For some upcoming content, I am going to write about some of my favorite actors and actresses of classic Hollywood.  I started a list of those stars who I’ve seen in a number of their films.  But here, I focus on a couple of classic leading actresses whose work I have some catching up to do as a film fan and (hopefully) as a continuing film student.

In one of my film classes, we screened “Double Indemnity” (1944) while covering film noir and its characteristics.  For me, this was not only an intro for those films but also for Barbara Stanwyck.  I had heard of her and seen her face in various clips from the movies she starred in.  But until that film class, I hadn’t actually seen her in one of her onscreen roles from start to finish.

Learning about film noir, the personalities of typical characters, seeing the use of shadows and light made me want to see more of those films.  As for Stanwyck, I feel that she is one of those classic movie stars who continues to gain new fans.  That was the case for me, even after only seeing just one of her movies.  She was an amazing talent and so glamourous.

Earlier tonight, I came across a special TCM program about Stanwyck, hosted by a long-time favorite of mine, Sally Field.  I’ve been a fan of Field since I was much younger and caught re-runs of “Gidget” on TV after school.  As host of “Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire,” Field paid a wonderful tribute to Stanwyck with a great deal of admiration for a legend of classic Hollywood.

Since I still had only seen Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity,” I decided to watch the program dedicated to her life.  It detailed both her life as an actress and her life offscreen from childhood.  The featured clips of Stanwyck in many of her roles confirmed that I have to see more of them when I get the chance.  After the program ended, TCM showed a preview of a film coming up next week.  That turned out to be another film starring both Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, “Remember the Night” (1940).

***

Another classic I caught up on recently was “Gone with the Wind” (1939); it was always one of those films that I’d come into part way through.  Because of that, I’d hold off seeing it until I could catch it from the beginning.  There is a lot of elements from the film that I enjoyed, from the details of costumes representing the Civil War era, to the drama of so many situations.  But in keeping with my theme of leading actresses, I’m focusing on Vivien Leigh for now.

Leigh is another classic actress whose films I haven’t seen too many of up to this point.  However, from seeing her before in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) and her iconic Scarlett O’Hara role, it was easy to appreciate Leigh’s talent.  She could show such great emotion that could really be felt.  I love movie stars, past and present, who have shown that ability to do very emotional moments in their roles.

Some of the most dramatic of those moments for Leigh as Scarlett reminded me of Kate Winslet in her scenes of intense drama and emotion.  Both have also played strong-willed characters who thought for themselves and dealt with situations of terrible despair.  Of course, those are not the only things in common between Leigh and Winslet as actresses.  We’ve seen enormous talent in both and I feel that Winslet is a present-day equivalent to classic Hollywood’s actresses of their time.

***

All of these four leading actresses have elements in common that make them my favorites.  Legends of their generations, they’ve all had roles playing women who had many positive qualities.  Among them were intelligent, sharp-witted, strong-minded, no-nonsense and tell-it-like-it-is type of characters.  They played characters who faced hard times, obstacles and struggles in fearless ways.  I look forward to catching up on more films that Stanwyck and Leigh starred in, as well as to more roles that Field and Winslet have in the future.