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GALECA, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (of which yours truly is a voting member), has chosen their picks of the Top 10 Actresses of All Time. From the Golden Age of Hollywood to some of the best living actresses today, the list is a wide range of styles and types, filled with Oscar winners and nominees from Australia, France, Sweden and the U.S.
A handful of actresses came close to the top 10 but did not make the cut included Joan Crawford, Judi Dench, Sally Field, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, Jessica Lange, Helen Mirren, Elizabeth Taylor and Kate Winslet. This will surely cause some unrest in the actress forum circles and fans of faves who didn’t make it will surely protest. The lack of foreign language actresses (save Isabelle Huppert) is certainly something that will cause conversation. But then, where’s the fun if we all agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts on your top 10 in comments below.
The top 10 actresses are listed below, with entries written by GALECA member Dana Piccoli.
Ingrid Bergman: The Swedish star is best known to your average Joe as misty-eyed Ilsa in Casablanca, but Bergman devotees know that she starred in many more, including a trio of Hitchcock films and George Cukor’s stellar thriller Gaslight. Bergman also is responsible for another gift to cinema: her daughter, actress Isabella Rossellini.
Cate Blanchett: Whether she’s playing a tortured 16th-century monarch or having clandestine glove lunches in 1952, Cate Blanchett radiates. She’s the kind of actress who demands your attention, and you gratefully give it. She’s picked up a host of Oscar and/or Golden Globe nominations (and a few wins) for her stunning performances in such modern classics as Elizabeth, Blue Jasmine and Carol (the latter two also earned her GALECA Dorian Awards).
Bette Davis: The grande dame of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Bette Davis commanded attention with her striking visage and powerful performances in films such as All About Eve, The Little Foxes and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Davis’ off-camera battles with co-star Joan Crawford in the latter fuel the upcoming TV series Feud). But from the get-go, she was blazing trails as one of filmdom’s most distinct, eye-expressive actresses.
Viola Davis: Bette’s not the only Ms. Davis to stand out on the screen (big or small). This Juilliard-trained powerhouse has shown there’s no role she can’t conquer, winning two Tonys, two Oscar nominations (for Doubt and The Help) and, finally, like Stanwyck, an Emmy. That parade of awards will only keep growing as she lends her trademark thoughtfulness to more juicy roles such as her current one as Annalise Keating in TV’s How to Get Away With Murder.
Jane Fonda: Fonda (a GALECA Timeless Star career-achievement honoree) may have come from Hollywood royalty, but she’s been paving her own way with intelligence and subversive wit since the sixties. Be it in the daring crime thriller Klute, feminist office comedy 9 to 5 to or gray-haired sitcom Grace and Frankie, Fonda is a nervy, magnetic presence. And few actresses have such a knack for shedding light on important issues as she has with her brave performances. Witness her Oscar-winning turn in Coming Home.
Katharine Hepburn: Few actresses, or actors, have the sort of self-possessed presence that came so naturally to Kate Hepburn. Even after her early success was deemed a flash in the pan in the 1940s, she showed that talent and a hell of a lot of moxie can’t be quashed. Hepburn picked up three of her four Oscars later in life (see On Golden Pond), working until the age of 87. Her dedication to her art and her iconoclastic personal style translate to indelible.
Isabelle Huppert: The French-born Cannes darling Huppert has been making waves in the film industry for over 40 years now, with no signs of slowing down. Her haunting performance in 2001’s The Piano Teacher may be her best-known work in the U.S., but the BAFTA- and Cesar-winning chameleon has more than 50 films under her belt, a testament to her status as one of the world’s most spectacularly natural acting talents. See her cast a spell in the current drama Elle.
Julianne Moore: Moore has the makings of a modern legend. She landed on the radar with her high of a performance in 1997’s Boogie Nights and has been building a noticeably meaty list of credits ever since. Her subtle and natural style has made her a household name and a favorite during Academy Awards season (and she won a GALECA Dorian Award for Still Alice). While Moore is usually cast in dramas, such as the heart-wrenching The End of the Affair, her comedic timing in The Big Lebowski is proof she has the chops to do it all.
Barbara Stanwyck: The stunningly “real” Stanwyck rose from a childhood filled with poverty and strife to become one of early Hollywood’s most dynamic actresses. The former Ziegfeld Follies dancer elicited tears in Stella Dallas, mesmerized in the noir classic Double Indemnity, and delighted in the screwball comedy The Lady Eve. “Missy” later turned heads in television, winning three Emmys, including one for her gutsy performance in The Thorn Birds.
Meryl Streep: Enigmatic, brilliant, timeless. Meryl Streep’s career is as varied as can be, with Oscar-winning performances in The Iron Lady (which also earned her GALECA’s Dorian Award), Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer to fun frolics in films like Mamma Mia and The Devil Wears Prada. Streep completely loses herself in her roles, making her not only fascinating, but (shhh) GALECA’s No. 1 Best Actress of All Time.
The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, home of the annual Dorian Awards, is comprised of over 150 professional (paid) critics and entertainment journalists who write on television and film for noteworthy media outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. These outlets run the gamut, from magazine to radio, from national to regional, from consumer to trade, and from mass-audience to LGBTQ-centric.
Formed in 2009, GALECA toasts the finest in movies and television, “from mainstream to gaystream,” via its Dorian Awards. The awards are named with a wink to our patron saint — the inimitable Oscar Wilde, of course!
Most GALECA members identify as a member of the LGBTQ-munity, be they lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, though GALECA has several “ally” journalists in its ranks as well (these members tend to work for LGBTQ-targeted outlets, but all are welcome).