I’d have to say that the biggest, most profound difference between the Hollywood of today and that of it’s ‘Golden Age’, is the level of individual talent that Golden Age actors not only possessed, but displayed in prolific fashion. There was a time when a Hollywood leading man had to be able to sing and/or dance at an exceptional level, comic actors were far more slap-stick risqué, physical, and dare I say, athletic. In the era before the information age, a star was a star due to an exceptional talent. Golden Age stars were entertainers in the true sense of the word. To fully understand this difference is to understand the difference between leading men Gene Kelly and Tom Cruise. Here’s a hint: One is a Dancer, Choreographer, Singer, Producer and Director, and one is basically just a pretty face. Compare Judy Garland to Kim Kardashian. Capisce? The only thing missing from Hollywood’s Golden Age was the comparative inclusion of minority talent, they were very few and far between, sadly. Idiots Guide thought it was time to highlight some of these remarkable show business talents from yesteryear, who should never be forgotten.
Eleanor Powell was an amazing talent who is best remembered for her otherworldly solo tap dances in dozens of musical films throughout the 1930s and 1940s. She was one of, if not the best female dancer on MGM’s talent roster during Hollywood’s Golden Age. You can see her immense talent in Born to Dance (1936), Broadway Melody (1937) and Rosalie (1937) among many others.
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were huge comedy stars from the late 1920s through the mid-1940s. Their slapstick comedy had audiences literally in stitches. Their signature act was known as ‘The Dance of the Cuckoos’. This funny duo appeared in 107 films, including 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films and 23 full-length feature films. #VeryFunny
During the 1940’s and 1950’s you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and talented woman on planet earth than Cyd Charisse. This beauty saw many roles opposite leading men such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, her dancing talent was amazing. You can find Cyd in films that include ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952), ‘The Band Wagon’ (1953) and ‘Silk Stockings’ (1957)
The Marx Brothers: Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, were a family comedy troupe that facilitated the laughter of millions of Americans during the 1920’s – 1940’s. They appeared in 13 feature films, with 5 of those being listed on AFI’s best films of all-time. ‘Duck Soup’ (1933) and ‘A Night at the Opera’ (1935) being among their very best.
Judy Garland had the kind of talent that people adored and often rewarded with many individual honors. She started receiving them early with a Juvenile Academy Award, as well as a Golden Globe Award and a Special Tony Award, before she was 18. She was also the first woman to win a Grammy for Album of the Year. She worked with all of the best leading men of her era including Gene Kelly in his first feature film ‘ For Me and My Gal’ (1942). Garland was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in ‘A Star Is Born’ (1954) but she is best known for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939). #OneofaKind
Harry ‘Bing’ Crosby, Jr. had an amazing intimate, bass-baritone voice. He is considered one of the greatest recording artists of the 20th century, with over one billion units sold. Billion with a ‘B’. He was also a leading man in Hollywood during it’s ‘Golden Age’ and one of the best as he won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1944 for the motion picture ‘Going My Way’. That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? Clearly, a multi-talented show business legend in every sense of the word.
Simply put, Frank Sinatra aka ‘Ol Blue eyes’ was a bonafide superstar in both film & television and as a recording artist. He is perhaps my favorite entertainer of all-time. During a career that spanned 5 decades, Sinatra excelled as a singer, actor, and producer. He could do it all, and do it with a legendary flair. In 1945 he teamed up with Gene Kelly and the beautiful Kathryn Grayson in the runaway hit musical ‘Anchors Aweigh’. He teamed with Kelly again in 1949 to do a hit movie called ‘On the Town’ a film that is ranked as No. 19 on American Film Institute’s list of best musicals of all-time. There is so much more, but for now just understand his immense talent and greatness as both a person and entertainer. There’s only one Frank…
When people talk about Fred Astaire, they’re talking about a legendary dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, and musician. His entertainment career spanned the better part of a 75 years. In that time he made 31 films and was awarded several awards in film. In 1999 Astaire was named the 5th ‘Greatest Male Star of Old Hollywood’ by AFI. That pretty much says it all about this transcendent entertainer. In 1951’s ‘Royal Wedding’ he did a scene (below) where he dances on the ceiling of an apartment, one of the iconic scenes of his illustrious career. Take a look…
There was nothing that Buster Keaton couldn’t do and do exceptionally well in entertainment. He was an actor, director, producer, writer, and stunt performer. A true icon of the silent film era, his trademark physical comedy was something to behold. His deadpan comedic expression earned him the nickname ‘The Great Stone Face’. Buster Keaton was perhaps the single most talented individual that Hollywood has ever seen. In 1999 Keaton was recognized by the American Film Institute as the 21st greatest male star of Classic Hollywood. Entertainment Weekly lists him as the 7th greatest director of all-time. From 1920 to 1929 Buster Keaton was Hollywood. His 1926 film ‘The General’ is considered by many to be one of the greatest comedy of all-time. #MultiTalented
Everything that Buster Keaton was, so to was Eugene ‘Gene’ Kelly except that he could dance better on screen than almost any human being on earth. Extremely versatile, he was a dancer, actor, singer, film director, producer and choreographer. All of those things he did exceptionally well. His on-screen energy was unmatched, his athletic form of dancing was unparalleled. His leading man good looks, made him, well a leading man of note. He is best known for his performances in ‘An American in Paris’ (1951), ‘Anchors Aweigh’ (1945), and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952). Gene Kelly is number one in our book.