Sunday, November 20, 2011

Joel's Top 50 Cinematic Sirens

With Hollywood being a bigger meat market than ever and the standard of beauty being defined by malnourished, untalented, over-tanned, and decidedly plastic-looking young women, it's really makes me weep for those who are growing up in today's world, without the benefit of a market saturated with beauty AND acting ability.

I swear, in a world with guys who drool over the first classless bimbo that walks down the street and young girls who have such great role models (Yeah, kids, you should totally look up to some show-horse who is under the impression that bipolar disorder is not only contagious from a tattoo of someone who's been dead for 50 years, but also that it makes you evil), I could make a sociopolitical argument about how rereleasing old films could seriously better society and younger generations. Not that it's any better with most of the males in the acting world today. Oh, no! It's just as bad! But I better hop off that train of thought, because that's a whole other tangent just waiting to happen...

Now, these musings are neither here nor there in relation to this article, but they were a catalyst of sorts. You see, I was hanging out with a friend once and he happened to say the words "Megan Fox is SO hawt!". Instead of just punching him in the face (which could have resulted the injury of my friend, probable jail time, and admittedly it would have been kind of an overreaction anyway), I decided to write down the first 50 women I could think of that were more attractive and talented than Megan Fox. Now, this article is not that list exactly, seeing as, after having a few minutes to think it over, my list became far too large to practically fit it into essay format. But I did narrow it down a bit, and here's the best of compilation. Without any further ado, here are my top 50 cinematic sirens...

(A quick disclaimer: This countdown is neither a beauty contest nor is it necessarily a top 50 actresses list. It's sort of a combination of both as you will see down the line. Also, of course these are just my personal favorites, not some kind of "Best of" list. So, if you want to share your favorites, or if I missed anyone, be sure to let me know in the comments! Anyway, without any further ado, let's get to it!)

50. Ornella Muti

What better way to start off the countdown than with Princess Aura herself? Ornella Muti featured in the Dino De Laurentiis production of Flash Gordon (1980). Doing little work outside of Italian cinema, she also appeared in Oscar (1991) and Once Upon a Crime (1992)

49. Jane Fonda

Star of Barbarella (1968), Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), JLG's Tout va bien (1972), and The China Syndrome (1979). Say... ever notice how, in almost all pictures of Jane Fonda, she looks slightly confused?

48. Kimiko Ikegami

Japanese actress known for playing the lead role of Gorgeous in Nobuhiko Obayashi's House (1977).

47. Barbara Carrera

Known for her appearance as Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again (1983), but she will always be Natalia Rambova to me... Huh? ... Oh, you know, from Condorman. ... Wait, what? ... WHADAYA MEAN YOU'VE NEVER SEEN CONDORMAN!?!

46. Yvette Mimieux

When I was little, I knew Yvette Mimieux as “the pretty lady from The Time Machine”. Well, not too much has changed, although I now also know her as “the one who talks to the robot with her mind from The Black Hole".

Yvette Mimieux pauses for a picture with costar Katherine Hepburn

45. Uma Thurman

Starting out as the painterly rendition of Venus in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989), Uma Thurman later become a pop icon in the polar opposite role of the vengeful Bride in Kill Bill (2003-2004). And those eyes just kept getting further and further apart...

44. Catherine Deneuve

Acclaimed French actress lauded for her work in Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965) and Luis Bunuel's Belle de jour (1967). She also appeared in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Last Metro (1980).

43. Raquel Welch

Star of One Million Years BC (1966), Bedazzled (1967), and 100 Rifles (1969). Don't let her anywhere near your Tony Award.

42. Pam Grier

The queen of 70s exploitation filmmaking, known for her genre-defining performances in such films as Foxy Brown (1974) and The Big Doll House (1971). She was most recently brought back into the public consciousness thanks to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997).

41. Shirley MacLaine

Somehow, I highly doubt much of an introduction is necessarily for this one. So many great actresses have cited Shirley MacLaine as an inspiration, and there's no question as to why. Just watch The Apartment (1960) or The Trouble With Harry (1955) or, heck, just about anything else she's been in!

40. Cindy Morgan

Beloved by geeks the world round as Lora/Yori in Tron (1982), Cindy Morgan was a radio DJ and news reporter before her guest appearance in Caddyshack (1980) brought her into the public eye.

39. Sigourney Weaver

Capable of being likable as both a damsel in distress (Ghostbusters, 1984) and a strong female lead (Aliens, 1986), Sigourney Weaver also appeared in a ton of films throughout the 80s, 90s, and oughts, including The Ice Storm (1997), Galaxy Quest (1999), and... sigh... Avatar (2009).

38. Melody Anderson

Actress best known as Dale Arden in the fantastic 1980 version of Flash Gordon, she also guest-starred in episodes of Battlestar Galactica and the Logan's Run television series. Outside of film and TV, Dr. Melody Anderson holds a Master of Science, Master of Arts, and a doctorate in social welfare.

37. Daniela Bianchi

One of the definitive Bond girls, this actress appeared in From Russia with Love (1963) as Tatiana Romanova, and later spoofed the franchise in OK Connery - also known as Operation Kid Brother -(1967), an Italian production starring Sean Connery's younger brother Neil.

36. Judi Bowker

Princess Andromeda from Ray Harryhausen's Clash of the Titans (1981), this British actress also featured in Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972) and The Shooting Party (1985).

35. Gila Golan

Israeli-born actress and model best known for her roles in Our Man Flint (1966) and Ray Harryhausen's The Valley of Gwangi (1969).

34. Cate Blanchette

A rare siren from a more modern era, this British actress came to audiences' attention for her portrayal of the title character in Elizabeth (1998). Although she's probably best known as Galadriel in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, she also featured in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and The Aviator (2002), winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the latter.

33. Sean Young

Very memorable actress from the 80s who appeared in Stripes (1981), Blade Runner (1982), Dune (1984), Wall Street (1987),  and No Way Out (1987).

32. Clara Bow

Clara Bow rose to stardom in the 20s with her undefinable but undeniable appeal. In fact, her role in the 1927 film It popularized the saying 'it girl', a phrase attributed to a lady with such qualities. Other notable credits include Mantrap (1926) and Wings (1927).

31. Anne Baxter

First brought to the spotlight when she was considered (but eventually passed over) for the lead role in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940). She later featured in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), All About Eve (1950), and The Ten Commandments (1956).

30. Anne Francis

Most fondly remembered as Altaira from the 1956 science fiction masterpiece Forbidden Planet, this actress was also quite well known as Honey West, a private eye with a gun in one hand and a pet ocelot in the other.

29. Josette Day

The aptly named Belle of Jean Cocteau's incredible Beauty and the Beast (1946). Although she did have a successful career in film (playing in over 40 films), she decided to retire at the ripe old age of 36.

28. Diane Baker
Having one of the most impressive and varied careers of anyone on this list, Diane Baker has been active in film from 1959 up to now. Appearing in such films as Marnie (1964), Silence of the Lambs (1990), and Mirage (1965), I will always remember her as Pat Boone's faithful love interest in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1960).

27. Karen Allen

Like so many others, Marion Ravenwood is the first thing that jumps to mind when I think of Karen Allen. But she was also featured in Animal House (1978), Starman (1984), Scrooged (1988), and The Sandlot (1993).

26. Kim Novak

This lovely and talented actress is best known (and in my opinion, most criminally under-used) as the utterly unobtainable Madeleine in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). Other notable screen credits include Picnic (1955), The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), and Bell, Book, and Candle (1958).

25. Lois Maxwell

Putting aside her not inconsiderable roles in The Hagan Girl (1947), Lolita (1962), The Haunting (1964), and the television series Adventures in Rainbow County, Lois Maxwell is most fondly remembered for originating the character of Moneypenny in 14 James Bond films. Starting with Dr. No in 1962 and going right up to A View to a Kill (1985), she appeared in more 007 movies than any other cast member, and, aside from series producer Cubby Broccoli, stuck with the series longer than any other cast OR crew-member.

24. Zooey Deschanel

Another very rare modern example makes the list... Zooey Deschanel is both a talented songstress as well as an up-and-coming actress. She's sadly underused in many of her film roles, but did quite well as Trillian in the 2005 adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hopefully we will see more movies capitalizing on her talent in the near future.

23. Claire Bloom

British actress that appeared in an impossible amount of great movies. This impressive filmography includes Richard III (1955), The Haunting (1964), The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), The Illustrated Man (1969),  Clash of the Titans (1981), Shadowlands (1985), and most recently The King's Speech (2010).

22. Luciana Paluzzi
Italian-born actress notable for her memorable performance as SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe in Thunderball (1965). She also featured in such awesome movies as The Green Slime (1968) Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969), and Fritz Lang's Journey to the Lost City (1960).

21. Faye Dunaway

Acclaimed for her work in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Chinatown (1974), and Network (1976), Faye Dunaway starred in such films as The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and The Towering Inferno (1974).

20. Catherine Schell

Best known as the alien shape-shifter Maya in the second season of Space 1999, Catherine Schell also appeared in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), and the Doctor Who serial City of Death.

19. Julie Harris

Known for East of Eden (1955), The Hiding Place (1975), her work on the stage, and of course for stealing every live teleplay she ever acted in, I will always remember Julie Harris for her haunting performance as Eleanor in... well... The Haunting (1964).

18. Madeline Kahn

Young Frankenstein (1974) and Clue (1985)... That's all you need to know.

17. Barbara Feldon
Perhaps I'm bending the rules a tad here, as I've never actually seen Barbara Feldon in anything made for the big screen (my experts, meaning Wikipedia, tell me that she was in fact in a film called Fitzwilly from 1967 and also Smile from 1975), but I really don't care with this one. Growing up with Get Smart had a huge impact on me in many ways, and I will always remember Barbara Feldon's 99 character as one of the best female characters in television. With the extremes I often see in women on film and TV (the pointless "eye candy" on one end and the "REAL WOMEN DON'T WEAR DRESSES!" types on the other), I think that the strong but decidedly feminine 99 will stand the test of time for a very long time. As a writer, it's a great lesson in how to write strong female leads. Also, her chemistry with Don Adams will always be the stuff of legend.

16. Moira Shearer

The one, the only Victoria Page. This Scottish ballet dancer made the switch to acting for Powell & Pressburger's The Red Shoes (1948), and went on to make two other films with Powell, those being 1951's The Tales of Hoffmann (also with Pressburger) and Peeping Tom (1960).

15. Kathleen Byron

Another Powell and Pressburger regular, Kathleen Byron chilled audiences to the bone with her unforgettable portrayal of Sister Ruth in Black Narcissus (1947). She also appeared in A Matter of Life and Death (1946), The Small Backroom (1949), The Elephant Man (1980), and Saving Private Ryan (1998)

14. Gloria Swanson
The first in a set of three fantastic silent starlets on this list, I am proud to present Gloria Swanson, star of such films as Beyond the Rocks (1922), Sadie Thompson (1928), and the infamous Queen Kelly (1929). She successfully transitioned into talking pictures, and is probably best known today for Billy's Wilder's classic Sunset Boulevard (1950), in which she played a fading silent star. Swanson started out making comedies, but lacked the desire (and in her own words, "...the sense of humor") to continue the gig for very long. She worked like a galley slave to get into dramatic roles, and after coming into her own in a string of C.B. DeMille pictures, kept on with this ethic. Literally putting her life on the line, Swanson starred in Male and Female (1919), which involved a scene in which the starlet was to be sacrificed to a lion. Ignoring DeMille's insistence that the sequence be dropped from the film, Swanson did something that resembled the exact opposite of sanity and walked coolly into the lion's den. At no point were special effects or stuffed dummies used, even when the lion sat directly on the actress's bare back. Swanson's desire to do the scene stemmed from a favorite painting of hers from childhood, entitled The Lion's Bride.
The scene
The painting

13. Lillian Gish

Continuing on with the Silent Three, we have the incomparable Lillian Gish. Starring in a ton of popular films from the teens and twenties, Gish featured in some of the defining films in the history of film itself, including The Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919), and The Wind (1928). She appeared sporadically in the sound era, but sometimes gave just as memorable performances (like in 1955's The Night of the Hunter). Well, after Swanson's lion stunt, I've got quite a Gish story to share (I'm sorry for that joke, really I am). Anyway, one of Gish's crowning moments of awesome came during the filming of Way Down East (1920). Director DW Griffith took the cast and crew on location in the middle of a horrific blizzard to shoot the most famous scene in the film: "The Ice Flow Sequence". Here, an unmarried mother goes on the run, and gets trapped on a block of ice as it flows dangerously down the river towards a waterfall.
This scene required the leading lady (Lillian Gish of course) to literally do what her character does: get onto a block of ice in a fast-flowing river, and let it carry her down to a fall. This drop in the river would, when shot from the right angle, look far larger than it actually was... or at least I hope that was the case.


Well, she did make it out okay thankfully, but the intense cold she endured that day must have eventually killed her. She only lived to be 99.

12. Anna May Wong

Fashion model, activist, and the first Asian-American movie star back in those glorious silent days. Swanson braved lions, Gish fought the freezing cold, and Wong battled racism. Frustrated by constantly being cast in stereotypical bit parts, Anna May Wong was on the lookout for roles that would prove her worth and portray Asians in a more positive light. She even left Hollywood in 1928 for a very successful stage and screen career in Europe. Returning to the US in the 30s, she became more outspoken about her disdain for Asian cliches in film and played far more authentic roles during this period. Leaving behind an incredible legacy, Anna May Wong was featured in such films as The Toll of the Sea (1922, one of the first films shot in Technicolor), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), and Josef von Sternberg's Shanghai Express (1932).

11. Jean Seberg

With hair shorter than that of her leading man, a thick American accent, and looks full of double meaning, Jean Seberg was one of the most crucial ingredients in Jean Luc Godard's Breathless (1960). Her troubled filmography also included Saint Joan (1957), Lilith (1964), Paint Your Wagon (1969), and Airport (1970)

10. Sophia Loren

All around wonderful actress, known for such films as El Cid (1961), Houseboat (1958), and Two Women (1960) for which she won the Acadamy Award for Best Actress.

9. Janet Leigh

If people would just shut up about "the shower scene" for a second, they'd discover a very, very good actress, whose startlingly three-dimensional performance in Touch of Evil made us all hope that she'd make it out of the movie okay.

8. Audrey Hepburn

Although I'm sure that no introduction is needed, I will say that Charade (1963) is one of my all-time favorite films, and Hepburn's chemistry with Cary Grant is an absolute joy to watch!

7. Oja Kodar

Actress, screenwriter, director, and Orson Welles's assistant and companion for the final 24 years of his life. Oja Kodar was featured in at least 4 of his films (2 of which are unfinished and one of which remains unreleased). She was actually a talented filmmaker in her own right, as shown by her short film “Girl Watching”, which was later used as the opening credits sequence in Welles's own F for Fake (1972). She also co-wrote and co-directed Orson Welles: The One-Man Band, a fantastic documentary on the life and unfinished work of the great director.

6. Jane Seymour

Radiant British actress who appeared in Live and Let Die (1973), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), Battlestar Galactica, Somewhere in Time (1980), and (one of my personal favorites), the 1982 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

5. Grace Kelly

Stunningly beautiful actress who featured in 11 films, including High Noon (1952), The Country Girl (1954), Rear Window (1954), and To Catch a Thief (1955), before retiring from acting to marry Prince Rainier III and become a Princess of Monaco.

4. Natalya Bondarchuk

Incredible Russian actress who starred in Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972). Perhaps one of the great screen performances, Bondarchuk's Hari still remains a haunting, believable, and ultimately unforgettable character.

3. Diana Rigg

Emma Peel, Mrs. Bond, call her what you will. I will stick with "great actress". The adorable Diana Rigg starred in such classic stuff as The Avengers television series and the Cinemologists' favorite Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).

2. Anna Karina

One of the absolute best actresses on this list... and probably of all-time. I don't think I'll ever forget her wonderful, varied performances in the films of Jean Luc Godard. She's played so many different roles and yet all of them have a potent believability to them, often reminding me of people I know personally. I have a hard time picking a favorite character of hers, as it depends on the day of the week that you ask me, but right now I'd have to say it's the deceptively soft and dangerous Marrianne from Pierrot le Fou (1965).

1. Caroline Munro

Yeah, pretty much anyone that knows me would have guessed this. I mean, it's Caroline Munro! Of course she's Number 1! Star of such films as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Starcrash, she also appeared in small but memorable roles in The Spy Who Loved Me (she dies), both Dr. Phibes movies (she's dead before the first movie starts), and Don't Open Till Christmas (in which she plays herself and then leaves after two minutes). Sadly, many times her beauty and initial lack of acting experience kept her from landing solid roles at first, but her talent shone through, perhaps most notably when acting besides Joe Spinell in Maniac. Their chemistry is really one of the highlights of that good/horrific film. I can't really adequately explain why she's my favorite, other than by just showing you one of her movies. But, considering the fact that the whole "fair use" copyright thing probably won't cover that, the best I can do is just recommend one of the above films to you.

Vincent Price approves

And, with that said, so ends this parade of greatness. Hope you enjoyed the countdown and thanks for reading!

Until next time, this is Joel Davidson of the Cinemologists signing off!

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