I may finally be too old for
a stocking, but there’s one holiday tradition I continue to love,
and that’s the airing of classic musicals on television. For a long
time now, I’ve been of the opinion that lesbians need to reclaim musicals
from gay men — not least because there is such a plethora of gorgeous,
talented women in film musical history.
While a list of all my favorite female
performances would probably take all day, here in chronological order
are ten that I’m hoping to see over the vacation:
1. Ginger Rogers in
Shall We Dance (1937)
I love all the Ginger Rogers/Fred
Astaire collaborations, so it’s hard to select just one.
But Shall We Dance has one
of my favorite Ginger Rogers moments, as the camera dwells in close-up
on her listening face as Fred Astaire sings “They Can’t Take That
Away From Me.” While the song is beautiful, it’s Ginger’s subtly
despairing response that really strikes at the heart. (She would go
on to win an Oscar for Best Actress, for the non-musical film Kitty
Foyle, in 1940).
2. Rosemary Clooney in
White Christmas (1954)
This very, very silly seasonal musical
is mostly notable for the gay undertones brought by Danny Kaye’s performance
(no, really — watch it again).
But as one of the two female leads,
Clooney (pictured right) manages to bring a mellow, faintly melancholy
note to her performance that makes it feel like she belongs in another
— and better — film. (Maybe one that doesn’t pair her with the literally
twice-her-age Bing Crosby.)
3. Shirley Jones in
One of my first signs that I was
not destined to grow up strictly straight should have been my utter
adoration of pretty soprano Shirley Jones as Laurey Williams:
I wanted to be her best friend, Ado
Annie — except in my case, it would have been Shirley I couldn’t say
no to, not the men.
4. Audrey Hepburn in
Funny Face (1957)
I prefer Audrey Hepburn at the start
of this film, before her high-fashion makeover:
Hollywood may have thought she looked
dowdy, but personally I’d love to meet a Parisian bookshop owner who
reads philosophy and dresses all in black.
5. Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno in
West Side Story (1961)
When you’re telling a story about
love at first sight, it does help a bit if your heroine is beautiful.
And Natalie Wood is beautiful. Very,
If the character of Maria is too
insipid for your taste, though, then there’s always Rita Moreno as
Anita to liven things up:
Moreno won an Oscar for Best Supporting
Actress for her performance — and has since gone on to win an Emmy,
a Grammy, and a Tony, becoming one of only nine people in the world
to have won all four awards.
6. Lea Salonga in
Les Misérables — The Dream Cast in Concert (1995)
before about my fondness for the lovely Lea:
Her angry, lonely Éponine is my
favorite thing about Les Mis.
7. Anna Kendrick in
Kendrick is probably the least famous
actress on this list. But for anyone who saw her performance as the
intense, rather lesbianish Fritzi in this summer camp drama, she will
have made quite an impression.
After her ambiguously gay advances
on fellow drama student Jill are spurned, Fritzi goes on the
offensive — poisoning Jill’s food so that she will be unable to perform “Ladies
Who Lunch” in the concert that night.
Here’s the unforgettable moment
when Fritzi steps in to take over:
8. Emmy Rossum in
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
The friend I saw Phantom
with told me that it wasn’t a very good film. This may or may not
have been true — I was too knocked out by Rossum’s flawless beauty
and soaring soprano to notice.
9. Rosario Dawson in
There’s clearly something wrong
with me, since I managed to fall for the one major female character in
Rent who isn’t a lesbian.
But as dancer Mimi Marquez, Dawson
had enough verve and testosterone to put Angelina Jolie to shame.
10. Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer
Hudson in Dreamgirls (2006)
Let’s be honest: 2006 was the year
of Jennifer Hudson:
But although her role was less showstopping,
Beyoncé came into her own in the second half of the film, as the increasingly
confident and independent Deena Jones.
That’s my list. Who are you looking
forward to seeing?