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Top 5: Classic On-Screen Beauties

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What has become of the Hollywood beauty? Before, these beauties lit up the screen as if they were born to be on it. Nowadays, film is littered with a different kind of beauty – the one cast just because of how she looks. No offense to Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel, but they don’t emit the same screen presence that classic Hollywood regularly gave birth to. Yes, Angelina Jolie looks very good with Brad Pitt, but Jolie’s voluptuousness doesn’t come close to matching Monroe’s radiance.

I might be bias, but when watching these classic on-screen beauties I have never been distracted by their beauty. These women showcased their persona – a mix of beauty, personality and talent. Not that I mind watching Alba dance with a lasso in Sin City or Biel showering in Blade: Trinity, but these scenes distract from the film by enhancing the actresses’ sex appeal while downplaying any acting ability. These five on-screen beauties, however, had it all.

1. Ingrid Bergman – There hasn’t been any actress quite like Ingrid Bergman. It can’t be a coincidence that she starred in so many great movies like Casablanca, Notorious, Spellbound and Murder On The Orient Express. She was the biggest actress in the 1940s, enchanting the world with her beauty and talent (she won three Academy Awards). Although her infidelity resulted in her fall from grace, she still continued to act with charm and dignity.

2. Eva Marie Saint – Eva also has her share of starring roles in many great movies (On The Waterfront, 36 Hours, North By Northwest and Grand Prix). When the roles she was offered weren’t satisfactory, in the 70s Eva turned to the small screen and to the stage with much success – winning an Emmy in 1990 for the mini-series People Like Us. She is currently filming Superman Returns.

3. Veronica Lake – One of the most beautiful women in Hollywood at the time, she invented the “peek-a-boo” look with her long hair curled to block one of her eyes. This look was so popular that during World War II, the United States government asked Lake to stop using the look because so many of the women would copy her and get their hair trapped in machines while working in the factories. Her best role is in Preston Sturges’ slapstick comedy masterpiece Sullivan’s Travels.

4. Marilyn Monroe – One of the most mythic icons in screen history, Marilyn Monroe personified stardom. High profile marriages to Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio as well as rumored affairs with John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy heightened the mystery surrounding her persona. Her sex appeal might have overshadowed her acting talents, but she never shied away from the spotlight. Elizabeth Hurley once said that “I’ve always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I’d kill myself if I was that fat.” I’m sorry, but Monroe will always be more beautiful than Hurley and the highest point of Hurley’s career is still a hundred miles below the lowest point of Monroe’s career. Film highlights include Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch and The Asphalt Jungle.

5. Ava Gardner – She was one of the most recognized sex symbols in Hollywood, starring in films like Show Boat, The Killers and The Hucksters. She began her career as a model, later turning to film. She was married three times to Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra and Artie Shaw.

Honorable mention: Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Bibi Andersson

Inspired by Jones Violet’s “Of Hunks and Babes” article, here.

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About Tan The Man

Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music. He has previously covered events like Noise Pop, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest, TBD Festival, Wizard World Comic Con and WonderCon.
  • Great list, Tan. I was always disturbed by Elizabeth Hurley’s comment about Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn was certainly not fat, if anything, she had the perfect figure, especially compared to today’s shrinking women.

    Ava Gardner, I think, must be one of the most beautiful women ever, whether back in the day, or today.

  • Sean

    I’d like to put a vote in for Brigitte Bardot, and I have always had a thing for Anouk Aimee.

  • i knew I forgot someone!

  • Does this mean you’ve traded in your Elisha Cuthbert obsession for dead celebrities? 🙂

  • Yeah I have a special idiot category for people that think Marilyn Monroe was fat. Elizabeth Hurley is in it, but she isn’t alone.

    I would like to say that I wish there were more really handsome men in the movies too. There are far fewer of them even than beautiful women.

    I loved that old fashioned glamour when I was growing up. I used to watch lots of old movies and try to dress and act that way.

  • Bennett

    Good calls Tan! Marilyn coming out of the ocean in Some Like It Hot has got to be “the hottest gal in a one piece, ever”.

    Not to mention the flimsy gown she wears to sing “I Want To Be Loved By You”…..

    I’d have to add Katherine Hepburn to the list. Ye Gads, what a unique lady!

  • “Does this mean you’ve traded in your Elisha Cuthbert obsession for dead celebrities? :)”

    She still holds a special place in my heart. 🙂

  • I’m not familiar with Elisha. Who is she?

    As far as current on-screen beauties, who would you list? I’d say Angelie Jolie and Rene Zwellinger. Maybe Scarlett
    Johansen but she’s young.

  • Are you boycotting Google now, Scott? Finding out who Elisha Cuthbert is, and what she looks like, and what her favorite color is, are all just a few clicks and keystrokes away from anyplace on the web.

  • Nice list, Tan. I would, however, include Audrey Hepburn, as well as Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, the wondrous actress who starred in Frtiz Lang’s “Spies”, Olivia de Havilland, and Rita Hayworth. But alas that would crowd the bus.


  • I’ll look it up but it sounds like there was some personal too. I doubt Google will tell me why she has a special place in Tan’s heart.

  • Sean

    Scarlett is my fave of the current crop. The same jackasses who think Marilyn was fat probably think Scarlett should lay of the desserts also.

    I also like Kiera Knightley. I think she will get better looking as she ages and fills out a bit.

  • I don’t mean to be a prude but aren’t Elisha and Scarlett rather young?

  • Scott Butki

    I take that last comment back after checking IMDB. Both are older than they look.

  • If you want to see a movie filled with on screen beauties of old you should check out The Women.

  • If you like Keira, then you should definitely like Natalie Portman? I mean Keira was Natalie’s double in Phantom Menace. It’s scary how similar the two look.

  • Might I add a dark horse vote for Martha Vickers?

  • HarryMonkey

    I’d put them in this order:
    1. Ava Gardner
    2. Rita Hayworth
    3. Elisha Cuthbert
    4. Scarlett Johansen
    5. Marilyn Monroe
    6. Ingrid Bergman
    7. Jessica Alba
    8. Eva Marie Saint
    9. Veronica Lake
    10. Angelina Jolie