Generation gaps: Six starlets and the stars they recall

When I think of big movie stars, I always go right to the grand dames with long careers, like Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver, Diane Keaton and Glenn Close, or to the supernovas who seemed to change the entire industry, like Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn. I sometimes wonder: Do they make ‘em like they used to? So I’ve been pondering the current crop of starlets, and am pleased to say that several babyfaces remind me of their more weathered forebears. Here are six pairs of actresses who have a lot in common despite their generation gaps.

1. The rebels: Ellen Page and Debra Winger

Both Page and Winger have that twinkle in their eyes that makes you wonder, each time they open their mouths to speak, whether you’re about to be charmed or affronted. It’s an edge that will keep me tuning in, even if somewhat trepidatiously. And Page, like Winger, seems inclined to do exactly (and only) what she wants to do.

2. The students: Lauren Ambrose and Jodie Foster

Lauren isn’t a whole lot younger than Jodie, but who’s to say you can’t follow in someone’s footsteps while the tracks are still fresh? Lauren’s recent appearance on The View revealed some very Jodie-esque qualities: She caught the acting bug very young; she is self-effacing and eloquent; she is unapologetically interested in acting as a craft. Ambrose seems considered in that fascinating Foster way, and I can’t wait to see what she does with her gifts.

3. The naturals: Jennifer Hudson and Lena Horne

Jennifer has only just begun, but she shows a quiet self-assurance that echoes Lena’s egoless confidence. Some people seem to be born onto a path — and sometimes, instead of announcing that destiny to everyone, they just get right to work. And like Horne, Hudson seems willing and able to fight racism with a simple, proven strategy: being better than everyone else in the room.

4. The darlings: Abigail Breslin and Betty White

The gulf between their ages is vast, but they both have an innocent-yet-sassy quality that makes them beloved by just about everyone. And if Abigail Breslin ever starts swearing, won’t it surprise you (and yet not surprise you at all) the way it does when Betty White waxes profane?

5. The classics: Rachel McAdams and Gena Rowlands

The Notebook made their similarities abundantly clear — talk about inspired casting. They both have timeless beauty and an understated, girl-next-door talent that makes you want to watch them for hours. With Rowlands, that’s already possible, and I have a feeling McAdams will have a long career too.

5.5. More classics: Scarlett Johansson and Ingrid Bergman

Divine, luminous, complex. And, I suspect, fun-loving and affable.

6. The nuts: Dakota Fanning and Daryl Hannah

OK, this one might be a stretch. But don’t they both seem to be channeling something, probably something from another planet? I have a feeling they could hold a conversation that only they would understand. And they’re both reasonably good actresses, but every time I see them on screen, I think, “What is she smoking?”

Sadly, no matter how hard I try, I can’t think of a modern-day Meryl, Barbra or Kate. Where’s the next big-screen legend?

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