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Leading lady is a term often applied to the leading actress in the performance if her character is the protagonist. It is also an informal term for the actress who plays a secondary lead, usually a love interest, to the leading actor in a film or play.
A leading lady can also be an actress of renown. For example, Lynn Fontanne and Helen Hayes were both referred to as the "leading lady of the theatre" in their time. Similarly, Mary Pickford was called the "leading lady" of the cinema.
The term has been applied to an actress who is often associated with one particular actor. For example, Olivia de Havilland was Errol Flynn's leading lady in several films, Katharine Hepburn had a similar association with Spencer Tracy, Lauren Bacall with Humphrey Bogart, and Maureen O'Hara with John Wayne. A leading lady is also an actress who is typecast in romantic supporting roles.
The term can also be used collectively; for example, the phrase "Hollywood's leading ladies" can be used to refer to a group of notable, famous, or popular actresses.
Modern day leading ladies include: Amy Adams, Jennifer Aniston, Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Sandra Bullock, Glenn Close, Olivia Colman, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Jamie Lee Curtis, Judi Dench, Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Amy Poehler, Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Sarah Paulson, Mary Steenburgen, Cameron Diaz, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Gal Gadot, Anne Hathaway, Isabelle Huppert, Kate Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, Angelina Jolie, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Frances McDormand, Melissa McCarthy, Shirley MacLaine, Bette Midler, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Natalie Portman, Candice Bergen, Jennifer Tilly, Annette Bening, Margot Robbie, Julia Roberts, Saoirse Ronan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Sarandon, Emma Stone, Elle Fanning, Hailee Steinfeld, Anya Taylor-Joy, Meryl Streep, Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Alicia Vikander, Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, and Renée Zellweger.
Minnie Mouse, an anthropomorphic animated character, has been the most notable and most successful cartoon leading lady for The Walt Disney Company over the generations, who mostly portrays the secondary lead roles to her respective boyfriend and the company's mascot Mickey Mouse.
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