22 November 2014

Movie Parallels: "Black Narcissus" (1947) vs. "The Nun's Story" (1959)


The sexual tension between David Farrar's caretaker, Mr. Dean, and Deborah Kerr's Sister Clodagh in "Black Narcissus" (1947) and Peter Finch's Dr. Fortunati and Audrey Hepburn's Sister Luke in "The Nun's Story" (1959), respectively, are to cut in. Wouldn't you agree? 

I couldn't help but noticing that, in general, some very masculine-looking men have been chosen to star opposite Deborah and Audrey in their nun-versions, besides David Farrar and Peter Finch, such as Robert Mitchum ("Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison", 1957) and Sean Connery ("Robin and Marian", 1976), respectively. Not to forget Richard Burton opposite a very reluctant 'nun-in-hiding', Joan Collins, in "Sea Wife" (1957), though I never really got what that film was about.  I mean, even the so very distinguished, strict and regally handsome Christopher Plummer looked positively dishy in "The Sound of Music" (1965), even though Julie wasn't even in her nun's habit! I can't think of more virile men starring opposite these angelic beauties, and it's actually funny that this seems to be somewhat necessary in order to make out their opposite positions. And though Bing Crosby never exuded this virile masculinity (quite the opposite really) he was perhaps all the more perfectly fitted as a Father and a holy man opposite Ingrid Bergman's serene, beautiful nun in "The Bells of St. Mary" (1945). But I'll leave that for you to judge. 

However, sexual tension doesn't have to be overtly present through bodily appearance nor does it have to have significant signs like winking or flirty eyes or anything the flirting experts (do the even exist??) are saying. To me, it can be much more suggestive and thus all the more powerful. It can come from the roller-coaster rides of the usual love-hate-relationships and the demonstrative behavior that comes with more or less consciously denying their true feelings about each other; misunderstandings, prejudices, bantering, disagreements, etc.. Sometimes expressed through screaming and shouting, sometimes through silence and the inability to express feelings in words. Not always the whole 'opposites attract' thing (I'm not a big believer in that, though it sounds romantic in a faraway world or time) but more complicated than that, and that's what makes it interesting! I mean, if you look more closely at the photos above with Peter (Dr. Fortunati) and Audrey (Sister Luke) standing apposite each other, you get what I mean, right? Or is it just me who reads them as sexually tensed? We could call it strained all we like, but in the end isn't there something else? I could watch those scenes again and again. Of course, they are desirable; it's like watching the wolf and the lamb trying to work together - more or less unwillingly, despite being undeniably attracted to each other. We almost want these pristine women to fall for these men's spell, but then again every fibre in our bodies says it would undermine the very work these women have chosen to do; almost a disgrace to their very identities as women.

But is this sexual tension just a thing when there are nuns involved in films? The idea that the women need to be beautiful, almost looking like from Heaven sent themselves, and the men purely earthly, with an almost animalistic rawness added to their personas? And that these women must now struggle with their purity in all this 'dirt' that the men bring in? Or that the 'dirt' binds the women to earth? I don't know if it's that biblical or not; after all, women were supposed to be the 'bad thing' in that sense, right? Yet, here it's rather the men that have been made 'the forbidden fruit'; the temptation, the sin. It sure paints men and women as two different species. Or does it? Furthermore, why can't these virile men be priests and monks as well? Does their 'animalistic, sexualized nature' stand between them and a religious, ascetic life, raised above sin? An interesting book has been written about the subject, called Veiled Desires: Intimate Portrayals of Nuns in Postwar Anglo-American Film by Maureen Sabine and may give a more developed insight into this question.

For one thing, nuns and monks, life in monasticism and asceticism have always fascinated those on the outside. To give up and abstain from worldly pleasures and exchange it solely for an obedient, religious life is almost unfathomable - especially today, in a world so secularized and a generation so narcissistic that the mere thought of some people willingly giving up their SELF for GOD (though the one doesn't necessarily exclude the other) is absurd. But also fascinating, almost admirable, if it didn't come with so many skeletons in the cupboards. Lately with a severe domino effect, as horrific stories of abuse in all kinds of shades have emerged from the history of the Catholic Church, for example the Magdalene asylums (seriously, you'll not believe it when read about them, but the fact that it DID happen is even more unbelievable!), giving the Church all but a nice reputation - if it ever had one to begin with. I hardly pity 'them' but religion is basically a tough nut to crack when it comes to 'who has the most blame or guilt?'. It's just like war; no one ever comes out a winner or a saint in the end. 

But back to these - basically representative - white, angelic nuns portrayed on film. How do they stand in all this, one could ask? Nowhere, perhaps. Everywhere, maybe. Yet, they represent a duality in the sense of being a woman; of  love, of compromise and of sacrifice in more ways than one, and the strive to achieve something in this world ... well, there's more than one analogy to transport to our modern day world. And if you strip these women figuratively and literally of their veils and habits, their churches and crucifixes, and give them modern clothes and objects, the universality of their struggles and doubts still stand out. 
Furthermore, their beauty; their (repressed? Undermined?) sexual attractiveness: The mystery that women should want to hide such beauty has caused much confusion for men and women alike and not only because of narrow-minded, sexist prejudice, vanity complexes or feminist assertiveness. If you think of how women has been portrayed throughout history in art, literature and film, you'll realize women really have been portrayed as the big mystery, 'the Otherness', ever since the Bible blamed the woman for the Fall of Man. Just think of femme fatales in film noirs, or the sex symbols or any stereotypical category women has been put in, or rather locked in. I'm not saying men haven't been through categorization throughout time as well, but heaven knows it hasn't been quite the same! One major, endured taboo men might have the claim on is the portrayal of homosexuality, especially on film, since masculinity always has been asserted as something solely one-sided for some reason (heterosexual, tough, brutal, virile, strong, unimpressed etc.) and femininity after all was allowed more obscure and ambiguous exploration on that matter (though they were at most repressed and not nearly explored enough out in the open).
Well, that's a sidetrack.

All in all, it's the classic set-up of contrasts: The pious, virtuous, obedient, but nonetheless beautiful women of God placed in strange, exotic surroundings, opposite the spirit of maleness embodied in the tall, dark and handsome men with a streak of roguish charm and insolence to serve as a constant temptation; to shake the nuns' faith and innocence and somehow crack the shell of perfect composure. It remains on the surface a clash of beliefs, human conditions and dichotomies, such as religion vs. secularism, Heaven vs. Earth, harmony vs. disharmony, civilization vs. animalism, abstinence vs. hedonism, mind vs. body, female vs. male; their symbolic beliefs and conditions conveyed through their contrasting postures throughout the films as seen in the above pictures: The nuns' poised, steadfast stances and the men's relaxed, suggestive poses. But in the end it comes down to what we cannot deny we share and what cannot be separated or put into categories such as feelings, emotions, sensations, and all in all, the soul. 
But this set-up, of course, also gives away for the perfect fantasy and basic curiosity to be outlived; that of nuns or ascetics being strange, secluded and unyielding creatures separated from the common man and devoid of all human sins and desires that everyone else give away to. What happens when they are challenged - when they pulled out of their natural environment and put into a new one? How strong are they truly in their faith then? Aren't they humans, too, after all? Made of flesh and blood and bone like everybody else? What happens when faced with those elements they have learned to resist for so long no matter what? And what, in particular, makes young, beautiful girls give up worldly goods, pleasures and vanity and turn to asceticism when they could have everything in the world - and then some? How can such a young girl be so sure of such a life-changing decision and never be in doubt - even when the opportunity of love, a worldly not godly love, arrives?

The almost ethereal beauty, specifically a beauty of innocence, of both Deborah Kerr and Audrey Hepburn made them perfect for the roles of these young nuns (more than once in both of their careers); so committed to their faith and ideals they could be angels themselves, and yet so human that they can't help wavering in their faith, being conflicted when faced with real life or new surroundings, or being drawn to even the smallest of worldly pleasures which they then punish themselves for, almost inhumanly so. And by doing so they left a mark in us and made us ponder upon the power of faith and the individual human sacrifices for a greater good; a greater good that perhaps is good in theory or in thought - and to some extent in practice - but in the end may not be that great a good (at least not for everyone) - and that human weakness isn't that black and white, after all.

On that note, the suggestive modes of eroticism and human desires and/or weaknesses in both films seem all the more palpitating in subtext; that which isn't verbalized or confronted directly but remains unfulfilled and strained (and even strenuous) for the characters involved as well as the audience. Of course, the innocent, covered-up beauty of Deborah or Audrey and the roguish, bared charm of David or Peter who bodily dominates the pictures, oozing of rugged masculinity opposite these waif-like creatures of God creates an immediate, palpitating sexual tension. But it also forms a question of deeper feelings that may or may not exist or be shared, but which they and we, the viewers, both know cannot come true either way. None of them act on their feelings in the end and it wouldn't have been the great stories or films we know today if they had - mainly because we remember them for this particular unspoken, 'unconsummated' tension. And it doesn't make their possible feelings 'speak' any less or be any less true. On the contrary. And that's why I think these films stand out so significantly in our memory, despite the melodrama or the banality one could claim is being conveyed.

03 November 2014

Movie Parallels: "Strangers on a Train" (1951) vs. "Filth" (2013)

Don't tell me I'm the only one who has noticed the striking similarity between the scene from "Strangers on a Train" (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951) where Robert Walker bursts a pestering, little kid's balloon and the scene from "Filth" (Jon S. Baird, 2013) where James McAvoy lets a pestering, little kid's balloon fly?


And the funny thing is that James McAvoy has actually, previously, reinacted the famous shot - for a Vanity Fair shoot - from "Strangers on a Train" where Robert Walker's character charms James Farley. And James is in Robert's place! How ironic is that?!


20 August 2014

The Ultimate Mary Sue on TV

I bet I wasn't the only one tuning in on late afternoons to watch the continuous reruns of the all-time favorite soppy teen drama of the late '90s-early '00s: Dawson's Creek. I don't know why I watched it, really, because I didn't like it very much. Not the whiny characters nor the boring storyline(s). I was just entering the first years of my teenage years and was really looking for something inspirational and yet identifiable on TV. A character with weight and wit, charm and self-irony, struggles and winnings that I could look up to and mirror myself in. All that that you would want from an idol - whether it's on print or screen or in real-life. I guess I looked the wrong place. I could have just turned it off from the first episode, but I wanted to give it a chance so I kept on watching here and there for as long as it ran on TV. I was actually intrigued to see just how irritated one could get with a show and its characters. And boy, did it not disappoint! Especially one character above them all took home The Most Annoying Female Character on TV-Award: Joey Potter. Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. The Ultimate Mary Sue of Generation X, etc..

She was somewhat meant to be a heroine of the show; the small-town girl-next-door type who struggled with a tough background and aimed to be something in life to prove everyone wrong... yada-yada-yada or something like that, I don't know. And that's exactly the problem! I bet no girl or woman watching really did understand her or could relate to her or even felt sorry for her, because she was so incredibly self-righteous and self-pitying all the time, it was hard just liking her. She never seemed to have to fight for anything; everything just came to her, but for some reason all she did was complaining about it. She annoyed the hell out of me, because of her whining tendencies combined with her judgmental, know-it-all attitude (e.g. her signature 'scornful glance') and oh-so-perfectness that just clashed. I know I might sound like I'm jealous of her, but I really think it comes down to not being able to identify with or relate to her. She's simply uninspiring and, frankly, boring. Every guy she came across seemed to fall for her (for some reason) to the point where it annoyed both her and, even more so, us. All she did was complaining about her 'luck' in life despite her misfortunes and all the boys going after her despite not being able to find love, when she basically lead on two men in love with her for more than a couple of years without being able to choose - or rather, making it a game about her. She is incredibly good at downplaying her own prettiness and talents while almost inevitably or deliberately (either way it's annoying) showing them off. One thing she's definitely talented at, as mentioned in the comments in the above-linked blogpost, is self-victimization; a trade so utterly despised by more, shall we say, feminist viewers and critics (or should we just say the entire female sex?) when it comes to fair and realistic representation and portrayal of female characters on TV etc.. It might just be a (male?) writer's wet dream to have such a victimized Mary Sue to act more as a plot device than to have actual substance and weight, I don't know. I may be harsh in my judgment, but Dawson's Creek isn't exactly known for being a show that brings deep and profound philosophy (a sugar-coated one at the most) into the lives of young viewers, but with that said, it isn't necessarily one to be dismissed in its effect on teenagers either. If young women actually came to see Joey Potter as a personal heroine, it wouldn't be the worst, but it sure as hell wouldn't the best either! Sure, young miss Potter doesn't shoot people down, drink, do drugs or God forbid, has sex, but she isn't exactly a woman any sane woman would want to be. At least, I wouldn't. Her inability to do anything - wrong or right - without whining or consulting others about it and then whining some more about her 'poor' choices in life (which really aren't poor, just not convenient in her oh-so-perfect life) just makes you wanna shake her! But of course, if all the people around her adore her (*cough* cf. Mary Sue) and keep affirming her oh-so-admirable-goodness and non-existent qualities, you don't need much more material to run on character-wise. You just keep that insufferable love triangle prolonged to the point of absurdity until the very last episode and rely the entire outcome on a character that doesn't even have character! Ugh. And I couldn't agree more with Gabriella (author of the above-linked post): Katie Holmes is an incredibly bland and boring actress and far from the object of desire that I'd understand would have men swooning in front of her feet. Why all the fuss, really?

Of course, not all female characters can be as bad-ass, interesting and complex as Joey's female contemporaries on TV such as Buffy or Veronica Mars, but it is interestingly ironic to see the latter thoroughly dispel the stereotype (and for some reason general conviction) about 'the dumb blonde', while our dear Joey - with her otherwise so mousy-brown hair and nose-down-a-book-vibe - gets most of the hate from female/feminist viewers. 

Or what do you think? Do you agree or have there been other - or worse - 'supposedly' heroines on TV that are genuine Mary Sues?

05 May 2014

Classic Movie Stars Look-Alikes - Part Deux

I just continue to come across striking resemblances between actors and actresses from past and present, so I'm happy to be able to come up with a second part to one of my earlier posts:

Marika Green vs. Natalie Portman

Marika Green (on the left) and Natalie Portman

Once again, the resemblance is striking! So much that you'd think Natalie was somehow related to Marika (though, that is not the case. Marika is actually the aunt of actress Eva Green). There's not much else to say but WOW!

Mary Pickford vs. Kirsten Dunst

Mary Pickford

Kirsten Dunst

When I came across this picture of Mary Pickford, I literally thought it was Kirsten Dunst in costume for some film or a magazine... But no, it was Mary! I had to look twice to really get it into my head! Though they both share a certain ingénue/sweet-girl-next-door-look, they may not be that alike if you look at other pictures of them, but in these two they certainly are; sharing that impish, almost secretive look and smile.

Brian Aherne vs. Tom Mison

Brian Aherne

Tom Mison

These two guys are just so similar in so many ways (besides both being close to my heart *sigh*)! Besides their appearances, their demeanours are frighteningly alike, if you watch some of their work. Tom often plays a rather nervous, fretting, almost innocent persona in his earlier TV work, who rather cutely tries to keep up with the more forthright female leads, as does Brian in his films. Both British, tall, blond, blue-eyed and statuesque, often sporting a small beard, moustache or stubble of some sort, they are perfect casting as this type of male character to contrast the more aggressive, sharp-tongued ladies. These guys often stay more reserved and play the amused, surprised or incredulous on-looker (either they are a bit dimwitted in a cute, naive way - or they just pretend to be), trying to understand their romantic leads as they let off steam. At other times they more than willingly jump in on this cat-and-mouse-game or battle of wits. It's quite hilarious to watch. And both Brian and Tom are so adorable!

Angie Dickinson vs. Stana Katic

Angie Dickinson

Stana Katic

I may be totally wrong here, but I just found something strikingly similar to these two beautiful ladies. A confident sexuality perhaps? Or just similar facial shapes, eyes and smiles? Not to mention that they both have played headstrong female cops on TV: Angie as Sgt. Pepper Anderson in Police Woman and Stana as detective Kate Beckett in Castle. 'Nuff said. Here they are in action:

Nils Asther vs. Jack Huston

Nils Asther

Jack Huston

I don't think I need to point out just HOW similar Nils and Jack are - both even sporting that particular moustache!

Carole Lombard vs. Amy Poehler

There's just something about these two blonde comediennes that is so striking. Whether it's their unique talent for comedy, brilliant facial expressions or radiant beauty, they're just unforgettable!

To be continued...

28 April 2014

Romance Stories Under Scrutiny: The Gentleman Complex - From Twilight to Pride & Prejudice

I was watching "Twilight Eclipse" the other day (just to see how bad it really is) and though I laughed and cringed my way all the way through, the most awful moment in movie was perhaps when Edward is refusing to have sex with Bella merely because he's 'old school'; holding on to the 'ancient' notion that pre-marital sex is a sin. A 'rule' which he claims has something to do with the fact that he's from a different era where "things were less complicated" - apparently. He tells her that if he'd met her back then he would have courted her at home, taken chaperoned strolls with her and might even have stolen a kiss or two from her. All the innocent things that eventually lead to a marriage proposal, several years of a just-as-innocent engagement before finally being able to seal the deal and make it to the marriage bed. Hmm, okay Edward, you seem to suggest that this notion is a moral rule that is directly connected to the fact that you were born a hundred years before Bella. But this notion has nothing to do with morality, not even back then as you so romantically make it out to be. It was a convention set by the standard of society and disguised as a moral sin if broken. There's a big difference, although cleverly disguised. Believe you me, men certainly did break this rule before marriage, often with *hush-hush* ladies of the night, whereas women were left in 'blissful' ignorance - not knowing a thing or two about sex nor that their soon-to-be-husbands often weren't as innocent as claimed to be - until their presumably shocking wedding nights. Society - which notably was patriarchal - secretly accepted this because "they were men, after all, it's different when it's women" yet publicly denounced it which basically made the society extremely hypocritical. Yet dear Edward makes it out as if all men from that era were born with some sort of special moral code that made them different from all the ones to come; that they were somehow more decent or innocent back then - real gents... Gee, everybody basically just repressed or denied those carnal urges until they got all screwed up inside. Things were less complicated back then, you say..? And talk about repressing all kinds of basic desires, you certainly should know, though you might personally claim to have a decent set of moral codes. In the end, the movie basically just demonstrates the exact same hypocritical, mind, not-so-ancient notion of a conservative society and film industry that tries to pull certain strings when it comes to 'the chastity of these young people who seem to worship these God-forsaken creatures of the night' and whose fangs basically scream of penetration in more than one way. Rather brilliantly done actually. Ugh, I hate how movies like Twilight twists everything around, like basic historical facts that kids growing up watching these wretched movies should be aware of, rather than be lied to! But I guess it's too much to ask from a movie like this that practically brainwashes young people into some sort of weird ideal for their present and future romantic life.

However, I get the whole nostalgia thing. I of all should! The romanticization of another time where men seemed more decent and behaved, more gentlemanlike. Believe me, I’ve had that major crush on the mysterious Mr. Darcy; wishing he could come and whisk me away, but I also knew that Mr. Darcy was a unique case back then as he would be as unique today. But that is exactly the point: he could just as well exist today. The dangerous thing about girls fantasizing about Jane Austen’s heroes, I think, is the way many more or less make Mr. Darcy exemplary for the male race of the 19th century. Hello! Have you girls totally forgotten Wickham (or for that matter Willoughby, Mr. Elliot, Henry Crawford and all the other shady guys ever so present in Austen's novels)?! It’s rather obvious that the stories Austen wrote were ‘fantasies coming true’ as implied in the film “Becoming Jane”; finding true love AND wealth for young unmarried girls. The chance of that happening back then was likely one in a million, and I bet that Jane met more than her fair share of Wickham-like scumbags (not that all men back then were like Wickham either, but in the end no one can see him/herself as entirely innocent). My point is that once again ONE specific male character becomes representative for a whole generation of men that were far from all that Darcy-like. Young girls today cry out that they want the era of Mr. Darcy back where men were gentlemen, but I ask: Why don’t you think Mr. Darcy couldn’t exist today? Once again, the 19th century was a time of conventions rather than a certain morality when it came to how to act and behave. You could hardly talk to a person before you had been introduced to them by another person that you knew beforehand! The English society perhaps more than any other is engulfed in an immanent politeness to this day, so imagine how it was back then. Sure, one could argue that the immediate politeness and good manners back then certainly couldn’t hurt to bring back to this day – most of all the impressive eloquence – but I still think I’d prefer to live today, since it’s somewhat easier to distinguish good people from bad people, broadly speaking, from their ways of acting and behaving, as we aren’t expected to act all polite and mannered all the time in all of life’s aspects today. It’s like that layer of formal façade has been put down in favor of a more informal approach to people – albeit with debatable equal amounts of advantages and disadvantages to the language. Not that people today cannot act devilishly smooth on the outside and then prove to be total scumbags on the inside, but back then you just should act polite all the time. An upfront that made it perhaps all the more tense and exciting during the courtship itself but also equally hindering, frustrating and easily led to misunderstandings as Jane Austen demonstrates so well in her stories. And I believe that made it only the more harder to tell the goodies from the baddies, since everybody put up that nice front of gentlemanly façade. Of course, Jane Austen - being the amazing judge of character that she was - could see through them, yet made it clear through her female leads that even the best can be deceived. This said, it also gives way to an universal truth that only makes her books all the more better. 
But I’m afraid that Jane Austen’s other ‘intent’ of writing these stories has become a bit obscured. The fantasies were lived out, true, and the bad guys put to shame, while demonstrating great wit and intellect through her writing and human perception of her own society and era of living, yet paradoxically time can be praising and cruel at the same time: Her works became classics but - as it so often happens - were not freed of romanticized interpretations and now many fans tend to see past certain aspects of her ironic writing and self-conscious position. One should always be critical – even though it’s hard to be so in a devoted fandom (oh do I know!). Yet, in my belief, you can be critical in a constructive way without ruining your fandom. Actually, it can become all the more better when you go deeper into the layers of a literary work, a film, a TV series etc.. (Well, alright, Twilight might be an exception to this, but that’s simply because it’s not a fandom of mine, obviously, since I find it horrifically bad).

02 April 2014

Classic Movie Stars Look-Alikes

I secretly pride myself at having quite the visual eye and being good at faces - and while it's a 'gift' that never comes in handy when you spot somebody in the street that you recognize but desperately want to avoid (despite the fact that they've already spotted you too because the recognition practically stands written all over your face) - I always find it great fun to try and detect resemblances and similarities in movies and their stars. When it comes to people, the mere physical resemblance can sometimes be uncanny; at times going to the extreme point of similar mannerisms, certain looks and personal quirks (which makes it so fun to be an impersonator I believe). Or is it all just in my head, I wonder? Oh well, it varies, of course, what people find similar to what or whom and what others don't. I guess it has a lot to do with how we see and associate other people to ourselves and people we know. In the end, I believe visual memory/association to be highly personal and subjective, deeply connected to one's feelings - depending on the significance of the memories, of course.
Anyhow, enough with the 'spacing-out'. This is just some silly stuff and musings I concocted because I - as usual - couldn't help myself. Enjoy ;) 
(PS. I intend to keep updating this list as I come across more look-alikes. Meanwhile, be free to make more suggestions or take a look at some other funny look-alikes throughout time). 

Sylvia Sidney vs. Marion Cotillard

Sylvia Sidney (left) and Marion Cotillard

I once came across this picture on the Internet and I simply couldn't take my eyes of the resemblance between Sylvia and Marion! I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before! Furthermore, Marion has that old star quality about her; a beauty that made her so well-suited for the 1920s' setting of "Midnight in Paris" (where the right picture above is taken from). 

Lew Ayres vs. Robert Walker

Lew Ayres

Robert Walker

I may be totally wrong on this, but there's just such a striking resemblance between these two guys: the large forehead and contemplating look; the small chin and neat hair that gave them an almost boyish vibe. Arguably, Lew was more handsome during his time, but I'll leave it to you to judge. Furthermore, there's a certain Alan Ladd-vibe about these two as well:

Laraine Day vs. Patricia Neal

Laraine Day

Patricia Neal

The resemblance is uncanny and I keep confusing them all the time! There's just something about their eyes and eyebrows when they both looked anxious or troubled... Just watch some of their respective films and see for yourselves; there are lots of similar moments!

Donna Reed vs. Teresa Wright

Donna Reed

Teresa Wright

I don't really know why I keep mistaking them for one another, because they are not really that alike if you look at other pictures of them. Maybe it's the hair? Or their smiles? Or their sweet girl-next-door-persona in, respectively, "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Shadow of a Doubt"? In reality, Teresa reminds me more of Eva Marie Saint or Joan Leslie, whereas Donna almost has a bit of Olivia de Havilland in her...
Olivia de Havilland

Eva Marie Saint
Joan Leslie

Marlene Dietrich vs. Tallulah Bankhead

Marlene Dietrich

Tallulah Bankhead

Of course, people had seen this coming, and I'm sure it has been pointed out before: the bedroom eyes, the nonchalant attitude, the androgynous look, the adjunct in the shape of a handsome man with puppy eyes etc.. One could include Greta Garbo and even Bette Davis in this category, too. Yet, where Marlene and Greta arguably succeeded in using their foreign origin to add to their exotic allure and mystery, and Bette had her undeniably versatile talent, Tallulah - a true 'Scarlett O'Hara' (a part for which she also auditioned for) or should I say the female version of 'Rhett Butler'? - was perhaps overshadowed in terms of being THE silver screen temptress and more known for her controversial lifestyle and attitude off screen (even to have said to have been in a relationship with both Marlene and Greta). However, this is, as I said, debatable. Even Bette admitted to having emulated Tallulah in "Dark Victory", which Tallulah had played on stage. And Tallulah did indeed have a significant influence on women's emancipation which for no reason should be downplayed.

Greta Garbo
Bette Davis

Paul Newman vs. Michelangelo's David

Paul Newman

Michelangelo's David

Okay, okay. This has gone a bit silly, I'll admit, but still there's no doubt about it! I'm utterly convinced that Paul really was a Greek god, originally carved from marble and then took human form, and sent to this planet to set the bar for male beauty PLUS make the silver screen all the more delightful to gaze upon ;D Or maybe he had lived in a previous life, let's say the Renaissance, and Michelangelo just happened to use him as a model for his work...

Vivien Leigh vs. Maureen O'Sullivan

Vivien Leigh

Maureen O'Sullivan

Surely, they could be sisters! With their shared mannerisms, girly voices, dimpled smiles, coquettish/impish nature and at times even feisty beings, not to mention staggering beauty, they could easily have competed for the role as 'Scarlett O'Hara' in "Gone With The Wind" (yet, we're glad Vivien got the role as she was practically born for it!). They even had the chance to play together in the movie "A Yank at Oxford" (1938) just before Vivien was picked for the role as Scarlett. However, it was said that "[...] Leigh felt judged by Maureen O'Sullivan, (whom she had befriended years earlier at school) because O'Sullivan was happily married and Leigh was in the midst of an affair with Laurence Olivier and awaiting word of a divorce from her first husband, Leigh Holman. Therefore, the relationship was 'strained'":

Vivien Leigh (left) and Maureen O'Sullivan

I mean, just look at them!:


Clark Gable vs. Kent Taylor

Clark Gable

Kent Taylor

Apropos, "Gone With The Wind", another major, significant star from the film is (of course) Clark Gable, who seemed to also have a 'twin'..! Something I would have laughed at before this recent and surprising discovery - because to me Clark's looks have always been so very unique. However, I was watching "I Take This Woman" (1940) where the actor Kent Taylor appeared and he immediately struck me by his physical resemblance to Clark - albeit not as tall, nor  deep-voiced and not nearly as magnetic as Clark - and maybe it was simply the moustache that did it, but there were just something so familiar... Apparently, Kent Taylor and Clark Gable shared other than just looks as both their names should reportedly have been used as the inspiration for Superman's alter-ego Clark Kent.
(Btw, I love how serene and happy Clark looked around the making of GWTW - which I guess dear Carole must take most of the credit for - except, of course, if you believe this rumour).

Bette Davis vs. Joan Blondell

Joan Blondell (left) and Bette Davis

Joan and Bette only starred in one film together, "Three on a Match" (1932), but was reportedly good friends off-screen as well (though it's hard finding head or tail in the rumours circulating Bette's feuds and friends). Though Bette rather early changed her appearance from blond to brunette which made her stand apart from Joan's iconic blonde persona, they looked very similar during the early thirties. Although, I would argue that Joan had more of the cheeky, down-to-earth and 'rosy-cheeked Betty Grable-beauty' that made her the sex symbol she was in comparison to Bette's more aloof beauty.

Bette (left) and Joan
Joan (left) and Bette


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