Beauty is in the eye of the beholder


GARDNER. Tall and flawless.

WHENEVER there’s a poll about “most beautiful” celebrities, it almost always becomes controversial, because beauty is in the beholder’s eye—and there will always be detractors.

I recall the protests that followed after popular choices were bypassed by Hollywood cameramen and makeup artists in their 12 top choices in 1952.


For me, the most beautiful actress at the time was Ava Gardner, who had flawless skin and, at 5’5”, was taller than Ann Blyth and Elizabeth Taylor (both 5’2”) and Vivien Leigh (5’). I didn’t judge beauty based only on what was seen in movie stills (or being photogenic)—which was why I didn’t include Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford. My list also included Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman. I thought Carole Lombard was a great comedienne—but, an iconic beauty? I thought not.

And neither was Jean Harlow, who was certainly not in the category of Audrey Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr and the luminous Lana Turner. I loved the spunk of Maureen O’Hara, who looked great in Technicolor, since she was red-haired, green-eyed and tall.

The actresses included on the controversial list I came across on the Internet are Taylor, Leigh, Gardner, Claudia Cardinale, Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney, Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Bergman, Turner, Garbo, Carole Lombard,  Lauren Bacall, Olivia de Havilland, Maureen O’Hara and Jean Harlow.

I would not have included Cardinale, Dietrich, Lombard, Bacall, O’Hara and Harlow. Monroe and Loren had their noses fixed, so what you see onscreen isn’t really “natural” beauty. My choices would include Ilona Massey, Mona Freeman, Elaine Stewart, Jennifer O’Neil and Arlene Dahl.

A list of the greatest Hollywood beauties wouldn’t be complete without Gardner, Leigh, Taylor, Lamarr, Stewart, O’Neil and Bergman. And, I forgive you if you include Audrey Hepburn in that prodigiously lovely bunch!

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  • Vincent Paterno

    Do you have a bias against ’30s or pre-World War II beauty? Just curious, as it seems all of your favorites are from the ’40s or later.

  • Thomas Johnson

    Marilyn did not have a nose job. Dead cartilage was removed from her nose (it was a breathing hazard), and she looked virtually the same afterwards. Harlow was a very pretty girl as well as having Hollywood’s best figure in the 30s. Plus, Jean’s look was so baby-doll-like and unique that on screen (and off, I’ve heard) she was just so breath-taking.

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