These are our top 5 song and dance women in classic films. Believe me, we deliberated over this list for quite some time! We joke, alongside most classic film followers, that back in the day men and women actually had to have talent ( in addition to looks) to get somewhere in Hollywood. And if they didn’t
have talent, they had to get it! Be sure to let us know your favorites.
Deanna Durbin: If you read this blog at all you know we cannot get enough of Deanna. We write about her a lot! And she’s absolutely one of our favorite classic film actresses. Her initial claim to fame is to being the girl that MGM lost to Universal over a mistake. See MGM was at the table and when tasked with choosing between Judy Garland or Deanna Durbin they decided to go with the thinner girl. Needless to say— someone thought they meant Judy, when in truth, they meant Deanna! Mayer was irate when he realized they signed the wrong starlet. MGM was obviously still successful in succeeding with Judy Garland but it nevertheless did cause a little competition as Durbin is credited with saving Universal from bankruptcy during the Great Depression. Classically trained she debuted in Three Smart Girls, one of my all time favorite films. Now… I have to admit I didn’t actually see Deanna movies until maybe 10 years ago! The idea of an operatic leading lady made me worry- but Deanna plays beautifully in all her films. Another favorite is Something in the Wind which I will definitely write about soon, where we see Deanna shake things up with a little radio show jazz.
Ginger Rogers: How could we forget the girl on the arm of Fred Astaire who danced in heels and backwards? Much to poor Ginger’s chagrin she would be forever seen as a song and dance girl, even though more serious work was her desire. She danced beautifully in boots, skates, heels, barefoot, whatever- this lade knew what she was doing. We like her best in her first official “Fred and Ginger” film The Gay Divorcee and opposite Ray Milland in ‘The Major and the Minor’
Betty Grable: Best know for her pinup legs, sculpted through hours of dancing, Grable was also quite the singer! In a small role, uncredited, knocking knees with Edward Everett Horton, Betty Grable graced the screen in The Gay Divorcee with Ginger Rogers. Later she would take on lead roles in Moon over Miami, Pinup Girl and my absolute favorite How to Marry a Millionaire with Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe.
Julie Andrews: Practically perfect in every way. Julie wins hearts of all ages. Whether its Sound of Music or Mary Poppins, her gorgeous voice graces the screen of the best musicals of all time. We like her in Victor Victoria and Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was nominated for three Oscars, won for Mary Poppins and sacrificed her role in My Fair Lady to Audrey Hepburn since she was already under contract with Walt Disney Studios. Julie had originally worked on Broadway in the role of Eliza, thus bringing the talent of dancing and singing to the stage before the screen.
Doris Day: I’ve always loved Doris Day. I only recently realized that she took over the role that Marilyn vacated upon her death in Move Over Darling. Essentially a movie without singing or dancing she still brought the amazing comedic timing necessary to make it successful. Doris shines best in On Moonlight Bay and Romance on the High Seas. What I love about Doris is that she isn’t only a singer and dancer but an excellent comedic actress too. Truly, the whole package. One listen to the song Que Sera in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much and you’ll be smitten.
Ok, so lets be honest here. Whittling this list down to 5 actresses was hard. Debbie Reynolds of Singing in the Rain fame was almost on this list and Judy Garland’s performance in Wizard of Oz definitely warrants her a spot but we really felt we had to choose between her and Deanna… and DD wins for us every time. We’ll probably begin to build these lists out a little as we definitely were not impressed with the IMDB list for 100 Greatest Classic Hollywood Actresses of all time. Since someones gotta get the right info out there- it may as well be us:)