Still not halfway through this one, and up to the letter ‘L’. Please continue to add your own choices in the comments. As usual, I will try to leave out the most popular selections, and leave you lots to pick from.
Back to the golden days of Hollywood and film noir, for my first choice today. The attractive American actress who gave the world a new hairstyle, the ‘peek-a-boo’, as well as being great in a selection of films and stage roles. Veronica Lake began acting in 1938, using her real name of Constance Keane. Whilst filming ‘I Wanted Wings’ in 1941, her name was changed at the suggestion of the producer. With her blonde hair covering one eye, the distinctive look and name-change got her noticed and she was cast to star opposite Joel McCrea, in the wonderful ‘Sullivan’s Travels’. (1941) Then followed two crime dramas, teaming Veronica with Alan Ladd, ‘This Gun For Hire’, and ‘The Glass Key’, both in 1942. As WW2 continued, she carried on making films for Paramount, until ‘The Blue Dahlia’ (1946) gave her another much-acclaimed role, in that landmark drama. She made nine more films until her untimely death in 1973, at the age of just 50.
British actor Andrew Lincoln might be well known to international audiences for his starring role in the US TV series ‘The Walking Dead’. But before he crossed The Atlantic for that show, he was already popular in the UK for his work on stage, and in hit TV series. He rose to fame in the outstanding BBC drama serial ‘This Life’, which began in 1996, playing the central role of Edgar Cook. Between 2001-2003, he also starred in ‘Teachers’, another acclaimed TV serial. For two years, he played the troubled Robert Bridge, in the paranormal series ‘Afterlife’, opposite the wonderful Lesley Sharp. His film career was curtailed by the huge success of ‘The Walking Dead’, but included roles in ‘Human Traffic’ (1999), ‘Gangster Number One’ (2000), and ‘Love Actually’ (2003). If they ever stop making his hit zombie show, we may get to see more of his varied talent.
Strikingly beautiful, and married six times, as if to prove her attraction, Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian actress, famous at the time for appearing naked in the film ‘Ecstasy’ (1933). Leaving Austria for London, she met Louis B. Mayer, who offered her a contract with MGM, leading to a film career lasting over twenty years. Hedy stunned audiences with her beauty in ‘Algiers’ (1938), going on to star opposite Spencer Tracey in ‘I Take This Woman’ (1940), and using her foreign roots to play a Russian, in ‘Comrade X’ (1940). Her most successful film role was as Delilah, opposite Victor Mature in the Oscar-winning epic ‘Samson and Delilah’ (1949). Following that, her career failed to rally, and her last few films were forgettable. She lived to the age of 85, dying as an American citizen in 2000.
(During the war years, she was also a famous inventor, developing guidance systems for torpedoes, a technology later developed into today’s Bluetooth.)
Now 92, Cloris Leachman has had a lifelong career as an actress on stage, screen and TV. Beginning on stage in the 1950s, soon getting a breakout role in the film noir classic ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ (1955). Mainly working in televison at the time, she also had a small part in ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’ (1969), before her role as Ruth Popper in ‘The Last Picture Show’ gained her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. If you have never seen that film, I cannot begin to tell you just how good it is. You should watch it, believe me. Cloris then went on to win many more awards for her long-running appearance in The Mary Tyler Moore Show on US TV, and a Golden Globe for the spin-off series, ‘Phyllis’. Collaborations with Mel Brooks gave her parts in ‘Young Frankenstein’, ‘High Anxiety’, and ‘The History Of The World Part 1’, and she reprised her role of Ruth Popper in the sequel, ‘Texasville’ (1990). Since then, her films have been too numerous to list, and she is still working today.
My last choice for ‘L’ is one of my favourite British actors. I have never seen Charles Laughton give a bad performance, and his presence on screen can lift even an average film into a good one. He began his career in 1926, and went on to become a star of stage and screen, as well as writing, producing, and directing too. He stared in London’s West End, as well as on Broadway, and his list of film credits is enormous, so I will limit myself to some personal favourites. Mesmerizing as Captain Bligh in the 1935 production of ‘Mutiny On The Bounty’, and heartbreaking in the biopic of ‘Rembrandt’, (1936). Unforgettable as Quasimodo, in ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1939), and showing his talent for comedy in ‘Hobson’s Choice’ (1954), and ‘Witness For The Prosecution’ (1957). One of the greatest actors to ever come out of this country, I can watch his films time and again, without ever tiring of them. He died in 1962, aged just 63.