The List: Top 20 girls next door in movies

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." (Courtesy of Warner Home Video)Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.” (Courtesy of Warner Home Video)

They are sweet, kind, smart, simple, sometimes tough and tomboyish, but never vulgar. To celebrate the 90th birthday of Doris Day last week, The List looks at some of the great girl-next-door-type performances in films over the years.

  • 20. Michelle Trachtenberg - Slim and long-limbed, she cut a graceful figure in her lead role in the “Ice Princess” (2005). At the time, she reminded older viewers of the young Leslie Caron or Liza Minnelli.
  • 19. Mandy Moore - She was so darn lovely in “A Walk to Remember” (2002) it was hard to take your eyes off her. The pop sensation was luminous yet grounded.
  • 18. Molly Ringwald - She was the irresistibly lovelorn and underdog protagonist as Samantha Baker in “16 Candles” (1984) about a high school sophomore whose family forgets her 16th birthday. Molly was 16 at the time.
  • 17. Reese Witherspoon - She played the happy, perky and ditsy blonde in “Legally Blonde” (2001). Although she comes over as a living Barbie Doll from Bel Air, we can’t but help like her.
  • 16. Mitzi Gaynor - The bubbly Ms. Gaynor pursued a mysterious middle-aged Frenchman in “South Pacific” (1958) amid unbelievably romantic songs.
  • 15. Kirsten Dunst - After becoming America’s favorite cheerleader it “Bring It On” (2000), she then won us over as the teenage sweetheart in “Spider-Man” (2002).
  • 14. Anne Hathaway - Miss Hathaway charmed us with her natural and distinctive feminine radiance in the enchanting, “The Princess Diaries” (2001).
  • 13. Janet Leigh - Long before the horrific shower scene in “Psycho” (1960), she stole our hearts in “Little Women” (1949) as Meg.
  • 12. Shirley Temple - She was no longer the little girl but a wholesome teenager in the wonderful film “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer” (1947).
  • 11. Shirley Jones - She became America’s favorite musical mom in the “Partridge Family, but it all started when the dewy-eyed star amazed us playing Laurie in “Oklahoma!” (1955) with her girl-next-door wholesomeness.
  • 10. Judy Garland - The ruby-lipped and doe-eyed star sang the “Boy Next Door,” in “Meet me in St. Louis” (1944).
  • 9. Sandra Bullock - She was the Doris Day of the 1990s with films like “Speed” (1994) and “While You Were Sleeping” (1995). “Good Girls Are Back,” blared one magazine with Ms. Bullock on the cover.
  • 8. Teresa Wright - Her debut performance in the “The Little Foxes” (1941) as Bette Davis’ daughter was stunning. She was then magical as Gary Cooper’s dedicated wife (Mrs. Lou Gehrig) in “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942). Ms. Wright was so good, she won Oscar nominations for her first three films.
  • 7. Meg Ryan - With her effervescent personality, she was America’s sweetheart in films like “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993), and “You’ve Got Mail” (1998).
  • 6. Jane Powell - The girl who starred in “Royal Wedding” (1951) and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954), titled her biography “The Girl Next Door.”
  • 5. June Allyson - The tiny blonde embodied the girl-next-door concept in “Two Girls and a Sailor’’ (1944), ‘’Good News’’ (1947) and ‘’Little Women’’ (1949).
  • 4. Sandra Dee - The peppy Ms. Dee seemed the perennial teenager in many of her movies such as “Gidget,” (1959) “Tammy Tell Me True” (1961) and “Tammy and the Doctor.” (1963). In the early 1960s, she was arguably the biggest female teen idol of her time. She married another pop icon, singer Bobby Darin.
  • 3. Donna Reed - She was the paragon of the girl next door, bursting with girlish exuberance. Who can forget her role in 1946 Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s ironic that she won an Oscar playing a prostitute in “From Here to Eternity” (1953).
  • 2. Debbie Reynolds - During the 1950s the bubbly actor-singer-dancer earned the nickname “America’s sweetheart.” Her breakthrough film was 1952’s “Singin’ in the Rain” when she was 19.
  • 1. Doris Day - She was the quintessential girl next door in “On Moonlight Bay” (1951) and again in “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1953). She sang like an angel and looked like one, too.

Special mentions: Grace Kelly, Margaret O’Brien, Gloria DeHaven, Esther Williams, Ann Blyth, Jeanne Crain, Loretta Young, Dorothy McGuire, Natalie Wood, Katie Holmes, Sally Field and Kate Bosworth.

Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: Back Stage East, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Modesto Bee, San Jose Mercury News (California), St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri), The Washington Times, UPI, Associated Press and IMDb.

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