Skip to content

Leading Lady Tournament Week 1: The 1930s


The inaugural Leading Lady Tournament begins!  I envisioned seven nominees a decade, but finally settled on the standard five, and that was hard enough.  The early decades are easy to settle on, and I think these five nominees that start the tournament establish the high standards I looked for in a leading lady.  As with last year’s Leading Man Tournament, polls will run one week (this year from Monday to Monday) with poll number updates on Thursday and Sunday.  Differences this go around: I required five films from each male nominee, but this year I asked for three, or one decade-defining role.  I know a few actresses I posted in my preliminary are no longer in this tournament due to space, and some actresses could be argued for other decades (for some reason the actresses were harder to place than the actors).  Clickable links will take you to any reviews of their work that I’ve done.

 Golden Age on the Printed Page will be going on hiatus (with one final review this afternoon), so as not to conflict with the tourney.  If I do have book reviews they will be posted at my discretion.  Below, I’ve detailed the five nominees and their history.  The poll is conveniently listed on the sidebar.  Good luck!


Movies That Secured Her NominationRed Dust, Libeled Lady, Dinner at Eight, Wife vs. Secretary, The Public Enemy

My Thoughts on the Nominee: Jean Harlow epitomizes the 1930s.  Her distinctive look of big eyes, angular lips, and platinum blonde hair was enough to make her the first blonde bombshell (of which we’ll see a few imitators during this tournament).  Harlow was brash, romantic, a comedienne, and she died at an early age that her legend is forever immortalized.  The 1930s has some stiff competition, but Harlow has inspired a legion of other revered stars.


Movies That Secured Her NominationJezebel, Dark Victory, Elizabeth and Essex

My Thoughts on the Nominee: Of course, no test of leading lady status is complete without Bette Davis!  I fought with where to place Bette as she’s been a prominent star in both the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but I decided to place her in the 1930s because of Dark Victory. I’ve used a lot of words to discuss Dark Victory.  It was my favorite film of 2012, and it’s all because of how heartfelt Davis’ acting was.  Her doe-eyes make you believe everything she says, and her determination is contagious.  She’s a classy contender!


Movies That Secured Her NominationThe Sign of the Cross, It Happened One Night, Imitation of Life

My Thoughts on the Nominee: I was at an impasse on where to put Claudette Colbert.  I knew she needed to be there, but you could easily say she belongs in the 1940s.  I stuck with the 1930s purely because of one film: It Happened One Night.  It Happened One Night is the definition of screwball comedy, and much like Jean Harlow, had its share of imitators.  It’s part of the canon because of Colbert’s spitfire character Ellie Andrews.  When I placed Clark Gable in the 1930s last year I cited this It Happened One Night as a reason, so it makes sense to see it here.


Movies That Secured Her Nomination42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, Stage Door, Swing Time, Top Hat

My Thoughts on the Nominee: Don’t hate me, but I haven’t seen any of the Astaire/Rogers films yet (I think I have Top Hat somewhere.)  However, Rogers dance skills are unparalleled, and her work with Astaire heralded a new breed of musical comedy.


Movies That Secured Her NominationGone With the Wind

My Thoughts on the Nominee: Remember what I said about a decade defining role?  Well, there’s no other film that defines the 1930s quite like Gone With the Wind (although I’m sure you could say The Wizard of Oz too).  I personally hate GWTW, and Leigh in that film annoys me to no end.  Another ironic moment: I think I said the same thing when I put Leslie Howard in last year’s 1930s category.  Okay, Leigh turn as Scarlett is tenacious, and she’s absolutely stunning so she does belong here.  Dammit I hate to admit that.

So those are the nominees!  Voting starts now, and continues till Monday.

Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

5 thoughts on “Leading Lady Tournament Week 1: The 1930s Leave a comment

  1. For me there’s really no struggle. When I look through the movies of the 30s that I hold dear, the bulk feature Ginger Rodgers. To what you’d mention I’d add in Bachelor Mother. Great dancer, great comedic timing, just a real talent.

  2. Since Monty will soon be doing his annual classic actress tournament, it will be interesting to see if the same gal wins both of these events.

    While I enjoy all 5 of your nominees, for me, it is no contest. Bette is and always will be my #1 gal. How exciting that you discovered “Dark Victory” last year. I LOVE that movie!! It’s my 2nd favorite of her films and my #1 George Brent film.

    Your reaction to GWTW is a perfect example of how all of us have very different tastes and preferences. I love that movie…it’s my favorite film of the 30’s. Yet I cannot stand “Bringing up Baby,” “His Girl Friday,” and a host of other movies most people seem to love. Definitely, what works for one, does not work for all.

    • Ooh I hadn’t considered that! Since Monty has a team of people putting forth picks, fingers crossed that there’s a different selection, or at least the same women in different time periods. Bette is an icon, and yes Dark Victory is AMAZING (although I was sad to discover my mother didn’t care for it). I know quite a few people who hold GWTW close to their hearts, but Leigh’s character just irritates me lol.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: