With each aged Hollywood legend who departs these earthly planes – most recently 1950s brunette sex bomb, Jane Russell – comes the sinking feeling that the world is losing something which just isn't being replaced. Joan Collins, once something of a screen siren herself, suggested at the end of last year that, these days, Hollywood just doesn't have enough gorgeous people. She said: "There aren't that many good looking actresses around today. I mean, there's Angelina Jolie and there's... Angelina Jolie. Jennifer Aniston is cute, but I wouldn't call her beautiful."
Well, I don't know if that's necessarily true – depends on what flicks your switch I guess, but true beauty has just as much to do with charisma. While all the stars at the Oscars looked utterly sparkly and gorgeous as they sashayed down the red carpet, every flash of brilliant white teeth was perfectly stage managed; each 'intimate moment' with a partner seemingly choreographed. Male and female, they all look the part, but where are all the punchy personalities that made the stars of the 1940s and 50s go down in history?
While it is understandable that Hollywood actors feel they need to protect themselves from potential paparazzi feeding frenzies, the result seems to be that they give nothing of their true selves away and, through the decades, real superstars have become a dying breed. They might look dazzling in their tuxedos and Givenchi and Chanel Couture gowns, but to be true stars – the sorts of stars who will be forever held with fondness in people's hearts – they need to sparkle from the inside out, to be kooky and funny and sometime outrageous. Just being cool doesn't cut it.
The phenomenon of 'celebrity' has utterly diluted the true meaning of stardom (how can movie stars hold any allure, any mystery when they're constantly pictured in celebrity magazines buying groceries, next to a picture of, I don't know, Kerry Katona also buying groceries?). And the world media does have a habit of taking anything a famous person says and turning into something headline grabbing, which must surely mean they all simply smile and say something sweet when actually their blood could be boiling.
But there was something so brilliant, so kick-ass about the decades of bitching between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The endless quips and digs (from Davis, for example: "The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?") were priceless! Those gorgeous, glamorous women said what they bloody well liked because they were mega stars. If Jennifer Aniston would just say what she actually feels about Angelina Jolie nicking her husband, (instead of, recently: "We've moved on, we're all adults"...snore), and if Angelina wouldn't be so darned nice, going out of her way not to upset her predecessor, then they would both be so much more interesting. Perhaps even Joan Collins would think so.
Today's movie stars (apart from Tom Cruise, of course, but he's mad) want to be private, serious and politically correct. The outspoken Jane Russell types weren't quite so bothered by all that. She said in 2003: "These days I'm a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist." Wouldn't you just love it if Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon, one day, came out with something similarly honest? Even in batty old age, I don't think they'll have it in them.
It's not just the ladies either. We might have plenty of dashing leading men, but they rarely seem to do anything interesting. I couldn't help wishing Christian ManDiva Bale hadn't apologised quite so readily after his expletive-filled rant at a light engineer a couple of years ago. At least it made him exciting: for a short time there he stood out against the backdrop of his homogenous breed.
God forbid it happens any time soon (because I love, love, love him), but when Jack Nicholson pops his clogs, who will step into them? Not just to fill the void of a truly great actor, but the gargantuan character he is? He once said: "With my sunglasses on, I'm Jack Nicholson. Without them I'm fat and 70." If only all it took to turn an actor into a true, sensational superstar was a pair of Ray-Bans.