. .

Woman in Distress vs. Femme Fatale

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Introduction

The table below is certainly not comprehensive. That is, I am sure there are film noirs missing from both columns. Nonetheless, it demonstrates that the outstanding refutation of the legitimacy of the hardboiled paradigm rests on the equal if not greater presence of the woman in distress compared with the femme fatale in American film noir.

On the other hand, the success of the hardboiled paradigm in dominating the literature, to say nothing of public consciousness, about film noir is shown by the absence in the literature of any studies of the woman in distress in film noir. This is shameful.

Meanwhile, the femme fatale as represented by the hardboiled paradigm is being challenged. Julie Grossman’s Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: Ready for Her Close-Up (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) analyzes “misreadings of women, first by men whom then encounter within the films, and second, by film viewers and critics who then perpetuate, and eventually institutionalize, these misreadings.” (p. 41)

Although proponents of the hardboiled paradigm have cited Rita Hayworth’s Gilda as a femme fatale, the film doesn’t doesn’t support this claim. Therefore, I don’t include Gilda in the femme fatale column.

The Glass Alibi is in both lists because Anne Gwynne is a femme fatale and Maris Wrixon is a woman in distress. Also, in Shock Lynn Bari is a femme fatale and Anabel Shaw is a woman in distress.

Although I have not made these lists in accordance with any particular source, I benefited from the references to these two character types in Michael F. Keaney’s Film Noir Guide: 745 Films of the Classic Era, 1940-1959 (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003).

Presentation

Women in Distress Date Femmes Fatales Date
Abandoned 1949 The Accused 1949
Accused of Murder 1956 Alimony 1949
Affair in Trinidad 1952 Angel Face 1953
The Amazing Mr. X 1948 Another Man’s Poison 1952
The Arnelo Affair 1947 Apology for Murder 1945
Autumn Leaves 1956 Beyond the Forest 1949
Backlash 1947 Blueprint for Murder 1953
The Beat Generataion 1959 The Blonde Bandit 1950
Bedlam 1946 Blonde Ice 1948
Beware, My Lovely 1952 Born to Be Bad 1950
Bewitched 1945 The Brasher Doubloon 1950
The Big Bluff 1955 Calcutta 1947
The Big Heat 1953 Crime of Passion 1957
The Blue Gardenia 1953 Cry Danger 1951
The Brighton Strangler 1945 The Dark Mirror 1946
Bury Me Dead 1947 The Damned Don’t Cry 1950
Cat People 1942 Dead Reckoning 1947
Caught 1949 Decoy 1946
Cause for Alarm! 1951 Detour 1945
Christmas Holiday 1944 Double Indemnity 1944
Crime Wave 1954 Drive a Crooked Road 1954
Criminal Court 1946 The File on Thelma Jordan 1950
A Cry in the Night 1956 Flaxy Martin 1949
Cry Terror! 1958 Framed 1947
Cry Wolf 1947 The Glass Alibi 1946
Danger Signal 1945 The Great Flamarian 1945
Dangerous Crossing 1953 Guest in the House 1944
Dangerous Intruder 1945 The Guilty 1947
Dangerously They Live 1941 Guilty Bystander 1950
The Dark Mirror 1945 Gun Crazy 1950
Dark Waters 1946 Hell’s Island 1955
Desperate 1944 Highway Dragnet 1954
Destination Murder 1947 Highway 13 1948
Dial M for Murder 1954 Hit and Run 1957
Dishonored Lady 1947 Human Desire 1954
Doorway to Suspicion 1950 Hunt the Man Down 1950
Double Jeopardy 1955 I, the Jury 1953
A Double Life 1947 Impact 1949
Dragonwyck 1946 Ivy 1947
Escape in the Fog 1945 Jeopardy 1953
Experiment Perilous 1944 The Judge 1949
F.B.I. Girl 1951 The Killers 1946
Female Jungle 1956 Kiss Me Deadly 1955
Female on the Beach 1945 The Lady from Shanghai 1948
Flamingo Road 1949 Lady in the Lake 1947
Gaslight 1944 Leave Her to Heaven 1945
The Glass Alibi 1946 The Letter 1940
Hangmen Also Die! 1943 A Life at Stake 1954
Highway 301 1950 The Locket 1946
Highway West 1941 The Louisiana Hussy 1959
Hitler’s Children 1942 The Macomber Affair 1947
House by the River 1950 The Madonna’s Secret 1946
House on Telegraph Hill 1951 The Maltese Falcon 1941
The Human Jungle 1954 The Man Who Cheated Himself 1951
I Confess 1953 Mildred Pierce 1945
I Walked with a Zombie 1943 Murder, My Sweet 1944
I Want to Live! 1958 Niagara 1953
In a Lonely Place 1950 Nightmare Alley 1947
Jennifer 1953 No Man’s Woman 1955
Jeopardy 1953 No Questions Asked 1951
Johnny Eager 1942 Out of the Past 1947
Julie 1942 The Paradine Case 1947
The Killer Is Loose 1956 Please Murder Me 1956
A Kiss Before Dying 1956 Port of 40 Thieves 1944
The Lady Confesses 1945 The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946
The Lady Gambles 1949 Pushover 1954
Lady in the Death House 1944 Queen Bee 1955
Lady on a Train 1945 Race Street 1948
Laura 1944 Railroaded 1947
The Leopard Man 1944 Ride the Pink Horse 1947
The Limping Man 1953 Roadblock 1951
The Lodger 1944 Ruby Gentry 1952
The Lost Moment 1947 Scarlet Street 1945
Love from a Stranger 1947 Scene of the Crime 1949
Lured 1947 Shadow on the Wall 1950
The Madonna’s Secret 1946 Shed No Tears 1950
Make Haste to Live 1954 The Sign of the Ram 1948
Man Hunt 1941 Shock 1946
Man in the Attic 1953 Shockproof 1949
The Man Who Knew Too Much 1956 Sleep, My Love 1948
Manhandled 1953 So Evil My Love 1948
Miami Exposé 1956 Song of the Thin Man 1947
Missing Women 1951 Stage Fright 1950
Money Madness 1948 Strange Fascination 1952
Monsieur Verdoux 1947 Strange Impersonation 1946
Moontide 1942 The Strange Love of Martha Ivers 1946
Moss Rose 1947 Strange Triangle 1946
Murder by Contract 1958 The Strange Woman 1946
Murder Is My Beat 1955 Strangers in the Night 1944
My Name Is Julia Ross 1945 Temptation 1946
Naked Alibi 1954 Tension 1949
The Narrow Margin 1952 They Drive by Night  1940
Never Trust a Gambler 1951 Too Late for Tears 1949
Niagara 1951 Unholy Wife 1957
Night Has a Thousand Eyes 1948 Where Danger Lives 1950
The Night of the Hunter 1955 Wicked Woman 1954
No Man of Her Own 1950 Woman in the Window 1944
Nobody Lives Forever 1946 World for Ransom 1954
Not Wanted 1949 Where Danger Lives 1950
Notorious 1946 Wicked Woman 1954
One Girl’s Confession 1953 Woman in the Window 1944
Over-Exposed 1956 World for Ransom 1954
Party Girl 1958
Phantom Lady 1944    
Pitfall 1948    
A Place in the Sun 1951    
Playgirl 1954    
Possessed 1947    
Rage in Heaven 1941    
Rebecca 1940    
The Reckless Moment 1949    
The Red House 1947    
Repeat Performance 1947    
Second Chance 1953    
The Second Woman 1951    
Secret Beyond the Door 1948    
The Secret Fury 1950    
Shack Out on 101 1955    
Shadow of a Doubt 1943    
Shadow of a Woman 1946    
Shadow of Fear 1956    
Shadow on the Window 1957    
Shock 1946    
Shoot to Kill 1947    
Short Cut to Hell 1957    
Sleep, My Love 1948    
The Sniper 1952    
So Evil My Love 1948    
Sorry, Wrong Number 1948    
Specter of the Rose 1946    
Spellbound 1945    
The Spiral Staircase 1946    
Stage Fright 1950    
The Steel Jungle 1956    
Step Down to Terror 1958    
Storm Warning 1950    
Strange Impersonation 1946    
Strange Intruder 1956    
The Stranger 1946    
Sudden Fear 1952    
Suspense 1946    
Suspicion 1941    
Sweet Smell of Success 1957    
They Won’t Believe Me 1947    
This Gun for Hire 1942    
Tight Spot 1955    
The Two Mrs. Carrolls 1947    
Under the Gun 1951    
Undercurrent 1946    
The Unfaithful 1947    
Union Station 1950    
The Unseen 1945    
The Unsuspected 1947    
Violated 1953    
Violence 1947    
When Strangers Marry 1944    
While the City Sleeps 1956    
Whirlpool 1949    
Without Warning! 1952    
Witness to Murder 1954    
Woman in Hiding 1949    
The Woman in White 1948    
Woman on the Run 1950    
A Woman’s Devotion 1956    
Women’s Prison 1955