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Five Awesome Old Ladies in Film

I can’t wait to have white hair.
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Then, I will wear brightly patterned muu muu’s and house dresses and drink vodka martinis at inappropriate times of the day.  My lack of verbal filter will be viewed as old-lady-honest-wisdom and not as shocking-Truth-Fairy-serum.  All this is to say, Jessica Tandy was my favorite actor when I was EIGHT YEARS OLD.

Cocoon, Batteries Not Included, Driving Miss Daisy, and Fried Green Tomatoes are the movies I loved with her when I was growing up, though I don’t mean to skip over The Birds, Nobody’s Fool, and many other films spanning back to the 1930’s.  I loved her briskness, her pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of characters, sheathed in a small frame with white hair and direct eyes.

Jessica’s been gone for awhile, and I realized during the recent Downton Abbey obsession that Maggie Smith is my new elder heroine.

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I always like her acting (Sister Act, The Secret Garden, Hook, and Harry Potter, to name a few), but her turn as the Dowager Countess of Grantham leaves me in stitches every time she enters the room and throws down a witty, ball-breaking remark.  I will never match up to her, if only because I’m not a Dame* and don’t have an English accent or a plumed hat.

I must find a plumed hat.

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You might expect Betty White to come next, but she’s not on my list.  I really liked Bea Arthur.  Let’s face it, she’s the one who kept the Golden Girls’ household together and running.  She’s so much woman that she almost seems to cross to the other side.

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As a Betty White alternate, I pick Cloris Leachman.  She’s the one who goes for the gusto in places you might not expect her to be.  She’s great in kids movies but if you catch her on late-night shows and roasts, she’s a Dirty Bird in the best way possible.

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While on Chelsea Lately, Cloris said of she and Betty White:  “We sluts are good friends.”

Judi Dench.  DAME Judi Dench*.  It takes a strong woman to be Queen Elizabeth I in one role and then boss around 007 in the next.

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* The British title, Dame, is the female equivalent to Knighthood.  Dame Judi Dench once said that a Dame must behave well, and behaving is “very, very boring.”  Another awesome old lady in film, Helen Mirren, claimed that her “street cred is gone” now that she’s received the title.


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