by May 8, 2011 at 12:15 am 1,298 0

Mary Burgan, Borderstan Movie FanFrom Mary Burgan

From what I can tell from their trailers, this year’s summer movies are either fast or furious, or both, with minimal interest in female protagonists.

It is true that Thor has enlisted the services of Natalie Portman, but she is subservient to the new adventure hero played by a relatively unknown actor, Chris Hemsworth, who had a small role in the last Star Trek movie. She joined the cast because Kenneth Brannagh was directing and that sounded dignified enough — for a summer blockbuster.

Is there anyone today to compare with Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Barbara Stanwyck or Bette Davis?

I haven’t seen Thor or any of the other superhero movies yet. I’m still recovering from Hop and Rio. Instead, I decided to review some of the blockbuster movies of the past that feature strong women characters. I was thinking of those superheroines from the middle of the last century, the 1940s, who could kill with a serpent gaze, smite with a sharp face-slap, or scheme with the ingenuity of legendary wizards and witches.

These gals were not pretty, but they had what was once called “sex appeal,” and although most of them were over the hill (that meant in their forties), they still managed to bring customers to the theaters.

Joan Crawford. So I took a look at Joan Crawford (known to a later generation as “Mommie Dearest”) in Flamingo Road (1949). Well, I need to make clear that I am not recommending that movie for anyone who isn’t a died-in-the-wool film buff. I remembered it as a sharp study in the conflict between a never-say-die waitress from a passing circus and a wily old fat-guy sheriff Titus Semple (played by Sidney Greenstreet). Actually, Greenstreet is the best thing in the movie. All Crawford does is to square her jaw, swing her well padded and independent shoulders, and try not to cry in crises. Don’t go there if you can’t stand melodrama.



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