Great Women on Screen, Part I

In honor of the Oscars this past weekend, here is my own enduring list of actresses who were the epitome of cool in some of the least impressive (or more impressive) and most awesome movies.

Or as I think of it, my list of…

Moxie Movie Mavens

In no particular order:

  • Holly Gennaro McClane (Die Hard, Bonnie Bedelia) – John McClane’s wife only appears in 2/5 of the Die Hard franchise, but she’s in the best one for a reason. She’s part of what makes it the best. Cool, collected, sharp, confident, and opinionated, it’s easy to see why she and John fell in love, and why it’s hard for them to stay together.
    • Favorite trait(s): Unshakable confidence and a cool head in the midst of chaos.
    • Favorite line: “Only John can drive somebody that crazy.”
  • Rebecca (3 Men and a Baby, Margaret Colin) – Tom Selleck’s on-again-off-again love interest, and the epitome of what the 80s could show us in female empowerment. When Peter calls her in for emergency baby services, she reminds him that despite possessing a uterus, she doesn’t have a competent working knowledge of infants, and then she leaves on a date with a cellist.
    • Favorite trait: Humorous observation of three grown men with childish tendencies
    • Favorite Line: “Peter, you’re a very big boy, you’re very capable, and you’re going to get through this just fine.”
  • Liz (Sneakers, Mary McDonnell) – Robert Redford’s former flame, Liz and Martin retain a distant but banter-filled friendship. Intellectually perhaps his superior, there’s a clear mutual respect for each other’s abilities. She’s refined, graceful, and almost snobbish, but her presence keeps the boys’ club on their best behavior.
    • Favorite trait: Quick wit
    • Favorite Line: “I have a new group of gifted children now and I like the fact that they’re under 30.”
  • Liz (The Philadelphia Story, Ruth Hussey) – The jaded, wry photographer who despite past experience remains hopeful and romantic. She’s patient, thoughtful, and smart.
    • Favorite trait: She may be a step ahead of everyone else, but she’ll wait for them to catch up and not race ahead alone.
    • Favorite Line: “Where’s my wandering parakeet?”
  • Billie (The Sting, Eileen Brennan) – Madame of a brothel, she’s got a head for the shady sides of business, doesn’t mind running cons on the off days and can out bluff and out maneuver even the most determined cops.
    • Favorite Trait(s): Cagey and streetwise
    • Favorite Line: “Well why didn’t you say so? I thought you were a cop or somethin’.”
  • Frau Blücher (Young Frankenstein, Cloris Leachman) – Cloris Leachman is that perfect amount of insanity too few roles call for. She simmered with crazy and played the Frankenstein castle-keeper with restrained lunacy.
    • Favorite Trait: Her aggressive hospitality
    • Favorite Line: “Say it! He was my…BOYFRIEND!”

None of these women leave me with a tragic feeling at the end of the movie. Most of them are the only woman in the movie and admirable because they don’t play second fiddle to the boys, but hold their ground. You get the feeling that though the movie may have been able to carry on without them it would undoubtedly have been a loss.

In Part II we’ll get to those female titans of the screen that blew the roof off some of my favorite movies. Hint: you’ll see one of these films mentioned again.

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