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She Said - More Strong Women in the Movies

Updated on March 18, 2018
"The weak are more likely to make the strong weak than the strong are likely to make the weak strong." Marlene Dietrich
"The weak are more likely to make the strong weak than the strong are likely to make the weak strong." Marlene Dietrich

Are sequels a good idea?

In the predecessor article She Said – Strong women in the movies, I featured some women characters and the actresses that played them, all via quotes from the scripts they played. All actresses and characters had a few traits in common: strong personalities, impressive screen presence, the movies I listed became well known for their role, etcetera.

In the comments, a few other actresses and characters were listed, which I originally discarded for two reasons: First, I had to cut it short at some point, or I would have bored even myself, and second, I had doubts in regards to the strength of certain characters.

For example, nobody mentioned Garbo or Dietrich in comments (come on now, people, what's wrong with the world?), which made me think that my initial assessment was right. Garbo and Dietrich were monumental, iconic actresses, but they didn't play many roles that one would call terribly strong.

Time has gone by, as the song says, and I've mellowed a little bit, so here is a follow up. I'm confident that I'm presenting, again, strong women in the movies. The actresses that played these characters? Wunneful, delicious, delightful, d'lovely.

Divine Garbo

So, the divine Garbo. One could say she was strong in any character she played, pretty much like Bette Davis, but that will probably raise one or two eyebrows. I'm reminded of Marguerite Gautier in Camille (1936), where she is indeed divine, but strong? As much as a dying flower... which is what she plays. That said, however, there is strength in her delicate feminity and her willful refusal to choose what she ought to, in society's view. Oh well, up to you to decide if she's strong.

Marguerite Gautier, played by Greta Garbo, Camille, 1936

Marguerite: I always look well when I'm near death.

Olympe: If you don't stop being so easy-going with your money, you'll land in the gutter before you're through or back on that farm where you came from, milking cows and cleaning out hen houses.
Marguerite: Cows and chickens make better friends than I've ever met in Paris.

Nichette: Marguerite, it's ideal to love, and to marry the one you love.
Marguerite: I have no faith in ideals.

Romantic, in a sort of old-fashioned way that very few can pull off anymore.

Marguerite: Let me love you. Let me live for you. But don't let me ask any more from Heaven than that - God might get angry.

Armand: Don't you believe in love, Marguerite?
Marguerite: I don't think I know what it is.
Armand: Oh, thank you.
Marguerite: For what?
Armand: For never having been in love.

Queen Christina, played by Greta Garbo, Queen Christina, 1933

Queen Christina: [in disguise] I'll tell you the truth. Well, gentlemen, I have the truth as the Queen has had 12 lovers this past year. A proud dozen!
Crowd: Long live the Queen!

Chancellor: There are rumors that your Majesty is planning a foreign marriage.
Queen Christina: They are baseless.
Chancellor: But your Majesty, you cannot die an old maid.
Queen Christina: I have no intention to, Chancellor. I shall die a bachelor!

Queen Christina: Great love...
Antonio: Don't you believe in it's possibility?
Queen Christina: In it's possibility - yes. But not in its existence. A great love, perfect love, is an illusion. It is the golden fable of which we all dream. But in ordinary life it doesn't happen. In ordinary life one must be content with less.

Eloise 'Honey Bear' Kelly, played by Ava Gadner, Mogambo, 1953

Eloise Kelly: You and nobody else is gonna wring me out and hang me up to dry again.

Eloise Kelly: Well anyway, they both blew up in a million pieces somewhere over Berlin. But you know, Brownie, as short as it lasted, it was like being blessed for a lifetime.
John Brown-Pryce: So you hit the high spots and the gay beaches, trying to forget again.
Eloise Kelly: Yeah. Great strength of character.

Eloise Kelly: The only lions I ever want to see again are the two in front of the public library.

Meryl Streep: Karen Blixen or Miranda Priestly?

Ms Streep, everyone's favorite, who has played it all and has for the most part pulled it off tremendously, gives me a hard time here. What character will she be remembered for? I suppose the obvious answer would be Karen Blixen, in Out of Africa (1985). However, when it comes to strong characters, she delivered a deliciously annoying, contagiously arrogant Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Never a platinum blonde looked so elegant, Prada or not.

Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada, 2006

Miranda Priestly: By all means move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me.

Miranda Priestly: ...You have no sense of fashion...
Andy Sachs: I think that depends on...
Miranda Priestly: No, no, that wasn't a question.

Miranda Priestly: I need 10 or 15 skirts from Calvin Klein...
Andy Sachs: What kind of skirts?
Miranda Priestly: ...please bore someone else with your... questions.

Andy Sachs: What if I don't want this?
Miranda Priestly: Oh, don't be silly - EVERYONE wants this. Everyone wants to be *us*.

Miranda Priestly: Do you know why I hired you? I always hire the same girl- stylish, slender, of course... worships the magazine. But so often, they turn out to be- I don't know- disappointing and, um... stupid. So you, with that impressive résumé and the big speech about your so-called work ethic- I, um- I thought you would be different. I said to myself, go ahead. Take a chance. Hire the smart, fat girl. I had hope. My God. I live on it. Anyway, you ended up disappointing me more than, um- more than any of the other silly girls.

Karen Blixen, played by Meryl Streep, Out of Africa, 1985

Karen Blixen: [Voiceover] I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up; near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.

Karen Blixen: Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.

Karen Blixen: [upon hearing of lions reposing upon Finch-Hatton's grave] Denys will like that. I must remember to tell him.

Karen Blixen: To the rose lip maidens and light foot lads.

Catherine Tramell, played by Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1992

Catherine: Killing isn't like smoking. You can stop.

Gus: Did you ever do drugs with Mr. Boz?
Catherine: Sure.
Gus: What kind of drugs?
Catherine: Cocaine. Have you ever fucked on cocaine, Nick? It's nice.
[Catherine Tramell uncrosses her legs and it can be seen she's wearing no underwear]
Nick: You like playing games don't you?
Catherine: I have a degree in psychology, it goes with the turf... Games are fun.

Catherine: What do we do now, Nick?
Nick: F*ck like minks, raise rugrats and live happily ever after.
Catherine: Hate rugrats.
Nick: F*ck like minks, forget the rugrats, and live happily ever after.

Nikita, played by Anne Parillaud, Nikita, 1990

Don't even think I'm talking about that silly Hollywood remake, La Femme Nikita (1997), with its cringe-worthy background love story and that ridiculous happy ending. I'm talking about the original, the raw, unadulterated, violent and strong to boot French Nikita.

[after Nikita obliterates her target with a large automatic pistol]
Sharpshooter coach: You've used one of these before?
Nikita: Not on paper.

Birkoff: I cant go out there knowing I'm going to die.
[Nikita pulls out her gun, and points it at Birkoff's forehead]
Nikita: Boom. You just did.
Birkoff: [crying] I'm just so scared.
Nikita: Birkoff, you've got it backwards. Its not death you have to be afraid of, that's the easy part. Its life that you have to worry about.

Michael: We start tomorrow, 5 am.
Nikita: And if I don't want to?
Michael: [pointing to picture of a cemetery] Row 8, plot 30.

Michael: Its best to be ruthless, but if you're not, its essential to appear that way.
Nikita: Is that your secret Michael, that you only appear to be ruthless?

Nikita: I'm not a killer.
Michael: The moment I believe that, Nikita, you'll be cancelled.

Nikita: I don't want special favors..
Michael: Would you prefer to be dead?

Marlene Dietrich, Glamour and Strength

Glamour personified, Dietrich gives me as much of a hard time as Garbo when it comes to picking strong characters that she played. One could say all her characters were strong, too, but again, that's not really true, it was her screen presence that made them so. Here are my choices for this collection.

Christine Vole, played by Marlene Dietrich, Witness for the Prosecution, 1957

Sir Wilfrid: Be prepared for hysterics and even a fainting spell. Better have smelling salts handy and a nip of brandy.
Christine Vole: I do not think that will be necessary. I never faint because I am not sure that I will fall gracefully and I never use smelling salts because they puff up the eyes. I am Christine Vole.

Leonard Vole: What are you looking for?
Christine Vole: My accordion.
Leonard Vole: [stepping on it] I think I've found it.
Christine Vole: Step on it again. It's still breathing.

Charlotte Inwood, played by Marlene Dietrich, Stage Fright, 1950

Eve Gill: I'm afraid the murder might come here madam. Might get into the dressing room. Might even murder me madam. I'm surprised you're not a bit afraid yourself.
Charlotte Inwood: The theatre is the last place he would be seen. Now stop acting like a silly schoolgirl, the only murderer here is the orchestra leader!

Charlotte Inwood: He was an abominable man. Why do women marry abominable men?

And now let me come clean about Dietrich. There are a few other movies in my list where I believe she plays a memorable strong woman, but as luck would have it, I can't find decent quotes for those in the net, and having to watch those movies again just to pinpoint the quotes I'm after would be a bit of an overkill.

So I leave it here, with Altar Keane in Rancho Notorious (1952): "Go away and come back ten years ago".

Or maybe I could just leave it with the real woman, and her real words: "I was an actress. I made films. Finish".

Idgie Threadgoode & Ruth Jamison, played by Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary Louise Parker, Fried Green Tomatoes, 1991

"You're just a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgoode. That's what you are, a bee charmer." Ruth
"You're just a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgoode. That's what you are, a bee charmer." Ruth

Grady Kilgore: Ruth, I have to say. I believe Idgie's been a bad influence on you.
Ruth: I agree!

Idgie Threadgoode: I don't know what's worse, church or jail.

Ruth: You're just a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgoode. That's what you are, a bee charmer.

Idgie Threadgoode: I can't believe he swore on the Bible!
Ruth: Well, if that judge had looked any closer, he'd have seen that it was a copy of Moby Dick.

Idgie Threadgoode: There's so many
[voice breaking]
Idgie Threadgoode: things I want to say to you.
Ruth: No, I love your stories. Tell me a story, Idgie.
Ruth: Go on you ol' Bee Charmer, tell me a good tall tale.

Lucia Curcio, played by Sophia Loren, It Started in Naples, 1960

Mia cara Sofia. Was she always strong, as strong as Italian women are supposed to be? Yes. Are there tons of movies where she played a superior role than this one? Yes, A Special Day (1977) to name one. So why this one, do you suppose? Somehow I've always considered Lucia Curcio to be the epitome of hot Italian bombshell, with a steel personality that will take her places, and a body that to date I still think should be the model to follow.

No quotes from this one, just the iconic nightclub scene.

Sexy, a la Italiana

The end of the sequel, at any rate. Maybe I'll yet dig out more wonderfully strong women characters. Mae West is floating in the confines of my mind... Also Sarah Polley in her role in "My Life Without Me"... Let me give you a break for now, though.
The end of the sequel, at any rate. Maybe I'll yet dig out more wonderfully strong women characters. Mae West is floating in the confines of my mind... Also Sarah Polley in her role in "My Life Without Me"... Let me give you a break for now, though.

© 2010 Elena.


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    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Yep, Rik, our avatars blend in well :-) Glad you ejoyed this!

    • Rik Ravado profile image

      Rik Ravado 

      10 years ago from England

      Loved this hub - great subject matter and I see we still have complimentary avatars!

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Yes, Dolores, Garbo could turn dying into a tour de force :)

      I'm not fully convinced she always played strong parts, though, but her screen presence was always so strong that you'd think a dying flower was strong :-)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Elena, you asked us if we thought Greta Garbo exuded strength? Strong features, strong parts (even if she was dying, what a character!) Wasn't she just beautiful! A fabulous actress. I have not seen a Garbo movie for way too long.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      An excellent hub really. Keep writing.

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Aloha, Cris! I don't think I've seen The Scarlet Empress, at least the English title doesn't ring a bell. Will look into it.

      The cool-i-O thing about Blixen and Priestly is that both are real characters. At any rate, Priestly is said to be based on Ana Wintour, so that makes Streep a sort of record holder in these hubs :-)

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 

      10 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Nice! I've seen most of the movies here, and a month ago I had a Garbo marathon - Queen Christina, Matahari, Grand Hotel, Anna Christie etc! What I want to see again is Ninotchka but I can't find a copy.

      And as far as Dietrich goes, I'd recommend The Scarlet Empress - she was great there, and yes, a strong woman.

      Blixen and Priestly are both strong women though their strength manifested differently.

      I've only seen quite a few Loren starrers but I must find It Started in Naples!

      Another enjoyable edition, here's looking forward to more! :D

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Ms Streep seems to be a favorite indeed. Can't blame anyone for having good taste, now can I? :-) I think you're right, she's probably got a strong personality, or I can't see how she's made the career she's made.

      Mae West and her famous "Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?" may make it to the next in the series, if there is a next! Don't think there are SO many wunneful strong women characters that I could write one thousand hubs dedicated to them :-)

      Besos to you!

    • camlo profile image

      Camlo De Ville 

      10 years ago from Cologne, Germany

      'We commented on each other's hub at the exact same time!'

      It's incredible!

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Hi there, camlo! What are the chances! We commented on each other's hub at the exact same time! Laugh!

      I'm glad you see it my way with 'The Devil Wears Prada' :) Somehow I think this movie hasn't been sufficiently "appreciated" by the general public, maybe because Ms Pristley is such a ... you know :-) but I really do think it's one of Streep's best roles.

      Glad you enjoyed!

    • camlo profile image

      Camlo De Ville 

      10 years ago from Cologne, Germany

      Hi Elena!

      I've seen 'The Devil Wears Prada' about a million times, but the ludicrous ' ... Hire the smart, fat girl...' line still makes me fall about laughing.

      Great Hub. Enjoyed the read!

      All the best, Camlo

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Yep, she is. She was always famous for terrible drama, but in the last few years she has revealed her funky talent for comedy. She's a good actress, and as such she would pull off pretty much any role, right? :-)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      10 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Meryl Streep is excellent. A modern day STAR

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Sophia Loren is and has always been a model to me, when I see these tiny girls in magazines or in the movies I keep thinking they don't have the first clue about spectacular women :-) And yes, she is still fabulousness personified!

      Grad you enjoyed the sequel :-)

    • VioletSun profile image


      10 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Sophia Loren is one of my favorite actresses, she generally played strong roles and to this day even if she is older she still looks great!

      BTW, I enjoy your sequels, including the ones of your travels. :)

    • Elena. profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Madrid

      Sweetest movie, isn't it, but with very strong female leads. And yes, all leads are women. Tandy and Bates are also great, so kudos for the movie all around :-)

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 

      10 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      I'm thrilled you got "Fried Green Tomatoes" in this! It's one of my most favorite movies.. right up to the 'I love BBQ' scene!! Hahaha! Fantastic hub Elena.. you put a lot of work into them!!


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