I Only Make Passes at Boys Who Wear Glasses

Some women like men who drive fast cars; others prefer men with an athletic build while some find a uniform irresistible. Me? I appreciate a good pair of spectacles.

During a recent trip to the eye doctor I started thinking about all my favorite actors who have worn eyeglasses such as the indispensable, Sir Michael Caine. Caine’s eyewear became part of his personality in the ‘60s. He was witty, charming, a notorious lady’s man, and part of his appeal was those thick dark rimmed glasses he often wore. They gave him a mischievous and cultured look that was somewhat at odds with his thick Cockney accent and seemed to represent the very essence of Britannia style cool. If something was swinging in old London town, you could be sure that Michael Caine knew it.

Some of my other favorite performers who regularly sported a pair of spectacles when they weren’t working include James Dean, who was often caught wearing glasses during rehearsals in candid shots that seemed to capture a more intimate side of the actor. While Dean is often considered the quintessential King of Hollywood cool he was also a complex man with many different facets to his personality and his glasses became part of his eternal mystique. Peter O’Toole, Marcello Mastroianni and Alain Delon all wore glasses but they rarely wore them in films until they were middle aged. O’Tool briefly models eyewear in HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (1966) and Mastroianni famously wore glasses when his was portraying Guido Anselmi in Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963). And although Alain Delon rarely wore anything but sunglasses in front of the camera, he’s responsible for lending his name to a popular line of men’s eyewear in France.

Many other actors I admire have used glasses to create memorable characters who are trying to solve life’s problems such as Peter Lorre did in 20th Century Fox’s MR. MOTO (1937-1939) films. Mr. Moto was a Japanese detective working for Interpol and his glasses made him appear wiser than his years as he went after notorious criminals and greedy villains. Richard Burton effectively used glasses to become George, the struggling associate professor of history and failed writer trying to cope with a succession of disappointments in WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (1966). And who can forget Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch in TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD (1962)? Peck’s glasses helped transform him into a caring father and thoughtful Southern lawyer eager to right a small town’s wrongs. Paul Newman regularly wore glasses off screen but he also used them to add nuance to his role in THE PRIZE (1963) where he portrayed a burned out writer coping with alcoholism who finds himself entangled in a complex espionage plot.

Glasses have also been worn by some of my favorite actors and comedians when they want to seem particularly funny or simpleminded such as Cary Grant in BRINGING UP BABY (1938) or Jerry Lewis in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963). Even Ray Milland got into the act in THE TROUBLE WITH WOMEN (1947) where he plays Gilbert Sedley, a sexually inexperienced and naïve professor with outdated views about women. Lots of funny men like Harold Lloyd, Groucho Marx and Woody Allen used glasses to help cultivate their memorable screen personas but my favorite funny man who effectively wore spectacles throughout most of his career is Peter Sellers. Sellers didn’t always wear his glasses but in some of his most memorable performances in films like THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (1959), LOLITA (1962), DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964) and WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? (1965) his eyewear became a valuable prop that gave him a distinct personality or helped showcase his quirky character traits.

Eyeglasses have also transformed some of my favorite actors into dangerous men with suspect motives. Humphrey Bogart always seems somewhat menacing but he’s perfectly creepy in THE RETURN OF DR. X (1939) where he plays Dr. Maurice Xavier, an evil scientist with pasty skin, streaked hair and . . . eyeglasses! In the SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) Burt Lancaster convincingly transformed himself into a heartless and power hungry newspaper columnist with a pair of glasses and in 10 RILLINGTON PLACE (1971) Richard Attenborough successfully masks his murderous intentions behind his humble spectacles. Last but certainly not least, Donald Pleasence wore glasses regularly and often played threatening characters but in DR. CRIPPEN (1964) he managed to play a somewhat sympathetic killer with a romantic streak that credibly woos the lovely Samantha Eggar. Without his eyeglasses Pleasence can look threatening and unapproachable but spectacles seem to soften up his distinct features and make him appear more vulnerable.

These are just a few of my favored examples of actor’s that have worn glasses for personal or professional reasons and they also happen to look great in them. Have some of your own favorites? Please feel free to share them in the comment thread!

0 Response I Only Make Passes at Boys Who Wear Glasses
Posted By JackFavell : August 16, 2012 3:12 pm

I’m a glasses girl myself and find men in glasses almost irresistible.

My favorites include:

Last month’s TCM Star of the Month, Leslie Howard! I adore his round glasses in films like Pygmalion and Stand In.

William Holden in Born Yesterday.

Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep book store scene, even though they are technically sunglasses.

Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Posted By JackFavell : August 16, 2012 3:12 pm

I’m a glasses girl myself and find men in glasses almost irresistible.

My favorites include:

Last month’s TCM Star of the Month, Leslie Howard! I adore his round glasses in films like Pygmalion and Stand In.

William Holden in Born Yesterday.

Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep book store scene, even though they are technically sunglasses.

Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Posted By Emgee : August 16, 2012 3:45 pm

Being a speccie myself, i’m glad to hear a woman sing the praises of bespectacled men. But aren’t these just devilishly goodlooking men who occasionally wore glasses onscreen? And usually after filming left them in the props department they got them from?

How about Woody Allen? Harold Lloyd, then?

Posted By Emgee : August 16, 2012 3:45 pm

Being a speccie myself, i’m glad to hear a woman sing the praises of bespectacled men. But aren’t these just devilishly goodlooking men who occasionally wore glasses onscreen? And usually after filming left them in the props department they got them from?

How about Woody Allen? Harold Lloyd, then?

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 16, 2012 3:47 pm

Jack Favell – Great call on Leslie Howard and William Holden! I like them both a lot and you mentioned some great roles.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 16, 2012 3:47 pm

Jack Favell – Great call on Leslie Howard and William Holden! I like them both a lot and you mentioned some great roles.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 16, 2012 3:51 pm

Emgee – If you actually took the time to read my post before commenting you’d notice that 1) I discuss – in detail – the differences between actors that wore their specs off screen instead of on screen, 2) I included actors like Peter Lorre, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers & Donald Pleasence who aren’t particularly known for their “devilish good looks” although I personally find them appealing and 3) I mentioned Woody Allen & Harold Lloyd.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 16, 2012 3:51 pm

Emgee – If you actually took the time to read my post before commenting you’d notice that 1) I discuss – in detail – the differences between actors that wore their specs off screen instead of on screen, 2) I included actors like Peter Lorre, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers & Donald Pleasence who aren’t particularly known for their “devilish good looks” although I personally find them appealing and 3) I mentioned Woody Allen & Harold Lloyd.

Posted By Emgee : August 16, 2012 4:02 pm

Should have put my glasses on.

Posted By Emgee : August 16, 2012 4:02 pm

Should have put my glasses on.

Posted By Margaret Perry Movies : August 16, 2012 4:16 pm

Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby is my favorite! I cast him as James Potter in Harry Potter for my contribution to the Great Recasting Blogathon!
http://thegreatkh.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/the-great-recasting-blogathon-2012.html

Posted By Margaret Perry Movies : August 16, 2012 4:16 pm

Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby is my favorite! I cast him as James Potter in Harry Potter for my contribution to the Great Recasting Blogathon!
http://thegreatkh.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/the-great-recasting-blogathon-2012.html

Posted By swac44 : August 16, 2012 5:00 pm

I should note that I’ve just started wearing glasses as of late last year … but I really only need them to watch movies with.

So…who’s up for a screening?

Posted By swac44 : August 16, 2012 5:00 pm

I should note that I’ve just started wearing glasses as of late last year … but I really only need them to watch movies with.

So…who’s up for a screening?

Posted By swac44 : August 16, 2012 5:09 pm

For some reason, whenever I think of eyeglasses and movies, the first thought is of Alex Rocco’s poor Moe Green.

I’ve never seen The Grass Is Greener with Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum, but this still makes me think that I should.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_a1QrXbQa9-I/TIIVtPQCaoI/AAAAAAAACeU/zZY0Qui5xYA/s1600/Cary+%26+Robert.jpg

Posted By swac44 : August 16, 2012 5:09 pm

For some reason, whenever I think of eyeglasses and movies, the first thought is of Alex Rocco’s poor Moe Green.

I’ve never seen The Grass Is Greener with Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum, but this still makes me think that I should.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_a1QrXbQa9-I/TIIVtPQCaoI/AAAAAAAACeU/zZY0Qui5xYA/s1600/Cary+%26+Robert.jpg

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 16, 2012 5:13 pm

Margaret – Grant is terrific in BRINGING UP BABY! He also wears glasses in MONKEY BUSINESS and a few of his later films if I’m not mistaken.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 16, 2012 5:13 pm

Margaret – Grant is terrific in BRINGING UP BABY! He also wears glasses in MONKEY BUSINESS and a few of his later films if I’m not mistaken.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 16, 2012 5:26 pm

swac – I got my first pair of glasses when I was 11 years old but I got viciously teased & bullied the first day I wore them in public so after that I refused to wear them until I was about 21. I retrospect I stupidly spent my teenage years in a fog but I ended up getting contacts later. These days I regularly wear glasses or contacts depending on my mood. Glasses are considered somewhat trendy & fashionable so hopefully kids can wear them now without getting teased.

I’ve never seen THE GRASS IS GREENER but it sure has a great cast (Deborah Kerr & Jean Simmons too!). I’m going to have to track it down myself.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 16, 2012 5:26 pm

swac – I got my first pair of glasses when I was 11 years old but I got viciously teased & bullied the first day I wore them in public so after that I refused to wear them until I was about 21. I retrospect I stupidly spent my teenage years in a fog but I ended up getting contacts later. These days I regularly wear glasses or contacts depending on my mood. Glasses are considered somewhat trendy & fashionable so hopefully kids can wear them now without getting teased.

I’ve never seen THE GRASS IS GREENER but it sure has a great cast (Deborah Kerr & Jean Simmons too!). I’m going to have to track it down myself.

Posted By Grand Old Movies : August 16, 2012 7:11 pm

Great point about Harold Lloyd, for whom eyeglasses on screen were essential. Apparently Lloyd didn’t find his comic persona until he put the eyeglasses on, and his onscreen character was known as the ‘glass’ character.

O’Toole with spectacles on looks DEVASTATINGLY handsome in that photo!

Posted By Grand Old Movies : August 16, 2012 7:11 pm

Great point about Harold Lloyd, for whom eyeglasses on screen were essential. Apparently Lloyd didn’t find his comic persona until he put the eyeglasses on, and his onscreen character was known as the ‘glass’ character.

O’Toole with spectacles on looks DEVASTATINGLY handsome in that photo!

Posted By muriel : August 16, 2012 7:11 pm

How about Robert Mitchum who in real life wore huge geeky glasses with “coke bottle” lenses? He really needed glasses, but rarely wore them on screen.

Posted By muriel : August 16, 2012 7:11 pm

How about Robert Mitchum who in real life wore huge geeky glasses with “coke bottle” lenses? He really needed glasses, but rarely wore them on screen.

Posted By Cary Watson : August 16, 2012 7:56 pm

Glasses can help create a character, and they also make a great prop for expressing moods or decisions. If an actor snatches his glasses it’s a sign of anger; glasses removed and tapped against the chin signal contemplation; biting on the earpiece shows tension; and so on and so on. As a prop, glasses are the healthy alternative to cigarettes. I always identify Mastroianni with sunglasses, not glasses. In the 10th Victim he’s constantly lowering them slightly with one finger to look with bemusement at something. King of the specs goes to Caine: he had a trick of tilting his head back in scenes as though trying to get a better focus on what was happening around him. In Billion Dollar Brain his glasses are part of the opening credits by Maurice Binder. I’ve got the credits attached to my review of the film:

http://www.jettisoncocoon.com/2012/06/film-review-billion-dollar-brain-1967.html

Posted By Cary Watson : August 16, 2012 7:56 pm

Glasses can help create a character, and they also make a great prop for expressing moods or decisions. If an actor snatches his glasses it’s a sign of anger; glasses removed and tapped against the chin signal contemplation; biting on the earpiece shows tension; and so on and so on. As a prop, glasses are the healthy alternative to cigarettes. I always identify Mastroianni with sunglasses, not glasses. In the 10th Victim he’s constantly lowering them slightly with one finger to look with bemusement at something. King of the specs goes to Caine: he had a trick of tilting his head back in scenes as though trying to get a better focus on what was happening around him. In Billion Dollar Brain his glasses are part of the opening credits by Maurice Binder. I’ve got the credits attached to my review of the film:

http://www.jettisoncocoon.com/2012/06/film-review-billion-dollar-brain-1967.html

Posted By David : August 16, 2012 10:07 pm

In addition to THE TROUBLE WITH WOMEN for Ray Milland, how about X, THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES for a formidable pair of sunglasses. For Vincent Price, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, another imposing set of shades.
How do people feel about Harrison Ford’s studious Dr. Jones, mild mannered History professor in RAIDERS etc?

Posted By David : August 16, 2012 10:07 pm

In addition to THE TROUBLE WITH WOMEN for Ray Milland, how about X, THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES for a formidable pair of sunglasses. For Vincent Price, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, another imposing set of shades.
How do people feel about Harrison Ford’s studious Dr. Jones, mild mannered History professor in RAIDERS etc?

Posted By Susan Doll : August 16, 2012 10:37 pm

Such a cute post.

Like JackFavell,I love the scene with Bogart in The Big Sleep where he puts on the glasses in the book shop. But, for pure sex appeal, I gotta go with James Dean.

Posted By Susan Doll : August 16, 2012 10:37 pm

Such a cute post.

Like JackFavell,I love the scene with Bogart in The Big Sleep where he puts on the glasses in the book shop. But, for pure sex appeal, I gotta go with James Dean.

Posted By Jenni : August 16, 2012 11:46 pm

What a fun post! I agree, that shot of Peter O’Toole is wonderful, and as a new glasses wearer myself, I often look over the tops of my specs, too. I think his goatee ads to his look.
I just watched Monkey Business last week on Netflix, and yes, Cary sports a pair of coke bottle glasses. Got to find that Ray Milland pic you mentioned-it sounds great, with him playing a naive professor and all.

Posted By Jenni : August 16, 2012 11:46 pm

What a fun post! I agree, that shot of Peter O’Toole is wonderful, and as a new glasses wearer myself, I often look over the tops of my specs, too. I think his goatee ads to his look.
I just watched Monkey Business last week on Netflix, and yes, Cary sports a pair of coke bottle glasses. Got to find that Ray Milland pic you mentioned-it sounds great, with him playing a naive professor and all.

Posted By frida kwena : August 17, 2012 5:57 am

nice… at least we share something in common!! (^^)

Posted By frida kwena : August 17, 2012 5:57 am

nice… at least we share something in common!! (^^)

Posted By Klara : August 17, 2012 2:13 pm

Very cute post, Kimberly!

I had a men’s specific post some time ago, in which I realized, definitively, how I tend to go for the nicest men. My favorite film characters are the ones who are extremely kind-hearted. So I definitely have the nice-guys-finish-first mentality — my only real departure from that thinking tends to be my lifelong Bond fixation ;)-

But what a fun call on smart guys with glasses! One of my personal favorites on your list is Marcello in 8+1/2 and I also love the early Cary Grants, like Bringing up Baby :)

Posted By Klara : August 17, 2012 2:13 pm

Very cute post, Kimberly!

I had a men’s specific post some time ago, in which I realized, definitively, how I tend to go for the nicest men. My favorite film characters are the ones who are extremely kind-hearted. So I definitely have the nice-guys-finish-first mentality — my only real departure from that thinking tends to be my lifelong Bond fixation ;)-

But what a fun call on smart guys with glasses! One of my personal favorites on your list is Marcello in 8+1/2 and I also love the early Cary Grants, like Bringing up Baby :)

Posted By robbushblog : August 18, 2012 12:33 pm

From the opposite gender: I prefer women without glasses except in rare cases. I wore thick, Coke-bottle glasses for 12 of my formative years, so naturally I hate them, but Marilyn’s horn-rimmed glasses in How to Marry a Millionaire did not make her less attractive.

Posted By robbushblog : August 18, 2012 12:33 pm

From the opposite gender: I prefer women without glasses except in rare cases. I wore thick, Coke-bottle glasses for 12 of my formative years, so naturally I hate them, but Marilyn’s horn-rimmed glasses in How to Marry a Millionaire did not make her less attractive.

Posted By Adam : August 18, 2012 11:35 pm

I immediately think of Dustin Hoffman’s cracked glasses in ‘Straw Dogs’ (a great image of a reality shattered) and of Gene Hackman’s reserved Harry Caul in ‘The Coversation’.

Posted By Adam : August 18, 2012 11:35 pm

I immediately think of Dustin Hoffman’s cracked glasses in ‘Straw Dogs’ (a great image of a reality shattered) and of Gene Hackman’s reserved Harry Caul in ‘The Coversation’.

Posted By Bronxgirl48 : August 19, 2012 12:08 am

I second Leslie Howard!

Adore seeing hunkily-built men wearing cheaters.
Check out Rod Taylor in A CATERED AFFAIR. For some
reason, he’s sexier here playing a Bronx accountant
than in THE TIME MACHINE, lol.

Posted By Bronxgirl48 : August 19, 2012 12:08 am

I second Leslie Howard!

Adore seeing hunkily-built men wearing cheaters.
Check out Rod Taylor in A CATERED AFFAIR. For some
reason, he’s sexier here playing a Bronx accountant
than in THE TIME MACHINE, lol.

Posted By Bronxgirl48 : August 19, 2012 12:26 am

My poor aging Baby Boomer brain, let me correct
myself, lol. Rod’s profession in THE CATERED AFFAIR is
teacher, not accountant.

I used to have a crush on Bela Lugosi when I was
growing up, and think he played some roles
wearing glasses, but they didn’t do a thing for him.
For some reason, his mysterious, brooding Magyar features were
more compelling without them, all the better to focus on
those magnetic, hypnotic eyes, whereas his “rival”
Boris Karloff had a sort of “tweedy” Brit persona and a
sculptural face that lent itself to the wearing of
spectacles.

I love your article!

Posted By Bronxgirl48 : August 19, 2012 12:26 am

My poor aging Baby Boomer brain, let me correct
myself, lol. Rod’s profession in THE CATERED AFFAIR is
teacher, not accountant.

I used to have a crush on Bela Lugosi when I was
growing up, and think he played some roles
wearing glasses, but they didn’t do a thing for him.
For some reason, his mysterious, brooding Magyar features were
more compelling without them, all the better to focus on
those magnetic, hypnotic eyes, whereas his “rival”
Boris Karloff had a sort of “tweedy” Brit persona and a
sculptural face that lent itself to the wearing of
spectacles.

I love your article!

Posted By Heidi : August 20, 2012 12:06 pm

From a girl who wears glasses, I am surprised that I appreciate a bald head more than glasses. Go figure! Yul Brynner “just sends me!”

Posted By Heidi : August 20, 2012 12:06 pm

From a girl who wears glasses, I am surprised that I appreciate a bald head more than glasses. Go figure! Yul Brynner “just sends me!”

Posted By JackFavell : August 20, 2012 12:07 pm

Bronxie, I can’t believe I forgot Rod Taylor! Yum.

Posted By JackFavell : August 20, 2012 12:07 pm

Bronxie, I can’t believe I forgot Rod Taylor! Yum.

Posted By Bronxgirl48 : August 21, 2012 10:59 pm

Jackie, I wish I had a teacher like Rod when I was
growing up, lol.

Posted By Bronxgirl48 : August 21, 2012 10:59 pm

Jackie, I wish I had a teacher like Rod when I was
growing up, lol.

Posted By Juana Maria : August 23, 2012 8:12 pm

I agree that most of the men in the photos are quite handsome! With a few exceptions,Donald Pleasace,ugh! Not attractive to me..maybe to someone else. Anyway,I’m with Heidi,and somebody named Lisa W. who writes from time to time on Movie Morlorks,we all love Yul Brynner. Though,I never really thought it was because of his bald head,for me it is his intense eyes! Often it is a man’s eyes that I find mesmerizing!! Peter O’ Toole has beautiful eyes. I have always been more of “men with moustaches” kind of girl. Tom Selleck,L.Q. Jones,and Lee Van Cleef all look better with their moustaches!! Don’t they? Well to me anyway!! Ha ha. I simpathize with anyone who has to wear glasses,because I have worn them since I was 5 yrs. old. I never have had contact lenses yet.

Posted By Juana Maria : August 23, 2012 8:12 pm

I agree that most of the men in the photos are quite handsome! With a few exceptions,Donald Pleasace,ugh! Not attractive to me..maybe to someone else. Anyway,I’m with Heidi,and somebody named Lisa W. who writes from time to time on Movie Morlorks,we all love Yul Brynner. Though,I never really thought it was because of his bald head,for me it is his intense eyes! Often it is a man’s eyes that I find mesmerizing!! Peter O’ Toole has beautiful eyes. I have always been more of “men with moustaches” kind of girl. Tom Selleck,L.Q. Jones,and Lee Van Cleef all look better with their moustaches!! Don’t they? Well to me anyway!! Ha ha. I simpathize with anyone who has to wear glasses,because I have worn them since I was 5 yrs. old. I never have had contact lenses yet.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : August 25, 2012 11:44 am

Well, obviously I approve. As a child of the 70s, I grew up dressed in horrible fashions (Banlon – ugh!), fat and with long hair. I envied trim, even small men in old movies who wore dark, sober suits and eyeglasses. I so wanted to be those guys in 50s sci-fi movies — another to add to your list would be Gene Barry in War of the Worlds. I still think it’s a great look.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : August 25, 2012 11:44 am

Well, obviously I approve. As a child of the 70s, I grew up dressed in horrible fashions (Banlon – ugh!), fat and with long hair. I envied trim, even small men in old movies who wore dark, sober suits and eyeglasses. I so wanted to be those guys in 50s sci-fi movies — another to add to your list would be Gene Barry in War of the Worlds. I still think it’s a great look.

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