- Alma (Patricia Neal),
This slow-drawling, womanly, wised-up housekeeper tells the incorrigible
Paul Newman she'd have happily had sex with him if he'd asked her
instead of trying to rape her. Suffice it to say, this takes place
- Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert),
It Happened One Night (1934)
The spoiled heiress must defy her father and run off to marry Mr.
Right if she is ever to grow up and be her own person; and then,
of course, she must learn that her father was right about how wrong
her Mr. Right is so that she can see that her Mr. Wrong (who happens
to be her father's Mr. Right-for-her) is the real Mr. Right.
- Anita (Rita Moreno),
West Side Story (1961)
The feisty, hot, experienced, I-like-to-be-in-America girl who's
whore to Maria's virgin, and causes everybody a lot less trouble
- Anna (Deborah Kerr), The
King and I (1956)
The warmest, most gracious instrument of 19th-century Western imperialism
- Mary Hatch Bailey (Donna Reed),
It's a Wonderful Life
Sure, it's a portrait of unquestioning love. It's also a tribute
to a lost breed--women who quietly, unfussily prevail.
- Judy Barton/Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak),
Victim? Predator? Ghost? Hitchcock's enigma-to-beat-most-other-enigmas.
The gal most guys deserve to meet.
- Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney),
Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
What goes on in this all-too-pretty head? Desperate strategizing.
If your crippled brother-in-law threatens to take your husband's
attention away from you, simply engineer a tragic drowning. If your
unborn baby makes the same mistake? Throw yourself down the stairs.
Points for originality.
- Lisa Berndle (Joan Fontaine),
Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948)
Here is a testament to and elegy for the relentlessness of hopeless
love in the female of the species, and hence a plea to the male
of the species to forego the slightest encouragement if the female's
love cannot be requited.
- Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep),
Out of Africa (1985)
She had a farm in Africa. And everything failed, except her character,
which was tangled up in contradictions that fueled a saving imagination.
- Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester (Janet Gaynor),
A Star is Born (1937)
"This is Mrs. Norman Maine." And she knows everything
you need to know about Hollywood.
- Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand),
Funny Girl (1968)
A hugely talented Brooklyn-born ugly duckling who turns herself
into an uptown swan (with a big bill).
- The Bride (Elsa Lanchester),
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The prototype of today's surgery-mad starlets. And a pioneer in
hair-streaking, to boot.
- Berenice Sadie Brown (Ethel Waters),
The Member of the Wedding (1952)
The mammy whose saintliness extends all the way to not gagging the
logorrheic prepubescent female she's forced to share the kitchen
- Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard),
My Man Godfrey (1936)
A rich, spoiled, insecure, booze-addled, selfish, willful, utterly
spaced-out, adorable, glamorous, good-hearted, Park Avenue society
girl of the '30s.
- Lucy Burrows (Lillian Gish),
Broken Blossoms (1919)
Born poor, left for dead by a father who beat her to a bloody pulp,
this Silent Era heroine presses her fingers to the corners of her
tremulous lips to force a smile--and fails to use her suffering
as an excuse for substance abuse, abuse of others or incessant whining.
- Carrie (Sissy Spacek), Carrie (1976)
Every paranoid fantasy about female puberty--and girls know that
in the case of female puberty, paranoid fantasy can be very close
to reality--wrapped up in one pale, vengeful girl.
- Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer),
Batman Returns (1992)
Guys, wanna know what happens when you (metaphorically) throw gals
out the window? They get slinky the way you always wanted them to,
only now they come with claws and whips, and psychological wounds
transformed into lethal finesse. The best you can hope for is to
get your face licked after your butt's been kicked.
- Margo Channing (Bette Davis),
All About Eve (1950)
A warning to women about the stupidity of ever befriending younger,
prettier versions of themselves. No wonder sisterhood's in short
supply in showbiz.
- Nora Charles (Myrna Loy), The
Thin Man (1934)
Authentically sophisticated practitioner of that only-works-in-the-movies
marriage strategy wherein the witty, stunningly beautiful wife keeps
up with, and often ahead of, her husband in such things as martini
drinking, and makes the whole experience fun for both of them.
- Charlie (Teresa Wright),
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
A small-town girl who indulges in romantic (make that incestuous)
fantasies about her namesake, Uncle Charlie, comes to realize that
the dashing hero is actually a heartless murderer of women. Naturally,
nobody else in the family understands this. So she must kill him
herself. As must every girl.
- Chris (Angie Dickinson),
Point Blank (1967)
The reason John F. Kennedy felt he had to do Angie Dickinson?
- Queen Christina (Greta Garbo),
Queen Christina (1933)
Showing commendable common sense, she gives up the throne of Sweden
to romance a Spanish knockout.
- Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), Black
A sublime notion of feminine spirituality, she's the sophisticated
and very superior Mother Superior who comes from her Western tradition
to a wild Eastern place and is shaken down by the rakish Englishman
who is the man of her dreams and nightmares.
- Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood),
Inside Daisy Clover (1965)
Nervous breakdowns, screaming fits, a frenzied desperation to please,
serial relationships with wrong guys--the incisive portrait of an
adolescent Hollywood star.
- Jane Craig (Holly Hunter),
Broadcast News (1987)
The contemporary working girl at her brightest--inspired, resourceful,
relentless and bonkers.
- Stella Dallas (Barbara Stanwyck), Stella
The tacky, self-immolating mom who watches from outside a window
as her only child marries into a Park Avenue family. If this type
existed today, you'd send her for a makeover and hire a gigolo to
keep her occupied at the reception.
- Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda),
The girl with the most distinctive hairdo in the history of prostitution.
Not Dick Morris's type.
- Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson),
A warning to second wives and new girlfriends about the importance
of tossing out all things and people belonging to your predecessor.
- Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday),
Born Yesterday (1950)
A spectacular early example of the bodacious-bodied ditz-cum-millionaire's
- Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson),
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The godmother for a society in which everyone's ready for their
- Cruella de Vil (Betty Lou Gerson (voice)),
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
She sounds like Tallulah Bankhead imitating a seal, and is too cool
- The new Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine),
A heroine for women who are forced by circumstance to compete with
the Ideal Woman without benefit of poise, confidence or the ability
to accessorize--which is to say, most women.
- Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck),
Double Indemnity (1944)
An inspiration or cautionary tale, depending, for women who don't
merely like to use men, but like to use them to kill their husbands.
- Fran Dodsworth (Ruth Chatterton),
A pinnacle of female vanity, selfishness, pretension, grandiosity,
disloyalty, self-delusion and overdressing.
- Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh),
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Vain, neurotic, self-deluded, manipulative, weak but tyrannical
--you know, Southern.
- Isadora Duncan (Vanessa Redgrave),
A righteously annoying creative pioneer.
- Jean Louise "Scout" Finch (Mary Badham),
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The socially blundering, pre-feminine girl-child of Atticus Finch
has curiosity, impatience, combativeness and smarts operating both
for and against her as she tries to crack the codes of adult society.
- Alex Forrest (Glenn Close),
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Cinematic evidence that nothing is tougher on a marriage, a car
or a furry little animal than an umarried, libidinous, big-city
- Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly),
Rear Window (1954)
The girl too sexy, too refined and too smart not to indulge her
boyfriend's fantasy that she's frivolous.
- Frenchie (Marlene Dietrich),
Destry Rides Again (1939)
The ultimate old West saloon gal--sexy, tough and heroic when motivated
- Lily Garland (Carole Lombard),
Twentieth Century (1934)
A minimally talented shopgirl who gets turned by a theatrical Svengali
into a self-enchanted virago. Sounds like half of Hollywood to us.
- Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr),
The Innocents (1961)
Imagine a morally upright, proper 19th-century British woman--Anna
from The King and I, say--but one who seethes with sexual repression
and religious hysteria. Now imagine her as the caretaker to two
very odd, perhaps demonically possessed children.
- Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), Breakfast
at Tiffany's (1961)
What's not to love?
- Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame),
In a Lonely Place (1950)
The used, smart L.A. beauty who inspires her self-destructive screenwriter/lover
to pen the lines: "I was born when you kissed me. I died when
you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me." This
must be how the joke about the Polish actress who slept with the
screenwriter got started.
- Marylee Hadley (Dorothy Malone),
Written on the Wind (1956)
Of all the rich, messed-up, cocktail-swigging, didn't-get-enough-attention-from-Daddy-so-I'm-gonna-screw-lowlifes
little sisters in big screen history, none does the rumba so thrillingly.
- Annie Hall (Diane Keaton),
Annie Hall (1977)
The apotheosis of hip, dope-smoking, neurotic ditz as ideal modern
- Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters),
Vulgar, pretentious, horny, cloyingly seductive and terrifying mom
who discovers that her middle-aged dreamboat has married her in
hopes of porking her adolescent daughter. A classic of her type.
- Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr),
From Here to Eternity (1953)
A bitter, edgy wife who not only grabs at clandestine sex, but screws
Burt Lancaster in the Hawaiian surf. A model for our times.
- Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman),
A sinner seeking Cary Grant's assistance in her struggle for redemption,
but, more important, the best excuse for a zillion closeups in the
history of film.
- Jane Hudson (Bette Davis), What
Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
A has-been movie star serves her invalid sister a dead parakeet
and a rat, then takes her to the beach and lets her fry in the sun.
Sisterhood for a society in which everyone is ready for their closeup.