The femme fatale archetype exists in the history, folklore and myth of nearly every culture in every century. Another example is Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, with her ability to seduce the powerful men of Rome. Roman propaganda coined Cleopatra as a femme fatale; as a result, she became the legendary archetype of the attractions (and the dangers) inherent to the powerful, exotic woman.
Typically in the evening when I’m exhausted from shuttling the children to and from school, running errands, cooking, and all of the other activities that fill my days, I look forward to relaxing with a film from my Que. Lately my choices are from the smokey Film Noir Collection. A film noir story was often developed around a cynical, hard-hearted, disillusioned male character who encountered a beautiful, cigarette holding, seductive femme fatale with a dark past.
Ava Gardner in The Killers
Ava Gardner in The Killers, Rita Hayworth in The Lady from Shanghai, Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice are classic film noir films. These femme fatales would seduce their victim while poisoning his cocktail.
The phrase is French for “deadly woman”. She tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure. She is a double-dealing and seductive enchantress who drives men near madness. She may be (or imply to be) a victim, caught in a situation from which she cannot escape; The Lady from Shanghai is one such example. I love this movie! Rita Hayworth is one of my favourite actresses of all time. I never tire of watching her movies.
The character type of femme fatale was derived from the anti-heroine vamps of early cinema, such as Theda Bara in A Fool There Was. She was first introduced as an evil temptress with her character name: Vampire, and she spoke her most-famous line of all ~ “Kiss me, my Fool!”. Bara, known as the “Vamp,” was the screen’s first femme fatale and sex goddess.
Although femme fatales have used their charms to manipulate their victims for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the 1940s that film noir films evolved. They became prominent in the post-war era, and lasted for the most part until the “Golden Age”, near 1960.
When I think of the fashions of the femme fatale, I picture them prowling out of the shadows in a smokey room wearing a sultry, clingy, glamour girl gown similar to those worn by torch singers or one of those fabulous fitted suits. The old style glamour that I adore so much! The setting plays a particularly important role in noir ficition. It creates the mood, underscoring the plot and the morality (or lack thereof) of the characters. In most noirs, the plot revolves around a crime.
The original femme fatale ~ Theda Bara
My choices for the Top 10 Femme Fatale Movies ~
The Lady from Shanghai
Leave Her to Heaven
The Maltese Falcon
If you have no plans this weekend other than relaxing at home with a good film, I highly recommend one of the above choices.
Un bonne fin de semaine! xoxo,B