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marytylermoore-sweaterby Jonathan B. Perry
Last time we talked about crushworthy celebrity women, particularly those who are like the Girl Next Door (GND).  Now, on the Elegant side of things are those women who maintain a certain charming dignity about them, not only signified by their fine dress, but largely for the grace, class, and decorum maintained while changing a flat tire or a loaded diaper.  They may also be any Jane Austen character ever. I’ve noticed two peculiarities about the Elegant celebrity women I have crushes on: 1st, that I haven’t placed very many into this category, and 2nd, they reached the peaks of their popularities in distant eras before you could put a computer on your lap or a phone in your pocket.

Some of my favorite elegant women include Mary Tyler Moore (Especially on The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Yum.), Grace Kelly, Julie Andrews, Lauren Bacall (photo right), and Natalie Wood (who split time as a Girl Next Door).  Between them, they did the bulk of their best work in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s when I was either not alive or super young.  My perceptions of them as elegant may be incomplete because most had other types into which they could fit, like Mary Tyler Moore might also moonlight as a Funny Girl Next Door who was later stuck wearing bad 70s clothes, unfortunately.lauren-bacall3

It could be that Hollywood was more elegant in the old days and therefore the characters were often more elegant and traditional.  Having said that, Hollywood may now be placing an emphasis on the Girl Next Door type, fully aware of the homespun attractiveness.  With Elegant women, it seems their qualities are timeless and I still really like them.  Of course, most actresses, on the surface, seem elegant when it comes time for an award show like the Oscars. But the fact that there are many fewer contemporary examples of Elegant women begs the question:  Is Elegant a dying breed?  Is it just a dress to be put on for the red carpet or the correct placement of a salad fork?  Is elegance elitist or just old fashioned? Is Hollywood forcing them out as part of an invisible French Revolution?

I recently read the James Herriot All Creatures Great and Small books about veterinarians in Yorkshire, England in the 1930s.  The books were excellent.  My friend Wendy then told me about the BBC series from the 1970s and I checked it out at the library.  This was also quite good and I developed a great fondness for the main actress, Carol Drinkwater, who played Helen Herriot.  You might say I’m smitten.

Doesn't Carol Drinkwater look a little like Evangeline Lilly? or vice versa?

Doesn't Carol Drinkwater look a little like Evangeline Lilly? or vice versa?

She‘s fantastic and seems to blend all the good stuff together: Girl Next Door who is Elegant and a little Funny. Anyway, to top it off, I recently learned she played a small part in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, a non-Elegant, non-Girl Next Door movie.  I remember some weird/freaky stuff from A Clockwork Orange, and of course now I’ll have to rewatch it with this new and interesting revelation (I certainly won‘t say anything about Julie Andrews‘ topless scene in the ‘80s.  That would just confuse things.).

So, yeah.  Elegant, good.  Girl Next Door, good.  Smart, Funny, Quirky.  Good.

ADDENDUM:  I just remembered I really like Anne Hathaway, too.  Magically delicious.  She’s Elegant and maybe a little Girl Next Door-esque.  So there is a modern one.  Yay!

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  • Jay:

    Let’s all help the domesticated bachelor brainstorm some modern Elegants!

    – Nicole Kidman
    – Kate Winslet
    – Anne Hathaway
    – Angelina Jolie (at the behest of my wife. I think of her as sporty/sexpot)
    – Penelope Cruz
    – Catherine Zeta-Jones
    – Gwyneth Paltrow
    – Julianne Moore
    – Cate Blanchett

    Any others to add to the list? DB, do you think I’m off the mark on any of these?

  • admin:

    Good job! I suppose most of them would work as modern Elegants in a pinch. I do like Anne Hathaway. The others I don’t really have a thing for. Maybe Nicole. A little. I think of Angelina as Sexpot/Bad Girl. Maybe Zeta-Jones. Hmm. I’ll have to mull it all over.

  • Josh Eno:

    I’m moderately surprised Audrey Hepburn didn’t make the list. Too obvious, perhaps? Couldn’t forgive her for bumping Julie Andrews from the roll, then having her vocals dubbed in My Fair Lady? She certainly qualifies on the elegant scale. Not many actresses get a separate line in the opening credits for their wardrobe, as she did in How to Steal a Million.

    You’re right that it’s hard to picture any current actresses fitting the elegant role. Maybe some as they get older, but I can’t think of any young actresses that have managed to fit into the elegant mold as early in their careers as some of the 40s-70s examples. I wonder if it has anything to do with the amount of skin that must be shown nowadays? For instance, I might picture Kate Winslet as elegant, but her propensity to remove clothing in virtually every movie she makes just gets in the way of the elegant persona.

  • Jay:

    @Josh Eno – Kate Winslet said last week that she will be doing no more nudity in movies. So that bumps her up one tick on my scale of elegance (although, to be fair, she said she wouldn’t do any more nudity because her body isn’t what it used to be).

  • admin:

    Ohh! Audrey Hepburn! Good one, Josh. She’s hot. Or was. Great example of Elegant.
    You’re right about Kate Winslet and the whole skin thing. Not sure if I’ve ever thought of her as elegant. Now, the idea of Julie Andrews going topless is pretty weird and seems like a total shark-jumper or whatever for the wholesome elegant maternal type she seems to be. But a naked Kate Winslet seems normal.

  • admin:

    By the way, I just wanted to add that I don’t have anything against female nudity. In fact I’m a big fan, for the record.

  • admin:

    Jay, I just realized my Nicole Kidman appreciation has just been dormant. Goodness.

  • Johanna:

    Bacall + Bogart, my favorite Hollywood romance…
    “If you want anything, just whistle.”