Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Ten Biggest Stars of Classical Hollywood

The classical period of Hollywood had its ups and downs. In some ways it was one of the darkest times in cinematic history, but in others it was a golden age. One of the great parts of that time was that it gave us some of the finest actors in the business, I thought I'd start a relay to honor them.

Relays are fun activities that are straight forward enough in theory. I've recently been thinking about possible ideas for a second relay in addition to my current Director-themed event which just got started thanks to Katy Rochelle. I'm hoping to hear from the next blogger soon.

I went through a few possible choices, including one on surrealist films, but ultimately I came up with this idea of focusing the greatest classical actors, allowing something new and different to be brought to the table.

As for how it works, that's simple enough. What I have done is create a list of some of the biggest stars from the time period, complete with a case for why they belong on the list. I will pick another blogger to take over, and then he or she will select one option to remove. They will make a case for why that person doesn't fit before offering a replacement, also with a case for why they are a better choice. That blogger will then choose another person to take over, and the process repeats. As a tip you might want to make sure that whoever you choose to take over is someone you can contact, so that you can notify them they've been selected in order to keep the relay going.

Keep in mind, since we're discussing Hollywood, the actors you swap in and out should have had at least a few roles in mainstream Hollywood productions released between 1930 and 1960. They don't have to be American, just as long as they fit that criteria.

Now here is the list. Like the directors list, I've sorted them alphabetically by last name. I have been able to get a bit more gender diversity this time round, however, with three women alongside the seven men.

Ingrid Bergman

Let's face it, when the subject of classical actresses comes up, one of the first names to appear is often the daughter of iconic art film director Ingmar Bergman. She's played into so many iconic films of the period including Casablanca and Hitchcock's Notorious, making her a perfect addition to this list of the biggest actors of the time.

Humphrey Bogart

Bogart was in many ways the perfect face for the studio era. Whether he's solving crimes as a private detective, losing his sanity to greed, driving a river boat, or secretly working against the Nazis, he was someone we could always identify in a second but who captured the essence of so many different characters he could draw us in anyway.

Cary Grant

When you spend a lot of time looking at classic movies, there's a few names that tend to come up a lot, and one of those is Cary Grant. This guy starred in countless films that have become some of the most well-respected of the period: Arsenic and Old Lace, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and North by Northwest, among others. He was also a very versatile actor who could play both comedy and drama to great effect.

Henry Fonda

Another distinguished icon of the time period. He starred in quite a few of the most iconic films of the period including The Grapes of Wrath and Twelve Angry Men. He always could deliver a distinguished performance and established himself as the perfect role for the hero so effectively during the Studio Era that Sergio Leone would exploit it for dramatic effect in Once Upon a Time in the West.

Katherine Hepburn

If there was any actress who could make a career out of playing well-rounded characters during the Studio Era, it was Hepburn. Whether she was dragging a shy paleontologist on an adventure after accidentally receiving a leopard or devising a clever scheme to destroy a German warship, she always managed to prove herself an equal to partner to the men and found a way to give us all a memorable experience.

Peter Lorre

It's said that in real life Peter Lorre was a really nice guy with a sense of humor, but you'd never guess that from his acting roles. During the studio era Lorre became the ultimate go-to guy for playing villains or sidekicks, and to be fair he was pretty good at both. As a villain he always knew how to make himself seem appropriately intimidating.

Marilyn Monroe

In the days of the studio era, different actresses were known for different attributes. Hepburn was known for her well-rounded characters, Bergman for her involvement in darker narratives, but if there was one actress who always served as the icon of beauty it was Marilyn Monroe. In her day most almost universally agreed she was one of the most glamorous women in the business and thousands flocked to the theaters to see her in action.

Gregory Peck

Here's an actor who knew how to capture a wide range of roles, from playing a sea captain unaccustomed to life in the Old West to a conflicted journalist travelling with a princess through Rome. He was always a very likable actor who we could connect to or at least sympathize with no matter the circumstances.

John Wayne

John Wayne might not have been as versatile an actor as many of the other names on this list, but he did get his career going in the 1930's and reached his peak by the 50's. This was the man people went to for action. When they went to see a western, they went for this guy.

Orson Welles

Looking at classical cinema in its broadest sense, a discussion of the topic would never be complete without bringing up Orson Welles. This was a man who didn't take any crap from Hollywood and built up such a name for himself that not only did he go on to become a respected director and make one of the most critically-acclaimed movies in film history, but the studios were willing to let him have complete control over production at a time when very strict assembly line-like codes were in place.

Fittingly, for this one I'm going to be passing the torch onto Wendell Ottley of Dell on Movies, since he helped to get me thinking about starting a relay of my own. Who he passes it on to after that will be his choice.


Wendell Ottley from Dell on Movies
Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle
Fisti from A Fistful of Film
Alex Withrow from And So It Begins
Brittani Burnham of Rambling Film


  1. Cool. I'll have something up over the next few days.

    1. I had a feeling you'd like this one.

    2. Meant to leave the link. Oops...