To celebrate film is to remember the reels and reels of faces and images which have been shaping our perceptions of ourselves for most of the last century. We take a look at the flesh and blood behind the images - here are just a few of Hollywood's most glamorous, gutsy and gifted pioneers...
The IT girl: She never won an Oscar. And you probably don't know this saucey-eyed beauty from a hole in the ground, but you should: she started it all.
Considered the first sex symbol. CLARA BOW ushered in the flapper era with her 58 films during the years of 1922 to 1933, the highlight of which was undoubtedly the film It (1927), a gem of the flapper sexual liberation. From a poor, abusive family in Brooklyn, Clara Bowtinelli went from hotdog stand to beauty contest to Hollywood, only to have her career killed a few years later by the dawn of "the talkies".
Fasten your seatbelts: Originally disdained by Universal Studios as a woman wholly lacking in sex appeal, BETTE DAVIS was forced to swim upstream to get where she got. Intolerant of mediocrity, she excused no pretty-faced co-star or inept director for failing to step up. One of the first actresses considered "difficult" (read: a bitch), she built her career by demanding the most complex roles the typewriters of Hollywood could turn out.
From her shocking. star-making turn as the ruthless, repugnant vixen Mildred in Of Human Bondage (1934), to her unforgettable face-off with studio rival Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Davis was a fearless, peerless actress whose talents knew no limits. Check out the 1950 masterpiece, All About Eve for a glimpse of this sassy, smoky and undeniably classy lady at her finest. Pioneer? Sure, and then some.
Sweet and sour: She's typically remembered as the sweetheart of the Warner Brothers star lineup in the 30s and 40s, or for her bitter rivalry with her estranged sister Joan Fontaine. But OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND's greatest work as a woman in film took place off the screen: in the mid 40s she told her studio she had a taste for more salty fare, and was slapped with a six month suspension.
She bit back with a famous - and successful - court battle which earned her colleagues the greater artistic freedom which movie stars still enjoy today. She then went on to beome the first female president of the Cannes Film Festival, and resides to this day in France as a prominent and welcome citizen of 101 years of age.
An angel amonst the stars: From eating grass and tulips to survive during the German Occupation of her childhood Holland. AUDREY HEPBURN emerged on the star scene with a delicacy which she herself might have attributed to malnutrition, but which countless others would call grace, elegance andbeauty.
Her irresistible sense of self, her girlish charm and her easy poise earned her an Oscar in her first film on American shores, Roman Holiday (1953). She allowed her career to unfold with a series of classic consecutive films with which she bewitched every heart in America. And then? Well, she all but stopped: retiring from films to raise her children, and making only occasional appearances on the screen as she devoted the rest of her life to feeding the world.
There's not much else we can say - we're too deeply in love.
Brightly, not briefly: A true star, rewarded for her long, distinguished career with a lifetime of unwelcome tabloid notoriety, Dame ELIZABETH TAYLOR stands as one of the few of her profession to make a successful leap from child star to leading lady. She amassed an astonishing body of work from the age of ten. broke the salary record at the peak of her career with the spectacular Cleopatra (1963), and has appeared on the cover of People Magazine dozens of times.
Soon the combination of her divorce ridden private life and grueling professional life caught up with her health: at one point actually pronounced dead during the filming of Cleopatra, she would bounce back to battle everything from brain tumours to substance abuse to repeated back injuries (she broke it 4 times).
But through it all she remained unstoppable, turning in acclaimed performances as, well, Elizabeth Taylor, and continued her labors off the screen as a dear friend to the tragically ill ... such as the late pop star Michael Jackson.
Exotica: This long-legged absolute knockout was originally misinterpreted as another brainless, heartless sex object, but look again at SOPHIA LOREN. Another rags-to-riches story, this illegitimate child from the slums of Naples marked her international career with an unconcerned blindness to typecasting, turning out sexy Italian romps next to powerful, Oscar-commanding performances.
Her personal life has been no less schizoid, as she has borne with characteristic grace a variety of real-life adventures ranging from an 18-day stint in an Italian prison to marriage "by proxy" to a bigamist. She is the perfect bombshell, aware of her own appeal but none too impressed with it, an avid cook and avowedly faithful wife, who showed an open affection for Cary Grant, and an open disdain for Marlon Brando. In other words, a woman of taste.
Anything you can do: Two Oscars, five Emmys, eight Golden Globes, and of course a Tony ... as you can see, we couldn't quite get away with skipping this one. BARBRA STREISAND's astonishing (record-breaking) music career aside, this Brooklyn-born multitalent made history again in 1983 as the first woman since the advent of sound to write, direct, produce. and star in the same film, Yentl.
Love her or loathe her, there are few artists who have managed to bridge the gap between music and film ... and certainly there's something to be said for anyone who can combine extensive range with copious talent, then torch it up with ambition. It's no wonder her over-the-top persona has become a high-camp favorite.
Now, about the swollen head...
Art and Craft: All right already, enough talk about movie stars. Let's talk about actresses. No. better yet. let's talk about the woman who can do just about everything, but won't do just anything. You can call MERYL STREEP a true professional, true artist, or just "mom".
But the fact remains that for the entirety of her career no one has quite known what to make of a movie star who will practice violin six hours a day for two months for a two-hour film, who will master dialects and body movements, who will. quite simply, transform herself for every role. No one knows the 'real' Meryl Streep except possibly her four children, most of us probably wouldn't even recognize her if we ran into her on the street. So how do you sell a chameleon to film audiences as a star?
Then again, who really cares?
No one could look as good as you: From the moment we laid eyes on JULIA ROBERTS, we were hooked. An actress whose charm and earnest likability recall Audrey Hepburn, she exploded into stardom in the heartbreaking Shelby in Steel Magnolias (1989). With Pretty Woman (1990), she set a higher standard for 90s "Meg Ryan-esque chick flicks".
Many years later, Roberts remains the highest-paid actress in film history, netting a reported 20 million per film, and she's worth every penny - even lackluster films (she's had her share) manage to draw box office figures by her name alone. Her "runaway bride" lovelife has drawn enough rumor and buzz to make even the Royal Family shudder, but to little effect - she does what she wants, dates who she wants, and IS who she wants with no apologies.
So what is her secret? Maybe that with this woman in the spotlight, suddenly the word "cute" isn't an insult.
Czech Discovery: Before Austrian-born beauty HEDY LAMARR's Hollywood career took off with epic films such as Samson & Delilah (1947), she was discovered right here as Hedy (Hedwig) Keisler in the Czech film, Ecstasy (1932). Oh yeah, she was also a brilliant scientist as well!