Today is the anniversary of the first day of Lady Jane Grey's infamous reign as the Queen of England. "Infamous why?" you ask. On account of its length, see. Her days as Queen numbered only nine.
They made a movie of the short event in 1985 (Lady Jane) which is all but forgotten today. Maybe it shouldn't be since it starred baby faced rising stars Cary Elwes and the now resurgent Helena Bonham Carter. HBC quickly became the go-to actress of choice for directors who wanted a porcelain dress up doll for their costume pictures. And by directors I mean the great James Ivory.
So herewith a top ten top nine list in Lady Jane's and Helena's honor...
TOP NINE BEST "JANES"
With apologies to four time Oscar nominee Jane Alexander, Susan Sarandon's delightful Jane Spofford, Jane Lynch (before Glee), Fun with Dick and Jane, and Demi Moore's G.I. Jane, Thomas Jane, and Jane Goodall. I'm sure I forgot someone wonderful but that's what the comments are for.
09 Jane Wyman
I didn't really understand Wyman until I finally saw Magnificent Obsession (1954) in which she can't see. I highly recommend that you don't remind blind to it because what a good picture that is.
Judy Bernly: What did you call this again?
Violet Newstead: Mowie Wowie!
Judy: Well, I love it.
08 "Mary Jane"
Or as Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton like to call it "Maui Wowie." Recently while watching a terrible 80s movie, (not 9 to 5 which is great) The Boyfriend and I were discussing which drugs make good movies and which ruin them. And Mary Jane is clearly the winner. Case evidence: Robert Altman's filmography. In the 80s Hollywood was on cocaine and it shows. Not in a good way!
07 Me Tarzan, You Jane
Film Experience readers know (and don't love based on the radio silence whenever I discuss him) that I have a small thing for Tarzan movies. I can't help it. My favorite Jane is Maureen O'Sullivan on account of both the Weismuller movies and for bringing Mia Farrow into the world.
06 Jane Krakowski
"JENNA!". Krakowski would be much higher on this list if the movies knew what to do with her but despite a few horny tiny parts of note here and there (Alfie in which she seduced Jude Law and Pretty Persuasion in which she was seduced by Evan Rachel Wood) her claim to fame is Broadway (Deserved Tony winner for Nine and it's not every day that an actress can say the put Penélope Cruz to shame!) and television hilarity (Ally McBeal, 30 Rock). That she doesn't yet have an Emmy and is not likely to win one even for her overachieving brillliance in this last season of 30 Rock is a crime against all humanity. Or at least showbiz.
I love Jane so much that I spent this birthday at her concert in NYC. I felt like she was singing just for me. If that weren't enough of a gift, Cheyenne Jackson also showed up to sing with her.
05 Jane Austen
She only lived to be 41 but those six classic novels are immortal. Filmable, too! Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion. The only one I've never seen a filmed version of is Northanger Abbey but without looking it up on IMDb I feel confident that at least one exists... *looks it up* Yep, a 2007 version with Felicity Jones and Carey Mulligan. Also without Austen there's no Clueless (1995). That's way harsh, Tai.
04 Jane Eyre
Because Hollywood loves her as hard as Rochester does. So many film versions. And also: my god how great was Mia Wasikowska in the last one? Very. When will people realize? Even Meryl Streep was moved enough to give her a shout out in one of her Iron Lady speeches.
So here's to "Mia VashiViKovska!" [sic] and to the eternal Bronte heroine.
03 Jane Campion
The Piano (1993) is one of the greatest films of all time but it's hardly her only treasure. In a better world she'd be as revered as Martin Scorsese or David Fincher or [insert dozens of fawned over male directors]. The only thing I don't love about her is the sheer agony between movies. I'd totally let Sam Neill chop off one of my fingers if I could get a Campion movie every year. Rent Bright Star immediately if you haven't seen it!
02 Baby Jane Hudson
01 Jane Fonda
We began with "Lady Jane" and we end with another... Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda. Thank you to screen legend Henry Fonda for lighting the way. Thank you to 50s director Joshua Logan (of the just discussed Picnic) and Lee Strasberg for nudging her towards the screen. Thank you to ex-husband Roger Vadim for properly exploiting her (Barbarella!). But most of all thank you to Jane for "Bree Daniels" in Klute, "Sally Hyde" in Coming Home, "Judy Bernly" in 9 to 5, "Gloria" in They Shoot Horses Don't They and so many more. So glad she's back to what she does best whether it's on stage (33 Variations), the big screen (Peace Love and Misunderstanding and the forthcoming The Butler) or television (The Newsroom... the whole time watching her in this I kept thinking how great she would have been as "Violet" in the film version of August: Osage County. Sigh).
I dedicate this list to any reader who: is named "Jane", has loved a "Jane", has slept with a "Jane", or has obsessed over a celebrity "Jane". That's got too include a lot of you!