Bette or Barbara? Who IS My Favorite Classic Movie Actress?!

Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon

Has your favorite classic movie actor or actress changed over time or has the same person been occupying your top spot for as long as you can remember? For a long time now, I’ve considered Bette Davis my favorite actress, but there have been a few times recently when I’ve questioned whether or not Barbara Stanwyck really occupies my top spot instead.

One of those times was when I was looking over Barbara’s impressive filmography trying to decide which movie I would write about for the upcoming Barbara Stanwyck blogathon being hosted by Aubyn at The Girl With the White Parasol.

Even though the event isn’t until next month, there are already tons of great bloggers who have signed up to write about Barbara Stanwyck and her movies. I will be covering the comedy Ball of Fire (1941), which also stars Gary Cooper. Make sure to mark your calendars for July 16-22 and check out all the great posts. I love so many of her movies that it should make for a fun read!

Bette Davis

Getting back to the matter of who’s my favorite actress, obviously it doesn’t really matter. They are both great actresses and have their own unique qualities, but the question did give me the idea to put together a top 10 list of my favorite classic movie actresses, oddly enough something I’ve never really taken the time to do before in all my years of being a classic movie fan.

As you can see, I decided to keep Bette number one, but Barbara is definitely a close second. The other actresses are not necessarily in the exact order, but I did try to rank them as best I could.

My top 10 favorite classic movie actresses are:

  1. Bette Davis
  2. Barbara Stanwyck
  3. Ingrid Bergman
  4. Myrna Loy
  5. Loretta Young
  6. Gene Tierney
  7. Claire Trevor
  8. Irene Dunne
  9. Norma Shearer
  10. Katharine Hepburn

I’ll follow up with a list of my favorite actors some time soon, but spoiler alert: don’t expect anyone other than Jimmy Stewart to be in the top spot! :-)

I’m always interested in seeing how diverse the tastes and opinions of classic movie fans are, so please don’t hesitate to share your favorite actress in the comments section below! Or if you feel like taking the time, go ahead and list your entire top 10!

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  1. R.A. Kerr says:

    This is an impressive Top-10 list. I think I’d agree with each one, except I’d have to squeeze Thelma Ritter in…

    Looking forward to your post on “Ball of Fire” during the Barbara Stanwyck blogathon. It’ll be a good time!

    • Ginny says:

      Oh, I love Thelma Ritter, too! She was in so many great movies, my favorite being Rear Window. I’m looking forward to your blogathon post, too! Should be a great event.

  2. Karen says:

    Hi, Ginny! My favorite actress is Bette Davis, followed by Joan Crawford, and then Barbara Stanwyck. Other faves are Norma Shearer, Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Susan Hayward, Ida Lupino, Irene Dunne and Claire Trevor. I like Loretta Young, but only her early 1930s films — I’m not that wild about her later films; I think they’re a little too wholesome for me, LOL! I look forward to your top 10 actor list.

  3. Ginny says:

    Hi Karen! Looks like we have a lot in common in terms of our favorites! I used to know Loretta Young mostly for her later films like The Farmer’s Daughter and The Bishop’s Wife, but started watching her in more of her pre-code roles last year. It was fun discovering such a different side of her.

  4. Patti says:

    I always love looking at people’s lists of faves! I am with you for sure on Bette. She’s my #1 gal too. Barbara Stanwyck, most of the time, is my #3 gal, but sometimes, she wrestles the #2 position away from Susan Hayward.

    My top 10 are:

    1. Bette Davis
    2. Susan Hayward
    3. Barbara Stanwyck
    4. Eleanor Parker
    5. Lana Turner
    6. Ida Lupino
    7. Deborah Kerr
    8. Olivia deHavilland
    9. Ingrid Bergman
    10. Grace Kelly

    Of your list, Myrna Loy, Loretta Young, and Gene Tierney fall in the 10-20 range. I really like them too!

    • Ginny says:

      Thanks for sharing your whole list, Patti! It’s great to meet another Bette Davis fan. I like everyone on your list, especially Lana Turner and Olivia de Havilland who definitely would have made my honorable mention list had I made one.

  5. Rick says:

    Your top ten list is an impressive one. It would take me awhile to compile such a list, but Deborah Kerr might take the #1 spot. Of your top two, I might give Barbara a slight edge because she was more versatile, especially as a comedienne.

  6. jenni says:

    Great top 10 list! There are so many great actresses, I would add Greer Garson, Ginger Rogers, Olivia De Haviland and her sister, Joan Fontaine, Rosalind Russell, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Carole Lombard, Lauren Bacall, Deborah Kerr, Margaret Lockwood, so many to choose from!

  7. […] and cloudy weather we’re having here, so I thought this would be a good time to follow up my top 10 favorite actresses list with the list of my favorite […]