Monday, March 18, 2013

Hit List: Top 5 Dame Actresses

Having now seen Skyfall, I felt compelled to produce a Hit List today, comprised of my "Top 5 Dame Actresses": the five most eligible "Queens of the Screen" that I have ever had the privilege of seeing. (And who are all still active in their careers at present) Each actress comes with a "Recommended Filmography", films I have seen and thus may recommend. (If you have seen any others, feel free to recommend them to me! :))

5. Angela Lansbury
 Possibly the sweetest role I have seen Angela in to date would be Murder, She Wrote. Playing an older woman in a charming New England town who decides to write a murder mystery novel and gets fame (and real mysteries) for it, Angela captures the heart of an adventuresome older woman with plenty of spunk and imagination, whom no criminal would ever expect to find them. :) She's "everybody's grandmother"-type, yet she doesn't cave in the face of danger, and she keeps up with actresses much younger than she (often "showing them up", as far as the realism of her acting goes!) So simple, so elegant, so creative--I very much love watching her.

Recommended Filmography:
Bedknobs & Broomsticks (Disney)
Murder, She Wrote
Beauty & the Beast (Disney) 

4. Julie Andrews
The first out of the five I ever saw, traipsing her way through the streets of Austria singing her heart out in The Sound of Music. Words cannot express how much I wanted to be her--to sing like her, to dance like her. She happened to be the only female onscreen in that particular production with a pixie cut (though the movie is set during a time when pixie cuts for women were likely not the fashion), but she wore it with such feminine grace that one probably would never realize it. Julie captivates and charms with her winsome ways and her unquenchable sense of humor. From Mary Poppins, the magical nanny who danced with animated penguins, to Queen Clarisse of Genovia in the Princess Diaries movies who finds herself in many awkward situations reasonable of a woman half her age, Julie handles it all with the same finesse and regal grace.

Recommended Filmography:
The Sound of Music
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Mary Poppins
The Princess Diaries
One Special Night

3. Helen Mirren
My favorite "Mirren Moment" would be from the movie RED, the part when Helen--wearing an ivory silk gown and pearls--has to lay down cover fire with a big heavy machine gun behind Bruce Willis and John Malkovich. What does the lady do? She ditches her satin heels for a pair of combat boots for added mobility and sturdiness and she pulls that trigger! She also pulls a hilarious stint as fussy Aunt Elinor in the wonderful fantasy adventure Inkheart--a reclusive bibliophile who still manages to assert herself as a woman not to be trifled with, even when the man rummaging through her beloved books has a very sharp knife and desperately wants to use it. With a subtle tilt of her head, purse of her lips, and firm glint in her eye, Helen commands attention at the same time as she invites suffering innocents to come to her for comfort.

Recommended Filmography:

2. Judi Dench
There isn't enough I could say about this woman. Just barely over five feet high, Judi earns the name "la petite dame formidable." Whether she's playing the soft, gentle spinster Miss Mattie of Cranford, or the woman in charge of the security of England (and most of Europe), the unquenchable M in at least 5 Bond movies--look out for Judi. She may be small, but she's a firecracker, and not to be regarded lightly. Her skill, too, with the works of Shakespeare such as Macbeth and Henry V--as a devious, power-hungry lady in one, and as the comforting mother-figure for a young vagrant (played by Christian Bale) in the other--only add to the amount of respect she deserves. 

Recommended Filmography:
Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall
Henry V
The Importance of Being Earnest
Home on The Range

1. Maggie Smith
Which brings me to my ultimate favorite Screen-Queen. First seen in the movie Hook, Maggie will always embody "Gramma Wendy" to me. She is certainly the "Queen Mother" of them all, as the veritable "grande dame" to command the screen as a slight (but by no means frail!), elderly dowager who should not be crossed under any circumstances. Her Scottish accent is positively adorable as the peppery, regal Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series, and I very much liked watching her in the role of Mrs. Medlock on The Secret Garden. Whether period piece or modern-day movie; whether it's a literary adaptation or an original screenplay, Maggie Smith is the kind of skilled actor to fully embody every role, an anchor for the rest of the cast and a stellar example of excellent acting.

Recommended Filmography:
Harry Potter
The Secret Garden