Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Movie Sex Symbols Who Are Always Out-sexed By Others

I was watching a film with Claudia Cardinale, and I was reminded that she has always struck me as the epitome of a sex symbol (or someone who was sold as a sex symbol) who is usually outclassed in sex appeal by someone else in the movie. I've said before that in The Pink Panther, Fran Jeffries in her one big (and irrelevant) scene manages to be sexier than either of the two leading ladies, Cardinale and Capucine. But Cardinale is also outshone by Anouk Aimée in 8&1/2 even though Cardinale is supposed to be the sex symbol and Aimée has that bespectacled Big Sleep bookstore clerk look going on.

In Alexander Mackendrick's weird, bitter, depressing Tony Curtis comedy Don't Make Waves, Cardinale is so completely outclassed by Sharon Tate that Andrew Sarris remarked that it was "the biggest Hollywood cheesecake robbery since Betty Grable displaced Alice Faye in Tin Pan Alley."

If she's the only woman in the movie, as she is in Westerns like Once Upon a Time In the West and The Professionals (Update: I forgot that there is another woman in The Professionals; see comments), she doesn't have the problem of being outdone by another woman, but she still never comes off as a highlight of the movie, at least for me.

It's not that she isn't attractive, just that I don't find she lives up to the sex-symbol buildup she gets in most of her movies. I have my issues with Marilyn Monroe, but it's impossible for anyone to steal a scene or a movie from her. Ditto Sophia Loren, Bardot, and to some extent even Lollobrigida (who made mostly mediocre movies, but managed to dominate them). But some attractive actresses, no matter how aggressively they were sold as sex symbols, come off as no more intriguing than other pretty women in the same film, and sometimes less.

Sometimes I think Anita Ekberg is in a similar category for me -- though that's much more controversial, because unlike Cardinale, she did achieve legitimate sex-symbol status for a while. But again, I find that unlike a Monroe or a Loren, it's very easy for her to be outshone in the movie by the woman who is not supposed to be the sexpot, whether it's Aimée again in La Dolce Vita, or Pat Crowley in Hollywood Or Bust (who somehow manages to be sexier than Ekberg even though most of the film and promotion was about how sexy Anita Ekberg is), or Edie Adams in Call Me Bwana.

I don't know if anyone else has their own examples of an actor who got the sex-symbol buildup but is rarely the sexiest person in the movie. And obviously, this applies to male actors just as much as female.


Hal said...

I think she IS outdone in THE PROFESSIONALS, by the busty Marie Gomez, who was also quite sexy in BARQUERO and her appearances as Chiquita on THE HIGH CHAPPARAL.

Agree completely that Sharon Tate stole the sex appeal from her in DON'T MAKE WAVES too, and even commented on it in my review (August 2006, if I remember right, it's been a while. :)

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Whoops, you're right; I forgot about Gomez in The Professionals. It's been a long time since I saw it.

Hal said...

Update: I was right, Aug. 2006:


J Lee said...

Ms. Tate also stood out (in more ways than one) as one of Paul Henning's favorite female bit players during the early 1960s on his Filmways shows like "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Mr. Ed" (given the obvious endowments of those series' co-stars, Donna Douglas and Connie Hines, Henning was to emphasizing the female curves in TV sitcoms what Frank Tashlin had been in movies in the 1950s).

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Tate's prominence on the Filmways shows probably had more to do with Filmways' head Marty Ransohoff, who also produced Don't Make Waves and The Fearless Fampire Killers(She was also Ransohoff's original choice for the ingenue part in The Cincinnati Kid, but Sam Peckinpah, attached to the project at the time, opposed the choice and Tuesday Weld was cast instead.)

free movies said...

No doubt about it - I'm thinking about "Batman & Robin" movie, which brought forward Uma Thurman and not Alicia Silverstone...!

ladolce said...

Your comments about Anita Ekberg are wrong! She was the most fabulously sexy lady ever in movies. It wasn't simply she was beautiful, blonde and possessed the most delightful bosom, she was intelligent and had an underated talent as an actress. True many of her movies did not show that ability, as the scripts were dreadful. I have a theory that many of her roles were not sexy, after all the vast majority of her 80 movies she showed little or no skin and was rarely involved in "sex scenes" Her career choices were very poor and the world was not ready for a lead actress who was bigger/heavier than the lead male.