Thursday List – Top 10 Femme Fatales
This week FRC’s very good friend and master commenter Jack Deth is taking over the Thursday List. I am sure you will all agree he is a master when it comes to film knowledge. I give you Jack Deth’s Top 10 Femme Fatales..
Greetings all and sundry!
Scott has been gracious enough to allow me another crack at a Top Ten List. My chosen topic is one that is slowly devolving into extinction. Due to touchy-feely lawyers, suits and lobbyists. Who established a solid beach head in Hollywood in the early 1990s and have done their best to move the Femme Fatale into the annals of history.
Well, I do not hold to such nonsense and aim to misbehave! It’s time to give some loving to those pioneering women of nearly forgotten cinema. The staple of countless Noir films of the 1940s and later. Who drank, smoked and gave as good as they got. Reveling in their God given ability and some thought, right. To play handsome, square jawed men for saps and fools. Without a second’s thought. And look good doing it!
To that end, I present my personal choices for The Top Ten Femme Fatales In Films.
#10:Ann Savage’s Vera in Detour.
Edgar Ulmer’s original one hour and seven minute, no budget Erector Set of the genre from 1945. Where a hapless, down on his luck musician, Al Roberts, played with conscience driven paranoia by Tom Drake. Tries running away from one death on a cross country trip. Only to pick up Vera just west of the California border for a road trip to Hell. It seems Vera knew the louse of a man who died in Al’s company. And could, with little help pin a murder rap on him. So Vera taunts and torments. Simply because she can. Until something unforeseen happens.
#9: Ava Gardner as Kitty Collins in Robert Siodmak’s The Killers, from 1946.
Kitty is Albert Dekker’s ‘Big Jim’ Colfax’s woman, but she easily wraps former boxer, Burt Lancaster’s ‘Swede’ Anderson around her finger. To do her dirty work in claiming a recent enormous score. Told mostly in flash back through the actions of insurance investigator, Edmund O’Brien. As he peels back the layers and connects the dots through many memorable scenes. The film planted both Lancaster and Ms. Gardner firmly on the map. And with good reason!
#8: Peggy Cummings as Annie Laurie Starr in Gun Crazy. By Joseph H. Lewis in 1950.
Well meaning, Bart Tare falls for crack carnival pistol shot, Annie. Marries her. Finds out that no matter how hard he works or how much money he makes. It’s never enough to please Annie, As the two go off on a interstate robbery spree with Annie in charge. Until Bart quickly discovers that he feels complete with a gun in hand and that Annie is far more comfortable with killing than Bart ever could be. Excellent camera work and scathing dialogue put this film a cut above most,
#7: Jane Greer’s Kathie in Jacques Tourneur’s classic 1947 Noir, Out of the Past.
Kathie runs away from Kirk Douglas. Who hires Robert Mitchum’s Jeff Bailey at his shadowy best. To head south and find her. He does and falls for her at first sight. Kathie doesn’t mind having Jeff around to do intimidate, persuade and do the heavy lifting and make her crooked dreams come true. Until murder ensues during a knock down, drag out fight and Kathie schemes to leave savvy, world weary Jeff looking at a distant Gallows. In an epic Noir with no happy ending in sight. Required viewing!
#6: Lana Turner as Cora Smith in The Postman Always Rings Twice, from 1946.
Based loosely on James M. Cain’s seamy masterwork. John Garfield’s Frank Chambers really should have known better than to fall for cafe and filling station owner, Cecil Kellaway’s much younger wife. As Cora flirts she and Frank fall in love and ponder ways of getting rid of Mr. Nick Smith. Once the deed is done, the film becomes a testament to the dangers of playing around with infidelity and adultery. Though toned down for the censors of the day. Lana Turner mesmerizes in ways that leave its later, 1981 re-make far in the dust.
#5: Barbara Stanwyck’s bravura Phyllis Dietrichson in Billy Wilder’s 1946 Double Indemnity.
A superb execution of the James M. Cain novel. With a screenplay by Raymond Chandler and tweaked by Wilder. Told in flash back by a wounded, bleeding out Fred MacMurray in one of his last great, handsome louse roles. Phyllis rules every scene she is in. Subtly sinking her teeth and pulling MacMurray’s insurance salesman, Walter Neff into her web surrounding a huge accidental death policy. Then trying to throw him to the wolves before a final confrontation that doesn’t end well, a step ahead of Edward G. Robinson and the law.
#4: Kathleen Turner in Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 debut Neo-Noir, Body Heat.
Tall, leggy, blonde and bored. Matty Walker goes trolling one summer’s night and hooks supposed lady’ man and attorney, William Hurt’s Ned Racine. For a long, suspenseful game for which Matty is superbly skilled. Ned hasn’t got a chance and he kind of knows it. Through arson and other felonies. As he slowly discovers that he is nowhere near as smart as he should be in a benchmark of the Neo~Noir genre.
#3: A tie! My post. My rules! Angelica Huston and Annette Benning in Stephen Frears’ The Grifters, from 1990.
In a superb take on a Jim Thompson novel and Donald E. Westlake screenplay of high stakes criminals who rarely get caught. Ms. Huston’s Lily Dillon is a hard as nails, cold as ice confidence woman who loves no man. With the exception being her estranged son. Small time con man, John Cusack as Roy. Fate befalls Roy in the form of a brutal beat down after a failed scam at a local bar. Lily finds out and come a running. Mother and son argue as Roy recovers and discovers Annette Bennings’ Myra Langtry. A ‘roper’ for a crew of high end girifters living off her latest score. The two women then scheme for Roy’s soul. All bets are off once Myra shows up with Lily’s hairstyle. For a wondrously suspenseful ride and an ending that no one sees coming!
#2: Sharon Stone in 1992′s Basic Instinct.
The film that put Ms. Stone on the map. As sexual predator, carnivore and best selling writer, Catherine Tramell, Who manipulates men and women as easily as other lesser mortals breathe. And loves doing it! Quickly setting her sights on Michael Douglas’ flawed, nearly burned out Detective Nick Curran. Then deftly wringing him dry of his usefulness to her. The photo I’ve selected kind of says it all!
#1: Linda Fiorentino in John Dahl’s masterful 1994 Neo~Noir The Last Seduction
Ms. Fiorentino plays stone cold Bitch and stiletto heeled, phone scam boiler room mistress, Bridget Gregory. Who decides to rip off her clumsy, pharmaceutical drug dealing husband, Clay, memorably played by Bill Pullman, for an nylon A-Bag full of money. Bridget moves to the city. Changes her name. Finds a mark in big, dumb Peter Berg’s Mile Swale. While leading both private investigators and cops on a merry and sometimes violent chase. Without a hair out of place, Bridget deftly and kinkily sets Mike for Clay’s murder. Then destroys the last bit of physical evidence connecting them with a butane lighter in the back seat of a plush limo while Mike awaits trial behind bars. All to the strains of what sounds like Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’. A marvelous, way ahead of its time little film that denied Ms. Fiorentino of an Oscar nomination. Due to HBO buying its right and releasing it to television.
Ellen Barkin’s Sunny Boyd in Walter Hill’s 1989 Johnny Handsome. Sunny is part of a Smash & Grab jewelry crew in New Orleans, who has its leader Lance Hendricksen, under her thumb. As double crossed, deformed, left for dead. hired help. Mickey Rourke. Under heavier make-up than when he played Marv in Sin City goes to prison and returns with a new face. And malicious pay back in his heart!
Also, Ms. Barkin’s Helen Cruger in Harold Becker’s Sea Of Love from the same year. Who doesn’t break a sweat while toying with Al Pacino’s mid life crisis, Detective Frank Keller before the final scene.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jack Deth for submitting this amazing and well constructed list, but hey this is Jack we are talking about, he does have the knowledge of an encyclopaedia!!
Who are your favourite Femme Fatales? Have we missed any? Comment below…