Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart, To Have and Have Not, 1944)
It was during the filming of To Have and Have Not that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall fell in love, and so kicked off one of the greatest of Old Hollywood’s romances. Onscreen it translated beautifully, with the camera lens practically steaming up as a result of the chemistry between them. Bogie’s own onscreen persona itself was always sexy, heavy with lovelorn cynicism yet always ready to respond with a dry quip towards any perceived slight, but he was never sexier than when onscreen together with Bacall, even if the first of their collaborations was just a rehash of Casablanca.
Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth 1975)
Many people have criticised David Bowie’s acting skills. Many people are wrong. The Man Who Fell to Earth, directed by Nicolas Roeg, is a strange, otherworldly, elliptical film about an extra-terrestrial (Bowie) who comes to bring back water to his drought-stricken planet. On Earth however, he loses himself in a myriad of sex, drink and TV. Bowie’s performance is completely alien and out-of-touch with reality, unsurprising given his mental state at the time, resulting in a strange sexual tension within the film that never quite comes to fruition. A sexiness borne out of the alienation of modern life.
Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly, Rear Window, 1954)
Grace Kelly was the most perfect and beautiful human being to ever exist. Her greatest moment was also Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest moment. Rear Window is nigh-perfect entertainment from start to finish, with nary a shot out of place, yet the film also mixes in typically Hitchcockian darkness amidst all that Hollywood perfection. This is a film completely and utterly about voyeurism, about our need and desire to look and stare, and our collective need to stare at Grace Kelly. Her character is a perfect mix of elegance and sweetness that’s all too easy to fall in love with. No wonder the woman became royalty.
Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina, Audition, 1999)
Asami Yamazaki initially appears to be a shy, demure, polite woman of incredible beauty and grace. That’s what the first half of J-Horror masterpiece Audition would have you believe. She floats through the film like a reflection of a long-forgotten silent Hollywood starlet, lighting up the screen in just a glance of the eyes. But there’s more to her than meets the eye, and she turns the tables on her wannabe lover and the film’s protagonist in gut-wrenchingly terrifying style, a nightmarish wet dream of Edgar Allen Poe and the Marquis de Sade. Horrifying, but still impossibly sexy.