THE SILENT YEARS: When we started not giving a damn on screen!
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 thesefabulous femmes….
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!
“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!
The following actresses and their immortal characters are in no particular order…!
“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)
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!
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!!!!”
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”
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 Bathoryin 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 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 asSir 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.”
Euripides 425 B.C.–“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”
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!
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. WhileFilm 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.
Séance on a Wet Afternoon 1964 is an astonishing film by British actor/director/screenwriter Bryan Forbes (Whistle Down the Wind (1961) The L-Shaped Room (1962) King Rat (1965) The Wrong Box (1966) The Whisperers (1967) Deadfall (1968) The Raging Moon (1971) The Stepford Wives 1975) Forbes who also penned the screenplay was only nominated for a BAFTA but actually won the Writers Guild of Great Britain and the 1965 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Richard Attenborough was co-producer on the film as well. Forbes actually adds a slight spin on McShane’s novel by the way he introduces the presence of the Savage’s dead son Arthur. In an interview Forbe’s recalls, ” It was a paperback written by an Australian, a very good paperback but it had something we couldn’t use because in the book, I believe the child was killed and we weren’t going to go down that way.”
In the same interview Bryan Forbes talks about his original conception for the screenplay. “I was counting up the other day, I think I’ve written about 68 screenplays in my career not all of which have reached the screen but which I’ve actually written. And you start with a blank sheet of paper and I had trouble writing it and at one point… I don’t think I told this to many people, we couldn’t as I say, ‘get it cast’ So I turned it into a burnt out homosexual case, that the medium became a sort of Maurice Woodruff who was living with a young man and it was sort of burnt out. Now had we got away with that it would have been an absolute trail blazer of a movie in 1962, I offered it to Alec Guinness and Tom Courtney and Tom said yes and after a month Guinness said no. But that would have been something. And then I sat down and rewrote another version. And changed certain things and eventually as I say, I managed to get Kim Stanley.”
Séance on a Wet Afternoon 1964 is based on the novel by Mark McShane. Gerry Turpin received a BAFTA nomination for his stunningly riveting Cinematography. The incredible composer/conductor John Barry (Day of the Locust 1975, Somewhere in Time 1980) wrote the music for the film. Derek York did the outstanding editing with art direction by Ray Simm.
The marvelously significant Set design that placed the narrative down in the center of the proper mood was done by Alan Roderick Jones and Peter James.
The film stars the incomparable Kim Stanleyas the extraordinary Myra Savage, Richard Attenborough plays her feeble husband Billy Savage who twists at Myra’s powerful instability.
Nanette Newman & Mark Eden are The Claytons.Gerald Sim is Detective Sergeant Beedle who first starts poking around the Savage’s London house, Patrick Magee plays Superintendent Walsh Margaret Lacey, Marie Burke, Maria Kazan are the women at the first Séance, Lionel Gamlin appears at the Séances, Marian Spencer is Mrs. Wintry, Godfrey James is Mrs. Clayton’s Chauffeur and Judith Donner is Amanda Clayton the freckled little girl who falls into Myra’s warped plot to achieve fame.
Much like Bunny Lake Is Missing , this film could be called a Post-Noir offering, yet it situates itself flawlessly into the psychological suspense-crime genre as well. And much like Bunny Lake the plot does revolve around an unseen child.
What lies at the core of the film is not the crime itself, and again while the film is seemingly a Post-Noir crime thriller on the surface it truly is much more of a psychological morality play about the depths of loss and alienation driving a soul, whose fragile psyche bends toward madness and it goes to the questions of maternal instinct and inherited destiny. It’s about human frailties and fractured human relationships that fuel both the alienation and the prevailing insanity.
Are these three women symbols as in the ‘three sisters’ from Macbeth signifying the ‘fates’?
Kim Stanley herself, mystically occupies the role of Myra Savage a professed spiritual medium who truly believes she’s the ‘real thing’ and who holds weekly Wednesday afternoon séances in her London home. The film opens with the camera framed on the lit candle burning in the dark blackness and holds itself there silently for a quite a few seconds, before it moves to a close -up on hands clasped together in silent obeisance to the moment. We hear a quiet, measured voice speaking. As the camera moves from hand grasped within hand. “What… what is it? No,no no no… later, later not now..” Myra whispers to her unseen companion, “A message, what? It’s a young face, he’s waving” The youngest woman sitting around the table begins to cry. Myra continues. “Peaceful, very peaceful” The candle crackles, threatening to burn out. “Oh no, no ssshhh, hush, ssshhh. No my darling, it’s alright my precious no more, no more, no more”
The candle flame cuts right up the middle of Myra’s face giving her an ethereal look of serenity. Yet the flame acts as as a declaration of the duality or paradox of Myra’s conflicted motherhood, denoting a split or fracture in her personality. A bit of symbolic camera play. And quietly as she begins to open her eyes, she snuffs the candle out with her fingers and we are in total blackness for a split second. It is also at this first séance that we see the presence of three women, which I infer as a signpost toward the symbolism of the three weird sisters or ‘fate’ from Shakespeare’s ”Macbeth’. Triggering a sort of marked destiny from this moment on.
As the séance guests leave the house, exiting into the pouring rain with their scarves and umbrellas, John Barry’s music is composed of trickling sparse notes like that of rain drops themselves, subtle, dripping and as moody and dreamy as the opening sequence. The sparse melody is as slow and drawn out, and starkly subdued and somber as Myra’s voice when speaking to her child spirit guide that no one else can hear.
The film’s titles begin to roll, as the camera catches little drops of rain on the lens, and frames the Victorian house in a small puddle in the street. A very effective way to bring us in to the dreary moodiness of the story. The house which drew Forbes to it because of it’s characteristic turret.