I have a very unconsciously selective memory. I tend to forget all kinds of things very quickly, but then I remember some things solidly for years for no obvious reason.

The name Deborah Kerr is one of those things I remember. I first and last heard it from Sleepless in Seattle more than 10 years ago and never forgot it. I only knew from SiS that she played a romantic role with Cary Grant in a classic movie but didn’t know that movie or what she looks like. I watched the original The King and I but didn’t know it’s her who played Anna. Who remembers anyone else except Yul Brynner from that movie anyway?

Now that I think of it, it’s not too strange that I remember the name so clearly because I also remember lots of other things in SiS. I might have watched it twice within a short period of time with different family members. I don’t like the essential message that love is destined, though I believe that happens to many people. I do think that many things in the movie are very funny, like the girl who loves acronym (and An Affair to Remember), the woman dated by Tom Hanks who laughs “like a hyena” (I didn’t know what a hyena is until Lion King, but I still thought that’s funny), Tom Hanks shouting to his son “Did you watch Fatal Attraction? It scared the shit out of me! It scared the shit out of every man in America!” and his son shouted back “You didn’t let me watch it!”, and Tom Hanks and his friend couple talking about An Affair to Remember. The wife loves the movie but couldn’t remember whether the actress’s name is Kerr or Karr; both Tom Hanks and the husband don’t care much about it because it’s a chick flick but instantly responded “Kerr”.

Last night the movie was played on an HD channel. I saw Cary Grant and wanted to know what the movie was. When I saw Deborah Kerr in the info I immediately recalled the name and then found out that it’s indeed the movie referenced by SiS. I watched the second half of it, and the ending is indeed pretty good (the women in SiS all cried when talking about it).

What I really want to talk about is not the movies, but the generations of early-to-mid 20th century actresses. J shared the same feeling with me that they have such stunning beauty that’s pure and stoic and transcendent and classical, like Deborah Kerr, who is actually kind of 2nd class compared to Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor (only when she’s young, please), Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Catherine Deneuve, … Now think of current popular actresses, there’s simply no one with that classic beauty any more. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Charlize Theron and Keira Knightly may be close only in certain moments. Sophie Marceau and Halley Berry and Winona Rider are beautiful but more on the cute side. Then there’re some with big mouth or fat lips, some girl-next-door (Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Jennifer Lopez–no not her, Jennifer Connelly–her dad is cooler, Jennifer Garner–no she’s in the next category), some truly bad looking though sometimes good at acting (Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Jessica Parker–uhhh), and a hell lot of sex bombs–speaking of which, how on earth can they compare to Rita Heyworth and Marilyn Monroe?

On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of truly handsome actors, from Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney, to Jude Law. But they also seem to lack the kind of sincerety and gentlemanship of Lawrence Olivier, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, … And how could Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt (I do like him in Snatch, though) compare to James Dean and Marlon Brando? And don’t even think of playing an intoxicating villain like Clark Gable!

Maybe it’s just a temporary phase of human evolution. But if the population at large is getting prettier on average, which seems to be the case as people get more healthy and wealthy, there’s less chance for truly extraordinary beauty to exist if the total amount of beauty is relatively constant.