Some of my favorite actors are singers and some of my favorite singers are actors and, more often than not, they are one in the same. I don't know what it is, but something about being a good singer makes for a good actor. Maybe it's because a singer is acting a story in a song and must do so on an intensely personal level. It just seems that many performers who are chiefly singers seem to have a naturalness before the camera that is comfortable and intimate. Whatever the reason, they display an ease that is irresistible. Here are a few of my favorites. These performers seem to be able to do it all!
For me, she is the greatest Hollywood star There was nothing - nothing this woman couldn't do. Singing? No contest. Dancing? Do you hear Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly complaining? Beautiful? Yes. Acting? Matchless. Oh, Judy, let me count the ways!
1. Comedy: Judy was a superb comedienne and was well known to have a terrific sense of humor in real life. Her perfect execution of a Buster Keaton-choreographed routine in "The Good Old Summertime" is hilarious, as is her dancing with an over-amorous but under-sized partner in "Meet Me in St. Louis."
2. Dancing: Did you see her "Be a Clown" in "The Pirate"? "A Couple of Swells" in "Easter Parade"? Or how about "Get Happy" in "Summer Stock"?
3. Beauty: Those big brown eyes, that turned up nose, that adorable smile and laugh. And those legs! She should have thought more of herself, but being surrounded by Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor at MGM made her feel like an ugly duckling. Someone should have told her that inner beauty shows on the screen, too.
4. Acting: Catch Judy in "The Clock" and tell me this woman was not a brilliant actress. And, if that doesn't do it for for you, check out "A Star is Born." Actors can study for years and never come close to this woman's ability to make you feel.
Academy Award Nominations: "A Star is Born," "Judgment at Nuremberg"
Academy Award Wins: Juvenile Academy Award for "The Wizard of Oz."
I believe that Doris day is the most under-rated of stars. While not as intense and emotional as Judy, there is virtually nothing Doris cannot do.
1. Comedy: Her strong suit (next to singing). She had great timing and always made her co-stars look good. In film after film she showed them all how it should be done: light as a feather and full of fun.
2. Dancing: Before Doris embarked on a singing career she harbored dreams of becoming a dancer. Her dreams were cut short by an injury, but Doris still had the moves. She did some fine dancing in "Love Me or Leave Me," but she also did some great bad dancing in that film - and that is not easy to do!
3. Beauty - no need to elaborate here. In addition to her lovely face, Doris had a knockout figure and was a great clotheshorse. Her style, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, was the envy of women everywhere.
4. Acting: Everything Doris does looks effortless. When given a role with some meat, she was perfection. "Love Me or Leave Me" is my favorite Doris Day performance, followed by "Calamity Jane" and "The Pajama Game." Alfred Hitchcock, who directed her in "The Man Who Knew too Much," was not an easy man to please and he had nothing but praise for Doris. That pretty much sums it up.
Academy Award Nominations: "Pillow Talk"
Academy Award Wins: None. SOMEBODY GIVE THIS WOMAN AN OSCAR, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!
The granddaddy of them all - so much talent and ability wrapped in the smoothest, coolest most likable personality that ever appeared in movies. In case you need reminding, Bing was an unbelievably huge mega-star whose celebrity topped the charts in recordings,on radio, in film and TV. He was never once caught "acting," but could act anyone off the screen without breaking a sweat. Just dial "O" for O'Malley.
1. Comedy: Bing had a special talent for comedy. He knew his way around a funny line, especially when paired with buddy Bob Hope, and kept the box office humming in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
2. Dancing: This is one area where Bing gives a game effort, but falls short. Both he and Frank Sinatra (more about him in a bit), seem to only be able to dance below the waist. The upper torso did not cooperate. Oh well, I'll just close my eyes and listen.
3. Beauty: Is there any wonder those young gals swooned for this crooner in the 1930s? Did you see those big baby blues? Bing was mighty attractive and it was never hard to believe that he would end up with Dorothy Lamour (well, most of the time!).
4. Acting: Effortless, no matter how light or heavy. Comedy and musicals were a given, but he could tug at your heart in "Going My Way," and handle the heavy going in "Man on Fire," and "The Country Girl."
Academy Award Nominations: "Going My Way," "The Bells of St. Mary," and "The Country Girl."
Academy Award Win: "Going My Way"
Well ring-a-ding-ding, the Chairman of the Board was a real movie star (besides being one of the greatest recording artists of all time). Frankie showed them all with cool, style and real acting talent. Really, is it fair that one man should be blessed with so much talent? Good thing he decided to share it with us! While movie stardom was just a fraction of what made him famous, he left quite a celluloid legacy of great performances. Miss you like mad, Frankie.
1. Comedy: Frank was an old hand at the funny stuff and could stand toe-to- toe with any funnyman in the business. "Come Blow Your Horn," "High Society" and "On the Town" were extra delightful for his presence.
2. Dancing: See Bing Crosby! Watch Frank and Gene Kelly in "One the Town." Frank's feet are doing the same steps as Gene's, but that upper torso is strictly immobile! At least he did it with a smile.
3. Beauty: I think Frank got better looking as he got older, but try to tell that to the thousands of bobby-soxers who thought he was the living end!
4. Acting: When given the right part (and when he was in the right mood), he was superb. "Pal Joey," "Guys and Dolls," (shouldn't he have been Sky Masterson?), "The Joker is Wild," "The Man with the Golden Arm," "The Manchurian Candidate," and, of course, "From Here to Eternity" - all home runs.
Academy Award Nominations: "From Here to Eternity," "The Man with the Golden Arm"
Academy Award Win: "From Here to Eternity"
A favorite of mine who came to the screen at the tail end of the great musical era in films. There is never a false note in her singing or acting. She was the fresh faced ingenue of "Oklahoma" and "Carousel," but could do the hefty lifting in the acting department when given a chance.
1. Comedy: While Shirley was not known as a funny lady, her appearances in musicals required a bit of a hand for comedy. And just in case you need a reminder, her Marian the Librarian was quite an amusing little minx.
2. Dancing: Again, her Marian the Librarian does tear up the library in "The Music Man," and quite nicely, I might add.
3. Beauty: High marks in this department. Shirley was and is an incredible beauty.
4. Acting: while not usually called upon to do anything but sing and be wholesome, sweet and lovely, Shirley's performance as the unlucky Julie in "Carousel" was moving and, playing against type, she showed them all what she was capable of as a prostitute in "Elmer Gantry."
Academy Award Nominations: "Elmer Gantry"
Academy Award Win: "Elmer Gantry"
Second only to Judy as a great screen musical talent. However, since musicals were becoming a thing of the past when Barbra took front and center, she really got to show off her acting (and directing) ability. She has a legion of fans who worship her and she deserves it. The woman is unique, a great actress and one of the finest singers ever.
1. Comedy: Well, she is "Funny Girl" and "Funny Lady." Barbra is a natural comedienne with a self-deprecating sense of humor that can't help but make you smile. Her Fanny Brice in both films is funny and dramatic, but she was just plain funny in "What's Up Doc?"
2.Dancing: Barbra did what she had to do in "Hello Dolly," but can you forget her "Roller Skate Rag" from "Funny Girl"? Takes talent to do that!
3. Beauty: Barbra is unique and not your conventional beauty, but I think she is beautiful. She shows all other unusual girls that beauty is in your individuality and personality, not in a perfect nose.
4. Acting: Even if Barbra did not sing like an angel, she would have made it as a great actress. Aside from her Fanny Brice roles, she did great acting jobs in "The Way We Were," and in "The Prince of Tides," and "Yentl" (both of which she also directed).
Academy Award Nominations: "Funny Girl," "The Way We Were" and for the song, "Evergreen" from "A Star is Born"
Academy Award wins: "Funny Girl" and "Evergreen" from "A Star is Born"
ALSO WORTHY OF MENTION:
Elvis was a genuine movie star with real on-screen charisma. Too bad he did't get to appear in good films, but he was always fun. We know he could sing, and move, but he was also a very funny fellow who could also handle the acting if given half a chance. In truth, his movies usually stunk, but Elvis always transcended the trash. "King Creole" was halfway good and "Viva Las Vegas" was great fun. If only he was given better chances.
Academy Award Nominations: None
Academy Award Win: None (oh well!)
Cher is another performer who can do it all. Sadly, her screen time has been limited, but when she gets a good role the woman is dynamite! She is beautiful, funny and, although she is a singer, rarely sings in her films. Everyone doubted her, but she has shown herself to be a natural. She is utterly and impossibly believable as the biker mom in "Mask," the spell-binding sculptress in "The Witches of Eastwick," and the Italian-American widow in "Moonstruck." The only thing wrong with Cher is that she does not make enough movies.
Academy Award Nominations: "Silkwood," "Moonstruck"
Academy Award Win: "Moonstruck"
Other great voices who could hold their own on screen: Dean Martin, Bette Midler, Jeanette McDonald, Gordon MacRae, Alice Faye and Deanna Durbin. Did I miss one of your favorites?
I guess if you have the music in you, you can do anything!