Rom Com Leading Ladies Through the Years

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It probabaly comes as no surprise that I love movies. I love storytelling, once upon a time could have been referred to as an actor (see previous post this week), and books and theater are two of the biggest passions in my life. As a kid, on weekends my Dad and I would go to Blockbuster and I would pick out a new musical to watch (usually all from the 1960’s) and in college, I took a few film classes as I had a related field in theater arts. Needless to say, I was a bit more exposed to other generations of film and the evolution of the craft.

My life has been so busy and has taken away some of my free time to watch movies (with the exception of SAG-AFTRA awards season this month) but I do not really have any preferred genre. I LOVE creepy ghost stories but no gore please! I love sci fi, fantasy, action (sometimes), mysteries, epics, musicals, remakes, comedies and of course, what girl doesn’t appreciate a good ole rom com?! (Though I have to give myself some credit here, I don’t force Jason to watch them. He got lucky there.)

As time has gone on though, the evolution of the leading lady in the famous rom com genre has actually been fascinating. How we view women has been very interesting over the years. Of course this varies on the storylines of each movie, as they are all very unique.  I wanted to take a look back at how these characters have played a part into pop culture and what we likely have to look forward to in film in the future…

Claudette Colbert as Ellie in It Happened One Night (1934)

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I loved this movie that also stars Clark Gable. It shows that she had just as good comedy chops as Gable and you see that little picture above? Keep in mind that this was made in 1934 and that move was quite risque back then. It gave woman the power to not only be funny but sexy too. (That is still a struggling battle that people seem to think the two can’t coexist but alas, over 80 years ago and there it is!)

Ginger Rodgers as Kathie O’Hara in Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)

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Ginger Rodgers brought not only comedy to her roles but she was also a gifted dancer and is still celebrated today for it. Her multiple talents executed in many of her roles just add layers to the leading lady persona.

Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk in Some Like it Hot (1959)

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Marylin Monroe is always known for her sex appeal but she was in fact a great actress and she was hilarious in this movie. Some Like It Hot is one of my absolute favorite older films and she kept up with someone as wonderful and hilarious as Jack Lemon (who in my book is one of the funniest out ever to grace film, man or woman!)

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

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Holly Golightly is more than iconic and Audrey’s image of class from this film notorious but the ironic hilarity of it all is that Holly in the film was a prostitute. Only a true movie lover would know this as that is who would have sat down and actually watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her ability to capture this classic, angelic demeanor with another darker layer just shows the depth to her role, and the acting.

Diane Keaton as Annie Hall in Annie Hall (1977)

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A Woody Allen masterpiece and an unconventional yet charming leading lady, Annie Hall combined this sort of androgynous Girl Next Door appeal that broadened the horizons of a what a leading lady in a rom com could be categorized as.

Molly Ringwald as Samantha Baker in Sixteen Candles (1984)

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Samantha Baker was the every girl. She had a little bit of everything in her (geeky yet popular, funny, average, confused, innocent, curious) that I think makes her one of the most relatable leading ladies in a rom com of all time. She was so special but in the less obvious ways and as the audience watched her struggle with adolescence, her comedic prowess only enhance how easy it is for the audience to dive in her shoes.

Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman (1990)

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That laugh, the vulnerability, the imperfections… Vivian Ward made it ok to be a lady in film that absolutely needs help and to learn and grow. It is the ultimate “save me” rom com which may be frowned upon but when it comes to love, I think it’s okay to portray where a person needs some help getting it together and how sometimes in love, there is someone that makes you better.

Alicia Silverstone as Cher in Clueless (1995)

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She may not be the deepest or brightest but Cher has a big heart and her lovable ditziness poked fun at a generation emerging into the tech universe.

Lindsay Lohan as Cady Heron in Mean Girls (2004)

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This is all my generation right here and Lindsay Lohan did teenage girls around the world a bunch of good by portraying Cady with such sincerity and honesty.

Amy Schumer as Amy Townsend in Trainwreck (2015)

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Amy is not, ahem, the classiest but the brutal honesty and voice for the less tradional woman (by society), make her mark in the rom com leading lady world an important one.

side note: Other than my absolute favorite Sixteen Candles, I love She’s All That and Notting Hill, Honorable Mention to 10 things I Hate About You


To sum it up though, all of these women seem to have gumption. This theme is touched upon in one of my favorite movies, The Holiday. Women who are leaders have gumption which is basically just a way of saying, they have balls! (Ironic ehh?) There is a take charge, human, realistic element to these ladies no matter where they come from or what their background are and I have a feeling in future films, we will continue to see women push limits and lead storylines.


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