The seductive, dangerous woman or femme fatale is a central figure in film noir, bringing destruction lớn others và often to lớn herself. In 1940s & 1950s America in particular, she offered actresses some of the most compelling và certainly largest roles outside of “women’s genres,” such as the woman’s film (precursor lớn today’s chiông xã flick) or romantic comedy. The kích thước & power of femme fatale roles drew many strong actresses lớn them again và again, from Barbara Stanwyck lớn Joan Crawford, & more recent years have seen significant feminist scholarly interest in the figure & her textual and cultural meanings.
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The counterpart lớn the femme fatale is the homme fatale, who has received far less attention, popular or critical. A quichồng online tìm kiếm, for example, reveals no Wikipedia page for the figure, just an automatic reroute to femme fatale. Basic definitions nói qua an emphasis on dangerous sexuality, although the femme is the “temptress” while the homme is a more dominating “womanizer.” In short, definitions and portrayals generally rely on normative sầu gender roles, where she lures while he commands. Gender norms are also central to lớn the destruction of fatale characters. While both are often killed or at least jailed at film’s over, the homme fatale rarely has the femme’s opportunity for salvation. This outcome is rare, but now và then the femme fatale may have a change of heart. For example, Gloria Grahame’s Debby Marsh in The Big Heat (1953) goes from girlfrikết thúc of a psychotic gangster (Lee Marvin’s Vince) to avenging angel for Glenn Ford’s Dave Bannion. When Vince deliberately scars her face (with boiling coffee), she not only turns the tables on him và his gang but also helps Bannion open up about his wife’s murder, helping hlặng to begin khổng lồ heal.
A few well-known examples of the film noir homme fatale include Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) in Night of the Hunter (1955), Sam Wilde (Laurence Tierney) in Born to Kill (1947), & Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) in Gaslight (1944). George Sanders offers a good example of an actor often cast in roles with an homme fatale feel, both within và outside of film noir.
Perhaps the best example of the homme fatale in classic noir is Tyrone Power’s Stanton “Stan” Carlisle from Nightmare Alley (1947), a film that also includes a femme fatale. As the film’s ambitious protagonist, we watch Stan rise from carnival barker khổng lồ skilled mentamenu and on to personal psychic for the wealthy. His glib handsomeness enables Srã to talk his carny mentor Zheena (Joan Blondell) into lớn sharing the cheat code for her mentamenu act after Stan accidentally kills her alcoholic husband. When he is caught seducing young carnival beauty Molly (Coleen Gray), he is forced inlớn a shotgun wedding, but he quickly turns this lớn his advantage by abandoning Zheena & making Molly his assistant in nightclubs and beyond. He can smooth-talk anyone inkhổng lồ anything, it seems, until he meets Dr. Lilith Ritter (Helen Walker), a psychologist khổng lồ the rich who ultimately out-cons him, leading to his downfall. He sends Molly away & then, like Zheena’s husbvà before him, Srã becomes an alcoholic, fit only for the job of carnival geek (sideshow “wild man”). In an atypical twist, Nightmare Alley’s femme fatale triumphs; however, the homme fatale also achieves some measure of redemption. The very carnival for which Srã accepts work as a geek is where Molly landed after leaving hyên, & the final image of the film is Schảy coming out of his alcoholic stupor và into her embrace.
A more typical homme fatale character appears in the British noir film Turn the Key Softly (1953), about three women of divergent backgrounds on the day they leave sầu prison. One of the three is Monica Marsden (Yvonne Mitchell), a middle-class woman lured into lớn the world of crime by her lover, David (Terence Morgan), who sees her go to prison instead of him for her accomplice role in a heist he masterminded. The moment we meet David, we see he is handsome and hard khổng lồ resist. Although Monica has sworn hlặng off along with any future criminal activity, she falls instantly under his spell again. His ability to seduce her anew is instant & erotic, as he takes her to lớn bed amid promises that he will never involve sầu her in crime again. Lying on her bed in post-coital afterglow, Monica seems mesmerized, unable khổng lồ think. David is a male siren she cannot resist. To ensure she remains compliant, he offers lớn take her to lớn the opera that very night. However, when they arrive, he slips behind the ropes and onto lớn the roof, demanding she belay hlặng so he can climb in a window and rob the opera house safe. A horrified Monica faces his wrath when she attempts to lớn refuse khổng lồ cooperate. In the end, however, she escapes và then watches from the street as David is caught by police to face the justice he eluded in the past by manipulating her.
Such examples reveal that the homme fatale can be used in very similar ways lớn the femme fatale, controlling others through lies & seduction và using physical strength only when necessary, and then paying the penalty for their crimes in the end. More often, there is a combination of seduction & intimidation, while extremes of verbal và physical abuse are more rare. In this way we can more clearly distinguish between the homme fatale & the more traditional noir villain. We can compare Laurence Tierney’s striving, vicious, yet vulnerable Sam in Born lớn Kill lớn his ruthless sociopath Vincent Lubechồng in The Hoodlum (1951) khổng lồ see the difference. Sam’s insecurities about his lachồng of status và power are as plain as his sexual magnetism và willingness khổng lồ kill khổng lồ get what he wants. Vincent, meanwhile, is represented as just plain evil. Vincent lies openly lớn his saintly mother who takes hlặng in when he gets out of jail, turns his brother’s legitimate business inkhổng lồ an opportunity for crime, và seduces his brother’s girlfriend and abandons her when she becomes pregnant. While both Sam và Vincent can technically be called hommes fatale, the former exhibits more of the traits seen in the femme fatale than the latter, who is openly bullying and invulnerable.