Friday, October 12, 2007

Where have all the leading ladies gone?

In an article today for the Chicago Sun-Times, Betsy Hart wonders what has happened to the movie heroines. In the earlier days of film, women were strong, three-dimensional characters who could carry a film by herself. They were feminine and beautiful, but they were strong and could do without a man, thank you very much. Think of Joan Crawford, one of the first women to publicly raise children without a husband or father figure for them (forget the Mommy Dearest part for now). Think of Audrey Hepburn, even. In nearly all of her films there's a happily ever after with implied marriage to the leading man, but she was no lovesick baby dependent on a man. Her quiet strength and natural charms drew him to her, often making him completely crazy in the process (see Love in the Afternoon). Think of some of the strongest films in history such as Laura, Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, and see how much of these films were carried by the female lead. They were empowering without being frothy or falling into the dreaded "chick-flick" territory. What has happened to films like these? Why must a woman blow something up to be considered strong?

Add this to the fact that Warner Brothers Studios reportedly announced that they will no longer be making female-lead based films and you have to think, where's Audrey Hepburn when you need her? She single-handedly carried The Nun's Story, a Warner Bros. film, and earned an Oscar nomination, and it was one of the highest grossing films for the studio at the time. Then again, could that be said of any modern actress today of any generation, let alone the under 40 set?

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