Go ahead, admit it. You watch movies to ogle big-picture stars, the kind that dominated Hollywood in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, the one-named iconic beefcakes who were matinee idols created by the studio system—Gable, Tracy, Wayne, Bogart. Do contemporary stars measure up to these icons? Can George Cooney, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt compete with heartthrobs like Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Marlon Brando or James Dean? Streampix offers a great proving ground, as we examine the Ten Top Hollywood hunk performances that are part of its extensive collection.
George Clooney in “Three Kings”: Was Clooney ever hotter than he was in fatigues as Major Archie Gates, stationed in Iraq in David O. Russell’s biting 1999 Gulf War satire. And it certainly didn’t hurt to be surrounded by the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze and Jamie Kennedy, either, forming a not-so-Dirty Dozen who are drawn together after stumbling on a hidden cache of gold. Clooney, who had just finished “Out of Sight” and would go on to do “The Perfect Storm,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” was well on the road to stardom
Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in “Interview with the Vampire”: The two set female and male hearts ablaze with their portrayals of a pair of lifelong vampires, Lestat and Louis, who first met in 18th century New Orleans, in Neil Jordan’s successful 1994 adaptation of the 1976 Anne Rice novel.
Humphrey Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon”: Bogart portrayed Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled detective Sam Spade in John Huston’s classic 1941 film noir about the ultimate red herring bird, a femme fatale (Mary Astor) and a pair of unscrupulous adventurers in Peter Lorre’s Joel Cairo and Sydney Greenstreet’s sinister, and aptly named, Kasper Gutman. Bogart, not traditionally matinee idol handsome by big screen standards, turned hard-nosed realism and wise cracking into sexually alluring male traits.
Paul Newman in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”: The quintessential wounded Southern macho man, at least until Brando came along, Oscar-nominated Newman plays the bitter young husband who succumbs to the bottle as his smoldering wife (Elizabeth Taylor, also nominated for Best Actress) grows ever more frustrated in Richard Brooks’ 1958 Best Picture nominee, an adaptation of Tennessee Williams Pulitzer-winning play. Moping around the house on crutches feeling sorry for yourself never seemed so hot.
Mark Wahlberg in “Boogie Nights”: The young Wahlberg plays a callow youth recruited into the ‘70s Golden Age of Porn in the San Fernando Valley in Paul Thomas Anderson’s superb 1997 film, which also starred the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Eddie Adams, who adopts the nom de porn Dirk Diggler, is the first sex symbol inspired by a (at least we think it’s) prosthetic penis in one of the film’s keynote scenes. Who says size doesn’t matter?
Omar Sharif in “Doctor Zhivago”: The dashing Sharif earned a Golden Globe for Best Actor Motion Picture Drama but got shut out at the Oscars even though David Lean’s celebrated 1965 romantic drama, based on Boris Pasternak’s best-seller, took home five Academy Awards. Sharif is the film’s doomed namesake, a struggling physician, but poet at heart, who, after being orphaned, is forced to marry his adopted parents’ daughter, only to fall in love with Julie Christie’s Lara. His tragedy set millions of smitten female fans’ hearts a-flutter, launching an impressive career as a leading man for Egyptian-born actor opposite Barbra Streisand in movies like “Funny Girl” and “Funny Lady.”
John Wayne in “The Searchers”: If you had to point to one individual who represents the post-war symbol of American manhood, it would have to be the Duke, and he gets no more iconic than as Ethan Edwards, the bigoted ex-Confederate soldier who hunts down his niece, kidnapped by Comanches who massacred his family in John Ford’s classic 1956 western. The catch phrase,“That’ll be the day” perfectly summarizes his brazen confidence and fearless temperament, inspiring to men and swoon worthy for women, the archetype for the strong, silent hero of many a Hollywood western before and since.
Johnny Depp in “Cry Baby”: Not quite your everyday Hollywood male sex symbol, Johnny Depp’s irony proves plenty attractive in John Waters’ sly 1990 spoof of ‘50s teen idolatry. Amy Locane proves a suitable audience surrogate as the girl from the Squares who falls for the guy from the Drapes in this twisted “West Side Story”gang saga for lovers of camp.
Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry”: He had us the moment he opened his mouth to tell the punk “Go ahead… Make my day.” Eastwood’s San Francisco-based centurion cop Harry Callahan turned out to be antidote to the post-‘60s country’s leftward-leaning hippies and peaceniks, a man to restore law and order to an urban jungle that hadn’t been the same since John Wayne was let out to pasture. Eastwood launched the character with Don Siegel’s 1971 classic.
Johnny Weissmuller in “Tarzan the Ape Man”: Five-time Austro-=Hungarian-American Olympic swimming gold medalist Weissmuller parlayed his success in the pool into a starring role in the series based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ popular series of novels. A fleet of female fans went ape for the
mono-syllabled monkey man, whose idea of a conversation-starter was “Me Tarzan, You Jane.” He epitomized the strong, silent, nearly nude type that women secretly crave.