Enduring Empowerment : Women Who didn’t Give a Damn! …in Silent & Classic film!

THE SILENT YEARS: When we started not giving a damn on screen!

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THE GODLESS GIRL (1929) CHAIR SMASH courtesy of our favorite genius gif generator- Fritzi of Movies Silently

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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!

There was to be no indecent exposure of the ankles and no SCHWOOSHING!  Not in this Blogathon baby!

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….

Rischka Wildcat
1) 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.
Countess A Woman of the World
2) 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.
Miss Lulu Bett
3) 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!
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4) 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!) 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.
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5) 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.
Ossi The Doll
6) 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.
Molly Sparrows
7) 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.
Helen Lass of the Lumberlands
8) 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.
Musidora Judex
9) 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.
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10) 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.
Cornelia The Bat
11) 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
Catherine The Eagle
12) Catherine the Great (Louise Dresser) in The Eagle (1925) As mentioned above, 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.

Now to unleash the gust of gals from my tornadic mind filled with favorite actresses and the characters that have retained an undying sacred vow to heroine worship… In their private lives, their public persona and the mythological stardom that has & still captivates generations of  fans, the roles they brought to life and the lasting influence that refuses to go away…!

Because they have their own unique rhythm to the way they moved through the world… a certain kind of mesmerizing allure, and/or they just didn’t give a hoot, a damn… nor a flying fig!

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“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud”-Coco Chanel

Stars like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Crawford managed to keep re-inventing themselves. They became spirited women with an inner reserve of strength and a passion for following their desires!

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Barbara Stanwyck posing with boxing gloves!

The following actresses and their immortal characters are in no particular order…!

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13. 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 Neff: ”You’ll be here too?” Phyllis: “ I guess so, I usually am.” Neff: “Same chair, same perfume, same ankle?” Phyllis:  “I wonder if I know what you mean?” Neff: “I wonder if you wonder?”
Bacall Slim To Have and Have not
14. Marie “Slim” Browning in To Have and Have Not (1944) Lauren Bacall walked into our cinematic consciousness at age 19 when Howard Hawks cast her as Marie “Slim” Browning in To Have and Have Not (1944). A night club singer, (who does a smoking rendition of Hogie Carmichael’s ‘How little We Know”) She’s got a smooth talking deep voiced sultry beauty, possesses a razor sharp wit to crack wise with, telling it like it is and the sexiest brand of confidence and cool. Slim has the allure of a femme fatale, the depth of a soul mate and the reliability of a confidant and a fearless sense of adventure. Playing across Bogart as the jaded Captain Harry Morgan who with alcoholic shipmate Eddie (Walter Brennan ) run a boating operation on the island of Martinique. Broke they take a job transporting a fugitive running from the Nazis. Though Morgan doesn’t want to get involved, Slim is a sympathizer for the resistance, and he falls in love with her, while she makes no bones about wanting him too with all the sexual innuendo to heat things up! Slim: “You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.”
Bette as Margo Channing in All About Eve
15. 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.” 
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16. Margaret DeLorca / Edith Phillips (Bette Davis) plays the good twin/bad twin paradigm in Dead Ringer (1964). Edith, is struggling working class gal who owns a nightclub, and Margaret is her vein and opportunistic twin who stole her beau Frank away and married into a wealthy lifestyle. On the night of his funeral, Edith shoots Margaret in a fit of vengeful pique, then assumes her identity with ironic results. Davis again proves even though she commits murder, she can manifest a pathos like no one else… Margaret DeLorca: You really hate me, don’t you? You’ve never forgiven me in all these years.”  Edith Phillips: “Why should I? Tell me why I should.”  Margaret DeLorca: “Well, we’re sisters!”  Edith Phillips: “So we are… and to hell with you!”
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17. Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) is a forgotten alcoholic former child star living in a faded Hollywood mansion with her invalid sister Blanche (Joan Crawford), herself an aging Hollywood star. They punish each other with vicious mind games, temper tantrums and repressed feelings of revenge and jealousy.  Jane is a tragic tortured soul who’s life becomes ‘ugly’ because she’s been shunned and imprisoned by a fatal secret in which sister Blanche holds the key. What makes Jane such an empowered figure are the very things that have driven her mad. Jane’s itching for a comeback and is ready to dance and sing her way back into everyone’s heart! Jane has a child-like innocence that gives her that ambition and pure drive to see herself back on the stage. She believes it. While other people might laugh at her behind her back, Jane’s repressed rage also leaves room for joy. She’s an empowered aging actress who refuses to give up the spot light… Good for you Jane, now put down that hammer and feed Blanche something edible… Davis delivering yet another legendary line… Blanche: “You wouldn’t be able to do these awful things to me if I weren’t still in this chair.” Jane: But you *are*, Blanche! You *are* in that chair!”
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18. Alma Brown (Patricia Neal), in Hud (1963): Playing against the unashamed bad boy Hud Bannon (Paul Newman), Alma is a world-weary housekeeper who drips with a quiet stoic sensuality and a slow wandering voice that speaks of her rugged womanly charm. The philandering Hud is drawn to Alma, but she’s too much woman for him in the end… Hud Bannon: “I’ll do anything to make you trade him.” Alma Brown: “No thanks. I’ve done my time with one cold-blooded bastard, I’m not looking for another.”
Ball of Fire (1941) Directed by Howard Hawks Shown: Henry Travers, Oscar Homolka, Gary Cooper, Leonid Kinskey, Aubrey Mather, S.Z. Sakall, Richard Haydn, Tully Marshall, Barbara Stanwyck
19. Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanny) in Ball of Fire (1941) she is just that, a sexy ball of fire and a wise-cracking night club singer who has to hide out from the mob because her testimony could put her mobster boyfriend Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews) away for murder! Some nerdy professors (including Gary Cooper) want to exploit her to study slang and learn what it’s like to speak like real folk and does she turn their world upside down. Sugarpuss O’Shea: [needing help with a stubborn zipper] “You know, I had this happen one night in the middle of my act. I couldn’t get a thing off. Was I embarrassed!“
Killer Jo Walk on the Wild Side
20. Jo Courtney (Barbara Stanwyck) in Walk on The Wild Side (1962). Jo runs the New Orleans bordello called The Doll House with an iron hand— when anyone steps out of line she knows how to handle them. Stanwyck had the guts to play a lesbian in 1962, madly in love with Hallie Gerard (Capucine). Stanwyck’s Jo Courtney is elegant, self-restrained and as imposing as Hera in tailored suits. Having to be strong in a man’s world, her strong instinct for survival and the audacious will to hold onto Hallie brings her world to a violent conclusion…  “Oh you know me better than that Hallie. Sometimes I’ve waited years for what I wanted.”    
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21. Marie Garson (Ida Lupino) in High Sierra (1941) Roy “Mad Dog” Earle has been pardoned from a long prison term. Marie, a rough around the edges taxi dancer, finds herself resisting her attraction to this brutal gangster, forming a very complicated dynamic with a second mobster who wants to pull off a high stakes robbery. Marie is a force of nature that bristles from every nerve she purely musters in this tale of doom-fated bad boys, but more importantly here… A woman can raise a rifle with the best of them! Marie Garson “Yeah, I get it. Ya always sort hope ya can get out, it keeps ya going.”
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22. Lilli Marlowe (Ida Lupino) in Private Hell 36 (1954) This rare noir gem is written by the versatile powerhouse Ida Lupino who also plays Lilli Marlowe. Lilli has expensive tastes. After getting caught up in an investigation of a bank heist, she falls in love with the blue collar cop Cal Bruner (Steve Cochran). Cal has secretly stashed away the missing money from that bank heist, and then begins to suffer from a guilty conscience.  Lilli’s slick repartee is marvelous as Cal and his reluctant partner Jack Farnham (then husband Howard Duff) focus on her, hoping she’ll help them in their investigation. Lilli’s tough, she’s made it on her own and isn’t about to compromise now… Cal may be falling apart but Lilli knows what she wants and she always seems to keep it together! Lilli Marlowe: “Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed I’d meet a drunken slob in a bar who’d give me fifty bucks and we’d live happily ever after.”
Tallulah Lifeboat
23. 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! Connie Porter: “Dying together’s even more personal than living together.” 
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24. Berenice Sadie Brown (Ethel Waters) The Member of the Wedding 1952. Berenice doesn’t take any crap. She’s in charge of the brooding, temperamental tomboy Franky Addams (Julie Harris) who feels like an outsider. Berenice’s kitchen is a place of wisdom as she tries to bestow some life lessons, to a child who is a wild and longing little soul… Berenice is the only steady source of nurturing and a strong pair of shoulders to lean on… Thank god Franky/Harris didn’t start having her droning inner monologues until The Haunting (1963). Frances ‘Frankie’ Addams: [throws the knife into the kitchen door] “I’m the world’s greatest knife thrower.”  Berenice Sadie Brown: [when Frankie threatens her with a knife] “Lay it down, Satan!” 
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25. 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! James Whale isn’t the only one who brought about life in this campy horror masterpiece… 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! the bride-“Hiss…Scream….”
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26. 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 Johnson: [to Walter on the phone] “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!” 
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27. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in Sunset Boulevard (1950) There’s just no one quite like Norma Desmond. It’s 1950’s decadent Hollywood, the heyday of the Silent Era long gone… and a true screen icon, a sympathetic soul, fights her way to a comeback. brought to life by Gloria Swanson. Swanson, who knew very well what it was like to be a screen goddess railing against fading away, creates an atmosphere of fevered madness. She’s a woman whose desires are punished by an industry and the men who hold the reigns. But Norma doesn’t give a damn she’ll always be ready for that eternal close-up… Yet another memorable phrase is turned and a legend both on and off screen is reborn. Joe Gillis: “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”  Norma Desmond: “I *am* big. It’s the *pictures* that got small.” 
Vivien Leigh in The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone
28. Karen Stone -(Vivien Leigh) in The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1961) Karen Stone has the misfortune of being a 50 year old actress. There’s no place in theatre for an old woman of 50. On the way to Italy with her husband who is much older than she, he dies of a heart attack on the plane. Karen decides to settle in Rome and live a quiet life of solitude in her magnificent villa. Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales (Lotte Lenya) is an opportunistic Madame who employs charming young gigolos to wine, dine, and bleed dry wealthy older women. She introduces Paolo di Leo (Warren Beatty) to Karen in hopes that it will bring about a showering of riches from this great American lady. Karen has no use for her old theatre friends, the status, and the game of staying on top. She enjoys the serenity of her life at the villa. Yet she is shadowed by a young Italian street hustler’s mysterious gaze. At first Karen is reserved and cautious but soon she allows Paolo to court her, and the two eventually begin an affair. Karen is aware Paolo is using her for her money, but her passion has been released. She is using him as well. But when his mood begins to sour and he turns away, Karen finds him with a younger wealthy upcoming starlet that he is already sizing up as his next meal ticket… The fling ends but Karen has taken back the power of attraction and sexual desire, and turns the usual stigmatizing dichotomy on it’s head, for while it was okay when she was a younger woman married to a much older man,  she takes a younger male lover Karen Stone: “You see… I don’t leave my diamonds in the soap dish… and when the time comes when nobody desires me… for myself… I’d rather not be… desired… at all.” 
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29. Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner) in Night of the Iguana (1964). Maxine is a the personification of the loner. She is sexually, morally and socially independent from opinion. When Ava was cast as the “earthy widow” the director said her “feline sexuality” was perfect for one of Tennessee Williams’ “hot-blooded ladies.” Maxine runs a quiet out-of-the-way tourist oasis in Mexico. When a bus load of provincial middle aged ladies break down, Maxine has to host Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall) a repressed lesbian, her gaggle of ladies who lunch, and Sue Lyon, a Lolita who is chasing Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) a defrocked alcoholic priest, that Maxine would like to become better acquainted with. Once Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr) and her elderly grandfather arrive, the atmosphere seems to shift and Shannon is confronted with questions of life and love. Everyone at the hotel has demons and the rich and languid air seems to effect everyone… Maxine waits patiently for Lawrence to realize that they could have a passionate life together if he’d stop torturing himself… Gardner’s scene dancing in the ocean with the two young men is daring and provocative and purely Ava Garnder- Judith Fellowes: [Yelling at Shannon] “You thought you outwitted me, didn’t you, having your paramour here cancel my call.”  Maxine Faulk: “Miss Fellowes, honey, if paramour means what I think it does you’re gambling with your front teeth.”
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 Ava Gardner | Maxine Faulk in Night of the Iguana 1964
HAROLD AND MAUDE, Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, 1971
30. Maude (Ruth Gordon) in Harold and Maude (1971) There is no one quite like Ruth Gordon. She’s a sage, a pixie filled with a dreamy light that shines so bright from within. You can’t help but believe that she was as effervescent off screen as she was on screen.  Maude has a transcendent world view and a personal dogma to live life to the fullest and not waste time with extraneous matters. She believes everyone should be themselves and never mind what other people think… What else can you say about a character that vocalizes as much wisdom as any of the great and insightful spiritual leaders? Maude and Ruth both have a tenacity, vivacity and perspicacity…  Maude: “Harold, *everyone* has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.”  — Maude: “I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They’re so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be?”  Harold: “I don’t know. One of these, maybe.”  Maude: “Why do you say that?”  Harold: “Because they’re all alike.”  Maude: “Oooh, but they’re *not*. Look. See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All *kinds* of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world’s sorrow comes from people who are *this*”

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31. Ma Kate Barker (Shelley Winters) in Bloody Mama 1970: You know that Roger Corman was going to get the BEST woman who didn’t give a damn to play Ma Barker, the machine gun wielding matriarch of a notorious gang of bank robbers. She’ll do anything for her boys… Four boys only a mother could love. She’d kill for them! Ma Barker was irreverent and as mean as a bear backed into a beehive. A bold and brazen nature that delves into a whole other level of ‘no fucks given.’  Holding up a bank with her machine gun in hand “Alright everybody now reach for the nightgown of the lord, REACH!” 
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32. Pepe (Grayson Hall) in Satan in High Heels (1962). Pepe is the owner of a posh burlesque house in mod-yet-gritty 60s New York City. Pepe is an incessant smoker and savvy, domineering woman who brings the story about a new ‘singer’ Stacey Kane (Meg Myles) who joins the club, to a boil— even as she stays as cool as the center seed of a cucumber. Pepe tilts her head sizing up all the various patrons who inhabit her club with just the right mix of aloof and self-possession as she puffs on her cigarette. She’s always ready with the quick lash of her tongue like a world-weary drag queen.  “Bear up, darling, I love your eyelashes.” — “You’ll EAT and DRINK what I SAY until you lose five pounds IN THE PLACES WHERE!”
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33. Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne), The Awful Truth (1937) Before the ink on the divorce papers is dry Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne) torture each other and sabotage any chances of either of them getting re-married. Both Lucy and Jerry carry on monologues to themselves throwing out quick witted repartee, so that we can see both sides of the story. One evening, when Jerry is flirting with the idea of marrying into a high society family, Lucy impersonates his sister, playing at it like a cheap bimbo. At one point she does a fabulous drunken Hoochie dance, wiggling around with a provocative sway falling into her ex-husbands arms in a way that should definitely put a dent in Jerry’s plans. Lucy is hell bent on driving Jerry crazy, yet becomes flustered herself when the tables are turned on her as she tries to carry on with her new fiancé (Ralph Bellamy). Jerry Warriner: “In a half an hour, we’ll no longer be Mr. and Mrs. Funny, isn’t it.”  Lucy Warriner: “Yes, it’s funny that everything’s the way it is on account of the way you feel.”  Jerry Warriner: “Huh?”  Lucy Warriner: “Well, I mean, if you didn’t feel that way you do, things wouldn’t be the way they are, would they? I mean, things could be the same if things were different.”  Jerry Warriner: “But things are the way you made them.”  Lucy Warriner: “Oh, no. No, things are the way you think I made them. I didn’t make them that way at all. Things are just the same as they always were, only, you’re the same as you were, too, so I guess things will never be the same again.”
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34. Catherine ‘Cay’ Higgins (Ruth Roman) in Tomorrow is Another Day (1951). Catherine is a tough dance hall girl who isn’t afraid to get herself dirty. She goes on the lam for the sake of self preservation when her new love interest Bill Clark (Steve Cochran) is wrongfully accused of killing her abusive pimp… and geez he’s just gotten out of prison after a long stretch. Cay is ballsy, extremely earthy, and exudes an inner strength that is so authentic it’s hard not to believe she could take one on the chin and still keep going. She embodies an indestructible sort of sex appeal, powerfully passionate and self-assertive woman you’d want to be with you if you’re ever on the lam… Catherine ‘Cay’ Higgins: “You worked a whole day just to dance a minute at Dream Land?  Bill Clark: It was worth it.”
Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr in Pitfall 1948
35. Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott) Pitfall (1948) Mona is a sultry dewy blonde fashion model with a low simmering voice in the greatest tradition of the noir femme fatale. Forbes falls for her, and they begin to see each other, though she unwittingly starts the affair without knowing he’s married. It’s a recipe for disaster because ex-cop turned private dick J B MacDonald (Raymond Burr) is psychotically obsessed with Mona and will set things up so Forbes goes down. Mona is a tough cookie, who unfortunately keeps attracting the wrong men. But she can take on any challenge because she’s got that noir frame of mind. She’s a doll who can make up her own mind and can hold a gun in her hand as easily as if it were a cigarette. Mona “You’re a little man with a briefcase. You go to work every morning and you do as you’re told.”
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36. Lady Torrence (Anna Magnani ) in The Fugitive Kind (1960) Lady is an earthy woman who’s passions run like a raging river & her emotions and truths flow freely on the surface clear and forceful. She is a shop owner in Louisiana who is stoically existing in a brutal marriage to her cruel and vindictive husband Jabe (Victor Jory) who’s bed-ridden and dying of cancer. Lady dreams of building a confectionary in the back of the store. Along comes Marlon Brando as Valentine “Snakeskin’ Xavier, a guitar playing roamer who takes a job in the shop. Lady’s jaded loneliness and Valentine’s raw animal magnetism combust and the two begin a love affair. And Lady suddenly sees possibility again and her re-awakened passion empowers her to live her dreams. Lady-“Let’s get this straight, you don’t interest me no more than the air you stand in.”
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37.  Egle (Anna Magnani) … And the Wild Wild Women (1959) Egle is the toughest inmate at this Italian prison for women. When Lina (Giulietta Masina) is convicted on a wrong felony charge, Egle takes her under her hardened wing and tutors her in the ways of crime. Egle is an instigator, she’s volatile and inflammatory and stirs up quite a riot at times. She’s got no fear. She is a tougher-than-nails, armpit-washing dame who just could care less about anyone else’s comfort or freedom. She’s a woman who has built up a tough exterior long enough that she truly is made of steel. The only thing that may betray that strength is at times the past sorrow or suffering that swims in her deep dark eyes.
The Rose Tattoo
38. Serafina Delle Rose (Anna Magnani) in The Rose Tattoo (1955) As the tagline states ‘Seething with realism and frankness!” You can’t get any other kind of performance from Magnani, her passionate soul is right up front, on her face and in her movements like a wild animal she moves so freely. Serafina is perpetual grieving widow filled with fire, playing against another actor (Burt Lancaster) whose bigger-than-life presence comes her way to bring about a lighthearted romance… Serafina is a seamstress in a small New Orleans town. She lives with the memory of her dead husband as if he were a saint. She mourns and wears black to show she is still committed to her man, even after he’s been killed by police while smuggling drugs for the mafia hidden in the bananas in his truck. With the presence of the local Strega or witch (Serafina gives deference to these things illustrating that she is of an older world of ancient feminine magic and empowerment), and her wandering goat, the town of fish wives & gossips who point, stare, judge, wail and cackle with their unkind insults put Serafina it forces her to fight for every last bit of dignity. Serafina gives deference to these things illustrating that she is of an older world of ancient feminine magic and empowerment. Once she learns her dead husband Rosario Delle Rose (who had a rose tattoo on his chest) was having an affair, the spell that leaves her imprisoned by mourning, breaks and awakens her will 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!”
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39. Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) Martha who is the archetypal Xanthippe and George (Richard Burton) are a middle-aged couple marinated in alcohol, using verbal assaults, brutal tirades, and orgies of humiliation as a form of connecting to one and other. All the characters spew biting blasphemous satire and are each neurotic in their own ways. But Martha is a woman who spits out exactly what she wants to say and doesn’t hold back. It’s an experiment in at home couple’s therapy served with cocktails, as they invite Nick and Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) to join the  humiliating emotional release. In the opening of the film Martha arrives home and does a nod to Bette Davis while also condemning her own personal space and the state of her marriage, as she says “What a dump.” “I swear to GOD George, if you even existed I’d divorce you.”– Martha: “You’re all flops. I’m the Earth Mother, and you are all flops.”
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40. Gloria Wandrous  (Elizabeth Taylor) in Butterfield 8 (1960) Gloria is a fashionable Manhattan beauty who’s part model, part call-girl–and all man-trap. She grew up during the Depression and couldn’t escape the sexual advances of her uncle. New York City was for her a great escape. Gloria becomes an independent, sexually free woman who wants to get paid for her time. She hits the bottle a lot, because she has those dark troubling memories from her past that make her want to drown her thoughts. She winds up meeting a wealthy business executive who’s married, Weston Liggett, (Laurence Harvey) instantly he becomes entranced by her. She’s thrown off course and headed toward a fateful end, because she sees a kindred soul in the disillusioned Liggett who isn’t happy in his marriage. Their passion breathes new life into both lonely people. Though we can admire her sexual liberation, in cinema, women in the 60s ultimately had to be punished for their willful freedom, though it’s a double standard of course. Liz Taylor is another screen goddess who never shied away from bold & provocative roles. Gloria Wandrous: “Command performances leave me quite cold. I’ve had more fun in the back seat of a ’39 Ford than I could ever have in the vault of the Chase Manhattan Bank.”
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41. Severine Sevigny (Catherine Deneuve) in Belle du Jour (1967) A whole new world opens up to Severine, a repressed housewife married to a doctor, when she decides to spend her midweek afternoons as a prostitute. While she can not seem to find any pleasure or intimacy with her husband, she blossoms in the brothel run by Madame Anais (Geneviève Page) and adopts a persona that can experiment with her secret desires of being dominated, her sexual appetites flourish during the day, when often she runs into more rough clients. But, sexual freedom has a price and ultimately, a relationship with a volatile and possessive john (Pierre Clémenti) could prove to be dangerous. Severine breaks free of the confines of convention, like marriage, and explores a provocative even deviant kind of sexual behavior. She allows herself to go further and explore the most secret desires by indulging them, it is quite adventurous and risky and Deneuve masters it with a transcendent elegance. Madame Anais: “I have an idea. Would you like to be called “Belle de Jour?”  Séverine Serizy: “Belle de Jour?”  Madame Anais: “Since you only come in the afternoons.”  Séverine Serizy: “If you wish.” 
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42. 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. It was a short marriage… Julie finds 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  (in François Truffaut’s homage to Hitchcock) running through the narrative. Like a good mystery thriller it utilizes very classic iconographic motifs. 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 who creates a satirically dire & elaborate, 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 Kohler: “Why impossible?” Coral: “Because I’m a rather pessimist.” Julie Kohler: “I’ve heard it said: “There are no optimists or pessimists. There are only happy idiots or unhappy ones”. .Julie-“It’s not a mission. It’s work. It’s something I must do” Priest–“Give it up”
 Julie–“That’s impossible, I must continue til it’s over”
Priest–“Have you have no remorse in your heart?… don’t you fear for your soul?”
Julie-“NO… no remorse, nor fear.”
Priest-“you know you’ll be caught in the end”
Julie-“The justice of men is powerless to punish, I’m already dead. I stopped living the moment David died. I’ll join David after I’ve had my revenge.”
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43. Alraune ten Brink -Brigitte Helm as Alraune 1928. A daughter of destiny! Created by Professor Jakob ten Brinken (Paul Wegener) Alraune is a variation on the Shelley story about man and his womb envy- which impels him to create a human-oid figure from unorthodox methods. A creation who does not possess a soul. He dared to violate nature when he experiments with the seed (sperm) of a hanged man and the egg of a prostitute. Much like James Whale’s Frankenstein who sought the secrets of life, Alraune is essentially a dangerous female who’s origin is seeded from this socially constructed ‘deviance’ of the hanged criminal and the whore (the film proposes that a whore is evil- I do not) Mixing the essence of sin with the magical mandrake root by alchemist ten Brinken he is seeking the answer to the question of an individual’s humanity and whether it be a product of nature or nurture. Alraune stumbles onto the truth about her origin when she reads the scientist’s diary… What could be more powerful than a woman who isn’t born with the sense of socially ordered morality imposed or innate. Is she not the perfect femme fatale without a conscience, yet… A woman who knows she is doomed to a life without a soul, she runs away with her creators love-sick nephew, leaving Professor ten Brinken, father figure and keeper- alone.
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44. Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) in Night of the Hunter (1955) “I’ve never been in style, so I can never go out of style.” Lillian Gish. There are certain images that will remain with you long after seeing masterpieces like Night of the Hunter. Aside from Harry Powell and Mitchum’s frightening portrayal of an opportunistic sociopath, beyond the horror of what he is, 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 the 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 the rifle and keeping watch like a wonderful fairy god mother elected by fate to guard those little ones with her powerful brand of love… There’s just something about Gish’s graceful light that emanates from within and the character she manifests in the righteous Rachel Cooper…. Rachel Cooper: “It’s a hard world for little things.”
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45. Kathleen Stewart- (Lucille Ball) in The Dark Corner (1956) Kathleen Stewart is the always faithful and trustworthy secretary of private investigator Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens) She’s the right amount of snarky and just a sexy bundle of smarts… Bradford Galt: “You know, I think I’ll fire you and get me a Tahitian secretary.”  Kathleen Stewart: “You won’t like them; those grass skirts are a fire hazard.”  Kathleen just won’t quit her boss. She knows he’s in trouble and wants to help him face it head on. She keeps pushing Galt to open up that steel safe “heart”, of his and let her help. Once she’s in on the intrigue, she’s right there with him, putting her secretarial skills aside and getting into the fray with her love interest/boss. She shows no fear or hesitation, doesn’t look down on Galt’s past, and is quite a versatile sidekick who really helps him out of a dangerous set up! She’s that other sort of  film noir heroine Not quite the ‘good girl’ nor a femme fatale. A strong sassy woman who doesn’t shy away from danger and when she’s in… She’s in it ‘for keeps.’ And say… isn’t that empowering!. Kathleen tells it like it is, sure she dotes on the down and out guy and is the strong shoulder to lean on, whenever things get frenzied or rough. Doesn’t make her a sap, it makes her a good friend and companion! Kathleen: “I haven’t worked for you very long, Mr. Galt, but I know when you’re pitching a curve at me, and I always carry a catcher’s mitt.”  Bradford Galt: “No offense. A guy’s got to score, doesn’t he?”  Kathleen: “Not in my league. I don’t play for score, I play for keeps “
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46. Lady Lu (Mae West) in She Done Him Wrong (1933) In the Gay Nineties, Lady Lu is a voluptuous nightclub owner/singer (she sings-A Guy What Takes His Time) who has men falling all over themselves. One is her ex lover who just escaped from prison, and a few waiting in the wings. Lu is interested in the handsome Captain Cummings (Cary Grant) who runs the temperance league across the way. Lady Lu loves to be bathed in and dazzled by diamonds, lots of diamonds. But Lu is also determined to seduce missionary Cary Grant… who is more interested in her soul than in her body-Marvelous Mae tells him- “Maybe I ain’t got no soul.” Mae had a hand in creating the woman who didn’t give a damn! She gave us the immortal line… “Come up’n see me sometime. I’m home every evenin’–“Lady Lou: “Listen, when women go wrong, men go right after them.”  Captain Cummings: “Well, surely you don’t mind my holding your hand?”  Lady Lou: “It ain’t heavy – I can hold it myself.” 
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47.  Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) in Diabolique (1955) Simone Signoret is a torrent of sensuality (Room at the Top 1959, Ship of Fools 1965) Christina Delassalle (Véra Clouzot) plays the wife of a sadistic husband Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse) the controlling headmaster at their boarding school for boys. Nicole is the mistress of the cruel Michel, who has formed a special bond with Christina. Nicole incites the timid and weakly woman to kill the bastard by drowning him in a bathtub and then dumping his body in the school’s unused and mucky swimming pool. Nicole is determined and forceful in her mission to rid Christine of this abusive beast and the two women go through with the plan.  Nicole Horner: [to Christina] “I won’t have any regrets.”  In short, the pool is drained, the body isn’t there. And then there are numerous eerie sightings of the dead man which eventually drives the murderesses into a panic…  Is Nicole in on an even more nefarious scheme to drive Christina crazy? For now, the main focus is how Nicole summons a thuggish type of power that is riveting.  What’s remarkable about the film, aside from Clouzot’s incredible construction of a perfectly unwinding suspense tale, Signoret’s performance exudes grit and an unrelenting audaciousness. Nicole.  Christina Delassalle: “Don’t you believe in Hell?”  Nicole Horner: “Not since I was seven.” 
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48 Mia Farrow is Rosemary Woodhouse in Rosemary’s Baby 1968
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48. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) in Rosemary’s Baby 1968. Rosemary has a fearless defiance in an ordinary world that becomes an unsafe space and a deep well of paranoia. Beyond guarding her body and motherhood against all 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. And she winds up taking life and the life of her baby on her own terms. No one could have manifested the spirit of Rosemary Woodhouse like Mia Farrow. It’s an indomitable image of striking resiliency. A heroine who braves an entire secretive cult of devil worshipers entrenched in the high society of NYC. That takes a lot of guts people!… Ruth Gordon as well personifies a meddling old New York busybody who just happens to be a modern day witch. Minnie Castavet also does what she wants -as she is empowered with her quirky style and her beliefs, as wicked as they may be…And her wardrobe is bold, kitschy and fabulous! Rosemary Woodhouse: “Pain, begone, I will have no more of thee!”
Geraldine Page
49. Alexandra Del Lago (Geraldine Page) in Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) Alexandra Del Lago is a decadent, soaked in boozed, and fading film star who is picked up by drifter by Chance Wayne (Paul Newman) for a tumble in the sheets. He’s been trying to break into the film biz for years, and hoping that Alexandra can help him get a screen test. He also wants to be reunited with his old flame Heavenly Finley (Shirley Knight). Chance Wayne: “I had my picture on the cover of Life magazine!… And at the same time I was… employing my other talent, lovemaking.”  Alexandra Del Lago: “That may be the only talent you were ever truly meant for.” The roles that Geraldine Page would often take were filled with an intellect that transcends the strong female archetype. As Alexandra, she has a unique sort of cynical romanticism that exudes, a bit of alienation, a touch of longing and a penetrating intensity. She might be a washed up film star but she’s also a philosopher with a grasp of vocalizing the ironies and tragedies of life. She wants to drown her sorrows in liquor so she can escape from the pain of her life, and the uncertainty the future holds. But within that internal tumult is the soul of a great lady. Narcissistic, world-weary and a spirit stoked by those heart-aches.
Anna Lucasta (1958) | Pers: Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis Jr | Dir: Arnold Laven | Ref: ANN040AE | Photo Credit: [ United Artists / The Kobal Collection ] | Editorial use only related to cinema, television and personalities. Not for cover use, advertising or fictional works without specific prior agreement
50. Anna Lucasta (Eartha Kitt) (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 just powerful as a woman who made that road her own…  Danny- “Tell her who Papa is” (speaking about the little carved wooden Haitian idol he’s given her) 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…”
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51. Carol Richman (Ella Raines) in Phantom Lady 1944 Carol Richman risks her life to try to find the elusive woman who can prove her boss (Alan Curtis) didn’t murder his wife. The unhappy guy spends a fateful evening with a woman he has picked up in a bar. He doesn’t know her name but she wears an unusual hat, which might be a clue for Carol to try and track down. Carol’s got so much guts, she puts herself in harms way so many times but she’s fearless just the same. Even when she meets the super creepy jazz drummer Cliff Milburn, who obviously is manic and might just be a sadist in bed, (if his drumming is any indication.) Plus there’s always the deranged sculptor Jack Marlow (Franchot Tone) who seems to be a menacing force.  Cliff Milburn (Elisha Cook Jr) “You Like Jive?” Carol ‘Kansas’ Richman “You bet, I’m a hep kitten” 
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52. Pam Grier is Coffy 1973  Okay okay tho I’m sneaking in past the 1970 cut off… I’m a woman who doesn’t give a damn and nodding to one of the greatest 70’s icon… Pam Grier set the pace for strong female heroines that laid the groundwork for all the others to follow… so she gets a nod from me! She plays a nurse who becomes a vigilante in order to get justice against the inner-city drug dealers who are responsible for her sister’s overdose… Coffy sets the bar high for strong female characters who wouldn’t back down, and who possessed a strength that is meteoric and a force to be reckoned with. Beautiful, resourceful, intelligent -a strikingly irrepressible image that will remain in the cultural consciousness for an eternity. Arturo Vitroni: “Crawl, n*gger!” Coffy: [pulls out gun] “You want me to crawl, white mother fucker?” Arturo Vitroni: “What’re you doing? Put that down.” Coffy: “You want to spit on me and make me crawl? I’m gonna piss on your grave tomorrow.”
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53. 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 girl starved for new adventures, longing for something exciting to happen, to stir up her life. Careful what you wish for… She’s 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 (Patricia Collinge) younger brother is actually a sadistic serial killer who preys on rich widows by marrying them, then strangling them! He’s so charming and charismatic that women can’t help being drawn to him. But young Charlie begins to see through his facade. Why would he cut out the news headline in the paper about a murderer who kills rich women? It all begins to take shape, and unfortunately Uncle Charlie can’t afford to have his favorite niece spill the beans.  What’s remarkable about young Charlie is that for a girl who fantasizes and indulges herself in things of a more romantic nature, she’s pretty darn brave in the self preservation department since no one else in the family believes her suspicions that he’s The Merry Widow killer. And she might just have to go rogue and wind up killing him in self-defense… Young Charlie: “Go away, I’m warning you. Go away or I’ll kill you myself. See… that’s the way I feel about you.”
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Constance Towers & Virginia Gray
Constance Towers The Naked Kiss
54. 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. Kelly brutally pummels the rat with her handbag. Stripped of her hair she looks like a mannequin signifying her as the ‘object’ She is introduced to us from the opening of the narrative as a fighter. Kelly manages to fit in to the quaint new town of Granville she’s made her home until the perverse true nature of Granville’s benefactor is exposed. Grant (Michael Dante) possesses a dark secret that Kelly stumbles onto and ultimately explodes in scandal. The story is a mine field of social criticisms and hypocrisy that allow Kelly to rise above her persecution by the local cop Griff (Anthony Eisley) who isn’t adverse to taking Kelly to bed himself or frequenting Madame Candy’s (Virginia Gray) high class “cat house’ yet he’s above reproach. Griff tells Kelly it’s a clean town and he doesn’t want her operating there. But Kelly wants out of the business. She’s great with disabled children at the hospital and just wants a fresh start. Until she exposes the truly deviant secret about Grant and winds up accused of his murder. Kelly initially walks the fine line of being the ‘whore’ of the story, the one who needs redemption only to have the narrative flip it around and more importantly it’s the town that must be redeemed because of it is jaundiced complacency from the long kept secrets of the wealthy Patriarchal family that own and run it. Kelly is a powerful protagonist, because she kicks down the door of hypocrisy and judgement. Kelly also shatters the limitations that are placed on women. There’s exists a displaced female rage that started to become articulated later on with ‘f’eminist parable’ films during the late 60s and 70s. In the end she no longer is labeled or objectified or persecuted. She is embraced as a savior. Kelly’s got a reserve of strength and a great sense of self. To me she ends up being a heroine who rather than redeems herself becomes the catalyst for cleansing the ‘white middle-class’ town of it’s hypocrisy… Kelly (talking to Capt. Griff Anthony Eisley)“I washed my face clean the morning I woke up in your bedroom!”
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55. Velma (Agnes Moorehead) in Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) Velma is Charlotte’s trusted companion. She shows a lot of gumption when Cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland) shows up trying to gaslight poor Charlotte who’s suffered enough at the grotesque and tawdry way she lost her fiancee, and how she lived under the oppressive thumb of her father (Victor Buono). Velma wasn’t nary shy a bit to face off with Cousin Miriam, that intimidating gold-digging she-devil in Park Avenue clothes. (From de Havilland’s own wardrobe) Velma always says it like it is, and tries to be a trusted friend to Charlotte even when the whole town shuns her as a crazy axe murderess. We all need friends who would either help you hide the body, or at least defend you against an accusing mob… either way. I’m pretty sure Velma could have taken Miriam if she didn’t have Joseph Cotton’s help on her side… And we can’t forget Mary Astor’s firebrand performance as Jewel Mayhew… Jewel Mayhew: “Well, right here on the public street, in the light of day, let me tell you, Miriam Deering, that murder starts in the heart, and its first weapon is a vicious tongue.”– Velma Cruther talking to Cousin Miriam: “O you’re finally showin’ the right side of your face. Well, I seen it all along. That’s some kinda drug you been givin’ her. Isn’t it? It’s what’s been making her act like she’s been. Well, Ah’m goin’ into town and Ah’m tellin them what you been up to.”

Continue reading “Enduring Empowerment : Women Who didn’t Give a Damn! …in Silent & Classic film!”

25 Silent and Classic Female Film Characters Who Didn’t Give A Damn!

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Brigitte Helm as Maria/The Machine Man in Metropolis (1927)

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She’s coming! The Anti-Damsel Blogathon August 15 & 16, 2015. Hosted by Movies Silently and The Last Drive in…

This post is a collaboration between Fritzi of Movies Silently and me, Joey, here on the Last Drive In.

We offer you a spirited sampling of totally empowered, take-the-reigns film characters who were anything but damsels in distress!  

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1. Helen (Miriam Nesbitt) in The Ambassador’s Daughter (1913)

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.

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2. Helen (Helen Holmes) in A Lass of the Lumberlands (1916)

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.

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3. Diana Monti (Musidora) in Judex (1916)

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.

Ossi The Doll
4. Ossi (Ossi Oswalda) in The Doll (1919)

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.

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5. Lulu (Lois Wilson) in Miss Lulu Bett (1921)

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!

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6. Rischka (Pola Negri) in The Wildcat (1921)

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.

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7. The Countess (Pola Negri) in A Woman of the World (1925)

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.

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8. Catherine the Great (Louise Dresser) in The Eagle (1925)

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.

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9. Cornelia Van Gorder (Emily Fitzroy) in The Bat (1926)

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.

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10. Eve (Leatrice Joy) in Eve’s Leaves (1926)

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.

Molly (Mary Pickford) in Sparrows (1926)
11. Molly (Mary Pickford) in Sparrows (1926)

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.

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12. Zaida (Bebe Daniels) in She’s a Sheik (1927)

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.

Dorothy Mckaill Safe in Hell
12. Gilda Carson-Erickson (Dorothy Mackaill) Safe in Hell (1931 pre-code

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.”

CapturFiles
13. The Bride (Elsa Lanchester) Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

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!

“Hiss…Scream….”

Annex - Russell, Rosalind (His Girl Friday)_01
15. Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) in His Gal Friday (1940)

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!” 

shadow-of-a-doubt-joseph-cotten-teresa-wright-strangling-1943
16. Charlie (Teresa Wright), in Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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.”

Double Indemnity
17. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) Double Indemnity (1944)

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?”

Tallulah Lifeboat
18. Constance Porter (Tallulah Bankhead) in Lifeboat 1944.

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.” 

Bette as Margo Channing in All About Eve
19. Margo Channing (Bette Davis) All About Eve (1950)

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.” 

night-of-the-hunter
20. Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) in Night of the Hunter (1955)

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.”

The Rose Tattoo

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!”

Anna Lucasta (1958) | Pers: Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis Jr | Dir: Arnold Laven | Ref: ANN040AE | Photo Credit: [ United Artists / The Kobal Collection ] | Editorial use only related to cinema, television and personalities. Not for cover use, advertising or fictional works without specific prior agreement
22. Anna Lucasta (Eartha Kitt) in Anna Lucasta (1958)
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…”

kiss1
23. Kelly (Constance Towers) in The Naked Kiss (1964)

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!”

rosemarysbaby

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!”

Moreau Bride Wore Black

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.”

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Here’s to those Empowered Women of Silent & Classic Film! — Your Ever-Lovin’ Joey 

Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Faster Pussycat
Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
Cul-de-Sac
Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
the Naked kiss
Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
Shock Corridor
Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
CapturFiles_3 copy
Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

THE DARK PAGES NEWSLETTER  a condensed article was featured in The Dark Pages: You can click on the link for all back issues or to sign up for upcoming issues to this wonderful newsletter for all your noir needs!

Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

Glen or Glenda
Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

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!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

weird-noir
There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
mimi3
Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
The Strangler 1964 Victor Buono
Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
Repulsion
Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

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.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

Postcards From Shadowland No.13

Act of Violence
Act of Violence 1948 directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Van Heflin, Robert Ryan and Janet Leigh
Chaney Hunchback
Lon Chaney in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923
Baby Jane
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? 1962 Directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
bedlam-1946-001-boris-karloff
Bedlam 1946 directed by Mark Robson Produced by Val Lewton and starring Boris Karloff and Anna Lee
Bette Davis in Dead-Ringer
Bette Davis and Bette Davis in Dead Ringer (1964) directed by Paul Henreid and co-starring Karl Malden and Peter Lawford
Blondell and Tyrone Nightmare Alley
Joan Blondell and Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley 1947 written by Jules Furthman for the screen and directed by Edmund Goulding
CabinInTheSky
Cabin in the Sky 1943 directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Lena Horne and Ethel Waters
crossfire postcards
Crossfire 1947 directed by Edward Dmytryk starring the Roberts- Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan
Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951 directed by Robert Wise and starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal and Hugh Marlowe
Devil Commands
The Devil Commands 1941 directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Boris Karloff and Anne Revere written for the screen by Robert Hardy Andrews
Title: OLD DARK HOUSE, THE (1932) • Pers: STUART, GLORIA • Year: 1932 • Dir: WHALE, JAMES • Ref: OLD005AA • Credit: [ UNIVERSAL / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]
THE OLD DARK HOUSE, THE (1932) GLORIA STUART and BORIS KARLOFF Dir: JAMES WHALE
dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde
Dr JEKYLL AND MR HYDE 1931starring Frederick March & Miriam Hopkins and directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Farley andThey Live By Night
They Live By Night starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell. Directed by Nicholas Ray
Fontaine and Anderson Rebecca
Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca 1940
CapturFiles
Phantom of the Opera 1925 starring Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin
freaks
Tod Brownings Freaks 1932
Gloria Odds Against Tomorrow
Gloria Grahame Odds Against Tomorrow 1959 directed by Robert Wise
Josette Day Beauty
Josette Day in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast 1946
Judith Anderson Rebecca
Judith Anderson in Rebecca 1940
Leigh and Thaxter Act of Violence
Janet Leigh and Phyllis Thaxter in Act of Violence 1948
Louis Calhern Marlon Brando Julius Caesar 1953
Joseph L. Mankiewitz directs Louis Calhern & Marlon Brando in  Julius Caesar 1953
Ls metropolis
Fritz Langs’ Metropolis 1927
M castle's sardonicus
William Castle’s Mr Sardonicus 1961 Starring Guy Rolfe and Audrey Dalton
Maclean the children's hou
William Wyler directs Shirley McClaine in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour 1961co-starring Audrey Hepburn and James Garner
Mary Astor and Van Heflin Act of Violence
Mary Astor and Van Heflin Act of Violence 1948
Odds Against Tomorrow Shelley Winters and Robert Ryan
Odds Against Tomorrow Shelley Winters and Robert Ryan 1959
Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird
Gregory Peck in Robert Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 written by Harper Lee with a screenplay by Horton Foote
Robert Ryan The Set-Up
Robert Ryan in Robert Wise’s The Set-Up 1949
Sam Fuller's The Naked Kiss, Constance Towers
Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss 1964 starring Constance Towers
Samson and Delilah-Hedy Lamarr
Cecil B DeMille’s Samson and Delilah 1949 -starring Hedy Lamarr and Victor Mature
Taylor and Jane Eyre
Robert Stevenson directed Bronte’s Jane Eyre 1943 starring a young Elizabeth Taylor and Peggy Ann Garner
The Children's Hour
The Children’s Hour Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine
The Haunting
Julie Harris and Claire Bloom in Robert Wise’s The Haunting 1963
the night_of_the_living_dead_3
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead 1968
Walk on the Wild Side barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyk as Jo in Walk on the Wild Side 1962 directed by Edward Dmytryk
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane Bette
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962 Bette Davis and Victor Buono

HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13th- Hope you have a truly lucky day-MonsterGirl

Postcards From Shadowland’s Big Fat No.10

Alexandra Schmidt in Mother Kraus' jounrey to happiness mutter-krausens-fahrt-ins-gluck-schmidt
Alexandra Schmidt in ‘Mother Krause’s Journey to Happiness’ (1929)
all-about-eve-anne-baxter-bette-davis-marilyn-monroe-richard carlson-george sanders-celeste holm
Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s brilliant satire- All About Eve (1950) starring the inimitable Bette Davis as Margo Channing and Ann Baxter as the cunning Eve Harrington.
All's Quet on the Western Front
Director Lewis Milestone’s All’s Quiet on the Western Front-(1930) starring Lew Ayres
anatomy of murder scene
Otto Preminger’s riveting court room noir Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
battleship-potemkin-odessa-steps-sergei-eisenstein
Battleship Potemkin (1925) Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece about the great Russian naval mutiny.
Brute Force
Jule’s Dassin’s brutal noir masterpiece Brute Force (1947)
Cat-on-a-Hot-Tin-Roof-elizabeth-taylor-scene
Richard Brooks adaptation of Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
DameJudith:MrsDanvers
Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca 1940
janet-leigh-touch-of-evil-charlton-heston
Orson Welles’ film classic Touch of Evil (1958)
notre-dame-hunchbackLaughton
William Dieterle’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939
kiss of death
Henry Hathaway’s disturbing noir classic Kiss of Death 1947
Laura
Otto Preminger’s quintessential noir Laura (1944)
Lee Remick in Experiment in Terror 1960
Blake Edwards Experiment in Terror 1960
Earth Vs The Spider
Bert I. Gordon’s Earth Vs The Spider 1958
Dracula's Daughter
Lambert Hillyer’s understated yet powerfully erotic horror classic Dracula’s Daughter 1936
Linda darnell no way out
Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s taut and thought provoking social noir No Way Out 1950
little-caesar-edward-g-robinson
Mervyn LeRoy’s gangster odyssey Little Caesar 1931
Day the earth stood still robert wise
Robert Wise’s Science Fiction masterpiece The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
long dark hall
Reginald Beck and Anthony Bushell’s suspenseful The Long Dark Hall 1951
loretta-young-lon-chaney-laugh-clown-laugh
Herbert Brenon’s beautiful Laugh, Clown, Laugh 1928
m-peter-lorre-
Fritz Lang’s notorious psychological thriller M (1931)
Monday Nights with Oscar
Otto Preminger’s noir masterpiece about addiction The Man with the Golden Arm 1955
allison hayes Attack of the 50 foot woman
Nathan Juran’s iconic 50s campy sci-fi romp Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)
marsha-hunt-actress-raw-deal-john-ireland
Anthony Mann’s noir classic Raw Deal (1948)
Mother Joan of the Angels
Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s surreal and transcendent Mother Joan of the Angels 1961
Nancy Kelly in The Bad Seed
Mervyn LeRoy’s naughty tale about a child psychopath. The Bad Seed (1956)
naked kiss2
Samuel Fuller’s irreverent noir gem The Naked Kiss (1964)
odd+man+out+1947
Carol Reed’s intense noir thriller Odd Man Out (1947)
Norma Desmond
Billy Wilder’s iconic film noir masterwork of grand proportions Sunset Blvd (1950)
orphee-jean-marais
Jean Cocteau’s stunning Orpheus (1950) Orphée
outofthepas
Jacques Tourneur’s hauntingly mesmerizing noir Out of the Past (1947)
Peggy Cummings Gun Crazy
Joseph E. Lewis Gun Crazy or Deadly is the Female (1950)
penny_serenade
George Steven’s sadness and joyful Penny Serenade (1941)
frankenstein
James Whale’s campy take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 1931
the+black+cat
Edgar G. Ulmer’s sadistic and transgressive journey into horror The Black Cat 1934
vampyr
Carl Theodor Dreyer’s masterful vision of quiet uncanny horror Vampyr (1932)
prowler-tale
Joseph Losey’s titillating noir The Prowler ((1951)
photo-Les-Diaboliques-1954-3
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s brilliantly chilling Les-Diaboliques-1955
Seance
Bryan Forbes’ compelling suspense thriller Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)
Seven Chances
Buster Keaton’s fantastic Seven Chances (1925)
SCARFACE (1932)
Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson’s SCARFACE (1932)
sparrows-mary-pickford
William Beaudine’s haunting Sparrows (1926)
Bride of Frankestein
James Whales even campier and finest work The Bride of Frankenstein 1935
streetcar-named-desire-leigh-brando
Elia Kazan’s volatile theme of desolation and passion based on Tennessee William’s play A Streetcar Named Desire 1951
SUNSET BOULEVARD
some more divine SUNSET BOULEVARD 1950
the nymph ward shock corridor
Samuel Fuller’s edgy Shock Corridor (1963)
old-dark-house-karloff-stuart
Jame’s Whale’s The Old Dark House 1932
They-Live-By-Night
Nicholas Ray’s incredibly beautiful film noir journey They Live By Night (1948)
Theo and Eleanor
Robert Wise’s uncompromising ghost story adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting (1963)
white-heat-james-cagney-600x450
Raoul Walsh’s iconic crime thriller White Heat (1949)

Postcards From Shadowland No.2

BORN TO KILL (1947) Directed by Robert Wise starring Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney
CAGED (1950) Starring Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead and Ellen Corby
The Cape Canaveral Monsters 1960
The Spiral Staircase 1945 directed by Robert Siodmak, Starring Dorothy McGuire, George Brent and Ethel Barrymore
Phantom Lady 1944 Directed by Robert Siodmak, starring Ella Raines, Franchot Tone and Elisha Cook Jr.
I Walked With A Zombie 1943 Produced by Val Lewton, directed by Jacques Tourneur, edited by Mark Robson, written for the screen by Curt Siodmak and starring Frances Dee, James Ellison and Tom Conway.
MAN HUNT 1941 directed by Fritz Lang, starring Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett and George Sanders
QUICKSAND 1950
The Naked Kiss 1964
PUSHOVER 1954 directed by Richard Quine, starring Kim Novak and Fred MacMurray
The Seventh Victim 1943 Produced by Val Lewton and directed by Mark Robson, starring Kim Hunter, Tom Conway and Jean Brooks.
THE BURGLAR 1957 Directed by Paul Wendkos and starring Dan Duryea, Jayne Mansfield and Martha Vickers
Sunset Blvd. 1950 directed by Billy Wilder, starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden.

Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss: Part III “Tell me where is the blue bird of happiness found?”

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 End

Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss:Part II “I washed my face clean the morning I woke up in your bedroom”

The Naked Kiss (1965) Part II

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 count 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 bimbies, 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.”

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.

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 Florance 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 now,”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 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 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 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”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”

Continued in Part III

Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss (1965): Part I: “There’ll be no later, this town is clean”

The Naked Kiss (1965) Shock and Shame, the story of a Night Girl.

Let me say that this is one of my favorite films. I think that it’s such a bold concoction of visual style, specific alienation that we as spectators experience along with Kelly our female Protagonist. The undercurrent of sexual pathology of a perverse nature and a raw energy that fuels some crude reactionary moments on film. Normally I wouldn’t write about the ending of a film as not to ruin it for the viewer, yet Constance Tower’s remarkable performance and Fuller’s raw cinematic veritae must be experienced, the story will not lose anything by my relating it here. I actually consider this part of my women in peril series, but more aptly put, it’s a womanhood in peril film.

Samuel Fuller’s B post noir films are not like anyone else’s. Fuller’s work is often confrontational and visceral considered the kinkiest of all the B post noir auteurs.


From Alain Silver and James Ursini’s Film Noir Reader 2Fuller’s Naked Kiss “boldly offers a different kind of descriptive pause. Fuller takes on Patriarchy and directly assaults the spectator with a bizarre opening”

In their book they inform us that Fuller actually attached a camera to actor Monte Mansfield who plays Kelly’s pimp Farlunde, the guy she pummels in his swanky apartment right from the tip of the film.Thus creating an off kilter and disorienting mood. The opening of The Naked Kiss, is perhaps for me one of the most audacious beginnings to any cinematic work. It sort of punches you right in the face along with Farlunde.

The greater theme of the film is it’s narrative of womens’ role within society. In a way not unlike Elia Kazan, Fuller has created a sociological framework, to lay out questions of what womanhood, as well as motherhood, means discursively. While at the end of the film, Kelly is relegitimized as being a savior and not a whore, she is still not allowed to live amongst the clean town’s people. She is still an outsider. Silver and Ursini also correctly bring out in their noir reader the  fact that the context of the film is a “discursive-based attack on men and how they define women as well as the limits they place on them”. Also notable is the displaced female rage that only became better articulated later on with  feminists during the 60s and 70s.

The Naked Kiss written, directed and produced by Sam Fuller, opens wide like a steel trap, with Constance Towers as Kelly viciously beating up a pimp Farlunde in his swanky apartment, smashing away at him with her handbag. Hitting his face and neck, it’s like watching a brutal choreographed dance. Fuller creates this wavering movement to give us a sense of the dizzying brutality. Farlunde begs “I’m drunk Kelly please,” “enough Kelly please.” The savage jazz riffs underscoring the bashing. Her wig comes flying off, and now we see a bald Kelly still attacking the man relentlessly. The jazz more coherent with hyper active saxophone.

Stripped of her hair looking like a mannequin (perhaps to show us Kelly as an “object”) she beats him till he staggers to the floor, spraying seltzer water in his face. He’s wasted by the beating, she rifles through his pockets and grabs some cash from his wallet. “Eight hundred dollars… you parasite… I’m taking only what’s coming to me.” She starts counting out bills, throwing them down upon his chest, “fifty, sixty, seventy-five… I’m not rolling you, you drunken leech, I’m only taking the seventy-five dollars that’s coming to me.”

She crumples up her share, shoves it into her bra and kicks him while he’s lying there. She stares at us like we’re her mirror. Gratified she puts her wig back on and the title rolls, The Naked Kiss. Sam Fuller’s story of alienation, gender subjugation and the question of immorality and deviant sexual pathology, opens up in a big way.

The Paul Dunlop score becomes more dreamy, with melodramatic strings and Kelly brushing her wig. getting it right. The credits roll and Kelly is applying her eye pencil transforming herself back into a woman and not blood thirsty she-devil. Now the blush is applied, the music fades back into the jazz number and we see Farlunde knocked out, lying on the floor.The saxophone is hurling trills at us, Kelly grabs a photograph down from a collection of beauties and she starts tearing it up to pieces, throws them on the ground, the Farlunde stirs, coughs a bit and starts to get up, Kelly slams the door.

As he starts picking up the debris Kelly has left in her wake he puts crumpled up bills on top of a calendar and we see the date July 4, 1961. A quick cut, flash forward to a banner in the street touting August 12, 1963 and the melodramatic music is serenading us again. The camera pulls out for a wider angle, we can see the entire banner now, it reads 2 years later. August 12, 1963 Fashion Show for Handicapped Children Grantville Orthopedic Medical Center

The top of a bus moving through the street, a parked car, a mostly empty street, with a few people crossing it, and mulling about. This is the suggestion of a quiet, quaint American town.

Then a car horn toots, 3 men standing outside a Bus Depot, Griff (Anthony Eisley) says “Ten bucks, that right Mike?” Mike says “why spend your own money on that punk?” Griff turns to the young man and says while stuffing it in his pocket “Here’s your ticket” smiles at him and shoves some money into his pocket as well. All the time the young man is looking down as if ashamed. He says “Thanks a lot Griff… I’ll pay you back.” Griff looks at him sternly, “I’m giving you a break, cause your brother was in my outfit… I don’t want to see you in this town again.” The young man looks down again.

Then a Greyhound bus pulls over to the curb. We see the marquee of the movie theater is playing Shock Corridor, a nod to Fuller’s other psychologically wrenching film about a newspaper reporter going undercover in a lunatic asylum, only to become one of the patients.

The bus door opens, from our vantage point, we see a woman’s foot taking a step, long slender legs attached,the screen flirts with us, a little more leg with skirt now, the scene is taking it’s time, showing us the woman. Skirt holding suitcases and the characteristic horn plays a sexy VaVaVa Voom riff. The bus porter meets the woman we see her face in silhouette, wearing a nice lightly colored tailored suit. He comes to greet her and help with her bags. Griff’s expression looks interested. “Please check my trunk” she says. It’s Kelly, with what looks like a fully grown head of blond hair, nicely coiffed. She’s smiling pleasantly, “lady like”, “I’ll send for it later” she says in softly spoken tones. She tips Mike, he blushes and says “thank you ma’am.” She smiles back.

Kelly and Griff make eye contact. She inquires where the wash room is. Griff says as if gritting his teeth, “inside, to the right.” She lilts her head, using her eyes to convey her gratitude, “thank you.” She walks off, Griff’s eyes following her all the while. The VaVaVoom sax as signature theme which characterizes her sex appeal. Now Griff breaks his gaze and turns to the young man. “Get on it, and get lost.” He picks up his bags and gets on the bus, then a Mike the porter and his little girl Bunny with her mother walk over. Mike’s wife is holding a bag of groceries, “pot roast tonight Griff”, he says “oh not tonight” the man says “oh I wanted to finish that game Griff.”
“Danny’s been taken to the hospital…I’m pulling duty for him for tonight”

The little girl fingers the letter embossed on the trunk and asks “what’s this K mean?” Griff tells her, “that’s the name of the owner.” The little girl Bunny giggles “K is no name,Uncle Griff”Mike says “Bunny…don’t you fool around with that” the little girl says “yes dad” Mike’s wife says “see ya at home Mike.” Griff is smiling with pride, this is a lovely little family he’s thinking.”By daddy.” “Bye.”

Sensual washes of music bring Kelly back onto the screen. Coyly leaning up against the wall, shooting eyes at Griff and Mike, the sax flirting out tones.Kelly smiles over at them. Tilts her head and walks away, swinging her hips. Griff watches her walk, “that’s enough to make a bull dog bust it’s chain.” Griff starts to follow her. Kelly passes two little girls playing jump rope by a baby carriage. Kelly looks into the carriage and smiles placing a baby bottle into the infant’s mouth.

Does this sexualized figure have a mother instinct? Is this act of caring for the infant alluding to a maternal aspect to Kelly?

We don’t hear sexy horns anymore, now it’s sweeping strings, romantic swells, of the grandiose potential for the American Dream. A normal life ahead? Kelly continues to walk through the park with her bags. Passing yet another woman on a park bench with a baby carriage. The visual narrative lets us know that this is a family town. Now we see Griff still following her. Fixes his jacket and checks to see if anyone notices that he’s tracking Kelly.

The scene cross fades into Kelly and Griff sitting on a park bench. Kelly’s reading a book and Griff is leaning on her suitcase. He asks “traveling saleslady? she says” “uh ha” “Staying long?” Still looking at her book “long enough to cover this territory.” Griff says “Well there’s one Hotel in town, special rates for salesmen…” Looking down at her case “what’re you selling?” She puts her book down grabs the case and says “Angel Foam” opens up the case and reveals 3 bottles “champagne.” Griff seems delighted. Kelly tells him “best on the market.” He asks “what are the pens for?” She gives a little shake of her head “customers.” A strange undertone to the way she says “customers.” A few years back or as recently as present day “customer” means something very different for Kelly.

Griff asks “How ’bout a sample.” She slams the case closed. We hear the clasps jingle as she says “uh uh, no free sips.” He readjusts himself and leans in and tell her “well I’m pretty good at popping the cork…if the vintage is right.”

The sexual double entendre is blatant. Kelly’s looking at her book again, he’s trying to get her attention. He looks like he’s trying to find a word and says “Angel Foam… never heard of it.” She smiles but still doesn’t look at Griff. “It’s an exclusive line I’m introducing in this state.” Griff asks  “domestic or imported?” Now Kelly looks at him, with piercing eyes, as if to say you couldn’t handle my goods.

“Angel Foam goes down like liquid gold.. .and it comes up like slow dynamite… for the man of taste.” Again the sexual innuendo is clearly part of their dialogue. The cover of the book shows a woman in peril, trying to flee some unseen assailant the title reads. Dark Rage. Here the word rage is introduced subliminally, also the fact that Kelly is selling something associated with romance with a name like Foam…is this code for climax or ejaculation? For 1965 Fuller rips the surface right off the film, and doesn’t hint around the issue of desire, the male gaze and sexuality at all in Naked Kiss.



Kelly asks “Do you think you can afford it?” And Griff says “how much for a bulls eye?” “Ten dollars a bottle.” “Ten dollars, well that’s dirt cheap.” She closes the book. “Well we practically give it away to the first customer.” He looks puzzled she tells him “it’s called, good will in business” looking at him, still in control of the conversation.

Fade out, then fade into:

Griff lying on the couch drinking from a champagne glass. Kelly’s on the floor brushing out her beautiful blond hair. As she brushes she remarks “wonderful, just wonderful.” Griff bleets “thank you.” “Not you, I’m talking about my hair.” We hear Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata playing in the background. He says “you’re crazy mussing it up that way” she glows “you’ll never know what a thrill this is…it’s all new.” He furrows his brow “new?” Still brushing, “mmh hmm, it’s just grown back.” “Did it fall out because you were sick?” She shakes her head no “Uh uh.”Griff starts to rise up on the couch “don’t tell me you had your head shaved?” She turns and smiles “it wasn’t my idea.” He looks concerned and asks her “what happened?” She tells him “It’ll keep.”

Then the tension breaks and he smiles, puts his arm around her and kisses her neck. There’s a shot of money on a small table, next to a chilled bottle in an ice bucket.”Well at least you made a ten spot on Angel Foam.” “I thought you gave me a twenty?” “Isn’t that enough wine to make you see double?” he answers. He starts rubbing her neck and cheek and she says “Ah, Moonlight Sonata… my favorite.” He kisses her neck she says “I see myself in a boat when I hear that… a boat… on a lake… and the moonlight… leaves lazily falling on me… what do you see?” He’s still kiss her, hand on her neck, “I’m tone deaf” he says.

Kelly obviously aspires for better things. She has a sense of refinement. Appreciation for the classics. This is a woman with many layers. She is not just a whore.

Cross Fade, Griff is now getting dressed. He tells Kelly that she can sleep at his place, just for the night. She’s still sitting on the floor. Leaning up against the couch contemplative. She gets up and asks “How long have you been a cop?” He turns around after taking a sip of coffee “is my badge that obvious?” Kelly says “is mine?” Griff says “well I was taking no chances.” She says “in my business I have to.” These are two marked people, Griff and Kelly. The user and the used.

He puts his jacket on “Well I don’t see any battle scars.” Kelly says “that’s ’cause I practice the first rule of the house… end with the local law first, break the ice for later.” But Griff looks down at her “they’ll be no later… this town is clean.”

Kelly takes the remark like a slap in the face. She gets up angered “what do you mean by that?” “That means that you and me will get along like noise and a hangover if you pitch tent in my bivouac.” She looks so harmed by his insult. He has lost his lazy carefree demeanor and has now donned the cop uniform with Kelly. She tells him “for a cop, you oughtta read books… Goethe (she pronounces it Gotha, but at least she tries to appear intelligent) for instance.” “Go who?” “Goetha the poet… he said nothing is more terrible than an act of ignorance and mister you proved him one hundred percent right.”

She mispronounces Goethe but now we see a scrapper, who is trying to better herself, by opening up to philosophical ideas and poetry, looking for meaning in life. Representing her desire to improve her station in life. Griff’s insult isn’t lost on me either as the viewer. What hypocrisy, that she was good enough to use for his sexual pleasure, but now she’s not good enough for the town. As if Griff’s hands were clean. As if he isn’t a willing participant in the act of prostitution. This is one instance where Fuller challenges Patriarchy, and the double standard that it practices.

She continues “I’m not going to start the Bubonic plague here” Griff grabs her “Now listen, it’s nothing personal Muffin…if I let you set up shop in this neighborhood, people’d chop me like a ripe banana.” she comes back at him “then why’d you buy my merchandise.” She now joins in objectifying herself as a commodity. A thing she can sell. Her body and sex are equal components to her total worth.

Griff fumbles for the words “I, I was thirsty.” He puts his arm around her, she smiles a little, he starts walking her around the apartment like he’s about to give her fatherly advice.He says “Across the river, there’s a wide open town… Delmar Falls… it’s not in this state.. .there’s a salon there, and I don’t mean a beauty parlor.. .Candy Ala Carte…(he smirks)… Candy’s a personal friend of mine”. He grabs her neck affectionately tough, she looks at him, he says “I’ll buy a bottle from you now and then.”

She nods, and then he finally asks “What’s your name?” She answers “Kelly.” He’s still holding onto her with his hands. He barks at her “Your real name!” She jabs back equally on par with his tone”K E double L Y.” He tells her she’ll be his sounds like “ichi van” that’s a Japanese expression, he picked it up in Tokyo. She knows what it means, tells him “means number one..” He looks at her approvingly as if surprised that she’s intelligent. Now she asks”what’s your name tiger?” “Za, I mean Griff.” Now she says “your real name” as he puts his hat on he spells out “G R I double F.” She asks “rank?” “Captain.” She looks over his suit “no uniform?” “Everybody knows me.” He tilts his hat down over his eyes. Is that a gesture of shame?

Kelly hands him a pen “a reminder not to change brands.” Another innuendo, he reads the writing on the pen “Angel Foam guarantee’s satisfaction.” He snickers, “it’s almost as good as Candy’s trademark.” Kelly crosses her arms and looks skeptical “Oh what does Candy guarantee?” Griff answer “indescribable pleasure…(Kelly nods)… she got it out of a book, it’s stamped on all her glasses… tell her I sent you.” He tilts his head and looks at her and with a stern voice and says “Kelly” as if asking a question. She replies “Yes sir?” “Didn’t you forget something?” She pauses then acts like the light bulb just went on, “oh, thank you for the room Captain” she says in a wispy voice. Griff says “you owe me ten bucks change” she says “uh uh” as she fixes his tie. “I never make change” just then the sexy vava voom sax starts playing,

Kelly is identified again as call girl, night girl, as the DVD cover says “the story of a night girl.” Griff lightly thumbs Kelly’s chin and kisses her on the nose, nods to her and sticks the pen in his hat. The sexy music a little more playful and less seductive at this point. He walks away and Kelly smiles after him. Griff is very content having Kelly remain as she is “a night girl”.

We see a street scene again, this represents the town, the clean town. but we quickly switch to Kelly, stirring in bed. Left arm over her eyes to block out the light. It’s morning. As she starts to arise, she looks over at a newspaper clipping GRANT SAVES GRIFF IN KOREA; WOUNDED says the Grantville Gazette. She smells some of Griff’s cologne, approves and then splashes some on her neck. She stops by a mirror, then suddenly looks sullen, she touches under her eye and follows the cheekbone. She goes to the other side of her face. there shows a level of discontent at the image in the mirror. The music tells us she’s disturbed with harp chords that cascade, the contrast of light music rather than darker score makes the scene more powerful. Until now Kelly has exuded confidence and strength. What is Kelly thinking? Is she reflecting upon who she’s been, and where she’s going? The mirror symbolizes self-recognition.

Now from a distance, a far off lens, we see her walking down the sidewalk lined with trees, she seems so small in the scene. She’s closer now, we hear her heals clicking on the pavement. She looks up, there is a sign, Madam Josephine Seamstress. Kelly smiles, then we see that she is reading a sign Pleasant Room For Rent a closer shot, emphasis on the word Pleasant.

Kelly shakes her head and smiles with a joyfulness. She walks up the steps and rings the bell. With her back turned looking out over the town, she shakes her head like “yes, this is for me, this is the place for me.” An old woman Miss Josephine played by Betty Bronson, opens the door, and says good morning. Kelly says “you have a room for rent.” “Please come in” Kelly walks into the house, and looks pleased. The kindly old woman wearing an apron says”here let me take that” and grabs Kelly’s bag.”Thank you” “I’ll show you the room…this is the room…it has a beautiful view, it faces the river.” Kelly gets excited and walks around a four poster bed. “it’s a family heirloom…do you realize we spend about a third of our lives in bed?”

Kelly smiles ironically at that statement, she starts to comment then just looks down and loses the words. The old woman says “to sleep in comfort is very important…I used to say a little verse about it, like to hear it?” Kelly says sure, a little music box tinkling begins “Four corners to my bed, four angels round my head, one to watch, and one to pray, and two to bare my soul away.” Kelly beams, “I’d like to rent this room…and the four angels that go with it” “Oh I’m so delighted.” “I’m a stranger in town, don’t you need my character reference?” The old woman waves her finger to gesture no, and grabs Kelly’s hand and walks her to the mirror.” Again, the film is utilizing a symbolic mirror.

“Your reference is that face Ms Kelly.” Kelly laughs “Oh” the woman looks adoringly at her, still holding her hand.”Good heavens I forgot, I’ll have to move Charley out of your room”” Charley?””I wouldn’t want him to bother you while you’re asleep” She move a screen to the side and exposes a dressing dummy with military medals and hat. “I named him Charley after a gentleman I was to marry… I kept this room ready for him ever since I got the president’s wire that Charley was killed in the war.” She’s holding his hat. “That was 20 years ago, oh I come up here all the time and talk to Charley.” She replaces the hat on the figure. “Last week I realized the president was right and Charley was dead, and I’d never get married.” Kelly looks sympathetically at her. “Well I’ll move him downstairs.” “Oh he won’t be in the way.” Kelly asserts with a kind smile. The old woman’s eyes brighten “you don’t mind?” “No in fact it’ll do me good to talk to him now and then.” “Well he’ll always agree with you.” Both woman laugh together.

Fade to black

Continued in Part II