Monday, November 28, 2005

Premiere's 50 Greatest Movie Stars

The list is a magazine's friend. Look on any mag's cover and you'll see at least one bold, colorful number touting the XX best whatevers, be they skin creams or horror films. (Listing is also why movie people love the Oscars -- it's an orgy of top fives combined with the suspense of a horse race.) So, let's meditate on the latest list featured in Premiere's latest issue, keeping in mind that my definition of a "movie star" is one who makes a notable quantity of good and lasting films while exhibiting a radiance both onscreen and off (very different from a "celebrity"). Do they deserve to be on it?

50. Brad Pitt. Maybe. Hasn't made a great one since Thelma & Louise, but he's hot and smart.
49. Russell Crowe. Yes. Chameleonic, serious about work, and a rabble-rouser.
48. Nicole Kidman. Yes. Every inch the star, despite her shyness.
47. Johnny Depp. Yes. Everyone's favorite these days.
46. Meryl Streep. Yes. Because she's she.
45. Jack Lemmon. Yes. First on list besides Streep to have a secure spot in pantheon.
44. Will Smith. No! Certainly not ahead of Streep and Lemmon.
43. Clint Eastwood. Yes. And boy can he direct.
42. Gary Cooper. Yes. But awfully low on the list.
41. Peter Sellers. Maybe. More comic genius than movie star.
40. Elizabeth Taylor. Yes. Chops, marriages, violet eyes.
39. Denzel Washington. Yes. Has that gravity; doesn't sell out.
38. Robert De Niro. Maybe. Because he's really abusing his status as one lately.
37. Al Pacino. Yes. Rightfully ahead of De Niro.
36. Sean Connery. Bond alone takes care of this.
35. Harrison Ford. Yes. Even though he played Indy and Han the same way.
34. Rita Hayworth. Yes. I mean, look at her.
33. Shirley Temple. No. Child stars must grow into it to own it.
32. Jane Fonda. Yes. Hopefully she's learned from Monster-in-Law.
31. Steve McQueen. Yes. No range, but badass!
30. James Dean. No! Icon (via early death), not movie star.
29. Warren Beatty. Yes. First playboy-artist hybrid on the list.
28. Tom Hanks. Yes. Watch Big, then Philadelphia.
27. Gregory Peck. Yes. If only for longevity.
26. Errol Flynn. Dunno. Never seen his movies.
25. Bette Davis. Yes. And should be higher.
24. Doris Day. Maybe. She's still alive but dropped out of the movies in '68.
23. Fred Astaire. Yes. The definition of class and grace.
22. Judy Garland. No. I'm just not a fan.
21. Clark Gable. Yes. Especially when they called you the King of Hollywood.
20. Sidney Poitier. Yes. Still capable of another great performance.
19. Spencer Tracy. Yes. But what if he didn't have Hepburn?
18. Audrey Hepburn. No. The quintessential movie star, but she always seems phony to me.
17. Robert Redford. Yes. One hot hyphenate.
16. Jack Nicholson. Yes! The quintessential movie star, fascinating in every aspect.
15. Marlon Brando. Yes. What if he'd kept it cool like Jack?
14. Katharine Hepburn. Yes! The AFI rightly said she was the #1 female star.
13. Humphrey Bogart. Yes. The AFI said he was the #1 male star.
12. Grace Kelly. Yes. Heck, on looks alone.
11. James Cagney. Yes. Peck-like longevity, Pacino-like passion.
10. Henry Fonda. Maybe. Actor yes. True star...maybe?
9. James Stewart. Yes. Hanks' predecessor.
8. Greta Garbo. Maybe. Can mystique alone justify this spot?
7. Julia Roberts. Maybe. Premiere calls her career "uncompromised." What about Runaway Bride? America's Sweethearts? Stepmom? And so on.
6. Paul Newman. Yes! Utterly.
5. Ingrid Bergman. Yes. Grace Kelly + the deep reserves.
4. John Wayne. Maybe. I mean, if you say so.
3. Tom Cruise. Yes. Makes and anchors great movies.
2. Marilyn Monroe. Yes. Because she's she.
1. Cary Grant. Yes. And what if this man had talent in addition to charm?

Omissions from the classical set: Orson Welles, Joan Crawford (who would be furious), Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, William Holden, Rosalind Russell, Lauren Bacall.

Omissions from the golden age set: Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Diane Keaton, Woody Allen, Sophia Loren, Michael Caine.

Omissions from the modern set: Jodie Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Bridges, Mel Gibson, Juliette Binoche, Susan Sarandon.

On Premiere's list, 34 are men, 24 are still alive (of which 18 are still working regularly and eight are under the age of 50 -- Hanks will hit the mark next year).

Your thoughts on inclusions, omissions, my thoughts? Let's see your list of top five or 10.

12 comments:

scott t. said...

Julie Andrews? Barbra Streisand?

Beedow said...

Errol Flynn, if only for the swordfights! We swashbucklers (that's right baby, I'm certified by the SAFD in rapier and dagger - boo yah) even have named a move after him.

Anonymous said...

awfully america-centric too. by my count, eight of fifty listees are originally from other countries. which brings up the omissions of toshiro mifune, marcello mastroianni, etc.

Mimi Meemingston said...

"You really don't go to the movies, do you?" -J.J. to me over Thanksgiving Break

So what do I know? I know Tom Cruise is boring. I'd like Robert Redford higher up on the list because he's hotter than Julia Roberts. And Oprah. She controls my mind and I love her for it so let's make her a Top 50 movie star. Kate Winslet. Maybe she's young, but she's got IT. Aaaannndd...your mom. Just kidding! I love your mom.

J.J. said...

Kate Winslet, yeah. Good one. I've never been so compelled by a credit card commercial.

Middento said...

As the guy teaching a course called "The Movie Star" next semester, I find your comments a little amusing. I was about to get in your face about how Shirley Temple was (no joke) one of the biggest stars on the planet in the 30s, but then I saw that you said Judy Garland didn't deserve to be on the list and that John Wayne was a maybe I and realized that oh, he just doesn't like these folks.

The only omission you mention from the classical list that I agree with is Crawford; Welles in particular is a phenomenal actor, but no star. Same for Mitchum and Bacall. (Holden? Maybe. That chest and all.) Likewise, while I love all the actors on your modern list, I would only consider Gibson the biggest star on that list, with possibly Foster. The golden age list, however, has more contenders: certainly Hoffamn, Dunaway and Allen deserve more of a spot than Sellars.

And if you're wondering: the course will examine a number of stars (yet to be determined) but we'll have an extended period in the middle on Rita Hayworth -- not a great range necessarily, but an interestingly crafted star persona, right down to that hairline. (Personally, I'm giddy at making the library search for a copy of Charlie Chan in Egypt, just for a shot of "Rita Cansino" as she used to look.

J.J. said...

Yeah, Temple, Garland, and Wayne can kiss my ass. You're right about Crawford being the only bona fide start of the ommitted classical bunch, but I just love Holden and Russell. And Welles was such an epic, volatile, influential presence in the industry that I think he deserves consideration.

I know I was stretching with the modern set, but I do believe Bridges will one day be recognized as the greatest actor of the generation (though I guess that still doesn't mean he's a movie star).

Also, it's interesting that they left out Chaplin. Maybe Mary Pickford too. I want to take your class.

Middento said...

No, you don't. Then you would have to write papers and wouldn't be FREE to FROLIC AMONG THE DAISIES, LA LA LA!! in your post-graduate life, like you do now.

And besides, if you were taking the course, I'd put Punch-Drunk Love on the syllabut. Just. To. Spite. You. (Grin.)

cattleworks said...

I don't know this jmr guy, but I like him just for his Punch-Drunk Love comment!

Ms☆Go said...

Whew! I was about to flip-out until I saw James Stewart up there. One of my favorites.

Uh, but where is Julie Andrews???

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