Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Five Stars

Today is the 3rd annual National Classic Movie Day in the United States. To honour that day, Rick of The Classic Film and TV Cafe is holding the "Five Stars Blogathon" in which bloggers list their five favourite stars and why they are their five favourites. I did not learn about the blogathon until today, but I decided it would be a good way to honour National Classic Movie Day.

Here I must say that while I can name my five favourite movies of all time with ease, I have always had some difficulty limiting my favourite stars to even ten, much less five. For that reason this list should be taken with a grain of salt. On any other day I might have chosen a completely different set of five actors. I will say that I restricted my choices to stars who were best known for their appearances in films rather than on television. It is for that reason that Patrick Macnee and Dame Diana Rigg are missing from the list (they are both best known for The Avengers, my all time favourite TV show). Regardless, here are my five favourite stars (at least for today). I listed them in alphabetical order as there is no way I could decide which one was my absolute favourite.

Sir Dirk Bogarde: I'm not sure where I first saw Sir Dirk Bogarde. It might have been in the 1958 version of A Tale of Two Cities or perhaps Darling (1965). Regardless, he has long been one of my favourite actors for the simple reason that he was just so versatile. Throughout his career he played a truly wide variety of characters, from the somewhat nervous Dr. Simon Sparrow in the "Doctor" series to the heroic yet tragic Sidney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities to the sinister valet Hugo Barrett in The Servant (1963) to the evil industrialist Friedrich Bruckmann in The Damned (1969). Sir Dirk Bogarde was something of a chameleon, able to play nearly any role offered to him.

Audrey Hepburn; Audrey Hepburn could be considered my first classic film crush, although when I first saw her in My Fair Lady the film was only about ten years old (I was eleven at the time). Having been released in 1964, I then don't think it was old enough to be considered a classic when I first saw it. Regardless, my father had to talk me into watching the movie (like many little boys I was not particularly a fan of musicals) and to this day I am glad he did. I fell in love with Audrey Hepburn that night and so I looked forward to her movies whenever they were on television. Of course, as I grew older I learned that she was not only a beautiful and graceful woman, but also a very talented actress. She gave impressive performances in everything from Sabrina (1954) to Wait Until Dark (1967).  I think my crush on her grew even greater when I learned that she wasn't just a great actress, but a fine human being too. She did a great deal of work for UNICEF.

Sir Christopher Lee:  Bela Lugosi fans might disagree with me, but for me Sir Christopher Lee will always be the quintessential Dracula. To me no other actor quite captured the character so well. Indeed, to this day Dracula remains his best known role. That having been said, Sir Christopher Lee played a vast array of roles over the years, and not all of them were monsters or villains. In The Devil Rides Out (1968) he played the hero of the film, Duc de Richleau, who finds himself combatting devil worshippers. He also played Sherlock Holmes in the TV movies Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991) and Sherlock Holmes: Incident at Victoria Falls (1992). Often times the characters he played were neither hero nor villain, as in the case of  Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973).  While he could play heroes and other characters, arguably he was at his best playing villains, and he played some of the best ever villains on film, including Doctor Pierre Gerrard in The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959),  Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974),  Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, and Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

Jack Lemmon: Having been born in the mid-Sixties and growing up in the Seventies, Jack Lemmon was probably one of the first stars I was ever aware of. He appeared in a number of films I loved even as a child: Mister Roberts (1955), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), How to Murder Your Wife (1965), The Great Race (1965), and yet others. While he appeared in a wide variety of roles throughout his career (even playing villains, such as Professor Fate in The Great Race), I think the appeal of Jack Lemmon for me was that no one played average guys as well as he did. Whether as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts (1955), or C. C. Baxter in The Apartment (my second favourite movie of all time), Felix Ungar in The Odd Couple (1968), to me no actor was ever as convincing playing ordinary guys as Jack Lemmon.

Vivien Leigh: It was a couple of years after I fell in love with Audrey Hepburn that I finally encountered a rival for her affections. NBC aired Gone With the Wind (1939) and I fell in love with Vivien Leigh. Okay, I am aware that Scarlett O'Hara was not a very nice person, but as a boy in his Tweens having only recently discovered girls I was willing to overlook that. At the time I thought she was must have been the most beautiful woman ever. Of course, in time I would realise that she was a very talented actress who was much more than a pretty face and Scarlett O'Hara. While she made only a few films in her career when compared to other actors, she was very impressive in most of them, whether as Emma Lady Hamilton in Lady Hamilton (1941) or Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).


Caftan Woman said...

I'm glad you jumped into the 5 Stars Blogathon fray. Grand group of people you gathered together for the party.

I definitely remember the first time I saw Dirk Bogarde. It was Doctor in the House and I fell hard for Simon Sparrow.

Silver Screenings said...

This is an impressive list, and I knew it would be.

Rick29 said...

This is a terrific list and I am so glad you included one of my favorite British actors: Dirk Bogarde. He gave many fine performances, but I think perhaps his best was in VICTIM. And I salute you for including the incredibly versatile Christopher Lee (the definitive Count Dracula).

Rupert said...

Oh! You DO have a fine cast of characters! I watched a movie with Mr. Bogarde just this week. I know you have a fondness for our friends across the pond (which I share) and you have picked a swell group here. Thanks (as always) for the fun and informative read.