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Crown Jewels: Older Actresses

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Does it seem to anyone else that Hollywood has a tendency to focus on young, “hot” actresses and forget the older ones?  Not that there’s anything wrong with beautiful young women in movies, and some of them are really talented.  But for every Emma Watson or Emma Stone, there’s a Kristen Stewart or a Megan Fox.  If we think about people in film past middle age, they’re usually male, like Anthony Hopkins or Morgan Freeman.  Why can’t we spend some time giving due respect to some actresses who have passed the age of being “sexy” and still have the grace and skill to make it big in Hollywood?  Well, since this is my blog, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

To lay down some ground rules for this top ten list, to qualify, an actress must be over the age of sixty and must be currently living and active in Hollywood (with one exception for #10).  With those rules in mind, lets take a look at my Crown Jewels of older actresses.

10. Helen Hayes (died at age 92)

Yes, I’m cheating a little with the first one on this list, but I was lucky to come up with nine accomplished actresses I was familiar with who fit the qualifications listed above.  Besides, she endeared herself to me so well in my childhood that I have to put her somewhere on this list.  Her early career was distinguished by A Farewell to Arms, and her later years included starring roles in Herbie Rides Again, Candleshoe, the television movie Arsenic and Old Lace, and Airport. In addition, she was my favorite version of Agatha Christie’s famous detective Mrs. Marple in Murder is Easy, A Caribbean Mystery, and Murder with Mirrors.  Two Oscars and two Golden Globe nominations are evidence of her acting ability.  Although she is sadly no longer with us, Helen Hayes deserves to be listed among my Crown Jewels.

9. Glenn Close (age 66)

Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of this actress, but I’m well aware of her acting ability.  Glenn’s earlier career included such movies as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Mars Attacks!, Fatal Attraction, and 101 Dalmatians, in which she plays beloved Disney villain Cruella de Vil.  After the age of fifty, she reprised that last role in 102 Dalmatians and starred in Tarzan and Air Force One, and she even played a woman disguised as a man in Albert Nobbs.  Best of all (at least for me), she is set to appear as the leader of the Nova Corps in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.  Six Oscar nominations and two Golden Globes help show why Glenn Close deserves to be on this list.

8. Vanessa Redgrave (age 76)

Probably one of the lesser known ladies on this list (at least to me), Vanessa has still brought her talents to multiple films, including Anonymous, Deep Impact, Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, and most recently The Butler.  But the movie that earns her my respect is Mission Impossible, in which she plays a very different kind of arms dealer than we’re used to seeing.  An Oscar and two Golden Globes make sure this actress finds a place among my Crown Jewels.

7. Sally Field (age 64)

In case you wanted to feel old today, the Flying Nun is in her sixties.  You’re welcome.  Sally had an impressive television and film career in her younger years, starring in Smokey and the Bandit, Steel Magnolias, and Mrs. Doubtfire all before the age of fifty.   But she’s only gained steam since, portraying first lady Mary Todd Lincoln in Spielberg’s Lincoln and a loveable if young Aunt May in The Amazing Spider-Man, a role she’s set to reprise on May 2.  With two Oscars and two Golden Globes, Sally Field is still a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood.

6. Julie Andrews (age 78)

True, she’s better known for her early roles, especially in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music.  But Julie has proven that she can still work movie magic in her acting roles, including The Princess Diaries films and the Eloise series (ironically playing a nanny once again).  She even manages to bring a certain amount of class and respectability to Tooth Fairy, and that takes some doing.  An Oscar and three Golden Globes cements her place on this list.

5. Helen Mirren (age 68)

Helen has definitely brought a great deal of talent to the big screen in her later years.  Roles in The Queen, The Debt, National Treasure 2, Hitchcock, and Monsters University have given her plenty of opportunity to show off her grace, authority, and talent.  In addition, she also portrayed a female version of Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  An Oscar and three Golden Globes prove that she has what it takes to make it in Hollywood.

4. Meryl Streep (age 64)

With three Oscars and eight Golden Globes, Meryl has the most awards of any actress on this list.  Her performances have shown exactly why she earned these honors, including roles in Doubt, The Hours, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, Mamma Mia, The Iron Lady, and the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, all since the age of fifty.  She even portrayed a male rabbi in the television miniseries Angels in America.  Her talent and versatility earn her a place among my crown jewels even without her awards.

3. Judi Dench (age 79)

Dame Judi Dench is probably the most Shakespearian actress of the ten, with performances in Hamlet, Henry V, and even Shakespeare in Love.  In addition, she has appeared in The Chronicles of Riddick and Jane Eyre, and she is most recognizable as M in the James Bond series, proving that she’s the kind of woman who could run England’s most powerful espionage agency in what was formerly a man’s world.  She was so irreplaceable in that role that she is the only actor to carry over into the series reboot.  An Oscar and two Golden Globes only confirm that she deserves to be in the top ten of any actress list.

2. Maggie Smith (age 79)

Dame Maggie Smith is one of the classiest actresses on this list.  She played a Greek goddess in the original Clash of the Titans, a Mother Superior in the Sister Act movies, Grandma Wendy in Hook, and a dowager countess in the popular television series Downton Abbey.  In addition, she devoted ten years of her life to the role of Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series.  Two Oscars and three Golden Globes round out her list of qualifications very nicely.

1. Angela Lansbury (age 88)

I’m sure some of you are asking, “How did a woman with no Oscars top Meryl Streep and Maggie Smith?”  It’s an opinion-based list; I can do whatever I want.  And Angela is without a doubt my favorite older actress.  She distinguished herself in her early career with Bedknobs and Broomsticks and a wonderful performance in The Manchurian Candidate.  On stage, she was the loveable madwoman Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.  On television, she was one of the greatest writers-turned-detectives ever, J. B. Fletcher, in the long-running Murder She Wrote.  She was Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, performing an Oscar-winning song by the same name, she played Mrs. Marple in The Mirror Crack’d, and she had the title role in the underrated television musical Mrs. Santa Claus.  Even now, she’s still going strong with films like Nanny McPhee and Mr. Popper’s Penguins.  Three Oscar nominations, an Oscar Honorary Award, and five Golden Globes don’t hurt her resume any.  In short, Angela Lansbury has definitely earned the top spot of my Crown Jewels.

Those are my top ten older actresses, representing a great deal of talent and respectability.  Did I miss one of your favorites?  Let me know in the comments below!



1 Comment

  1. Laurie King says:

    Your soon to be 50 mother blesses you!!

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