connotation; therefore, I don't think anyone, let alone a "star" should be such a creature.


I do, though, have a high regard for certain actors, whom I wish the masses would share my affinity for (and do, in some instances), due to the actors' acting abilities and/or to the dynamical quality of the actors' charismas.


Here be my list, then (in no particular order; although, there are discernible, occasional trains-of-thought) . . .

A work in progress :P


Who should be:

01) my self B-)

02) Katharine Hepburn

03) Spencer Tracy

04) William Powell

05) Jean Harlow

06) Kay Francis

07) Ann Harding

08) Kay Kendall

09) Cary Grant

10) Warren William

11) Joan Blondell

12) Stanley Kubrick

13) Anthony Hopkins

14) Martin Scorsese

15) Quentin Tarantino

16) William Friedkin

17) David Lean

18) Myrna Loy

19) Edna May Oliver

20) Kelsey Grammer

21) Rowan Atkinson

22) Dawn French

23) Jennifer Saunders

24) David Bowie

25) Clark Gable

26) Frank Capra

27) Jean Arthur

28) P.T. Anderson

29) Tim Burton

30) Raul Julia

31) Richard Dix

32) Greta Garbo

33) James Cagney

34) The Coen Brothers

35) Jeff Bridges

36) Steve Buscemi

37) Frances McDormand

38) Spike Lee

39) Otto Kruger

40) Edward Norton

41) David Lynch

42) Gloria Swanson

43) William Holden

44) Bette Davis

45) Joan Crawford

46) Jack Nicholson

47) Judy Garland

48) Mickey Rooney

49) Ava Gardner

50) Virginia Grey

51) Margaret O'Brien

52) Mary Astor

53) Alfred Hitchcock

54) Van Johnson

55) Walter Pidgeon

56) Greer Garson

57) Wallace Beery

58) John Barrymore

59) Lionel Barrymore

60) James Stewart

61) Edward Arnold

62) Busby Berkeley

63) Sean Connery

64) Lon Chaney

65) Norma Shearer

66) Edward G. Robinson

67) Robert Taylor

68) Rosalind Russell

69) Marilyn Monroe

70) Howard Hughes

71) Natalie Cole

72) Gene Raymond

73) Lee Tracy

74) Basil Rathbone

75) Humphrey Bogart

76) Paul Lukas

77) Johnny Depp

78) Peter Sellers

79) Woody Allen

80) Michael Powell

81) Emeric Pressburger

82) Peter O'Toole

83) Marlon Brando

84) Robert Mitchum

85) Deborah Kerr

86) John Garfield

87) Hedy Lamarr

88) Raymond Massey

89) Gary Cooper

90) Ward Bond

91) Patricia Neal

92) George C. Scott

93) David Cronenberg

94) Christopher Walken

95) Jeremy Irons

96) Ingrid Bergman

97) Isabella Rossellini

98) Dean Stockwell

99) Patricia Ellis

100) Claudette Colbert

101) Kevin Kline

102) Robert DeNiro

103) Harvey Keitel

104) Meryl Streep

105) Fred Astaire

106) Ginger Rogers

107) Frank Sinatra

108) Bing Crosby

109) Bob Hope

110) Marlene Dietrich

111) Kim Novak

112) Lewis Stone

113) Lana Turner

114) Kathryn Grayson

115) W.S. Van Dyke

116) Thomas Mitchell

117) Fredric March

118) Victor Fleming

119) Rouben Mamoulian

120) Brian DePalma

121) Russell Crowe

122) Derek Jacobi

123) Tom Hanks

124) Steven Spielberg

125) John Cassavetes

126) Gena Rowlands

127) Susan Sarandon

128) Ralph Meeker

129) Brad Pitt

130) Alfred Molina

131) Gary Oldman

132) Ralph Fiennes

133) Irene Dunne

134) Fritz Lang

135) Tod Browning

136) F.W Murnau

137) Bruno Ganz

138) Wim Wenders

139) Howard Hawks

140) William Wellman

141) Michael Curtiz

142) Clint Eastwood

143) Don Siegel

144) Mervyn LeRoy

145) Roy Del Ruth

146) Willem DaFoe

. . . others


Who Should Not Be:

01) Tom Cruise

02) Bruce Willis

03) Meg Ryan

04) Val Kilmer

05) Andrew Clay

06) Dorothy Lamour

07) Will Smith

08) Esther Williams

09) Sergio Leone

10) Laurence Olivier

11) John Wayne

12) Vivien Leigh

13) Kevin Costner

14) Mel Gibson

15) Dennis Weaver

16) Orlando Bloom

17) Ernest Borgnine

18) Charles Bronson

19) George Kennedy

20) Telly Savalas

21) Barry Levinson

22) Toby McGuire

. . . others

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Hi Sam,


I mostly agree with you!!


My changes would be:

List 1) --

Martin Scorcese, Spike Lee and david Cronenberg -- all overrated in my opinion.

Frank Sinatra -- I detest him (personal)

P.T. Anderson -- who?, I've never heard of him/her.....


I'd add Angela Lansbury to List 1


List 2) --

Dorothy Lamour and Vivien Leigh -- what's wrong with them??




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Honestly, a cursory look over your lists and my upper lip began to curl into the sneer. After a studious examination of the lists, my sneer turned to admiration:


...Kubrick...Coen Brothers...Kay Francis...Lee Tracy...David Lynch...David Bowie...


Very good!


A carefully considered post!


Only because he dominates my Netflix queue and he comes immediately to mind, might I add the terrific (and prolific) French actor "Jean Gabin"?



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Interesting list and, of course, controversial (as all such lists tend to be). I would remove LOTS from your "should be" list (particularly if they're in order of importance) and completely disagree with several of those you chose to include on your "shouldn't be" list, most notably:


09) Sergio Leone

10) Laurence Olivier

11) John Wayne

12) Vivien Leigh

17) Ernest Borgnine

18) Charles Bronson

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Interesting list. Although you did scare me for a minute, until I read the bit about them not being in any particular order and I didn't see Bogie until #75!


Anyway, my amendments:



Add to list #1 (forgive if some of these are actually on there - it was a long list!):

Charles Boyer

Audrey Hepburn

Lauren Bacall

Rock Hudson

Montgomery Clift

Omar Sharif

Gregory Peck

Elizabeth Taylor

Alec Guinness



Move from list#1 to list #2:

Kelsey Grammar

Russell Crowe

Spike Lee

Brad Pitt


There would probably be other changes if I went through my Wishlist on TiVo...but I'm too lazy.

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//on the Ameche//


I like Don Ameche. Just feel he doesn't belong on either list -- his an 'in-betweener'. :P



//I enjoy your posts.//

Thakns, mm; back atchya!


Dontchya see Bean (or Adder), given the chance, supplying us with Hitchcockian cinema? :-)



I'm curious to know: in what sense do you regard Scorsese, Lee and Cronenberg as overrated.

Have you seen Mean Streets, 25th Hour and The Dead Zone, respectively (and for starters ;-) )


I absolutely agree with you, though: Lansbury is included in List #1. B-)


//Dorothy Lamour and Vivien Leigh -- what's wrong with them??//

Nothing whatsoever; just, personally, didn't regard them as "household names" vis-?-vis the post's enquiry. I like Leigh, and, having just seen The Hurricane I have a higher regard for Lamour, but still do not think she warrants "household name" status.




Thanks, for your admiration; it is nice to know a (presumeably?) kindred spirit.

You darn me with faint praise! :-)


I did indeed take my choice uner consideration. Yet . . .


. . . you are quite correct: Gabin definitely deserves to be include dans ma liste premi?re.



//particularly if they're in order of importance//

They are definitely not in any order save fir the occasional train-of-thought (e.g. Tracy / Hepburn & Powell/ Harlow)


And . . . I have, apologetically, retracted Ford and Lamour from the second list.

Intelligence allows for change . . . and all that. :P


And those whom I have relegated to 'non-household name' status does not suggest that they are not personas of quality, but rather that they are overrated, in my opinion.



Thanks -- all of your additions are duly noted, with the exception of Omar & Rock.

I shouldn't have missed the others; thanks!


Again, I do not dis regard some of these folks (with the exception of Clay), it's just that, despite whomever's ability, I just don't think they warrant (per b&w's original post) "household-name status."


And (just for arguments-sake): Grammer's comedic ability, and Crowe's range are, both, considerable, in my opinion.


And, in my opinion, Lee's direction and production is quite exceptional; I'm curious to know what about it you disregard.




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Hi Sam,


Re: Lamour and Leigh --

Your reasoning is perfectly understandable. I just thought you disliked them for some reason, but can see you don't. Good!


Re: Scorsese, Lee and Cronenberg --

No, I have not seen any of those films you mentioned as I have a personal preference for non-violence. I did see "The History of Violence" and it was good for its genre but I didn't care for it. As you will notice I said, 'in my opinion' in my post.

But, my opinion doesn't make you wrong or me right; it just is...... You are perfectly entitled to your list and opinion and I will defend your right to have them even though we don't agree...


Good lists, Sam...



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Thanks classic movie fans for your replies.


I have to disagree Barbara Stanwyck isn't a household name, maybe us classic movie fans know her but the average American don't know her, if you went on the street and asked a few people they wouldn't but they know Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and mind you, most haven't even seen their films.


Marlene Dietrich isn't a household name either, but its arguable, maybe she's becoming a household name.


Someone said Dorothy Lamour was a household name, I didn't know her until I got into classic movies, most don't even know her.


Stanwyck, Lamour, Dietrich don't get the build up and hype like Monroe, Davis, and Crawford do.

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Hiya Larry,


I too respect your opinion on those directors, and you are right when it comes to violence, for although it does attract me on some level (in films, that is), when it is presented necessarily to a plot (not gratuitously), I nevertheless recognise that attraction as a product of the culture which I was born into, and how violence is so commercialised and promoted in that culture. Subsequently, like I think I hear you saying, I can do without it (and probably should do without it more often). Often, I will deliberately avoid a film that seems absurdly violent (e.g. the so-called remake of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which seemed to me from the trailer as absurdly violent and also smacking, to me, of subliminaly promoting domestic violence, whether intentional or not).


And I wasn't, at all, getting confrontational with about your comments, I was just truly curious about what it was that prompted them, seeking some knowledge that I might find useful in my own appraisals. And indeed, I have: the violence consideration.


Thanks. :D

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Hiya b&w.


Yeah, you're right Lamour probably isn't known by most. I sort of regarded her "a recognisable name" because of associations with Hope and Crosby, and the 'Road To' movies, bu then . . . I'm a classic film fan. :P


Incidentally, for the 'Should' list, I think I also overlooked: Mary Astor, Joan Fontaine, Thomas Mitchell, Lawrence Tierney, Gene Raymond, Claire Trevor, John Huston, Roman Polanski, Benicio Del Toro, John Leguizamo, Patrick Stweart, Ian McClellan and Raymond Massey, in addition to so many others. And for the 'Should Not' list, I overlooked: Patrick Swayze and Paris Hilton, for starters. :-)

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Hi Sam,


No, I didn't take your comments as confrontational at all. I took them as simply stating opinions.... We're all entitled to those.

I like light-hearted comedy and historical drama. And, silly farce and utter stupidity, too!!!!

Films about racial conflict and gangland violence are not on my calendar, no matter how well done.

I have a friend who dragged me to see "Goodfellas" and "Casino" and never again. Although I did like and give credit to Scorsese for "The Age of Innocence"... Do I get credit for that??!!!!....... Please say you'll give me at least one 'gold star'!!!!!!




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Actually, I think that many people over 40 would know Barbara Stanwyck because she starred in the tv series Big Valley and the miniseries The Thorn Birds. When I was a kid I knew her from the Big Valley reruns on tv, but had no idea that she was a movie star.


Sandy K

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