Thursday, 14 February 2013

Classic Film Crushes

One disadvantage to being a male classic film buff is that one finds himself constantly falling in love, at least when he is younger and discovering the classic actresses of the Golden Age. More so than the majority of current actresses, the actresses of the Golden Age of Film tended to be exceedingly beautiful, not to mention talented and intelligent as well. This can be a lethal combination for any male, let alone one who is just discovering the opposite sex. Indeed, as a lad I found myself burdened with affection for actresses who in many cases were either dead or at least much older than myself.

Indeed, I have probably written about my very first classic film crush so often in this blog that I imagine my regular readers are probably sick of hearing about it. That having been said, I will repeat it for those who haven't read it yet. It happened when I was 8 years old. My Fair Lady came on the television that night. Being a typical boy, I really didn't want to watch it--after all, musicals were for sissies. What I did not know is that my father's favourite genre, besides Westerns, was the musical. He convinced me to watch My Fair Lady on the grounds that I might like it. And I did indeed it like it. It remains one of my favourite movies to this day. More importantly, however, I fell irrevocably, hopelessly in love with Audrey Hepburn. Afterwards I would always seek out her movies on television and eventually rent them on VHS. I've never fully recovered from falling in love with Audrey all those years ago.

My second classic film crush happened a few years later, when I was twelve years old. And if anything it would be worse than the first one. In those days before Turner Classic Movies it was a rare thing that Gone With the Wind aired on television. When it did air on television, then, everyone tuned in to it. Unlike My Fair Lady, then, I was really looking forward to Gone with the Wind. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for seeing Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, even more beautiful than my beloved Audrey. It really didn't matter to me that Scarlett O'Hara wasn't a particularly nice person, I still fell hard for her. Not only would Gone with the Wind remain one of my favourite movies of all time, but Vivien Leigh would remain one of my favourite actresses of all time. I have seen the vast majority of films not only once, but multiple times. And she still has the same effect on me as that first time I watched Gone with the Wind.

After Audrey Hepburn and Vivien Leigh I would develop a number of screen crushes over the years. Despite Anita Loos' claim that "Gentlemen prefer blondes," most of my screen crushes have been brunettes. I remember when I was about twelve (it must have been a banner year for classic film crushes for me) and Samson and Delilah was on television. I developed a powerful crush on Hedy Lamarr from which I have never quite recovered. Indeed, if anything I probably have a bigger crush on her now than I did then. When I was twelve she was just this exquisite, talented brunette beauty. About fifteen years ago I learned that with George Antheil she invented a frequency hopping technique that would lead to today's spread spectrum technology used in everything from mobile phones to GPS systems. Not only was Hedy Lamarr gorgeous, she was a genius.

Over the years I would develop crushes on other classic film actresses. I fell in love with Gene Tierney when I saw The Ghost and Mrs. Muir  for the first time. I fell for Cyd Charisse when I first saw Singing in the Rain, even though she had no dialogue whatsoever. When I first saw Margaret Lockwood in The Lady Vanishes and I fell for her, it would have two effects. First, I watched her films any time I could (for a long time The Lady Vanishes and The Wicked Lady were the only two I'd seen). Second, it would lead me to watching other British films from the Thirties and Forties. I was already an Anglophile from the British Invasion bands and the Sixties, British spy TV shows, but I then became a fan of British cinema as well. It would seem, then, that a crush on a classic actress can have more impact than simply introducing one to her films. That crush can lead to other films as well.

Of course, while most of my screen crushes have been brunettes, there have been a few blondes through the years too. I was already familiar with Grace Kelly as Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco before I saw her in movies, and I already thought she was one of the most beautiful women in the world. The thought that she was one of the most beautiful women in the world would shift to the thought that she was one of the most beautiful women of all time, ever. I first saw her in To Catch a Thief and I fell head over heels for her. In fact, Grace could well be my favourite actress besides Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn.

Grace Kelly would not be my the only blonde upon whom I would have a crush, as I also had a crush on Doris Day. I saw her TV show (which was reran in the Seventies and the Eighties) before  I saw any of her movies, but it was when I saw Pillow Talk for the first time that I fell for her. As a lad I actually didn't think of Doris as beautiful (something that would change when I became an adult), although I did think of her as pretty. My crush on Doris Day stemmed more from her personality on television and film--an independent woman with a strong will and a sharp wit. It helped that she is also  a great singer with a great voice. I must admit that I have always been a sucker when it comes to a woman with a beautiful voice. Grace Kelly and Doris Day would not be the only blondes on whom I had crushes. I also developed crushes on Kim Novak and Veronica Lake.

At any rate, I have never completely recovered from any of these classic film crushes. Part of me really wishes I had been bore at a proper time to where I could have married Vivien Leigh or Gene Tierney. Regardless, these classic film crushes have served a purpose. Quite simply, they helped fuel my love for classic movies when I was young and introduced me to many classic films that I might not have otherwise. I might not have seen Sabrina had it not been for my crush on Audrey Hepburn. I might not have seen Ship of Fools had not been for my crush on Vivien Leigh. And in the case of my crush on Margaret Lockwood, that led to the whole world of British cinema. It would seem, then, that boyhood crushes can be good for something.

1 comment:

Toby O'B said...

When I was a teenager, my brothers and I were watching somebody like Raquel Welch on the TV when my Dad walked in to join us. I asked him who he thought was sexy when he was our age. Without missing a beat, he said "Myrna Loy."

I laughed, which pissed him off.

But until then, I only knew Ms. Loy from her mother roles and from an episode of 'Columbo'. And then I discovered the Thin Man movies.

I don't remember, but I hope I went to my Dad afterwards and apologized.....

Another one was Ingrid Bergman in "Cactus Flower". And that dress she wore at the ball. It kicked off my infatuation with older women.....