Top Five Friday: All the Bitches, Part 3

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It’s been a while since our last two rundowns of some of our favorite bitches in historical costume flicks, so I thought we should revisit some more of our favorite on-screen harpies, harlots, and hoors. Because everybody loves a bad girl!

 

Julianne Moore – Mrs. Cheveley (An Ideal Husband)

 

Elizabeth Taylor – Cleopatra (Cleopatra)

Never was there a sister more intent on doing it for herself than Cleopatra. And even though there are numerous portrayals of the last Queen of Egypt worth mentioning here, you gotta admit that Elizabeth Taylor’s over the top performance is the gold-plated standard for boss bitches.

 

Vivien Leigh – Lady Hamilton (That Hamilton Woman)

Like so many of Vivien Leigh’s roles, you wind up being both seduced and repulsed by the witty, gorgeous, and ruthlessly predatory Lady Hamilton.

Vivien Leigh & Laurence Olivier in "That Hamilton Woman" (1941)

 

Samantha Morton – Margaret Wells (Harlots)

We could easily devote an entire post to all the bad girls in Harlots that deserve to make this list (so stay tuned for future installments), but I think the ambitious madam of Greek Street deserves special mention.

 

Polly Walker – Atia of the Julii (Rome)

Hands down, Atia is my entire reason for watching a show that’s filled with quite a few excellent examples of bad girl bad-assery. What sets her apart? She’s deliciously amoral and completely unrepentant.

 

Got other favorite bad girls? Share them in the comments, and we’ll probably include them in the next installment!

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Website

Sarah discovered her dual passion for history and costume right around the age of twelve. Dragged kicking and screaming to her first Renaissance Faire at Black Point, she was convinced she was going to hate it, but to her surprise, she fell head over heels in love with the world of reenactment and dress up immediately. Her undergraduate degree is in Clothing & Textile Design, and she has a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture. When she’s not hauling crap to SCA events and ren faires, Sarah enjoys reading true crime books, writing fiction, and sewing historical clothing from the Middle Ages through the 20th-century. One of these days, she might even start updating her old costuming blog again.

17 Responses

  1. thedementedfairy

    Livia [Sian Philips] from I Claudius. grrr-owl [I know scifi doesn’t count here, but the ultimate bad bitch was Servalan in Blake’s 7 [Jacqueline Pearce]]

    Reply
    • EA Gorman

      Thank you for mentioning Servalan. She was truly one boss bitch. And even though Blake’s 7 was sci-fi, I think Frock Flicks should take a look at their outfits. They were…remarkable.

      Reply
      • Roxana

        I will never forget Star One where Jenna and Callie beam down to save the guys’ bacon attired in long, narrow skirts and six inch heels.

        Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I have to agree Livia in I Claudius was totally badass. It’s hard to find a bigger badass than Sian Philip’s interpretation of a woman who will do literally everything to make her son emperor. Even killing his younger brother – having him killed. Poison was her method.

    Reply
  3. Donna

    The casting and acting of I Claudius is what spoiled part of the second season of Rome for me. The actor Rome had for their old version of Octavian and the petulant little girl they had for Livia could never have grown up to be Brian Blessed and Sian Phillips.
    Also, the actress playing Cleopaterer in Rome was awful … give me the Glorious Liz for that role every time.
    But, I agree that Atia is why you watch Rome … it is essentially the stories of Atia and Pullo.

    Reply
  4. Adina

    Polly Walker being bitchy is the reason why Rome is on the to-watch list for my mom and I (after we finish s2 of outlander).

    Reply
  5. Julie

    Harriet Walter as Fanny Dashwood in “Sense and Sensibility.” (Her bangs might deserve a stand-alone mention)
    Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone
    (And Olivia Coleman, why not?) as Lady Sarah, Abigail, and Queen Anne in “The Favourite.”

    Reply
  6. Sharon in Scotland

    i have the curse Lesley Duncan’s character recites outside Polly Walker’s house in “Rome”, I aspire to use it one day, although I’m not sure I want to kneel in the dust for 3 days in literal sack cloth and ashes and then kill myself!

    Reply
    • SarahV

      That character was a hoot, but she not really a boss bitch. she more like a parasite, and subject to the whims of others.

      Reply
  7. SarahV

    The best part of the early seasons of Rome was watching the icy frenemy relationship between Atia, old money to be sure, but also bawdy and tacky, vs. the serenely composed and haughty Servilia, played by Lindsay Duncan, who was equally patrician, but just somehow more patrician.

    Atia is one of the best female characters ever created by television (her historical counterpart was nothing like her), and Polly Walker imbued the character with such warmth and humor you found yourself liking her even when she was doing horrible things, especially to her children.

    Reply

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