Personally I still miss this unmistakable quality, and have to ask, where has it gone? We have no shortage of talent and beauty in Hollywood today, but those stars that come across (to men at least) as having true class, style, and by extension, smarts, seem in low supply. I don't see that rare, ethereal quality in Angelina, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, or Halle Berry, capable "actors" all. (Admittedly, Laura Linney comes close, but she has a certain earthbound quality; notwithstanding her obvious acting chops, too often she comes off like everyone's sister, the one you instinctively passed over.)We wouldn't take it that far, but still, this idea that one contemporary actress is the last classy woman standing got us thinking: Pound for pound, what's Joan Allen got that a handful of others after the jump don't?Patricia Clarkson: She earned an Oscar nod playing up ailing dysfunction in Pieces of April, but she's a revelation of raw, complex class in underseen indies from The Dying Gaul to Lars and the Real Girl to Married Life. Woody Allen should be sued for her character's forced, egregious wimpiness in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Penélope Cruz: Mostly in Spanish-language films, we're afraid, particularly Volver and All About my Mother. But her strides opposite Ben Kingsley in Elegy help us forget her crossover beard efforts in Sahara and Vanilla Sky. Vera Farmiga: She owned Down to the Bone, overshot hysterically in Joshua, and settled into a tormented, riveting (and generally unseen) sexiness in Quid Pro Quo. Bonus: She belongs here if only for holding her own in The Departed in what's written as little more than a token role for "Anonymous Person with Vagina." Naomi Watts: Did class and trash with equal aplomb in Mulholland Drive, then slyly revised the role as rags-to-riches starlet Ann Darrow — the only watchable thing opposite Andy Serkis and a green screen in King Kong. Was as classy as they come in little-seen, forgotten The Painted Veil. (Rent it, John Farr.) Catherine Zeta-Jones: Versatile and gorgeous, too often overshadowed by her male leads in the likes of the Zorro films, Intolerable Cruelty, No Reservations — not to mention in her own marriage. She's reportedly playing Lana Turner in Stompanato, finally giving her a chance at the lead in a melodrama people might actually see. (Sorry, Harvey Weinstein.) Who did we miss? We know, we know — besides Dakota Fanning.
Setting aside the redundant video that uncannily resembles stock news footage shot sometime during the Nixon Adminstration, there's plenty to not get about HuffPo contributor John Farr's recent overview of "smart, classy" actresses' decline in Hollywood. It's not like we can even necessarily argue with his taste for Joan Allen, to whom he ascribes the sense of sophistication, glamour and taste evident in icons like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Vivian Leigh and Greta Garbo: