In honor of Ronda Rousey’s debut in The Expendibles 3 this August, here’s a list of Hollywood warrior woman from Classic Hollywood who may have escaped your attention. They may not have gotten top billing, but they owned these movies.
Karen Stensgard (Ann Sheridan)
Edge of Darkness, Warner Brothers, 1943,
Errol Flynn plays the leader of the underground movement, but Ann Sheridan’s Karen is the driving force. Hard-bitten and ruthless in her dedication to overthrowing their Nazi occupiers, she prevents Flynn from killing her rapist simply because it will upset their own take-over plans. When the uprising finally comes, Karen leads the charge, wielding her weapon and looking like death herself. You don’t want to mess with Norwegian women.
Captain ‘Spitfire’ Stevens (Maureen O’Hara)
Against All Flags, Universal Studios, 1952
While infiltrating a pirate base in Madagascar, Errol Flynn catches the eye of the comely Spitfire. O’Hara’s Stevens is a savvy, competent, and respected pirate captain who saves Flynn’s life, helps bring down the pirate base, and even has her own fencing scene. Definitely not a damsel in distress.
Lady Orietta Arconti (Sylvia Koscina)
Swordsman of Siena, Warner Brothers, 1962
Stewart Granger is a roaming swordsman hired by a cruel Spaniard to protect his fiancée, the beautiful Orietta. A talented swordswoman, and a powerful aristocrat, Orietta not only challenges Granger to a duel and actively plots to have him removed from service, but she’s also the leader of the underground resistance group dedicated to overthrowing the Spanish invaders. Pretty hardcore.
Eula Goodnight (Katherine Hepburn)
Rooster Cogburn (…and the Lady), Paramount Pictures, 1975
When ruthless bandits shoot up her village and kill her father, missionary Eula Goodnight hires John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn to help her hunt down his killers. A cool customer who trades jibes with Wayne, Eula always prays over the bodies of her victims. Moral of the story: you don’t mess with Eula’s family.
Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland)
Wizard of Oz, M-G-M, 1939
Don’t let her youth fool you – starting her Oz career by killing a local gang-boss, Gale assembles an assault force and invades the Eastern Kingdom. After killing the cruel regent and obtaining the peasants’ fealty, she returns to the Emerald City where she uncovers a government conspiracy and forces the Wizard to resign, all without dirtying her pretty blue gingham dress. They don’t make them like that in Kansas anymore.
Got any Classic Hollywood Warrior Women you'd like to add to the list?