Today's top ten list was inspired by the passing of the great Joan Fontaine, half of Hollywood's most embittered AND most successful sibling rivalry, all-female division. Usually when a movie star has a sibling, one is considerably less successful than the other which is why the Fontaine & de Havilland business was so enduringly fascinating. (If we're talking mixed gender siblings only Warren Beatty & Shirley Maclaine are truly comparable in terms of parallel mega-careers). I'm dedicating this list to the Talmadge sisters, silent screen stars (though most of their work did not survive) as well as the one and only Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorleac (her gorgeous elder sister who died way too young)... those Young Girls of Rochefort. But Rochefort is a long way from Hollywood.
HOLLYWOOD'S TOP TEN FOURTEEN (ACTRESS) SISTER ACTS
14 Kate Mara (1983-) & Rooney Mara (1985-)
Rooney, currently playing Joaquin's ex-wife in Her, became a very big deal two years ago with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Kate is currently working the Netflix original House of Cards. If Hollywood futures are kind they'll climb this informal list.
13 more actressy-sibling sets after the jump
13 [TIE] Melissa Gilbert (1964-) & Sara Gilbert (1975-)
Phyllicia Rashad (1948-) & Debbie Allen (1950-)
Melissa doesn't act much anymore and Sara is only doing recurring TV parts (recently Web Therapy and The Big Bang Theory) but since they're both crucial elements of two indisputably iconic television series - Little House on the Prairie (74-83) and Roseanne (88-97), respectively -- it would be dumb to leave them off the list. The same goes for Claire Huxtable and Lydia Grant (aka Rashad on the Cosby Show & Allen on Fame) and their many post TV fame accomplishments
12 Natasha Richardson (1963-2009) & Joely Richardson (1965-)
Were it not for that awful tragedy of a skiing accident we could still be enjoying Natasha's work today. In the last ten years of her career she did arguably her finest work on Broadway in the much heralded revival of Cabaret and also had a hit with the remake of The Parent Trap (1998). Meanwhile Joely found television fame and Golden Globe nominations with Nip/Tuck (2003-2010). She'll next be seen in the remake of Endless Love (2014). Neither of them could have ever hoped to surpass their mother, one of the greatest actors who ever lived (and still with us, huzzah), but they both took up the family calling anyway.
11 Constance Bennett (1904-1965) & Joan Bennett (1910-1990)
Constance was a star of the early talkies with roles in Common Clay, What Price Hollywood, Merrily We Live and the Topper franchise. Her last film role was in the Lana Turner film Madame X (1966). Her youngest sister Joan was more famous, oft employed through the 30s and 40s in films like Disraeli, and the Woman in the Window. And she later found cult horror fame headlining television’s Dark Shadows (in the role Michelle Pfeiffer just played for Tim Burton) and the Italian horror classic Suspiria (1977) which was her final movie role. Their middle sister Barbara acted in some silents, too.
THE TOP TEN
10 Juliet Mills (1941-) & Hayley Mills (1946-)
Hayley is everyone's favorite splitscreen twin from the family classic The Parent Trap (1961) and was a child star of considerable fame and popularity in the 60s from Polyanna (1960, Juvenile Oscar) through to That Darn Cat (1965)-- she was even referenced on Mad Men recently. Juliet, her older sister, is less famous but was familiar to anyone who watched popular 70s series for her frequent guest starring gigs. She gained some notoriety in the early 80s for marrying the much younger hunk Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2) -- they're still together! -- and starring in the insane daytime soap Passions.
09 Veronica Cartwright (1949-) & Angela Cartwright (1952-)
Possibly the least famous of the ten sets selected here, nevertheless the Cartwrights careers deserve a spot and their careers are hilariously wide-reaching snapshots of showbiz history. Angela, as a child star, was Brigitta Von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965) and the charismatic scene-stealing daughter of Lost in Space (1965-1968) and Make Room for Daddy (1957-1964)... so that covers sitcoms, sci-fi camp classics, and musical blockbusters right there! Meanwhile Veronica, who was older but came to fame later, worked in a wide variety of films and found her greatest successes in huge horror hits: The Birds (1963), Alien (1979, she was originally slated for the Ripley role!) and The Witches of Eastwick (1987). After Angela retired from acting in the 80s, Veronica picked up her TV slack with numerous guest gigs. So basically, between the two of them, everything. (If Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk aren't considering Veronica for American Horror Story, they belong in an asylum.)
but then I remembered that Lana, whose original claim to fame was being Natalie's sister and co-starring on the Peyton Place TV series, will always have Bond Girl status from "Plenty O'Toole" and Lorna will always have Grease 2 so we'll let their relative obscurity slide. Oh, and Natalie & Liza with a Z... LEGENDS. They need no explanation.
07 Jennifer Tilly (1958-) & Meg Tilly (1960-)
They're the only sister actresses in history, apart from Olivia & Joan and Vanessa & Lynn higher in the list, to have both won Oscar's favor. Younger Meg got started first as a dancer in the hit movie Fame (1980) and was nominated as that stigmata-plagued nun in Agnes of God (1985). Jennifer's career was slower to start but had longer legs once she got going, peaking with that remarkable comedic bullseye in Bullets Over Broadway (1994). "Charmed. Charmed." They're both still acting and Jennifer, at least, is well funded from voice work on the Chucky films and The Family Guy; she was already a living cartoon so why not also voice them?
06 Rosanna Arquette (1959-), Patricia Arquette (1968-), and Alexis Arquette (1969-)
Rosanna's career started on TV in the 70s and she was famous by the early 80s, with #1 hit songs about her ("Rosanna" by Toto) and starring roles in scrappy small films (Baby It's You, Desperately Seeking Susan). Another reason to love Rosanna? She directed the Actressexual™ documentary classic Searching For Debra Winger. But what hath she wrought? Virtually ALL of her younger siblings from a gigantic brood followed her into showbiz. Every movie and television show must feature at least one Arquette somewhere in its scrolling credits. It's the law. Patricia was briefly in demand in the movies in the mid-90s and made a number of interesting ones (True Romance, Lost Highway, Flirting With Disaster) but found more regular success on television winning the Emmy for Medium and recently appearing on Boardwalk Empire. Alexis's film debut was as "Georgette" in Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) but her best known film role is the effeminate band member in The Wedding Singer (1998). I fell hardest for her in Wigstock: The Movie (1995) which is a must for any younger readers for whom RuPaul's Drag Race was the introduction to all things genderbending.
05 Dakota Fanning (1994-) & Elle Fanning (1998-)
We're still 10 (?) years away from knowing if these are careers that will go down in history but for now they seem like the Most Likely child/teen stars to become full fledged celebrated regular ol' movie stars some day. Dakota hasn't yet been able to truly recapture the intense media interest / sensation of her wiser than her years breakout in I Am Sam (2001) but she probably came closest with her risque Cherry-bombing in The Runaways (2010) which probably bodes well for her next few pictures. Elle, meanwhile, is capturing the attention of the fashionistas and occassionally the moviegoers most notably for her strong work in Sofia Coppola's Somewhere (2010). Pity that no one saw her best performance yet in Ginger and Rosa (2012). They Fannings are undoubtedly famous which is enough for now. But will they build filmographies that justify all the attention?
04 Magda Gabor (1915-1997), Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-) & Eva Gabor (1919-1995)
If the Gabor sisters, Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva had lived in this era of 24/7 celebrity-fueled media circuses with insatiable paparazzi and reality television, they would have been even more spectacularly famous. The wealthy Hungarian immigrants married often and well (19 husbands between the three of them... with George Sanders of All About Eve married to two of them at different times!) while occassionally acting in movies or television (Eva had the biggest hits with the sitcom Green Acres and Disney voicework). But mostly they were famous for just being their entitled glamorous selves.
02 Vanessa Redgrave (1937-) & Lynn Redgrave, (1943-2010)
I typed up this whole list and somehow skipped them. Other than Joan & Olivia they're the only sister actresses to receive multiple Oscar nominations (and a win in Vanessa's case) and they competed head to head too. But unlike Joan & Olivia, they were close.
01 Olivia de Havilland (1916-) & Joan Fontaine (1917-2013)
They fought over everything: boyfriends, their parents, the family name as stage name, and the Oscars. Along with #1 runners up Vanessa & Lynn, they're the only siblings to ever compete head-to-head in an Oscar competition - Joan won that round, though Olivia later won two statues). Eventually they refused to speak at all which seems incongruously petty from the outside especially for two actresses with such classy comportment and so much talent. But for all the gossipy fun of speculating about their feud, it must never be forgotten that they were magnificent onscreen in classic films like Gone With the Wind, The Heiress, The Adventures of Robin Hood (Olivia) and Rebecca, Letter from an Unknown Woman, and Suspicion (Joan). No other sister act has ever been able to touch them.
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