Thursday, September 30, 2010


This week's question is a stumper.

My imagination is pretty good, but I can't conceive of wanting to spend time with anyone other than the person I've spent (gasp) over half my life with. So ... I thought it might be handy to instead turn to the subject of (what else?) film noir.

Inspired by Hilary's post earlier in the week, I figured I'd run down a list of the top five sexiest male and female "fatales" in classic noir. They inspired lust--crime--murder--obsession. Some killed without compunction, and without remorse ... but one and all, they were probably worth killing for. ;)

So here's a look behind the steamy car windows while the rain splatters on neon-soaked streets ... the femme and homme fatales in noir.


1. Burt Lancaster in ... well, almost anything. With a the body of a lusty, ruddy-haired god and a kilowatt smile--and all that energy!!--Burt was a real killer, and not just in the eponymous film. Look for him in Criss Cross with Yvonne DeCarlo, Brute Force and Kiss the Blood Off My Hands. And of course don't miss the steamy beach scene with Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity.

2. Robert Mitchum. He of the gravelly voice, sad sack eyes, wide shoulders and laconic stare. Mitchum was an irresistible hunk, and (to me, at any rate), the perfect actor to play a shamus, which he did in many a role (even essaying Marlowe when he was too old--but he was still terrific). In noir, though, he can be a real patsy. Look for him in Out of the Past (with Jane Greer) and the slightly comedic His Kind of Woman (with Jane Russell) ... the latter has a great fight scene with plenty of hot and sweaty Mitchum.

3. William Holden. William Holden is considered a huge hottie in my household ... something about the boyish charm, the chiseled features, and the wavy hair. You can see why Gloria Swanson fell for him in Sunset Boulevard, and he should have filmed more noirs ... though my favorite Holden performance is his underrated comedic turn in Born Yesterday, with Judy Holliday.

4. Glenn Ford. Another boyish looker who could turn a raffish grin with the best of them, the young Glenn exuded intensity and passion. In his team-ups with the screen goddess to end all screen goddesses, Rita Hayworth, he holds his own as an object of lust, frustration, and desire. Don't miss him in Gilda, The Big Heat or Human Desire (the latter two with Gloria Grahame).

5. Robert Ryan. One of the most underappreciated actors of the golden age, Ryan steamed up the screen with the best of them. Ruggedly handsome, his craggy features could twist themselves up villainously (Crisscross; Beware, My Lovely), but I prefer his sympathetic boxer in The Set-Up, and his witty writer in Born to be Bad.


1. Who else but Rita Hayworth? She helped inspire Miranda Corbie, and would be the perfect person to portray her. Rita projected a combination of innocence and allure that was less overtly sexual than Marilyn Monroe's, and more romantic--the ideal pin-up girl for the GIs in WWII. Her iconic role, of course, is Gilda ... and I've witnessed a packed movie theater go hushless when she struts on stage in the backless Jean Louis gown, singing "Put the Blame on Mame." Don't miss her in Lady from Shanghai, either.

2. Gloria Grahame. Gloria may not have been as beautiful as some of her colleagues, but the way she walked ... the way she talked ... and the way she stuck out those inimitable lips in a seductive pout made her the queen of noir. See her in anything (even It's a Wonderful Life), but most particularly in In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart. Also Sudden Fear (with Jack Palance) and The Big Heat (with Glenn Ford and an unforgettable scene with Lee Marvin).

3. Jane Greer. Watch the way Jane moves in Out of the Past (with Robert Mitchum) ... watch the way she sits on the beach and breathes in his ear. And watch the way she watches him ... then you'll understand why he utters those immortal, fatal words "Baby, I don't care" when asked about the consequences ...

4. Ava Gardner. The Killers made Ava a star ... and it's easy to see why. She excelled at playing wild girls, untamed, feckless, passionate, half force of nature, half woman. Her personal life seemed to mimic her onscreen persona, and she was a natural to play the goddess of love in One Touch of Venus. We could only mourn the fact she didn't make more noirs. Don't miss her in The Barefoot Contessa or as the perfect Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises.

5. Barbara Stanwyck. Barbara was in her 40s when she made Double Idemnity, long after her nubile pre-code heyday in Baby Face. Her allure (and the infamous anklet) could make you forget that she wasn't conventionally beautiful ... and made you understand why Fred MacMurray was so anxious to sell her insurance.

There you have it, folks ... share your favorite hotties from the golden days of the black and white crime drama! From Dana Andrews and Tyrone Power and Humphrey Bogart to Linda Darnell, Joan Bennett and Lauren Bacall, I've omitted quite a few ... and the wonderful thing is they're only a Netflix away. :)

So who would you walk the dark side for? ;)


Unknown said...

One more "bad" guy who should be included is Richard Widmark. He played Tommy Udo in "Kiss of Death". Remember when he pushed that lady down the stairs who was in a wheelchair...and the insane laugh he had while he did it!

Gabi said...

I haven't seen half these movies but I'm adding them to my "list." And given the way you write about them, I'm thinking you do have a list of your own.

Kelli Stanley said...

You're so right, Sherry! Richard Widmark was a strangely sexy homme fatale ... and a wonderful actor. His best role was Night and the City (with Gene Tierney)--an absolutely sublime performance in one of the best films of the cycle.

Another rather unusual heart throb was Dan Duryea ... supposedly, women used to love it when he went into action on screen, his slicked-back hair flying all over the place. ;)

Thanks for dropping by!!

Kelli Stanley said...

Gabs, I'm glad I've inspired you to check out the beefcake of yore. ;)

Innuendo and tension are so much sexier than, well ... the sex tapes of the 21st century. There's a lot to be said for imagination!! ;)


Graham Brown said...

Great post Kelli - I love old movies but like Gabi haven't seen half of these. Will have to check them out. Who knew someone could star as a Vamp in film Noir and also in It's a Wonderful Life. Now there's an actress.

Oh and re: yesterdays question: Jeannie and Mary Ann. I wonder what that says about me? Somethng deep and mysterious no doubt.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Kelli: I loved that scene in Gilda where Rita Hayworth says, "I hate you so much I might die from it." YOW! And I only rented it because you insisted. I hope you're rented BRICK, or you still owe me one. ;)

Great list!

Kelli Stanley said...

LOL--thanks, Graham!! I think Jeannie and Mary Ann kinda go together ... maybe we should take an informal poll, and see if Samantha guys are more likely to be Ginger ones, too. ;)

And trust me--you'll LOVE Gloria Grahame. She's Eddie Muller's favorite fatale, and he gets a gleam in his eye when he talks about her. ;)


Kelli Stanley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks, Becks, and isn't that a killer line? And Rita really delivered it ... along with "Johnny--such a hard name to remember--and so easy to forget" ... "If I had been a ranch, they would have named me the 'Bar Nothing'" ... and "I can never get a zipper to close. Maybe that stands for something, what do you think?"

Then there's Uncle Pio, who remarks: "You smoke too much. I noticed only frustrated people smoke too much and only the lonely people are frustrated."

Yup, Gilda was a big influence on Miranda!

And yes, I STILL owe you, but I pinky swear that I'll move it up to the top of my Netflix queue right away. I haven't had a chance to watch anything in months. :)


Mike Dennis said...

You got Gloria Grahame and Jane Greer in there, Kelli. But don't forget Kathleen Turner, who told William Hurt in BODY HEAT, "You're not too bright, are you? I like that in a man."

Kelli Stanley said...

She was great, wasn't she? ;) Thanks for the reminder, Mike! Plus, Kathleen played the toughest fatale of 'em all ...Jessica Rabbit! ;)


TracyK said...

To me nothing beats the way Lauren Bacall dips her head low and looks up at the camera. She said later it was to keep her chin from shaking from nerves. But still, what a look!

Kelli Stanley said...

La Bacall was hot, no question--and Tracy, did you know she was called "The Look" when she was a model? ;) Of course, the look itself wouldn't have been as effective by itself as it was teamed with that smoke-filled voice, twice as old as she really was.

"Anybody got a match?" ;)

Hard to believe she was only 19 ...


Leigh Russell said...

"Worth killing for"... well, I know what you mean...
If you're a fan of film noir you might want to check out a great website Noir Journal
If you explore it, you'll find reviews of my own books, but the site generally focuses on film noir and noir fiction and is a mine of information.

Kelli Stanley said...

Leigh, it's great to meet another noir writer from the other side of the Atlantic! :)

I will, indeed, check out Noir Journal. We're spoiled in San Francisco with Noir City every year--and the Film Noir Foundation issues its Sentinel, which is a richly informative publication that you'd enjoy, if you don't subscribe already.

Film noir is a huge influence on my work ... I recharge my batteries every January at the festival. :)

Thanks again for dropping in, and hope to see you again!


a.k. amesworth said...

Veronica Lake... 'nuff said.

Kelli Stanley said...

Ah, a.k.--Veronica. She of the peek-a-boo hair and the female lead in Chandler's only original screenplay. :)

Thanks for the reminder--she was a pip! :)