Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By VERNON SCOTT, United Press International  |  Oct. 2, 2002 at 3:41 PM
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HOLLYWOOD, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Notice you haven't read or heard the term "movie goddess" in this century?

That phylum designated drop-dead gorgeous, ethereal women who adorned the world's screens, and now have disappeared from the face of planet Earth.

They were a 20th century species of female whose faces were magnificently entrancing and hypnotizing.

Perhaps the first great movie goddess was Greta Garbo with her aquiline nose, deep-set gray eyes, high cheek bones and Cupid's bow mouth. Her accent was a plus.

Her figure was slender, graceful and altogether feminine. Throngs lined up just to see this vision straight from Elysium.

Other actresses followed her lead.

Among the goddesses who graced Hollywood films were Gloria Swanson, whose immortal line in "Sunset Blvd." ran, "We had FACES then!" And, of course Norman Desmond was right.

Down through the years there was Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Ann Sheridan, Rita Hayworth, Alice Faye, Gene Tierney, Ginger Rogers, Norma Shearer, Ingrid Bergman, Jennifer Jones, Vivien Leigh, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor to name a few.

They radiated from the screen like damsels of fiction, sirens of myth, a thrill to behold.

Perhaps most regal of them all was Princess Grace of Monaco: Grace Kelly whose visage enraptured the world.

There were others, to be sure, women whose chief asset was their supernatural, breathtaking beauty.

They were blondes, redheads, brunettes, mostly of Northern European stock, who did not find it necessary to disrobe, display their navels, sport tattoos nor reveal their breasts and buttocks on camera.

Their astonishing faces commanded attention, their feminine wardrobes promised treasures beyond imagination.

Goddesses disappeared with the dissolution of studio contract players, loosened regulations on nudity, sex and squalor on the screen.

Movies got down and dirty, leaving little room for the likes of, say, Doris Day and Donna Reed.

Carnality replaced mystique. Feminists demanded harder-edged, competitive women in place of serene, supportive (and sometimes fiery) leading ladies.

Girlie magazines, porno videos, shifting morality, bikini thongs, navel rings, breasts -- bared or flopping in inadequate bras -- mixed well with the drug culture.

This is reality while movie goddesses have become as passé as high button shoes.

Television did its part to destroy goddesses.

Cyclops TV extinguished that all-important element of movie goddesses: mystique.

On TV's yap fests, TV tabloid shows, Leno and Letterman (remember Drew Barrymore baring her breasts?), movie stars revealed themselves as all too human and neighborly, as awkward and distraught as millions of women the world over.

The illusion was wrecked forever.

These diaphanous nymphs were, of course, creatures of our own design, icons we invented to fulfill our dreams.

Yes, they were glamorous, sexy and desirable but they also were ethereal phantoms, representatives of the ideal woman in the minds of poets, muses and the dreams of mere mortals.

The goddesses professed no formal religion, political dogma nor racial stereotype.

They were essentially esthetic figures composed of flesh and blood females who quickened the pulse and glowed with incandescent beauty, grace and strength.

They became modern versions of ancient Greek and Roman goddesses of love.

Their disappearance can be seen in the Miss America Pageant, which no longer is called a beauty contest because physical beauty is not a factor.

It's become a second rate amateur hour.

And look at TV's Emmy awards this year -- and how the women were dressed: Jennifer Aniston, Laura Linney, Marg Helgenberger, Jennifer Garner, Debra Messing, Allison Janney, Kim Catrall, Kristin Davis, Courteney Cox, Paula Abdul, Patricia Heaton and Amy Brenneman.

Attractive women all -- talented and representative of current trends and tastes.


No way.

Like today's movie actresses, they look as if they were neighbors or women at the checkout counter of the nearest supermarket.

There's nothing wrong or negative about that; but the comparison with leading actresses of 50 years ago is a bit of a let down.

It's the same with today's movies.

Julia Roberts, current queen of movies, is a delightful, cute and compelling woman, but so is your wife. Sandra Bullock is sweet-faced and adorable in her roles, but so is the girl in the senior class play at Pottstown College.

There's a blooming goddess who has not yet reached that archaic standing.

She's Nicole Kidman, a statuesque Australian beauty who is a bit self-conscious and uneasy off-screen, which may stand in her way of becoming a genuine movie goddess.

Perhaps she has no such plans. But it would be a pleasant experience to see a modern young woman assume that magical mantle at a time when her peers dress, speak and behave like sailors on leave.

Time marches on in Hollywood as elsewhere, but that does not necessarily mean it's moving in the right direction.

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