No, she isn’t


When I heard (weeks after everyone else) that People Magazine had crowned 40-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow the World’s Most Beautiful Woman, I was startled at the magnitude of my reaction.  (I was startled that I had a reaction at all.) 

My issue was not looks.  She’s a pretty woman.  (But not in the class of, say, Halle Berry, at 40.) 


My problem with Gwyneth goes back to Shakespeare In Love, a wonderfully clever and romantic movie about Shakespeare, shaped like one of his own comedies, with characters in disguise wreaking havoc on the rest.  Gwyneth plays a pants role.  Since women were forbidden from appearing on the stage, she disguises herself as a young man and is hired to act in Shakespeare’s plays.  From her mouth comes some of the most beautiful lines (this one from Romeo and Juliet):

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

This is one of the few DVDs I have ever bought (to watch on a trip). Then I made a terrible mistake.  I opened one of the ‘feature’ additions on the disk, some candid interviews with the creators and cast.  I do not remember her exact words, and will not go back to relive the trauma, but she said something like: This was a really cool movie, you know, we had so much fun.

Through my boyish simplicity, I had completely believed her in the movie, had invested in her all the intelligence, wit, and charm of her character.  She shattered it.  Now she was just a semi-literate actress reading lines exactly as directed.

I hoped that with her new title she might help me past my pain.  But the World’s Most Beautiful Woman said (among other things), “I was very, very honored. It’s a huge title, even though it’s not true. I always see what’s wrong with me. I’ve got crow’s feet, and one boob is sagging more than the other.”

We remain unreconciled.

It is ironic that she is not even the hottest woman in her own family.  This is her mother, the very classy, very middle-aged Blythe Danner.  Now here is a woman who could rock a man’s world!  Most beautiful?  Not to a young eye, but certainly to a wiser, older one.


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