Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bewitched: Women Who Cast a Spell: Vivien Leigh, Gene Tierney and Louise Brooks

Halloween is coming soon, but I am not a real fan of the scary. I am, however, a fan of the witch.

As we all know, there are good movie witches and bad movie witches (Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West taught us that), but by far the most fun movie witches are the sleek and seductive ones. They don't just cast a spell, they bewitch. Kim Novak, Nicole Kidman and Veronica Lake have all played witches who use their considerable powers on their real and reel audience. But there are other witches among us, those stars who, although never playing witches, seem to cast a spell whenever they appear. The feminine powers of each of these lovely enchantresses are of the highest order.


Vivien Leigh
Like a sorceress out of King Arthur's court, she looks as though she knows her way around a magic wand and crystal ball. She may have been the perfect "English Rose," but there was always a touch of the other-worldly about Vivien. Of course, the feminine wiles of her Scarlett O'Hara are legendary. In retrospect, no one could have brought such mystical allure to the role. Even when she is a proper (and no-so-proper) English lass, such as in "Waterloo Bridge" or "A Yank at Oxford," a barely concealed passion for more than the ordinary bubbles ever-so-close to the surface. 
Look into my eyes and pay the taxes on Tara!
Her later films, such as "A Streetcar Named Desire," "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone," and "Ship of Fools," displayed a tattered magic, but magic, nonetheless. There is no doubt in my mind that Vivien, if she were so inclined, could cast a spell any time, any place.


Gene Tierney
Described as "lynx-like," there is something utterly feline and primal about this woman. Dress her up in the best 40s fashions and she is sublime, but in furs she look positively at home.
Just look at him trying to figure out when the exact moment
he surrendered control occurred. Shall I tell him it was before we met? 
No matter what the role, it is impossible to get over her face. Sure, she is a Mad Men gal in "Laura," but do we really think that Waldo and McPherson are on the hunt for Miss Hunt because of her talent? And doesn't Mrs. Muir look like a cat who has enjoyed her cream? Sexy Rexy may think he's in charge, but I think Lucy Muir is the one who is casting the spell on the old sea dog. 
You will do my bidding, you will do my bidding, you will do my bidding.
Even as the obsessive Ellen in "Leave Her to Heaven," we forgive her because, well, she was special, wasn't she?


Louise Brooks
Do you really think she was unconsciously spellbinding? I think not. This is serious witchcraft at work here. The enchanting Louise has long been the subject of those who have fallen under her spell. But she is a tricky witch, as she pretends to know not the effect she has on mere mortals. She once described herself as a rich man's pet ocelot, an exotic pet to be paraded before envious onlookers. I think she was the one who held the leash.
Felines rarely look you in the eye...
unless they want to cast a spell on you.

Though her magic was potent, she wasn't much interested in cinema enchantment. Her book of spells is short, with her trio of European films ("Pandora's Box," "Diary of a Lost Girl," and "Prix de Beaute") her crowning glory. But if the magic is powerful enough, it leaps off a static photograph and continues to cast a spell. 


As we enter this autumnal season of enchantment, feel free to fall under the spell of a sleek and seductive movie witch. They may be sometimes troublesome, but they are oh so worth it, don't you think?


Catch "Dreaming of City Lights" and "Dreaming of Gaslight" over at My Movie Dream Book

20 comments:

chelk said...

I totally agree! But alot can be said for the magic behind that camera, lighting and don't forget the make-up!! All are truly beautiful and very alluring women. I'm always in awe when I see such beauty!! Thank you for sharing.

stefmagura said...

In reading the title I immediately thought of the American songbook standard Bewitched Bothered Bewildered... and I guess that first thought fit a little.

Laura said...

Three of my favorite cinematic ladies. "Otherworldy," "lynx-like," "feline" indeed! Great post. Aside from their great beauty, each of these gals had something else going on beneath the surface that was equal parts disturbing and tantalizing.

FlickChick said...

@ Chelk: no doubt the behind the camera effects help, but these ladies had something inside of them that was special.

FlickChick said...

@ Stef: I was thinking of that song, too, as I was writing this!

FlickChick said...

@ Laura: These ladies were disturbing, weren't they? As beautiful as they were, there was something brewing beneath the surface that made them mesmerizing.

Samantha said...

Yes I do agree. Wonderful post. I love the pictures and the falling stars.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Samantha (you little witch, you).

ClassicBecky said...

FlickChick, you really chose the right 3 for this witch-like beauty post. I always thought Rita Hayworth one of the most beautiful women, but she is of the earth. Same with Elizabeth Taylor - more real and earthy.

Vivien, Gene and Louise are different -- gorgeous and just out of reach. This is a really good assessment of their type of beauty, and the pictures are to die for. Really good.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Becky - you are quite bewitching yourself!

The Lady Eve said...

Three astute choices, FlickChick. It strikes me that all three charmers also have something haughty about them, a superiority - including Brooks, who is perhaps more of a "hot number."

Do you remember "The Witches of Eastwick"? Years ago, a few friends/co-workers and I watched the movie (VHS) together one day in the conference room where we worked and, as a lark that we considered hysterically funny, decided to cast a spell on the ill-tempered sales manager two of us reported to. Not long after, he was transferred to a radio station in another market and, we later found out, the moving van containing his worldly belongings spontaneously combusted somewhere between San Francisco and Chicago, burning everything he owned to a crisp. Coincidence or witchery? We didn't know, but that was our last spell-casting adventure...

FlickChick said...

You know, lady Eve, that story does not surprise me.... I KNEW you had powers!! That is a wonderful story! And, if we had some dream casting, maybe Viv, Gene and Louise could play those 3 witches?

ClassicBecky said...

My sister has this really horrible boss we could use some help with , Eve....Caftan Woman, FlickChick, we need to be very careful with Eve now -- always visit her site, praise her articles -- oh wait, I do that now! LOL!

FlickChick said...

I was hoping to get some tips - maybe she could cast some spells for us. And yes - ALWAYS be nice to her!!

Inge Gregusch said...

Stunning, stunning--with great pictures of some of the screen's most bewitching stars.

FlickChick said...

Thank, Inge. I didn't have to write much. All you have to do is kook at those faces and that great photography. Beauty and art - sigh.

Christian Esquevin said...

Very enchanting post FlickChick. I'm a big fan of Gene Tierney and Louise Brooks. Even in a silent film like Pandora's Box, "Lulu" was completely mesmerizing. And Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven is unforgettable. Vivien Leigh seemed to work harder for her spells, the others had it in their back pocket. And Kim Novak had quite a spell going too in Bell, Book and Candle. Thanks for this potent bevy.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Christian. I guess Viv will have to practice her magic on you! Not a bad thing, right?

backlots said...

Love your choices!! I totally agree, all three of these women are totally bewitching. I must say I have this massive girlcrush on Gene Tierney, I think she is the most beautiful creature ever to set foot on the planet--along with Vivien Leigh. So there you go. Thanks for your post!

FlickChick said...

Thank you for stopping by, Lara. Gene is indeed bewitching. It's sad to think that at least 2 of these ladies, and maybe even all 3 (as Louise led a troubled life), had some sort of emotional illness. The world is a hard place when you're that beautiful, I guess.