Turner Classic Movies
Leading Ladies: the 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era
Written by Multiple Contributors   


Book Review by Diana Saenger

What an arduous task to select the 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era. But Turner Classic Movies and Chronicle Books Leading Ladies does exactly that. The book includes beautiful images of starlets like Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Lana Turner, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and more. The pages are attractively laid out with mentions of their films, style notes about their wardrobes and behind-the-scenes tidbits about the actress's life or career.



Robert Osborne, film historian and the host of Turner Classic Movies, writes the introduction to the book and say, "There's something to be said for the pure, unadulterated pleasure of watching the countless screen heroines whose main virtue is the fact they are beautiful, or fascinatingly complex, or heart-stoppingly talented - sometimes, in a few rare instances, all three of the above.

Molly Haskell, author and critic provides an insightful introduction in the book and closes with the observation, "Cloaked in seductive femininity, the leading ladies of the studio system projected an aura of power and independence that was itself a flag of protest planted in the soil of inequality."


The wonderful images in the book include studio and film photos and posters, photos from private collections, and many images from historical film archives. Those chosen are key in representing what each featured actress is all about. For example a page on Carol Lombard includes a wonderful and telling photo of Carol Lombard who plays a small-town librarian and Clark Gable, a crooked card shark, in the 1932 No Man of Her Own. Although they would later be a pair, both actors were married to other people at the time, but the photo reveals there is more going on between them than just in the movie. Also on the page is a photo of Lombard and William Powell, Lombard's real ex-husband at the time, in the 1936 My Man Godfrey.

Author Andrea Sarvady (The Ultimate Girl's Movie Survival Guide) provides the text that accompanies each actress's page. Text can include data about the actress, a bio, and maybe a one sentence description such as with Ava Gardner that states, "Exotic and exuding raw sex appeal, she was pure sensuality wrapped in the form of an earthy goddess, an intoxicating mix of vitality and vulnerability."

None of the wonderful material included in Leading Ladies would be possible without endless hours of research. That was provided by in this book Aubrey Anne D'Arminio, a master's student in Film Studies at Emory University. The photos portray the actresses as shy, naive, sexy, smoldering, content, alluring and polished.

Roger Fristoe, a retired film critic of the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, writes the film captions in the book.

All of this material was edited with a keen eye by author Frank Miller (Casablanca: As Time Goes By), a lecturer in theatre at Georgia State University.

The book itself is quite stunning with a hard cardboard cover and well designed in attractive colors and with images that entice to see more. Anyone who loves films of the Golden Era will treasure this book that keeps the images, reflections and legacy of these talented actresses so fresh in our minds.


óŹ Leading Ladies

óŹ Chronicle Books/Turner Classic Movies, March 13, 2006

óŹ ISBN 13 978-0-8118-5248-7 †

óŹ Softcover

óŹ 231 pages

óŹ $19.95




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