Since my post last week on the sexiest actresses ever, I’ve had several requests to write a similar one about the men of Hollywood. And why not?
Just as tastes in women’s sex appeal have changed through the decades, so have tastes in what constitutes sex appeal in men.
For example, facial hair is something that’s often been in and out of favor over the decades. (“Muttonchops” were a huge hit in the days of the Civil War). Having a mustache was popular in the thirties and forties, but not so much in the fifties and early sixties. The “hippy” movement of the late sixties, however, ushered in a resurgence of beards, mustaches, and long sideburns with many men going for the “apostle” look. Hair on the chest was another matter entirely. The smooth, hairless chest we see on actors today is a fairly recent phenomenon (and more likely to be seen on those under the age of forty or fifty).
As far as body type goes leading men were, generally, shorter than they are today. (Alan Ladd, though handsome, was 5’5” and was often filmed while standing on a box so that he might “measure up” to his leading lady). In addition to this, the “six-pack” physique only seemed to become mandatory in the past thirty or forty years. Prior to the sixties, there were actors considered to be sexy who were, shall we say, “not as buff” as their modern counterparts.
Women, for the most part, are more generous in defining “sex appeal” when it comes to men. At least we seem to cast a larger net than do men when sizing up women.
True, woman may be attracted to a dazzling smile or a toothy grin, dimples or a cleft, a rugged build or tight buns, a baritone voice or a mop of thick hair. Still, they are more likely, I think, than men to make allowances if the man’s personality is particularly endearing or quirky. (Much as they might argue the point, most men will choose traditional beauty over “quirky” any day).
With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of sexy actors. First, let me state that there are some very attractive men who didn’t make the list for a variety of reasons. I’ve grouped them into “categories of persona”. The “tough” guy (men’s men): John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Clint Eastwood, Russell Crowe, Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel; the “ethnic anti heroes” who emerged in the mid sixties and didn’t bother changing their ethnic sounding names : Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone, Ray Liota; the “foreign” guy: Charles Boyer, Louis Jordan, Ricardo Montalban, Marcello Mastriani, “the pretty boys” (women’s men): Tyrone Power, Rock Hudson,Warren Beatty, Hugh Grant, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law, Ryan Gosling, Robert Pattinson, the “moody men”: Marlon Brando, James Dean, Colin Farrell, and lastly the “nice guy” (because nice guys finish last:): Joel McCrea, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Will Smith). Though many of these men have appeal, much of that appeal is due to the particular category they fall into as opposed to having overall sex appeal.
As stated in my previous post, all of this is, of course, subjective. I tried to be as objective as possible in that I included men who weren’t necessarily my personal choices (Burt Lancaster, Burt Reynolds, Brad Pitt) and omitted those I would have chosen: John Stamos, Hugh Laurie, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Widmark (yes, Richard Widmark -- talk about quirky, this guy played a psychopath to perfection).
I also limited this list to actors. For example, though Elvis acted, he was primarily thought of as a sexy singer (may be enough of those for an entirely separate list). John Kennedy Jr., possibly one of the sexiest men ever, was a magazine publisher. What I came up with is a list of sexy leading men with which I thought the majority of women would concur.
1. 1930’s - Errol Flynn: a womanizer and heavy drinker, Australian born Flynn was known for his swashbuckling roles (The Adventures of Robin Hood) and flamboyant lifestyle.
2. 1930’s - Clark Gable: nicknamed “the king”; best known for his role as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind; despite his big ears, Gable made women’s hearts beat faster (think young Judy Garland singing her heart out to a photo of Mr. Gable) while at the same time being considered to be the ultimate “man’s man”.
3. 1940’s - Cary Grant: handsome, and debonair, Grant’s acting ability was often underestimated because he made it all look so easy. Though he could play screw- ball comedy, suspense and drama with ease, Alfred Hitchcock had to alter the ending of the film “Suspicion” because he feared audiences wouldn’t accept Grant as a villain.
4. 1940’s - Kirk Douglas: virile star of Sparticus; great build and a killer cleft. Played tough guys as well as cads. (A personal favorite of mine; years ago I had the opportunity of telling his son Michael that I’d had a terrific crush on his father).
5. 1940’s - Robert Mitchum: cynical, dark; the perfect “noir” star (Out of the Past) Troubles in his personal life (he was arrested for possession of marijuana) only enhanced his Hollywood “bad boy” image.
6. 1940’s - Burt Lancaster: star of From Here to Eternity; known for his athletic physique and captivating smile, Lancaster worked as an acrobat in a circus in his early years.
7. 1950’s - William Holden: star of Sunset Boulevard, Holden was very good-looking and often played a cynical, tough guy or a spoiled playboy (ie. Stalag 17, Picnic, Sabrina); definitely had a raw magnetism.
8. 1950’s - Paul Newman: known in his later years for his philanthropy, his race car enthusiasm, and his long (fifty years) marriage to actress Joanne Woodward; his ice blue eyes and easy smile lit up the screen. This, together with somewhat of a rebellious film image, made him one of the most sought after actors of his time.
9. 1960’s - Sean Connery: Scottish born; roguish persona; the original James Bond (and nobody did it better); at the age of 69 he was voted “the sexiest man of the century” (had the occasion of meeting and flirting with him when I was in my twenties and can honestly say the title was well deserved!)
10. 1960’s - Steve McQueen: avid motorcycle and car racer; star of The Great Escape; drank too much, smoked too much, lived hard and was considered a legendary “bad boy”; McQueen, nicknamed “king of cool” was adored by woman and envied by men. He was hot.
11. 1970’s - Burt Reynolds: known for his good looks and self-deprecating humor as well as his near-nude spread in Cosmopolitan magazine in the early seventies. Romantically linked to many women including Dinah Shore and Sally Field.
12. 1970’s - Harrison Ford: easy going, rugged good looks; known for his role as Han Solo in the Star Wars trilogy as well as his portrayal as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc.
13. 1970’s - Denzel Washington: portrayed Malcolm X; recognized not only for his charitable work and his acting ability but for his striking good looks. For what it’s worth, in a special that aired about one’s looks, it was once determined that Washington has a “perfectly symmetrical face”.
14. 1980’s - Antonio Bandaras: Virile, Spanish actor who began his career as a soccer player; known for his lead role in Zorro; a Latin heartthrob despite the fact that he stands slightly under 5’8”.
15. 1980’s - Mel Gibson: raised in Australia, Gibson burst on the scene with his Mad Max and Lethal Weapon series. His striking good looks and the humorous twinkle in his blue eyes made him a world-wide box office sensation.
16. 1990’s - Pierce Brosnan: handsome and suave, Irish actor Brosnan was first noticed by American audiences in the hit TV show, Remington Steele. He went on to become one of the most popular actors to portray James Bond since Sean Connery.
17. 1990’s - Johnny Depp: known for taking on a wide variety of character driven roles (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd) Depp is most closely associated with the role of Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) Manages to be sexy in a low key way. (My daughter’s personal favorite).
18. 2000’s - Hugh Jackman: another Aussie, Jackman is the ultimate performer; star of stage (The Boy From Oz) and screen (X-Men), he sings and dances as well as acts. Extraordinarily good looking and seemingly self effacing, which adds to his charm.
19. 2000’s – Daniel Craig: British actor with rugged good looks. Known mostly to Americans as the sixth (and last) actor to portray James Bond. (Yes, there are three Bond actors on this list, but for good reason). Craig’s Bond was a little different than previous Bonds (fairer, a little less acerbic, but more intense).
20. 2000’s - Mathew McConaughay: his breakout role was the lead in the movie A Time to Kill; his well toned body, easy Texas drawl, and the deepest of dimples make him one of today’s sexiest actors.
A special nod to actors Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, and Sean Connery, who managed to maintain their sex appeal well into their senior years.
Well, that’s it. Please feel free to add a favorite of yours you think I’ve missed. Have a great weekend and thank you for joining me on this week’s journey along,
RHODES LESS TRAVELED,