Since I was a young closeted lesbian, I’ve been cursed to crush on actresses who died before I was born. Celebrity crushes always live in a fantasy space, but at least if I crushed on my contemporaries the fantasy would be possible. Alas I am a sucker for a mid-atlantic accent and a beauty in black and white.
My crushes may be consistent but my sexuality is not! I’ve long considered myself a switch and yet only in the last few years have I really explored and enjoyed the bottoming part of that. So let’s combine old fantasy with new and rank some crushes based on how much I’d like them to top me.
This list could’ve been infinite so I’ve set the cutoff at my (dead) grandma’s birthday which was August 1922. Unfortunately, this means Dorothy Dandridge just misses the cutoff — based on Carmen Jones alone she would’ve ranked high.
15. Ingrid Bergman
Beautiful, talented, bottom. If Ingrid Bergman tried to top me it wouldn’t even be fun and goofy like some of the other bottoms on this list — it would be cold and awkward. Love watching her on-screen, don’t lust for her much IRL.
14. Greta Garbo
Another bottom but at least this one is bratty. She’d try to top me and then get pouty when I laughed. But then she’d laugh too! It would be fun!
13. Jennifer Jones
Her performance in Duel in the Sun was a sexual awakening for me, but there’s a reason she was better suited for roles like Cluny Brown and Portrait of Jennie. I’m not sure how it would go if she topped me but I’d love to have her try!
12. Myrna Loy
Sure, we can all imagine Nora topping Nick in the Thin Man movies, but for some reason Myrna Loy feels like a top with men/bottom with women bisexual. Maybe it’s because of her body language in those pictures with Amelia Earhart.
11. Katharine Hepburn
The highest ranked bottom on this list and my longest held Old Hollywood crush. I have a “want to be” and “want to be with” crush on Katharine Hepburn unmatched by any celebrity of any era. But there’s a difference between having top energy and being a top! I think Kate was more masc but less toppy than her reputation.
10. Ginger Rogers
She topped Fred Astaire in all ten collaborations and she did it backwards and in heels !
9. Joan Crawford
Obviously, one of the great tops in Hollywood history, but, personally, I like a top who is a bit more playful! Johnny Guitar is one of the greatest movies ever and she wears pants better than anyone and still I can’t imagine a night with her being all that fun.
8. Bette Davis
Bette Davis wins this round of the feud. I mean, have you seen The Letter? I will say I think I’m possibly being influenced by Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of Davis. And while Sarandon would top my overall top list, she was not born before my grandma and should not factor into my feelings about Bette.
7. Anna May Wong
Due to, you know, racism, Anna May Wong’s roles were split between underwritten characters who were dangerous sexpots and underwritten characters who were passive and suffering. She was talented enough to breathe life and add dimensionality to both. Freed from this dichotomy would Anna May Wong be a top? I don’t know but I’d like to be the one to find out!
6. Tallulah Bankhead
I would love to be topped by Tallulah Bankhead. By all accounts, she was an incredible lover. That said, I do think she’d be the kind of cis woman who would top other cis women but then call me the “best of both worlds” and expect me to top her. Or she’d top me but insist on calling it pegging. She has that dangerous mix of progressive politics and freewheeling entitlement I’ve found to be a red flag!
5. Ida Lupino
I love a multi-hyphenate!! Sorry to be such a Capricorn. Actually not sorry. My type is multi-hyphenate. And Ida Lupino was one of the best. Yes, this is largely a talent crush. But I also think she’d bring some of her directorial forcefulness to my body.
4. Maya Deren
An auteur working within the system is hot, but an auteur working outside the system?? Creating an entirely new film language?? While I’m not exactly sure what sex with Maya Deren would be like, I’m sure it would be a totally new experience. Also she was a dancer which is one of the hottest things a person can be.
3. Barbara Stanwyck
Almost any list of Old Hollywood stars is going to include some people with questionable politics. But Barbara Stanwyck was so right-wing it’s prevented her from getting the number one spot on this list. It’s a shame because if I was just focusing on her on-screen persona… my God. Double Indemnity, The Lady Eve, The Furies?? Even as a bitter old lesbian in Walk On the Wild Side she’s swinging her hypothetical strap all over the screen. But even though she’s been dead for over 30 years… I’m still struggling to crush on a Republican.
2. Marlene Dietrich
Puts the top in top hat! Marlene Dietrich was so powerful she seduced half of Hollywood. I do think I’d fall in love with her afterward and it would take me 1-3 years to get over it, but, hey, it would be worth it for even just one night with the blue angel.
1. Ava Gardner
That’s right! This top list is topped by not one but two Capricorns. And Ava Gardner isn’t just any Capricorn — she’s my Christmas Eve birthday twin! While she may not have the best filmography on this list, she overpowered the screen with every appearance. She was beautiful, she was forceful, and she was very active in progressive politics. What more could anyone want from a top??