In celebration of our upcoming Anti Damsel Blogathon on August 15 & 16, I had this idea to provide a list of bold, brilliant and beautiful women!
From the heyday of Silent film and the advent of talking pictures, to the late ‘20s to 1934 Pre-Code Hollywood, films were rife with provocative and suggestive images, where women were kicking up a storm on screen… The end of the code during the early 60s dared to offer social commentary about race, class, gender and sexuality! That’s our party!
In particular, these bold women and the screen roles they adopted have become legendary. They sparked catchy dialogue, inspired fashion trends, or just plain inspired us… All together there are 111 of SOME of the most determined, empowered and uniquely fortified femmes of classic film…!
First of course I consulted the maven of all things splendid, shimmery and SILENT for her take on silent film actresses and the parts that made them come alive on the immortal screen…. Fritzi at Movies Silently has summoned up these fabulous femmes….
Stars like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck , Joan Crawford and Ida Lupino managed to keep re-inventing themselves. They became spirited women with an inner reserve of strength and a passion for following their desires!
This post is a collaboration between Fritzi of Movies Silently and me, Joey, here on the Last Drive In.
1. Helen (Miriam Nesbitt) in The Ambassador’s Daughter (1913): This short film from Thomas Edison’s motion picture studio features espionage and a quick-thinking heroine. She tracks down spies at the embassy, follows her suspect and manages to steal back the documents that he purloined from her father. Not at all bad for a film made seven years before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified.
2. Helen (Helen Holmes) in A Lass of the Lumberlands (1916): Helen Holmes was an action star who specialized in train-related stunts and adventure. In this 1916 serial, she saves the day on numerous occasions and even saves her love interest from peril on the train tracks. (It should be mentioned that the Victorian “woman tied to the train tracks” cliche was incredibly rare and usually treated with ridicule in silent films.) This is another movie that is missing and presumed lost.
3. Diana Monti (Musidora) in Judex (1916): Not all the empowered women in classic film were heroines. In the case of Musidora, her most famous roles were as criminals. She was the deadly thief/hit-woman Irma Vep in Les Vampires and then took on the titular caped crusader in Judex. Smart, stealthy and likely to slip a stiletto between the ribs… in short, a woman not to be trifled with.
4. Ossi (Ossi Oswalda) in The Doll (1919): Ernst Lubitsch featured another feisty heroine in this surreal comedy. Our hero wishes to dodge marriage but cannot gain his inheritance without a bride. A plan! He will buy a lifelike doll from a famous toymaker and marry that. What he doesn’t know is that the doll was broken, the toymaker’s daughter has taken its place and she means to teach the reluctant bridegroom a lesson. Oswalda’s mischievous antics are a delight.
5. Lulu (Lois Wilson) in Miss Lulu Bett (1921): Independent women weren’t always given to violence and thievery. In the case of Lulu, she is a single woman trapped in two Victorian social conventions: spinster and poor relation. During the course of the film, she rejects both titles, learns her own self-worth and empowers herself to enter into a healthy relationship with the local schoolmaster. Tasty feminism!
6. Rischka (Pola Negri) in The Wildcat (1921): Ernst Lubitsch’s hyperactive Dr. Seussian comedy is worth seeing for the sets alone but the best part is Pola Negri’s Rischka, a young bandit queen who is terrorizing the mountains. She meets the local Lothario during a robbery and by the end of the scene she has stolen his heart. And his pants.
7. The Countess (Pola Negri) in A Woman of the World (1925): Anyone who thought going to Hollywood would tame Pola Negri’s wild side had another thing coming. In this film, she plays a countess whose skull tattoo causes an uproar in Anytown, USA. The film also features a romance between Negri and the stuffy local prosecutor, who soon finds himself on the receiving end of her bullwhip. Not a metaphor.
8. Catherine the Great (Louise Dresser) in The Eagle (1925): Rudolph Valentino specialized in aggressive wooing but he finds the shoe on the other foot in this Russian romance. Louise Dresser is a kick as the assertive czarina who knows what she likes and goes for it.
9. Cornelia Van Gorder (Emily Fitzroy) in The Bat (1926): It’s a dark and stormy night and a murderous costumed villain means to recover stolen loot in an isolated mansion. What is an elderly woman to do? Take up her trusty pistol and investigate, of course! She also wields a dry wit and keeps cool under pressure. The Bat doesn’t stand a chance.
10. Eve (Leatrice Joy) in Eve’s Leaves (1926): Another gender reversal comedy, Eve’s Leaves features twenties fashion icon Leatrice Joy as a tomboy sailor who finds the perfect man while ashore on business. She ends up saving the day– and her favorite dude in distress– through quick thinking, a knowledge of knots and a mean right hook.
11. Molly (Mary Pickford) in Sparrows (1926): Mary Pickford was America’s Sweetheart during the silent era and audiences adored her fearless heroines. Molly is one of her boldest. She’s an orphan raised in a Southern swamp who must rescue a kidnapped infant. The epic final race across the swamps– complete with alligators– is still harrowing to behold.
12. Zaida (Bebe Daniels) in She’s a Sheik (1927): Silent movie audiences enjoyed reversals of gender tropes. The Rudolph Valentino vehicle The Sheik (1921) had been a smash hit and had spawned many rip-offs and parodies. (kidnapping + love = box office success!) In this case, a warrior princess falls for a French officer and decides the most sensible course of action is to abduct him for the purpose of marriage. Sadly, this comedy seems to be one of many silent films that is missing and presumed lost.
13. Gilda Carson/Erickson (Dorothy Mackaill) Safe in Hell (1931): Gilda is a complex cigarette smoking call girl who is laid back about her status as a working girl. When a friend calls her up to meet a guy whose wife is out of town she tells her “Okay, I’ll go right into my dance.” When Gilda is accused of murdering the man who rapes her, she flees New Orleans and seeks refuge in the Caribbean. But even there she is surrounded and must fend off criminals and sleaze balls especially the local police chief who threatens her freedom. On and off the screen actress Dorothy Mackaill pushed against the boundaries of virtue and stirred up a lot of social-incorrectness.
“Who has the good times, the swell clothes, the excitements… We do! And not because we’re portrayed as nice girls, no! because we’re smoking, drinking, dancing and being made love to.”
14. The Bride (Elsa Lanchester) Bride of Frankenstein (1935): The Bride might be one of the first screen woman to rabidly defy an arranged/deranged marriage. She’s iconic, memorable and filled with glorious hiss!.. because The Bride may have come into this world in an unorthodox way, but she’ll be damned if any man is going to tell her who to love! Elsa Lanchester manifested The Bride with a keen sense of fearsome independence. No matter whether the Monster demands a Mate, The Bride isn’t ready and willing. Lanchester always took daring roles that were larger than life because she had a way of dancing around the edges of Hollywood convention. Charming, hilarious and downright adorable even with the wicked lightning struck hair and stitches and deathly pale skin!
15. Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) in His Gal Friday (1940): Hildy is a hard-bitten reporter for New York City’s The Morning Post. She’s just gotten back from Reno to a get a divorce from her louse of a husband who happens to also be her boss Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Hildy’s anxious to break ties with her manipulative ex-husband who just isn’t ready to let her leave the job or their marriage so she can marry straight-laced Bruce (Ralph Bellamy)… and he’ll do so by any means. But she’s nobody’s fool… and if she stays it’s because she’s made up her mind to embrace Walter’s crazy antics…
Hildy [to Walter]: “Now, get this, you double-crossing chimpanzee: There ain’t going to be any interview and there ain’t going to be any story. And that certified check of yours is leaving with me in twenty minutes. I wouldn’t cover the burning of Rome for you if they were just lighting it up. If I ever lay my two eyes on you again, I’m gonna walk right up to you and hammer on that monkeyed skull of yours ’til it rings like a Chinese gong!”
16. Charlie (Teresa Wright), in Shadow of a Doubt (1943): Charlie is tired of small-town life with her parents and annoying younger sister. She’s a longing for something exciting to happen, & overwhelmed with joy when her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) decides to pay the family a visit. But something isn’t quite right with her idol, he begins to exhibit a strange sort of underlying hostility and troubling secret nature… Her mother’s younger brother is actually a sadistic serial killer who preys on rich widows by marrying them, then strangling them! But young Charlie begins to see through his facade. She may be a girl who indulges in romantic fantasy she’s got a strong resource for self preservation and since no one else in the family believes her suspicions that he’s The Merry Widow killer. And she might just have to wind up killing him in self-defense…
“Go away, I’m warning you. Go away or I’ll kill you myself. See… that’s the way I feel about you.”
17. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) Double Indemnity (1944): set fire to the screen as one of the most seductive femme fatales— a dame who made sunglasses and ankle bracelets a provocative weapon. She had murder on her mind and was just brazen enough to concoct an insurance scam that will pay off on her husbands murder in Double Indemnity (1944). Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is the insurance guy who comes around and winds up falling under her dangerous spell…
Walter: “You’ll be here too?”
Phyllis: “ I guess so, I usually am.”
Walter: “Same chair, same perfume, same ankle?”
Phyllis: “I wonder if I know what you mean?”
Walter: “I wonder if you wonder?”
18. Constance Porter (Tallulah Bankhead) in Lifeboat (1944): It’s WWII and Connie is a smart-talking international journalist who’s stranded in the middle of the Atlantic ocean with an ensemble of paranoid and desperate survivors. Eventually her fur coat comes off, her diamond bracelet and expensive camera gets tossed in the sea. But she doesn’t give a damn, she can take the punishment and still attract the hunky and shirtless (yum) John Kodiak… survival’s just a state of mind… and she does it with vigor and class and a cool calm!
“Dying together’s even more personal than living together.”
19. Margo Channing (Bette Davis) All About Eve (1950): In all Bette Davis’ films like (Jezebel (1938) Dark Victory (1939) The Letter (1940) Now, Voyager (1942)), she shattered the stereotypes of the helpless female woman in peril. Davis had an unwavering strength, fearlessly taking on the Hollywood system and embracing fully the moody roles that weren’t always ‘attractive.’ Davis made her comeback in 1950, perhaps melding a bit of her own story as an aging star in All About Eve. Margo must fend off a predatory aspiring actress (Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington) who insinuates herself into Margo’s territory. Davis’ manifests the persona of ambition and betrayal which have become epic…
“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
20. Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) in Night of the Hunter (1955): There are certain images that will remain with you long after seeing masterpieces like Night of the Hunter. Aside from the frightening portrayal of an opportunistic sociopath, the film is like a childhood fairy tale. It’s a cautionary tale about the boogeyman but it’s also a story about the resilient spirit and far reaching imagination of children, and those who are their guardian angels of the world. One of the most calming and fortifying images is that of Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) protecting the children from harm, holding a rifle and keeping watch like a wonderful fairy god mother elected to guard those little ones with her powerful brand of love… There’s just something about Gish’s graceful power that emanates from the righteous Rachel Cooper….
“It’s a hard world for little things.”
21. Serafina Delle Rose (Anna Magnani) in The Rose Tattoo (1955) As the tagline states ‘Seething with realism and frankness!” Magnani’s her passionate soul is up front, on her face, and in her movements. Like a wild animal she moves so freely as Serafina, who is perpetual grieving widow filled with fire. Serafina, a seamstress in a small New Orleans town, still mourns her dead husband Rosario Delle Rose (who had a rose tattoo on his chest) as if he were a saint, even after he was killed by police for smuggling drugs for the mafia. Burt Lancaster’s bigger-than-life presence comes her way bringing about lighthearted romance.
Serafina honors an older world of ancient feminine magic and empowerment), so the local Strega (or witch) with her wandering goat, and the town full of wives and gossips who stare and judge, cackling with unkind insults, forces Serafina to fight for every last bit of dignity. Once she learns her dead husband was having an affair, the spell that imprisoned her with mourning breaks and she awakens to celebrate life once again. She is stubborn, passionate, and she has a strength that commands the birds out of the trees.
Serafina: “We are Sicilians. We don’t leave girls with the boys they’re not engaged to!”
Jack: “Mrs Delle Rose this is the United States.”
Serafina “But we are Sicilians, and we are not cold-blooded!”
22. Anna Lucasta (Eartha Kitt) in Anna Lucasta (1958): Young Anna is rejected by her sanctimonious father Joe played to the hilt by Rex Ingram. While the rest of the family wants Anna to come home, her self-righteous father can’t resist demonizing his daughter, with an underlying incestuous desire that he is battling. Anna takes the cliched road of the fallen woman and becomes a good time gal who meets Danny (Sammy Davis Jr.) a cab driving sailor who is as smooth as silk and as fiery as molten lead. Though there is an underlying sadness because of the estrangement with her father, Anna possesses a strong sense of self, and exudes a fiery passion that cannot be denied… She isn’t a bad girl, she had to find her own way and again, it often leads to taking control of who you love and how you love. She and Sammy have a smoking hot chemistry on screen, and Kitt is a powerful woman who made that road her own…
Danny: “Tell her who Papa is” (Papa is a little carved wooden Haitian idol)
Lester: “That’s the model of Agwé the Haitian god of the sea. Seems he’s good to sailors.”
Anna: “Looks like Papa and me’s got something in common…”
23. Kelly (Constance Towers) in The Naked Kiss (1964): The opening of the film is one of the most audacious entrances in early exploitation cinema as Kelly confronts her pimp who has shaved off her hair and stolen her money. She brutally pummels the rat with her handbag. Stripped of her hair, looking like a mannequin (signifying her as an ‘object’), ahe is introduced to us as a fighter. She manages to fit in to her quaint new town of Granville until the perverse secret about the Granville’s benefactor is exposed. Kelly stumbles onto Grant’s (Michael Dante) dark secret that ultimately explodes in scandal.
Kelly is persecuted by local cop Griff (Anthony Eisley), who assumes she’s still a prostitute. Griff tells Kelly that it’s a “clean town” and he doesn’t want her operating there, although he isn’t adverse to taking Kelly to bed himself or frequenting Madame Candy’s (Virginia Gray) high class “cat house’ acting like he’s above reproach. But Kelly wants out of the business. She takes a job at a children’s hospital and brings joy and a special brand of love. Grant woos her, but before they reach their wedding day, Kelly stumbles onto Griff’s deviant secret and winds up accused of his murder. The story is a mine field of social criticisms and hypocrisy. Kelly initially starts out as the ‘whore’ of the story; as the one who needs redemption. But it’s the town that must be redeemed of it is jaundiced complacency. Kelly is a powerful protagonist, because she kicks down hypocrisy and judgement, shattering the limitations that are placed on women. In the end she no longer is labeled or objectified or persecuted. She is embraced as a savior, a heroine who becomes the catalyst for cleansing the ‘white middle-class’ town of it’s hypocrisy…
“I washed my face clean the morning I woke up in your bedroom!”
24. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) in Rosemary’s Baby (1968): Rosemary has a fearless defiance in an ordinary world that becomes an unsafe space of paranoia. Aside from guarding her body and motherhood against intruders, Rosemary has an open mind, a delicate brand of kindness although troubled by a catholic upbringing that haunts her, she is still ‘too good’ and too independent to taint. She winds up taking life and the life of her baby on her own terms. Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse is an indomitable image of striking resiliency. A heroine who takes on an entire secretive cult of devil worshipers entrenched in the high society of NYC. That takes a lot of guts, people!… And Ruth Gordon is a meddling old New York busybody who just happens to be a modern day witch. As Minnie Castavets she does what she wants. She is empowered with her quirky style and her beliefs, as wicked as they may be…And her wardrobe is bold, kitschy, and fabulous!
“Pain, begone, I will have no more of thee!”
25. Julie Kohler (Jeanne Moreau) in The Bride Wore Black (1968): Julie Kohler is on a mission of revenge for the men who accidentally shot her husband on their wedding day outside the church. Julie has a maniacal almost macabre sort of presentation to her theater of revenge, she moves through the film with the ease of a scorpion. But there’s dark humor and irony running through, like a good mystery thriller. Julie is a captivating figure of sadness and passion put out at the height of it’s flame. Once passion for her late husband, and now passion for revenge. It’s playful and sexy and Moreau is utterly brilliant as the resourceful Julie Kolher. She creates a satirically dire and elaborate, and slightly Grande Guignol adventure of a vengeful woman on a crusade to exact poetic justice where the system has failed.
Coral: “Permit me to make an impossible wish?”
Julie: “Why impossible?”
Coral: “Because I’m a rather pessimist.”
Julie: “I’ve heard it said: There are no optimists or pessimists. There are only happy idiots or unhappy ones.”
Here’s to those Empowered Women of Silent & Classic Film! — Your Ever-Lovin’ Joey
psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia
In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!
I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!
Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.
HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13th- Hope you have a truly lucky day-MonsterGirl
The Naked Kiss (1965) Part III Meaning it bares no emotion. It’s empty of real substance. It has the taste of perversion to it.
Cross fade, Kelly and Grant are slow dancing at Grants house. Kelly tells him that she wants to talk about something. Asks him to sit down and listen to the words. “When I came to this town, the first day I came… I was a prostitute. My first customer was my last one, next morning I quit. Now I’m in love with a man who’s the dream of every woman.” Grant is seated looking puzzled Kelly continues “every woman who has the right to dream…but the man has got to stop seeing me before the volcano erupts.”
Grant looks up at her and grabs her hand. Pulls her close to him.”I love you Kelly.. .will you marry me?” She says “I’ve got to think it out.. .(now cheek to cheek) Oh I’ve got to think it out.”
Kelly’s in her room drinking from the blown Venetian glass from Venice that Grant gave her. She’s contemplating the marriage proposal. We hear a voice over, it’s Grant’s monologue “I wasn’t cut out to be a monk and you’re not the type to turn nun… but together we’ll prove our whole existence for each other, the only woman I want for my wife.”
Kelly gets up from the bed, sighs and walks over to the tailor’s dummy and asks “Charlie, what should I do?” Again we hear Grants voice “If they condemn you for your past, I don’t want them as my friends, Kelly darling…no one could forbid you tomorrow, and I’m all your tomorrows, all of them.”Kelly raises her glass and answers to Charlie “that’s right!…why should Grant want to marry a woman like me?.. .confidentially Charley, (her arm around the fake soldier now) we girls are always chasing dreams… why shouldn’t I have a right to catch mine?”
Now Kelly has an internal monologue “many woman had a past like mine, and they made out didn’t they?” She answers aloud asking the question “or did they?… ah, of course they did.. .and you know why, because there was always the Rock of Gibralta to give them strength” She raises the blown glass to Charlie in toast “That’s what Grant is…The Rock…The Rock of Gibralta.”
So Kelly needs a man to legitimize her self worth, otherwise she is still considered machinery. “Oh Charlie” now we hear Grant’s voice again “we’d be living an endless honeymoon”‘ she goes back over to Charlie, and hugs him “Oh Charlie, the dread of every woman in my business…is ending up alone…I know that world.”
She looks at the glass again and says “and I know his world(chuckles ironically)and that makes me a woman of 2 worlds… and that’s not good, or is it?” She looks at Charlies hat. She’s got her arm around his stuffed shoulders. “With him I’m complete, a whole woman” the voice over by Grant breaks in again”I’ll never strike at your past, not even with a flower”Kelly hugs Charlie closer, “oh Charlie, Charlie Charlie,Charlie…what should I do?” Fade to Black.
At Grant’s house, the door bell rings, and Kelly comes bursting in “Oh it’s a wonderful day Barney!… it’s a beautiful day!” Barney tells her that Grant is still asleep. She ignores him and yells “it’s a glorious day!” She goes to the stereo and puts on Beethoven’s 5th symphony and conducts. Barney still in his robe goes upstairs to get Grant. Kelly is conducting the music, she spins the large globe as if she’ll be able to see the world now.
Grant comes down in his silk pajamas, yawning and putting his robe on, he watches as she pretends to conduct the music. She runs to him and grabs his hands “I love you…it’s a deal” He looks oddly at her, pleased but more like he’s just sealed a business deal, not the reaction from a man truly in love.
Dusty gets help from Kelly. Who gives her $1,000 and tells her to keep the baby.
Kip’s gaze, the sadness shared with a child, as he watches Dusty crying. Sympathetic.
Now nurses and orderlies are bringing in the children in one by one. And a record begins to spin. Kip the little boy wearing the First Mate pirate hat begins to sing this song which has an eerily tragic poignancy.
“Mommy dear, tell me please, is the world really round” another little boy takes it from there, “tell me where, is the blue bird of happiness found” now a little girl sings “tell me why is the sky up above so blue” now they all sing in unison “and when you were a child, did your mommy tell you?”
All of the children standing like wounded soldiers with their hats and crutches singing this sad little song together. The song creates an element of melancholy,and pathos in the film. It’s the children asking the question where is happiness?
The children are a diverse group of races, the spirit of these children fuel the film’s angst and alienation, for they are like castaways in a world that is perfect, while they are broken and striving to be whole.
“What becomes of the sun when it falls in the sea” “and who lights it again, as bright as can be” together they sing again “Tell me why can’t I fly without wings through the sky” back to Kip who sadly sings “tell me why mommy dear…are there tears in your eyes?”
Now Kelly joins in as an answer to the songs questions singing “little one, little one, yes the world’s really round, and the blue bird you search for is surely is found… and the sky up above is so blue and clear (the staff including Mac is watching Kelly serenade the children they are so sullen, yet proud) so that you’d see the blue bird if it should come near… and the sun doesn’t fall in the sea out of sight, all it does is make way for the moon’s pretty light… and if children could fly there’d be no need for birds… and I cry little ones cause I’m touched by your words.”
The children surrounding Kelly sing the song together, she has left a mark on them, she has found a different way to have worth, she sees herself through these child’s eyes. They are ultimately truly innocent, yet they are the ones who don’t objectify Kelly.
“Tell me please mommy dear is it true the world’s round, I will search, round the world til the blue bird is found” then Kelly sings “little one there’s no need to wander too far, for what you really seek is right here where you are.”
Griff and Grant are walking out of a building. Grant has asked Griff to be best man at the wedding but Griff isn’t happy. Grant tells him to get it off his chest. Bunny comes running over to Grant with her dolly and he picks her up and spins her around. Griff still visibly upset, holding his cigarette and frowning. Bunny congratulates Uncle Grant on his wedding, and he kisses her cheek, she beams a smile half filled with baby teeth.
Now in the classroom back at the hospital, the children are getting a spelling lesson. Kelly is fixing Kip’s shoe lace. Griff knocks on the window glass to get Kelly’s attention. Through the glass panel in the door we see them talking seriously again a frame within a frame, symbolizing the entrapment of both characters who are stuck by their roles.They move into an empty room so they can continue to talk.
“Well, what is it Griff?… what’s the matter?” “Grant asked me to be best man… you’ve got 30 minutes to get out of town, (sighs deeply) and I don’t mean finding a bed at Candy’s across the river.” She asks if she can phone Grant, but he tells her he’ll tell him something for her. She says it’ll come a lot easier if it comes from her. Grant agrees and Kelly picks up the phone and dials.
Griff has his back to her, he can’t even face her, playing with the chord of the blinds, while she’s dialing. She asks for Mr Grant, and looks at Griff. “I told him all about myself Griff and about you, and the $20.” Now Griff turns and faces her, she shakes her head “No, I did not identify you…and I told him my track record as a call girl before he asked me to marry him” Grant is on the phone now “Hello darling…hold on a minute…Griff wants to tell you something” she shoves the phone at Griff.
“Hello Griff” we hear Grant speaking. Griff looks defeated.”I just wanted to tell you one thing, you’re the luckiest guy in the world, congratulations” She hangs up the phone, and Griff says “so that’s that’s the big score, fall in love with the right person, and being loved” he turns to her now, lightens up and says” I’ll be best man Kelly…lots of luck Kelly…lots of luck” he walks out the door. She grabs a toy sailing ship and the scene fades into the next.
Miss Josephine putting Kelly’s beautiful white wedding dress and veil on Charlie. Then Kelly walks out of the house carrying a cardboard box with the wedding dress under her arm,Josephine comes calling after her, she’s forgotten the veil. Miss Josephine tells her “I still think it’s bad luck to show him the dress before the wedding… surprise or no surprise.”
We see Kelly walking from a far. Children playing jump rope, It’s a bright day in a clean town. A music box theme is playing, the tinkling of innocence. Then strings hover mimicking a nursery rhyme theme.Kelly passes the girls jumping rope, a little boy on his tricycle comes near. Kelly is newly born as a child, a fresh start to her stained past. She pats the little boy on the head.
Kelly opens the front door to Grant’s house, tosses the key up in the air and catches it with a triumphant grip. She belongs here. As she closes the door, and the house starts to become eclipsed in shadow, we hear the recording of the blue bird song, “mommy dear tell me please, is the world really round” Kelly walks down the front hallway, then looks up the staircase for Grant. She hears the music playing. Still holding the box with the wedding dress, she walks over to the bust of Beethoven and rubs his head, embracing this new life she has earned. The camera pans down, we see the reel to reel recording of the song spinning in it’s wooden drawer.
She smiles, the memory of making that wonderful recording stays with her, she walks a little bit further into the room and turns around still smiling, a close up of Kelly’s face, shows her expression turning to a withheld revulsion, then a close up of a little girl’s blank face partially obscured by a dark shadow, suddenly skipping away into a stream of light like a runway towards the archway of the room, hopping and skipping then going out the front door.
The little tune still playing on the reel to reel machine. Close up on Kelly’s face more visceral anger now, and quickly a close shot of Grant’s face, it appears less like shame and more of a willful defiance, perhaps exultation that Kelly now shares the truth, expressed in his gaze. His eyes meet Kelly’s. A back and forth until Grant’s eyes seem to request understanding from Kelly.The song plays on “Why mommy dear, are there tears in your eyes” Kelly steps closer to Grant holding the wedding dress in the white box. Half her face lit up and the other have eclipsed in shadow. Remember she said she was a woman who lived in two worlds.
As she steps closer, Grant’s face struggles to find some relief, he says “now you know why I could never marry a normal woman… that’s why I love you… you understand my sickness…. you’ve been conditioned to people like me…”his eyes open wider “you live in my world… and it will be an exciting world!”
Kelly’s stone face holding his gaze, he kneels before her, looking up at her. She looks down upon him, he begs “my darling…our marriage will be a paradise” she’s physically clenching her body as see looks at him, we still see her face but hear him continue his diatribe “because we’re both abnormal”
Kelly now picks up the white crosley phone and starts bashing Grant with the receiver. A harsh discordant piano plunk set against the blue bird song, clashes. She drops the white crepe material and it falls onto Grant’s still body. He lies there lifeless, covered in the wedding veil. The phone off the cradle next to him. We see Kelly’s shoes. We hear the dial tone, Kelly kneels down clutching the veil, then rolling up the dress and veil placing it back in the box, her face never changing the stone cold expression of betrayal,disgust and disillusionment.
She closes the box and sits staring straight ahead. The shot is framed, with the globe(the entire world) left of screen, Grant lying dead on the floor and Kelly sitting in the chair, with the only source of light mostly placed on her. A quick shot of the reel to reel, Beethoven’s bust and the front door. Doorways in noir often symbolize an entry to the unknown or perhaps here it shows the idea of possibility for Kelly now closed. The dream ended. Fuller frames the shot with an odd angle of the stairs. Symbolic of Kelly’s ascension being distorted, not quite right from the beginning.
Stairways in noir again, are symbolic of ascension to an unknown place, possibly dangerous,Kelly once aspired to climb upward toward a better life. The stairs are shot at such an odd angle, that we must assume, the chance Kelly had was never a straight rise upward. It was merely a distortion of the chance to climb out of her role as whore.
Quick shot back to the door and then Kelly in the chair, as the shadow closes in. Fade To Black.
Then in sensational soap opera style, we see Miss Josephine outside, reading the headline. She shares the words, GRANT then Mike reads, IS and the rest is given to Mac to reveal for us, DEAD; One of the nurses is overlapped by the word, SLAIN, switch to Candy blowing out the inhale of her cigarette BY, Buff reads PROSTITUTE. Sensational strings dramatically playing all the while.
Kelly’s sitting in a chair at the police station, she looks disturbed “Once before a man’s kiss tasted like that…he was put away in a psycho ward… (she grabs her dress by the chest, gives a gesture of revulsion) “I got the same taste the first time Grant kissed me”… (straining to say the rest) “it was a, what we call a(long pause) A naked kiss…(she puts her head in her hand clutching her hair, defeated and disgusted) “It’s the sign of a pervert.”
Kelly’s sobbing deeply,Griff gets up and walks onto the screen. “I’m gonna keep asking the same question until you tell me the truth… why did you kill him?” Kelly staring off,Griff is shot standing behind her.
“He was molesting a child” Griff comes and leans into Kelly and insists “he broke off the wedding” she says “the child ran out”Griff says “so you tried blackmail” Kelly cries, “he couldn’t marry a normal woman”Griff comes back “And he was going to have you pinched for extortion”she answers “he said I would understand his weakness.”
Griff comes around leans on the desk and gets closer to Kelly, “Kelly, we’ve had 2 cases of ravaged children in our county…if by some freak they buy your story, that means the pressure will be off the real criminal he’ll be free to attack other children!!”….now do you understand why you can’t use that stinking lie to save your neck!”She slams her hand on the chair “my neck is in that little girl’s hands!”
Griff asks Kelly to describe her, Kelly can’t remember, she’s in shock, every thing was a blur.Griff argues that Kelly’s story stinks, that she can remember the conversation with Grant being called abnormal, but she can’t remember the child’s appearance. Kelly swears it’s the truth, Griff yells “you swear on a call house roster!”
Now Kelly has to find that little girl who can identify Grant as her molester. Griff calls in Farlunde, Kelly’s pimp that she had bashed up in the opening scene. He’s going to be a material witness. Kelly explains to Griff why she had beaten him up, she convinced 6 of his girls to leave the stables, because he was holding out money from them.
Farlunde put knock out drops in her drink and when she awoke, he had cut off all her hair, she was bald. She waited until he was drunk and took exactly what was coming to her.Kelly tells Griff that Farlunde has friends in the underworld, the word was out to throw acid in her face, so she ran. Farlunde is going to testify that Kelly blackmailed an elected official. As far as Griff is concerned Kelly’s credibility is weakening with each character witness.
Dusty shows up to talk to Griff explains that she’s left Mac and the hospital. She wants to help Kelly because Kelly helped her when she was having her baby. Kelly is now stuck in jail “why don’t you try the old Chinese water torture maybe that’ll make me change my story.” Kelly tells Griff not to use Dusty as a hammer, it would hurt her, he wouldn’t be that low, even for a cop. But Dusty wants to give the story to the papers thinking it will help.
Kelly looks out at the children playing from her cell window. Then Candy shows up. Kelly tells Griff “I was waiting for that slut to show up.” He wants to know why Kelly went to Candy’s.Kelly says “You really scraped the sewer to dig up your character witnesses didn’t you.”
Candy staring at Kelly gleefully from the other side of the jail cell bars.She says in a gravel tone “I hate being a fink sweetie but you put every call girl in the country right on the spot.” Candy lies and tells Griff that Kelly came to her to form a Crime Ring, that she was taking healthy pay offs from Grant,to get him right where it hurts, family name, philanthropist, hospital , crippled kids, the whole deal.She tells Griff that she had Grant so scared that he was even making with the wedding talk just to keep her quiet.
Open and shut. Griff asks Candy if she’ll say all that in court. She says why not it’s the truth. Finally Kelly pipes in “she advanced Buff $25 to become a bon bon,,,,I returned the money” gripping the bars. Then Candy says “Buff, who’s Buff? Griff says “a student nurse at the hospital”
“Are you kidding, you know I don’t have to Shanghai girls from your town to replenish my stock… what kind of a stable boss do you think I am,”she struts over to Griff “I’ve got no time to break in baby baggage.”
Griff brings Buff to the precinct, and asks if Candy advanced her the money to work in her stable. Candy’s eyes shoot bullets at Buff and Buff hesitantly says “No.”Kelly says “I made a mistake, wrong girl”Griff tells Buff he shouldn’t have bothered her. He walks her out and leaves Candy alone outside the bars of Kelly’s cell. Candy says in a deep wrathful tone “nobody shoves dirty money in my mouth.”
Kelly is alone, framed by the bars, trapped, we hear children playing, laughter. Kelly looks out at the little girls. One little girl drawing with chalk on the wall says “look what I made, look what I made” It’s the little girl that Grant was molesting.
Kelly grips the bars, and in a far off filmatic distance we hear the blue bird song once again, Kelly starts to make the connection. There is a obvious shadow over her mouth, she has been struck silent so far. Kelly shouts out “little girl please little girl I won’t hurt you, please come here.” But all the girls scatter. She calls to Griff. Tells him that she just saw the little girl playing in the alley. “I remember the little girl.” She grabs his arm through the bars. “Griff you’ve got to believe me she’s 6 or 7, Blond.” Griff walks out.
Now Buff is lying in bed holding a photo of her father, and crying “oh daddy I had to lie I couldn’t tell what I was going to be, forgive me forgive me.”
Knocking on the door. Griff gets out of bed to answer the door. It’s Buff. She asks him to let her in, she’s got to talk to him. Next we see a parade of little girls legs walking from the knees down. Then we see Griff and Kelly watching from the window. She is shaking her head no, the girl is not one of them. A police officer is slowly showing them one by one, little blond girls, but Kelly still says no.
Then triumphant strings lift the moment up The little girl Bunny is standing there holding the doll Uncle Grant had given her, smiling up at Kelly.She tells Griff with gestures, we hear only the music, but we see by Kelly’s body language that it’s the right girl.
The little girl Bunny sits on a bench in the police station. Kelly walks over to her and asks “Do you remember me?”first she says no but then Kelly grabs her by the shoulders and says “of course you remember me, you were at Uncle Grant’s house, you remember Uncle Grant don’t you, continues asking, while shaking her. Kelly is crying and begging “Don’t you remember me?”pleading gripping her chest, begging the little girl to remember. “You know me!” The little girl gets up crying. Griff tells Bunny, “now now Bunny nobody’s gonna hurt you I’m here.” Kelly is sobbing this was her last chance.
Griff asks Kelly “did you ever have a baby? she says “no, I can’t have a baby”Griff tells her, “pretend you had a baby, pretend that that little child in the next room is your little girl, be gentle with her, well make her trust you, like you” Griff gently pats Kelly’s shoulder, “talk to her as you would your own child…not as Kelly…but as a mother.”
This was problematic for me, it takes the patriarchy that has partial responsibility for the systemic problems in Grantville to give mothering lessons to Kelly? Not as Kelly he says, because she’s a prostitute she has no sense of mothering? Absurd that she would need lessons from Griff. But I digress yet again.
He brings Bunny back into the room. Kelly kneels down in front of Bunny. Bunny’s cheeks are wet with tears. She asks very slowly, and softly “do you remember Uncle Grant? Bunny says “Oh yes I love Uncle Grant, mommy said he won’t be back for a long time” Kelly asks “Did you ever go to Uncle Grant’s House without your mommy and daddy?” Bunny says “once.” Kelly continues “do you remember when you went there?” “Yes ma’am Uncle Grant gave me some candy, he liked the dress mommy bought for me…he was showing me a new game, he made me promise not to tell mommy or daddy or anybody because this was a special game….just for me…then you came in and I ran out, you’re the lady with the big cardboard box.”
Kelly breaks down and sobs and Bunny asks “why are you crying lady?” She brings Bunny close to her and hugs her tightly. Griff looks down, the reality of what Kelly had been telling him was finally sinking in. His friend Grant was a monster, and Kelly was not a liar.
Fade to Black.
Griff’s in Kelly’s cell reading Penal Code 113A5 dismissal of an action.”You’re off the hook Kelly.” Griff is so pleased but Kelly looks bitter hugging herself to the jail wall, clenched like a fist. The judge and the DA gave her a clean bill of health. The whole town’s got her on a pedestal for what she did for the children. Kelly chuckles with irony.”Yeah, you sure put up statues over night around here don’t you.”
Kelly asks Griff if her trunk is at the station, “well, thanks Griff” she bends in closer to his face, they kiss.”So long tiger” he says”good luck Muffin” She steps out into the light and fresh air of freedom.
All the towns people are standing outside waiting for her. Ominous music begins. The camera floats close up on various faces of varying ethnicities. Pull back, there are so many people standing there, waiting for Kelly to come out of the police station. She shoots a worried look at Griff who is leaning against the wall with another cop in uniform. Kelly turns to her left, there are Miss Josephine, Dusty, Buff and Mac. Josephine crying hugs Kelly, Mac is crying, and Buff, she goes over to Dusty and Dusty hugs her so tightly. Kelly has left her mark on the women of Grantville.
Wide shot of Kelly walking through the throngs of people from the community. Griff says to the cop, “She still owes me ten bucks” the cop says “then you’ll be seeing her again”He shakes his head, “she never makes change” Kelly walks along the sidewalk, passes a baby carriage, then stops. she hands the rattle to the same baby that she handed the bottle to in the beginning of the film.
The pariah has turned Heroine/Mother figure. Yet Kelly does not, or still can not be allowed to live amongst the clean people of Grantsville. She must remain in motion, without a place she can coexist with other “normal” people. She is destined to be in transition, because she is damaged goods.
Wide Shot of the crowd watching her off screen. The music closes the film as Kelly from an aerial view is shown walking down that same street she arrived on the bus,getting smaller and smaller in view,from the Chamber of Commerce Banner. She walks off in the distance off screen, the coda finishes and the screen goes dark.
The scene opens with Griff sitting at the bar in Candy Ala Cart’s girlie establishment with “bon bon” girls dressed sort of like hat check Playboy bunnies, wearing fuzzy hearts on their heads instead of rabbit ears. The girl behind the bar says “hello Griff” and he says “hello Marshmallow” Swing music is playing on the jukebox. “Say Griff I can earn more from the refined types than the ones who work in this rat hole…I’ll put Grantville on the map” Griff turns to her “You will, you really think you can?” he says sarcastically, which goes above Marshmallow’s head. “well sure, how can I lose with John ‘Law’ on my team.” another scantly clad girl comes over to Griff and touches his face.
Griff condemns prostitution in his town, but he frequents Candy’s club as a customer, as well as procuring girls right off the bus for Candy’s stable. That would make him pimp by proxy right?
There is a brazen double standard being perpetrated here. Women objectified, then women reviled. Even the use of nicknames for the call girls in Candy’s stable are demeaning and denigrating.Hat Rack, for instance,something you’d hang an item on. It dehumanizes these women. Candy even refers to Hat Rack clashing with her “upholstery.”Later on Kelly is called “new stuff”
The other girl asks “Are you sure you don’t want a bon bon Griff?” just then an older woman Candy dressed in a long sequined gown walks over. “Get back to the stable” she says in a sandy voice that’s been abraded by years of smoking, reaches over and grabs Griff’s face and kisses his cheek. Marshmallow, tells Candy “he’s not buying your chocolates Candy.”
Candy played salty by Virginia Grey snaps back “Go earn your money, check the stock.” “Who you looking for Griff?” “Kelly” she asks “Kelly?…no Kelly here, do I know him?” “Well I sent her here.” Candy looks slightly perturbed, “another female?” “a pro and she’s got class.” “Well we could use a little class in this shop.”
“Just get a look at my bon bons, they’re all a broken down flock of bimbos, all except Hat Rack.” Griff seems surprised, “Hat Rack?” “the name suits her alright, there ain’t a customer here that doesn’t want to hang his fedora on her.” Candy calls over to the tall girl. “Hey Hat Rack,come over here.” “Did I do something wrong?” asking in an ultra feminine tone. The beautiful brunette realizes that it’s Griff at the bar, “Oh Griff! How are you Griff?” She puts on an even more seductively whispery voice, “So glad to see you again.” He looks confused “Do we know each other?” “we met in a park in Grantville, near the fountain…on a Thursday?” Pouting she adds “don’t you remember me?” Then a smile breaks free.
“Oh sure you came in by bus… (Sound Familiar?) sure I remember.” “It was very kind of you to recommend me to Candy… I just love selling bon bons.” Griff says “you were a platinum blond” as he puts his hands on her tray, Candy pulls him away and says “well she was, but the color clashed with my upholstery, I made her go back to her own natural peasant color.”
Then Candy points and tells Hat Rack “the customer in the booth has a sweet tooth.” “Are you going to stick around for a while Griff?” Candy interjects strongly “the customer!” Hat Rack bends over and kisses Griff on the cheek, walks away and says “bon bon sir?” Candy says “boy you sure pick em Griff.” Pleased with himself he says “I sure can” Candy asks “then why that hang dog look when you found out that this Kelly didn’t show?” He stays silent, she says “how about a snort in the office?” He looks at her with a gaze that means something else, and tells her “I’m not thirsty.”
We know from before that when Griff uses this expression thirsty it is what he uses to mean “wanting sex” He used the same term with Kelly in the beginning. Candy gestures with her hand as if to say, she’s disappointed but what ever. Apparently Griff in the past has sampled some of Candy as well.
Back at Miss Josephine’s “Paris…have you been to those places?” looking at beautiful garments in her suitcase Kelly says no, but the old woman says “but these are originals…ultra ultra expensive.” The trunk with the K on the side, almost like Kelly’s own scarlet A.After all she is a marked woman, like Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne.
“What about that factory outside of town?” “Oh I’m afraid there’s no job opening at Grant Mill.” “Grant” Kelly says “Grant this, Grant that.” Her hair pulled up in a lovely classic bun, looking through her wardrobe “he seems to own everything around here.” “His great great grandfather founded this town.” “JL Grant is our most famous citizen.”
Here is the developing back story of a founded patriarchy in Grantville. The old woman continues, “everybody calls him Grant” Kelly says “JL Grant, yes I’ve read about him, international playboy,chateau in Normandy, Villa along the Riviera, private Yacht in Monte Carlo, societies most eligible bachelor.” Josephine comes back “he’s a hard worker Miss Kelly… he’s no playboy, his very name is a synonym for charity… he’s got the biggest heart in the world. Why he built our hospital… he built the Orthopedic Medical Center, and sponsors it all by himself. And it’s open to all handicapped children, with no racial or religious barriers.” Miss Josephine equates Grants kindness with his fame and outward appearance, and reasons he’s beneficent. Kelly starts to contemplate what the old woman is saying. She asks “Handicapped children?” Josephine says “It’s a haven of hope for those angels, so little, so helpless and so pitifully crippled.”
Cross fade from Kelly’s face to a single chiaroscuro shot of a nurse’s shadow, the central focal point is now on an empty wheelchair. Two nurses come into focus, the formidable Patsy Kelly (Rosemary’s Baby) as Nurse Mac, says in that broiled steak voice of hers “one more operation and that baby will have straight feet.”
They continue to walk and talk about the various children in the hospital, then we see an office with a nurse seated at a desk. Griff is standing.“That Kelly is some woman Griff” Nurse Mac comes into the room.“One day she walked in here out of nowhere and “Mac chimes in “I’ll fill in lover boy with all the facts June.” Griff turns to face her. He says “Hello Mac, Dusty, where is this new nurses aide I’ve been hearing about?” Mac says “You Too?!”
Mac takes Griff for a walk down the corridor. Tells him that “she came out of the clouds one night, without a single reference” There are several allusions to angels in this film. Is Kelly a Whore or a Madonna? How do we perceive her character, how does she perceive herself. How do the towns people distinguish her? Is she a whore because she is beautiful? or is she an angel because she is beautiful.The messages are mixed.
Nurse Mac tells him that she hired Kelly on the spot. He thought orthopedics called for specialized training. He’s obviously upset that she didn’t take the job at Candy’s. Mac tells him that “it does, some people are born to write books, symphonies, paint pictures, build bridges, but (Mac holds up her hand to the sky), she was born to handle children with crutches and babies in braces.” He looks visibly skeptical “sounds like one of those sweet Florence Nightingales.”
Griff is clearly fixed on objectifying Kelly as a fallen, marked woman with no potential to be a woman of quality. There is a patriarchal hypocrisy in this town, where the the most influential man is actually a despicable pedophile and has most of the power. Kelly who is truly virtuous and compassionate is labeled a pariah even though the men who judge her are the very people who simultaneously use her, without taking responsibility for their own participation.
“Ha, Kelly she’s tough, runs her ward like a pirate ship… she makes Captain Bly look like a sissy.” Now we see framed in the scene from the knees down, the boy Kip is slowing walking with crutches along the floor. On screen we study the child walking for several seconds, and then we see a Kelly’s legs. Full screen shot now, the boy stands stiff in front of Kelly dressed in a nurses aide uniform. Kip drops to the ground. Kelly asks to see him touch his toes. Griff and Mac are watching them from the doorway. Kip is trying to touch his toes. He says “they’re too far away.” He takes a deep sigh and tries again and does it! Kelly seems so relieved.Kip looks at her smiling with pride. Griff is hiding behind the door watching all this in secret.
Cross fade Kelly is sitting at a table with a toy sailing ship. We hear Griff speaking off screen “That’s a new low, using crippled kids to front your trade” Kelly insists “I quit my trade” He grabs her arm,“you’ll have a problem breaking in those little girls to walk the streets on crutches” Kelly looks disgusted with this accusation and slaps Griff in the face. “I washed my face clean the morning I woke up in your bedroom.”
He says to her contemptuously “You got morals in my room?” She shakes her head reviling him “you had nothing to do with it…Nothing!…it was your mirror.” Griff says “You must have taken a long look.” She asserts “it was the longest look of my life…I saw a broken down piece of machinery.” Here Kelly herself objectifies her body as something that other people utilize. She continues “nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life…that’s what I saw!”
He turns away, “A hooker moving in with the town virgin, what an act.” He is so indignant “how much did you score honey?…how much did you tap at the hospital?” his hands in his pockets looking down on her like trash. “How much Angel Foam did you peddle?” Kelly’s furious “oh you ask, you ask the doctors if I made a play for any one of them, ask them!…You were the only buyer I had in this town and my last one.”
“Are you coming with me or I am going to talk to Mac myself.” She grabs his arm and pleads “Look Griff, I’m trying your side of the fence, is there a law against it, is there anything wrong with it?” All Griff says is “your face might fool a lot of these people, but not your body.”
Griff slams her with “Your body’s your only passport.” Kelly says “you’re right” instead of defending herself. She says “I can renew a passport, but I can’t renew my body…or my face” she shakes her head, tears in her eyes,“or my health, oh look Griff I’m trying to change, please help me” she beseeches him. “Give me a break.”
Fade To Black
Kelly is telling the children the story of the White Swan Queen who wishes to be transformed into a woman. The film is predicated on the notion of transformation/redemption.
Kelly is surrounded by children dressed up in costumes. She’s telling them a story of the White Swan, a story about wishing to be turned into something else. This is what lies at the core of and is the veritable crux of The Naked Kiss.
Kip, is fantasizing about doing cartwheels outside with Kelly. He is shouting “I have legs, I have legs.” We see a daydream sequence, every little girl and boy running as if they had no handicap. The idea of handicap being a metaphor for Kelly’s past.The film equates her being a prostitute with having an affliction, an illness, an abnormality? That question is put to us again, towards the end of the film.
Fade To Black
Now at Grant’s house. This is a very short scene introducing us to Grant. Griff is there, Grant has just come back from traveling. His servant Barney, has been given a gift. It’s a skull, used as a drinking cup from some ancient city. A rather bizarre item to give his servant. Barney seems uncomfortable with it as well. Grant asks if everything is set up for the party tonight, Griff and Grant go to make themselves a drink, and we Fade To Black
Fade in with a long shot. Kelly’s in a beautiful long black gown at the hospital. The camera views her from a distance, rows of wheelchairs lined along the walls. Kelly is framed in darkness with a single band of light along the floor, like a runway. She pushes a wheelchair up against the wall. Then she walks over to an infant sucking on a bottle. She strokes the babies hair so gently, looking upon her with a maternal gaze, then gently touches her little foot in a cast,in traction.The baby looks up at her. We keep seeing glimpses of mothering in Kelly.
Cross Fade now at Grant’s party. Grant is quoting something in Italian, to a room filled with the elite socialites of the town, he says “this means, All things by gentleness may be made smooth”
Nurse Mac and Kelly arrive, and then Grant focuses his gaze on Kelly, he sees something in her. Their eyes meet. We hear romantic strings, something is stirring. Griff looks up, the camera closes in on Kelly’s face, then Griff. The sensual motif of horns are there to remind us who Kelly really is. Kelly looks stopped in her tracks by Griff’s expression.
But we switch back to Grant and Kelly exchanging pleasant looks with each other. The romantic strings play once again. Mac hugs Grant and introduces Kelly to him by saying, she wants him to meet the lady that’s making history with orthopedics. He tells her everybody calls him Grant. Then Griff pipes in “And everybody calls her Kelly” obviously annoyed that she is at the party. Griff spells it “K E double L Y” A dig about their sexual interlude.
Griff still looks so bottled with anger.Grant hands Kelly a package and tells her it’s something she might like from Venice. It’s blown glass. He tells her it’s Venetian 17th century.” “From Venice?” Kelly is very impressed by his breeding, and worldliness. This is something that has been brewing in her all along. The desire for a life with finer things. Grant has an almost childlike exuberance. He is not an archetypal masculine/male figure at all. Not a naivete, yet an icy calculating kind of assumed innocence.
Cross Fade , we see a reel to reel analogue tape machine ( I get excited I can’t help it, I’m a musician) the music on the tape is playing once again Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata the camera pans to a bust of Beethoven, and then we see Grant and Kelly lying back on a leopard print sofa, taking in the beauty of Beethoven’s piece. eyes closed. Grant is waxing poetic about the moonlight and Beethoven’s hands playing the sonata. “he carved that sonata out of moonlight” Grant is wearing a silk ascot. There is something so plasticine about his appearance.
Kelly asks “was he in love when he wrote it?” “Yes” “Did he marry her?” “No, he never found the wife he was looking for” “How do you know he was looking for a wife?” “What man isn’t…a sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle” Kelly turns and faces Grant “Did Goethe write that?” “Baudelaires (Flowers of Evil)” “Beethoven and Goethe were good friends”
Kelly sits up, Grant smiling says “Griff doesn’t go for Beethoven” Kelly spurts out “Griff is tone deaf” Grant looks over at her “How did you know?” “Well I…I watched his face when we were singing the other night” Grant looks away from her, smiles again “you sang very well” she says “I was happy” Grant spouts some more verse, “Happiness was born a twin” Kelly turns to him, leaning on her arm, “Lord Byron” Grant looks over to her as if surprised and she says “my favorite poet.” Grant has been trying to impress Kelly with his knowledge of literature, art and music.
He sits up “Kelly you baffle me, intellect is seldom a feature of physical beauty” Grant is surprised Kelly is “a woman”, a “beautiful woman” who possesses an intellect and understanding of culture.
Grant continues “And that makes you a remarkable woman…the most interesting contradiction I’ve met in years, with a love of poetry, rare in this age of missiles…”
“Would you like to visit where Byron wrote many of his famous sonnets?” “Venice?” “I’m going to take you there right now. He shows her a movie projector with a travel reel from Venice, and men in gondolas and fishing boats. They sit and watch the movies which Grant took from a gondola. He turns to her, and says don’t you hear the man in the gondola singing. He tells her “If you pretend hard enough and if you listen hard enough, you can hear his fine Italian voice.”
Pretend is an active verb for the characters in The Naked Kiss, no one is what they seem to be. It comes down to image, embodiment,perception, class and gender.
She has been taken under Grant’s childlike spell. She smiles and we see her as she imagines the tenor voice singing Santa Lucia. Her desire to inhabit a world with culture and refinement blinds her to Grant’s true identity.She escapes into a daydream where a man in a gondola is rowing she and Grant are lying on silken pillows. Flower petals are falling on her, as they flow through the canals of Venice, and Grant is making love to her.
For Kelly, Grant is symbolic of worthiness, success and virtue. This is perpetuated by the town which is rooted in these beliefs. Grant is powerful and well bred, so he must be the epitome of integrity and virtue. She wakes from the dream her hands on Grants shoulders, we see now that they are kissing on the couch.
For a brief moment of clarity, she pushes him slightly away, something in her gut reveals his true nature.She has the most curious stare on her face, she senses a tinge of the unnatural.Her hands and fingers splayed like claws on either side of his face. He looks confused. She studies his face. There is a prolonged pause while we hear the travel reel clicking in the background. She’s breathing uncomfortably, and Grant is looking more concerned. His gaze turns almost dark.
Ultimately she dismisses her intuition and gives way. A smile comes over her face, and then Grant’s darkness begins to clear up. Her right hand holding his head now.He goes back in for an embrace, and the camera stops on Kelly’s long legs, her shoes have come off, set against the leopard skin fabric of the couch. We’re left with the movie projector’s blaring lights in our eyes as it spins off it’s reel. We are blinded and so now unfortunately is Kelly.
Back at the hospital the children are singing Old MacDonald. Kelly and the nurse Buff played by Marie Devereux are bathing 2 of the kids. Buff tells Kelly that the job is for the birds.“I”m not like you Kelly, I don’t got steel in my veins…I get sick just looking at these poor little babies, let alone handling them…I’m gonna quit, I’m gonna quit this job” she starts to cry, “it’s gonna hurt Griff, it’s gonna hurt Griff bad” Kelly asks “why Griff?””he’s been like a father to me, ever since mine was killed in Korea…Griff got me this job, and he’s so damn proud of me”
All the women in this town, need approval from these men, in particular Grant and Griff, as Father figures.
Now we see Kelly pacing in her bedroom, in her nightgown. We hear a woman’s heels clicking outside.Kelly goes to the window and whispers “the door’s open Buff” In this scene Kelly is lit like an angel from the window light.Her white crepe gown flowing like wings, a huge divergence from the opening shot of her in black sexy underwear and shaved bald head. Like a mannequin, like an object. Like sexual “machinery” as she referred to herself earlier on.
Buff is wearing the lame’ gown that Kelly gave her, she grabs a box from downstairs as if it’s a tray and mimics the words “would you care for a bon bon” then she ascends the stairs to Kelly’s bedroom.
She enters Kelly’s room and tells her that she made $25 tonight,throws her bag on the bed, and shows Kelly the money. Kelly looks disapprovingly at Buff.”where’d you get that money?””a woman gave it to me”Kelly steps closer to Buff “what woman?””Candy she runs a club across the river””What’s the $25 for?””It’s an advance, I’m gonna be a bon bon”Kelly gets angry and shouts”take off my dress”, she spins Buff around, and starts grabbing at the zipper “I paid $350 for that dress, I’ll take it off myself”she then tells Buff, “those bon bon’s aren’t just there to serve drinks you know” Buff says “I know”Kelly spins her around to face her, then smacks Buff and she falls onto the bed. Buff starts to sob. Kelly says “you had that coming to you” but Buff says “Candy says I could make $300 a week.
Now Kelly sits on the bed next to her and sagely says “alright…go ahead…you know what’s different about the first night…?…nothing…nothing except it lasts forever that’s all. You’ll be sleeping on the skin of a nightmare for the rest of your life. You’re a beautiful girl Buff, young, oh, they’ll out bid each other for you ( Buff smiles)you’ll get compliments, clothes, cash. You’ll meet men you live on…and men who live on you ( now Buff frowns ) and those are the only men you’ll meet. And after a steady grind of making every john feel at home…you’ll become a block of ice.”
“And if you do happen to melt a little, you’ll get slipped a tip behind Candy’s back. You’ll be every man’s wife in law and no man’s wife. Well your world with Candy will become so warped that you’ll hate all men…and you’ll hate yourself, because you’ll become a social problem…a medical problem…a mental problem…and a despicable failure as a woman.”
Dressed in black Kelly shows up at Candy’s. A fight breaks out between one of the bon bon girls and Marshmallow, over a john. Candy rises from her seat and walks over to Kelly. She introduces herself and then walks around Kelly like she’s surveying merchandise. Candy says “Griff told me about you.” Then Candy asks where she’s been coasting. Kelly says she’ll tell her in her office. When one of the johns grabs Kelly, a bon bon comes over and says “Listen new Stuff” he’s my john exclusively, after she’s broken a bottle over his head. Candy remarks that he’s the 3rd guy she’s cold cocked this week.
Candy starts to tell Kelly to sit down to talk business, but Kelly sucker punches Candy with her handbag. She’s good at that, remember Farlunde the pimp in the opening scene. She keeps the onslaught going, bashing Candy with her bag, til Candy falls down on the couch. Kelly keeps hitting her, smashing the lamp.Candy pleads “cut it out” Kelly puts her knee on Candy’s chest and forces Candy’s mouth open. She counts the money like Buff did, reciting as she shoves the bills into Candy’s open mouth. “Ten, ten and five…now you stay away from Buff” and Kelly hits her in the face one last time.
Fuller’s gusts of brutal cinema veritae’ is as shocking as it is confrontational.Candy lies there whipped,pulling the money out of her mouth,looking destroyed like a beaten hag and not the powerful business woman who runs an entire stable of what she calls”Bimbies”