Discussion: Favorite Golden Age Star?

Posted: October 1, 2009
Irene Dunne

Irene Dunne

In the 1930s and 40s Hollywood was home to a constellation of great stars. Who’s your favorite female star from Hollywood’s Golden Age? Reel 13 classics host Neal Gabler admits to having a fondness for Irene Dunne.

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  • rayban

    You guys ask the hardest questions. I’d have to go with Joan Crawford. Over the years, that is, in the 30’s and 40’s, she became both a strong actress and a genuine star. Crawford suggested that she came off the streets and that her knowledge of life was hard-won. In early films like “Grand Hotel” and later films like “Flamingo Road”, that “tarnished image” was burnished to a high sheen. She became both a unique screen presence and one with quite a noticeable style. In a film like “Humoresque”, when she told John Garfield that she had been married twice before – to a crybaby and a caveman – and that between the two of them, she kissed girlhood goodbye – not only did you believe her, but you knew she was her own woman. (And, as it turned out, a woman who could kill herself for the love of “her man”.) Crawford went on to an amazing career that lasted five decades and became the very definition of the word, “superstar”. (In her daughter Christina’s efforts to discredit her as a mother and a human being, Christina Crawford only proved one thing – that her mother had to pay a very high price for her uniquely distinctive – and long-lasting – stardom.)

  • Mark Raymond

    Olivia deHavilland was my favorite actress from that time period. From Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to “Robin Hood” to the General Custer western drama, “They Died with Their Boots On,” and the soapy “Hold Back the Dawn,” Olivia held her own against James Cagney, Erroll Flynn, Charles Boyer, and other great leading men of the era. Though she is probably best remembered for “Gone With the Wind” (at 93, she is the ONLY major surviving cast member), her really great performances were actually in films like “The Snake Pit,” “The Ambassador’s Daughter,” “Light in the Piazza,” and “Libel.”

  • Mark

    Katharine Hepburn. Though Stanwyck, Better David and Irene Dunne all send me into ecstasies too. Hepburn was just so unique — weirdly beautiful, terribly funny, gender-rending, smarter than all the men on the lot. She’s probably C Grant’s best scene partner AND S Tracy’s — think about that…

  • sally

    Myrna Loy – refined, glamerous, beautiful, lovely voice, funny, charming, talented, a true lady

  • rayban

    Although, as I said above, I really like Joan Crawford in the 30’s and the 40’s, there are two other ladies from this period that I couldn’t do without – Barbara Stanwyck, who was one tough lady and could probably mow you down with a glance and Marlene Dietrich, young, fresh and the epitome of a kind of glamour that has never been captured by another star.

  • John Z.

    This is a hard question to answer, because this is my favorite era of movies, and I loved all of the stars. I would Joan Crawford was my favorite as an icon, especially since my condo complex was built in 1939, and at the time of the conversion in 1981, I used to refer to them as the “Joan Crawford Apartments” since they captured the sparkle of that glamorous era; and the file “Mommy Dearest” was just released. Along with Joan, I also loved Bette Davis, Rosalind Russell, Gloria Swanson,and Marlena Dietrich.

  • bonnie

    Katherine Hepburn and Olivia DeHavilland

  • Emily

    I have a great fondness for beautiful stars that have a certain musical star side to them, my favorite, which not a lot would say, is Ginger Rogers. She has not fairly recieved enough acclaim for her work, throughout history she was only noted as a musical partner to Fred Astaire in the 1930s. However, in the 1940s, she was one of the box office’s top star and one of the most paid hollywood people in the country, she has forgotten dramatic talents that no one remembers her for. This includes her Oscar-winning portrayal of Kitty Foyle(1940), which is the title of the movie. She went on to make a number of other dramatic movies that were highly popular in her day, like The Major and The Minor, Once Upon a Honeymoon, Lady in the Dark and I’ll Be Seeing You. However, she was still a magnificent musical star, which was even more significant and amazing because she had not the high ability of virtuoso dance like Fred Astaire or Eleanor Powell, as well as Rita Hayworth. Who I would claim for greatness beside her is Rita Hayworth, absolutely gorgous woman, inside and out, with talent for drama, as well as true talent for dance. Though her signiture film is Gilda, she has made other unforgettable films that deserve more attention like Lady from Shanghai(1948) and the very lovely, heartfelt Cover Girl(1944).

  • Vera

    Kay Francis.

  • sandeebar

    Bette Davis! Now Voyager, Jezebel, Petrified Forest, Dark Victory, All About Eve – there’s not another actress who could have done those roles. That said I also like Myrna Loy, Lauren Bacall, Gene Tierney. And my all time favorite character actress is Mary Wickes.

  • Steve

    My favorite is Mae West. She displayed her love for the lascivious side or life with humor, captivity and drama, while at the same time maintaining a sense of respect and dignity. It was always done with the goal of entertaining her audience first. Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Olivia deHavilland and Joan Hackett and Greta Garbo deserve honorable mention.

  • flickfan

    Many worthy candidates. Judy Garland was one of the most talented, and my favorite – she could act, dance, sing. Her co-star in “The Wizard of Oz”, Margaret Hamilton, who played the wicked with, was also a great actress.

  • Harry

    Greta Garbo, hands down and Barbara Stanwyck – “Double Indemnity” remains one of my all time favorites.

  • Molly

    Barbara Stanwyck, most definitely. Steals my heart every time I watch her perform.

  • Caitlin

    Greta Garbo. The depth and subtlety of her screen acting is unparalleled. She could convey a world of meaning with the flicker of an eyelash, or indulge in grand melodramatic gestures while remaining utterly sincere. Many people think of her as an ice queen, and she certainly was reserved and mysterious, but there is also an incredible warmth about her. She plays being in love more convincingly than any other actor I’ve seen.

  • belinda

    Kay Francis! More people need to know about this marvelous lady who was the top female star at Warner’s for several years in the thirties. Unfortunately, she was very badly treated by Warner’s as well. It’s shameful that so few of her films have been released commercially. Channel Thirteen showed one of her best films, CONFESSION, many years ago but she’s been neglected here since then. Kay Francis – if she is discussed now at all – is mentioned as being a clotheshorse. She was a real actress. Bring some of her films back, please.