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Talking noir dames with the Nitrate Diva, Part Two

EPISODE 220: Noir Dames, Part 2

CLIP Gilda Are you decent? Me?

BETH ACCOMANDO

Noir Dames. They defied traditional notions of decency by operating on their own terms.

CLIP Road House You know something you’re stupid, doesn’t it ever enter a man’s head that a woman can do without him.

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (drums)

BETH ACCOMANDO

Welcome back to listener supported KPBS Cinema Junkie, I'm Beth Accomando.

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (Horns)

BETH ACCOMANDO

I’m extending Noir-vember because one month was not enough time to explore the spectrum of women found on the shadowy streets of film noir. Nora Fiore, the Nitrate Diva, returns for part two of Noir Dames, a look beyond the usual suspects of femme fatales to check out such intriguing female characters as the Lady Sleuth, The Glamorous Victim and the Good Girl… yes, believe it or not film noir offers up some admirable dames who challenge expectations by providing, as Nora says, a guiding light for men in dark places. (:38)

Music theme bump out.

BETH ACCOMANDO

So hold tight and I’ll be right back with the Nitrate Diva and an illuminating list of noir dames to die for.

MIDROLL 1 [currently at 1:27]

BETH ACCOMANDO

Welcome back. In part one of Noir Dames, Nora Fiore and I shared our favorite femme fatales and teased you with a glimpse of the women who exist beyond those lethal ladies. As I mentioned in part one, there’s been a lot of discussion and scholarship about the types of women you find in noir so we are not breaking any new ground here but we’re adding our own perspective and citing our favorite examples. One of the favorites we highlighted in part one was the great Ida Lupino in Road House.

CLIP Road House Better read that contract again…

Lupino epitomized what Nora Fiore calls the Self-Reliant Performer and now we move on to The Lady Sleuth and start with Lucille Ball in a wonderful noir called Lured. Since Being the Ricardos is stirring Oscar buzz with its portrait of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, there may be added interest in seeling Ball outside of her I Love lucy persona. Here Ball is recruited to help find a serial killer in London in 1947’s Lured.

CLIP Lured A female detective…

NORA FIORE

Well, I think a lot of the women who are doing sleuthing or investigation, they're driven to it on a very personal level. It's not the money. That's not a professional thing. It's more that somebody they love is in trouble. It's a man they love has been falsely accused of a crime, and in the case, or sometimes maybe it's that somebody they love has been killed and they want justice for them. That's the case of Lured. You've got Lucille Ball, who her friend was murdered by a serial killer, went missing, and suddenly she's joining forces with the police and going undercover to find the culprit to dig him up and smoke him out.

CLIP Lured

NORA FIORE

Ella Raines in Phantom Lady is, I think, the classic example of the woman sleuth in noir, where she's going into the dark streets. She's even dressing as a floozy to ensnare men and get the information she needs. She's really like a femme fatale. She's a Shapeshifter, but she's shape shifting for a positive goal to exonerate the innocent man that she loves. And she's interested in that. She is kind of a respectable career woman. She's a Secretary for an engineer, and yet she's willing to kind of downgrade her identity according to the time to go into these dark, dangerous situations to find the truth.

CLIP Phantom Lady Who bribed you…

NORA FIORE

I do think that the personal level of the quest that women have and more when they're sleuthing makes those films quite powerful. And there's a really surprisingly large amount of these films. I did a whole letter box list of movies where a woman is kind of taking a driving role in solving the crime. The 7th victim with Kim Hunter that's kind of on the borderline p with noir, but that's definitely one where she's doing that Black Angel based on Cornell Woolrich, where it's the wife very much like in Phantom Lady, also based on Cornell Woolrich, where she's kind of going into the Demi monde of nightclubs to figure out what happens and exonerate her husband. Even like the Poverty Row studio PRC did like a rip off of Phantom Lady called The Lady Confesses, which is very cute.

CLIP Lady Confesses your murderer

NORA FIORE

Deadline at Dawn again, Shadow of a Doubt, Ann Sheridan in Woman on the Run is kind of a woman sleuth where she has to piece together what happened and get back to her husband.

CLIP Woman on the Run Ann Sheridan

NORA FIORE

So I think there's something about the way women are pushing justice forward in noir that flies in the face of a lot of misconceptions about noir, that it is misogynistic, that women are entirely demonized. I think there are so many examples of women stepping up for the side of justice, whether it's for personal reasons or because they just don't like to see something bad happen. I do think that that's kind of inspiring. I love these characters, and I think it's a little bit of an underrecognized facet of noir for people who just don't know that much about the genre, how much women are driving the platform and piecing together information and kind of unraveling the mysteries I mentioned Lured was Lucille Ball. I just have to say, you have not lived until you've enjoyed Lucille Ball hunting a serial killer in fabulous outfits. And she also plays another girl sleuth in The Dark Corner where she's the Secretary for a private eye and kind of helps get him out of a jam.

CLIP The Dark Corner I want to help

NORA FIORE

So there's really a great many of these films where the woman is taking either the active role in an investigation or just kind of a significant piece of it.

CLIP The Dark Corner William Powell should be your secretary…

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, in hearing you talk about these films, the other thing that strikes me about this Lady Sleuth is that you mentioned that during the war women, it was Rosie the Riveter. They were taking on jobs that men weren't there to do. And the lady sleuth kind of gives me this sense of like they're being pushed back into a more conventional role. But they have this skill set that they want to somehow put to use. And on a certain level, they're kind of the flip side of Jane Palmer in that like, hey, we're bored. We're bored here and we kind of have some ideas, and we're smart. And maybe we can put that to some sort of use. In this case, it's for the positive. In Jane Palmer's case, it was bored, and I want to steal some money, but they're interesting characters. I love these definitely.

NORA FIORE

And in the case of Black Angel, for instance, it's infidelity it's her husband's infidelity that pulls her into that. So definitely acknowledging a darker side of the marriage.

CLIP Black Angel

NORA FIORE

Shadow of a Doubt where Charlie becomes kind of a sleuth. She's obviously looking into the darker side of her family. So just because they have a little bit of that moral high ground doesn't mean that the situations that they're in don't still reflect kind of this landscape of moral ambiguity, of kind of painful connections. And it's funny because Phantom Lady, I always think of that wonderful smile that it ends on with Ella Raines’ triumphant smile.

CLIP Phantom Lady end

NORA FIORE

And I always do kind of worry about her a little bit. Is she going to be happy with this guy? Is that enough for her? Like you say, is she going to become a bored, possibly homicidal housewife? No, she's just too pure. She's too wholesome. We would never expect that of Ella Raines’ character from Phantom Lady. That could not happen to Carol Richman. But you do wonder, like, is she going to be happy? Is this going to be enough for her? So I know what you mean. There is kind of a bitter sweetness to those women roles. That's probably why I love Woman on the Run so much because her sleuthing reignites the relationship rather than leading to the end, the closure of her adventure. She's been in this bitter union and having to play the sleuth. Having to put her skills to use leads her to understand her husband more and kind of realizes that. Wow. Maybe a successful marriage is a little like being a Detective. Maybe you have to keep searching for the truth about someone. And maybe there's something adventurous and exciting and kind of Detective like about staying in love, keeping a union going. So I just find that film romantic in so many ways.

BETH ACCOMANDO

You also have a category of the Glamorous Victim, which Rita Hayworth’s Gilda is one example, and she does seem a little bit like the Femme fatale. So how do you kind of differentiate the Glamorous Victim from the classic femme fatale, or is there a difference?

NORA FIORE

I do think there's a difference. I think that there's a subset of noir that are really starting to look at the way women are projected onto look at the way men are blaming women for how they feel about her, even though she's not doing anything so terrible. And I feel like Gilda is the classic example of this because she is mind numbingly gorgeous. She's a show stopper.

CLIP Gilda Put the Blame on Mame

NORA FIORE

She looks like she could be a female fatale. But really, we don't see her do anything so terrible. She marries on the rebound. She says she married on the rebound. She kind of has these conflicted feelings and the men in her life treat her like a possession and kind of manipulate her in all these terrible ways. I mean, the worst thing she does is kind of flirt with some guys to make somebody jealous, which in my book, is not a cardinal sin in any way, shape or form.

CLIP Gilda flirt

NORA FIORE

But we see her angst. We see her fear. We see how the situation where she just seems to get trapped in these bad relationships goes from one bad husband to another bad husband. And it's implied that she's had this bad relationship with Glenn Ford before. I think the film is really about the way in which her sexuality is used against her, how it's kind of used as an excuse and as a license for the men in her life to be like, we need to keep you under control. I feel like these films are really much more about that. Gilda is not a master strategist like Kathy, the way she acts, what she does much more driven by impulse and by emotion rather than some plan of I want the money. I want this from you. I'd argue that she's more acted upon than she does act in that film. And obviously her big action is to put on her show and kind o f reveal who she is, and that does kind of precipitate the ending. That's almost like the fever breaking another kind of victim role. I see in one. When I say victim, I don't mean that they're defined solely as a victim. I really do think the film is looking at the way in which the way men see these women and blame them for their beauty leads to their downfall. Another great example of this is Lizabeth Scott's role in Pitfall.

CLIP Pitfall He was nice to me, very few men are..

NORA FIORE

W here she's this woman who's been involved with a guy who did something wrong and Dick Powell gets wrapped up in her, and Raymond Burr wants her, too, and uses his lust for her as an excuse to stalk her.

CLIP Pitfall modeling

NORA FIORE

I think she's very clearly a victim in that. And you can see the way in which her beauty and her sexuality are used by men in the film to kind of justify their actions and say, oh, well, she made me do it. She tempted me. She sucked me into this. But what the film is showing is very different that she's just kind of this lonely woman who is drifting into situations that are bad. But she's not saying, oh, I want this guy for this reason. No, she's just trying to live her life and it's being used against her the way she looks. Another example this, frankly, I think, is Kim Novak in Vertigo. You have this beautiful woman who sparks an obsession that the man then takes as his license to control her life, her life.

CLIP Vertigo

NORA FIORE

When you consider that she kind of has these multiple identities in the film. So I think there really are some of these characters and more of these hard luck Dames whose astonishing beauty is turned against them, that they're abused and exploited and kind of told by the men that you're a temptress, you're a femme fatale, you're bad. I have a right to treat you this way because of the desire you arouse in me. Whereas the film shows that they're really not doing anything that wrong. Frankly, they're just kind of maybe having a little fun, maybe they get involved with bad company, but there's nothing inherently about them that they have transgressed some moral boundary. They're just kind of punished for the crime of being really super attractive.

CLIP Pitfall You like the photos?

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, and I think they are women who have a certain I don't know if it's sexual confidence, but they have a certain sexuality that they present that I think can make men uncomfortable because it exudes a certain amount of power. They don't necessarily. Gilda doesn't use her sexuality in the same way that Kathy might, but she has that potential to be able to use it. And I think that's what kind of scares the male characters is she doesn't seem to want to play by the rules in terms of how a woman is supposed to act, and it kind of makes them uncomfortable. I think she has a line in the film where she says something like..

CLIP Gilda if I was a Ranch, they'd call me the bar none

BETH ACCOMANDO

And men are like, wait, you know, you're not supposed to behave that way. That's how men behave. And I think there's a certain aspect of that that does scare those characters. But I think that's kind of where I think the femme fatale and the glamorous victim kind of overlap is just in kind of their sexuality, and they use it in different ways. But they both have that kind of potential to control men if they want to or control men, either by deliberate choice or by complete accident.

NORA FIORE

Yeah, that's a great point. That what they have. The men want to keep it on lockdown because they recognize the danger of it, regardless of how it's being wielded or used by them. It's kind of this commodity that they want to monopolize and lock down and kind of control by any means necessary because it threatens them. And that's what I mean by, like this role of the femme fatale is projected onto them. They don't act with the ruthlessness of a femme fatale, but they are a potential femme fatale at all in the men's eyes. And I think that's where, again, noir can be called misogynistic. I think Johnny in Gilda is a misogynist.

CLIP Gilda Johnny

NORA FIORE:

But do I think the film is misogynistic? No. I feel like the film is very sympathetic to Gilda. Same thing with Pitfall, the brain of his character. He's a stalker, Scotty and Vertigo. Kind of a little bit of misogynist. He thinks he has the right to control this woman. Another example, this is even Gloria Graham's character in The Big Heat, where she's a victim. She's a little bit more on the femme fatale side because she does bring doom to some men. But really, ultimately, there's nothing wrong with Debbie. She's just kind of this flirty chick who wants to live good.

CLIP Big Heat Graham

NORA FIORE

She has to sleep with Lee Marvin to get the life she wants. She's okay with that, and she feels bad for banging. She talks to him. But she's not a rotten character. She's not killing anybody for fun or anything. What actually kind of radicalizes her is what Lee Marvin does her this horrific act of violence against her again, directed at her looks, because that's what he resents.

CLIP Big Heat hot coffee

NORA FIORE

That's the thing that gives her power. So he takes away her power by destroying her looks. I won't say anymore about that film if nobody seen it, but very, very disturbing film and just an incredible performance from Gloria Graham in that one.

BETH ACCOMANDO

Yeah, she's great in that.

NORA FIORE

Now.

BETH ACCOMANDO

One category that we don't tend to think of very often in noir is The Good Girl. So we tend to focus on the femme fatale and on kind of the really sassy characters. But there are women in film noir that are good in talking about Out of the Past. We have Virginia Houston, who is kind of the good girl on the side for Robert Mitchum.

CLIP Out of the Past Virginia Huston

BETH ACCOMANDO

You have Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep, who she may be wild, and she may seem like she's quite a femme fatale, but she's not lethal in any way. She's not ruthless. And she does have a very kind of a personal code of how she chooses to behave. But you have a category of these good girls that you call the Redeeming Angels. And who are these?

NORA FIORE

I think there's quite a lot of examples of the women in noir who kind of become this guiding light for men in dark places in their life. One of the examples that came to mind was Gail Russell in Moonrise, who's this emotional solace for Dane Clark, who's very embittered from having grown up being bullied as the son of a man who was hanged, and her influence in his life tones down some of his anger and ultimately serves as a catalyst for him to do the right thing.

CLIP Moonrise

NORA FIORE

In the end, I think Lauren Bacall in Dark Passage is an even purer example of this kind of redeeming, almost angelic good girl type that you do sometimes see in noir, but in a way that is not boring or flat or a trope. But she's definitely angelic in the way she looks those big close ups when Bogey wakes up and it kind of ripples out of his delirium. And there she is, this gorgeous face and Hello, she just looks like she was sent to help him, but she's competent and she's smart and she has her reasons for doing it.

CLIP Dark Passage

NORA FIORE

And because she's Lauren Bacall, she can hold her own against Bogey. And then there's kind of a sadness to her that I think makes her kindness all the more beautiful and poignant. I love Lauren Bacall in Dark Passage and Marsha Hunt in Raw Deal, one of noir’s most fascinating good girls.

CLIP Raw Deal Hunt tells off O’Keefe

NORA FIORE

I think Marsha Hunt is such an extraordinary person in real life. She just had a birthday. She's I think she's 104 now. Marsha Hunt and she has just done so much with her life in humanitarian causes, has been on the right side of history so many times, and I think that that really shines through in her performance and Raw Deal where she's the angel on Dennis O'Keefe shoulder to contrast with Claire Trevor, who's the more venal, tough Dame Mal voice. And Claire Trevor actually has the voice over.

CLIP Raw Deal Trevor VO

NORA FIORE

That's a great example of a film where a woman is doing the voiceover throughout so very female dominated noir. And Marcia Hunt is kind of pulling Dennis O'Keefe back towards morality and doing the right thing after he crashes out of prison. And it's kind of unclear what he's going to do. That's a great example of a good girl noir and another one I think deserves a little more attention is Alice Fay in Fallen Angel where I know we're all kind of hard to take your eyes off of Linda Darnell as the hash slinging sassy temptress. But Alice Faye is so beautiful in that, and the way she redeems Dana Andrews cynical character and delivers the line that the title comes from.

CLIP Fallen Angel

NORA FIORE

There's just so much goodness in her. I think there's a luminous good girl in noir that could have been a cliche. All of these ones I've just mentioned could be this kind of cardboard stand in for conventional morality, but instead the actresses make them really believable characters, you know, I think in some ways it is harder to play the good girl than the bad girl because it's such a temptation to make her saccharine and boring. And she's also kind of a little bit of a scold often in the story trying to pull the protagonists back onto the straight narrow. We don't want to see him on the straight narrow. We want to see them misbehave. We want to see him do bad things. So when you get one of these characters who is a good girl and a positive moral influence, who manages to be very inspirational and poignant, I really just love all those performances I just mentioned.

CLIP Fallen Angel

BETH ACCOMANDO

I need to take one last break and then I’ll be back with Nora Fiore, the Nitrate Diva to conclude our discussion of Noir Dames.

MIDROLL 2 [currently at ]

BETH ACCOMANDO

Welcome back. Marriage is not always a hallowed institute in film noir. In fact, it is often threatened by infidelity or scorned by people who see little cause to respect society’s norms. So we don’t often see a married couple at the heart of a noir but Nora does perceive a category of characters she calls The Long Suffering Wife, like Colleen Gray in Nightmare Alley.

CLIP Nightmare Alley

NORA FIORE

Yeah, I think a lot of cases the suffering wife I see as a character who is often there with her husband. But in contrast to the femme fatale being leading a man astray oftentimes the suffering went, it's interesting because I find a lot of the homme fatale characters. They're not free agents like the Femme fatale. They're often husbands. They're often these charming spouses who kind of hook some good woman into their life, and maybe the wife becomes complicit. Maybe the wife is just now trapped in this situation. I guess this bleeds into some of the other categories we talked about. But one I think about a lot of the suffering wife is Colleen Gray in Nightmare Alley, where she's suckered into Tyrone Power's racket. I mean, who wouldn't be? And she goes along with him to a certain point. But she does resist him. She does kind of try to talk to him. And there's a great conversation where she says, You're talking like your God.

CLIP Nightmare Alley You’re not talking to one of your chumps

NORA FIORE

I think the relationship is really fascinating where even though she is so clearly the submissive partner in that relationship, she still has the guts to speak up to him and to say something to him. I think Colleen Grey is just a tremendously underrated actress. She also is wonderful as kind of a redeeming angel character and Kiss of Death with Victor Mature.

CLIP Kiss of Death

NORA FIORE

Another great wife character that I love is Jane Randolph in a little known called Jealousy, where she is the cab driver who's supporting her husband, who's an alcoholic emigre. And she's smart and she's confident in and she's sassy. And you got to wonder how she hooked up with this European intellectual here living in America. But you can imagine how once upon time there may be a really happy couple together, but he just can't pull himself out of his tude and she's like, Come on, you can do this, and he really resents her for that film noir, I just absolutely love is Repeat Performance.

CLIP Repeat Performance

NORA FIORE

And again, it's all about Joan Leslie's struggles as a wife to kind of keep her husband in line. She tries to redeem him. And, well, let's just say she's not successful in that endeavor. So definitely the wife figure. I think a lot of this probably comes out of Gaslight, which was just such an Ingrid Bergman won her Oscar for it. But you do see that a lot. You see a lot of noir and noir adjacent movies and movies kind of part of the noir movement. You do see a lot of women who are being abused and exploited by their partners, which is partially why I do debate this charge against noir that it's misogynistic, because frankly, I think noir is very sympathetic to the many bad situations that life can pull women into and how hard it is for them to escape those situations once they are in them. I think for every femme fatale, there is a noir, there is a terrible husband. There are just so many evil, abusive, manipulative husbands in film noir.

CLIP Gilda Johnny bad marriage

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, when you mention this category, which I hadn't thought about, I thought of the film Reckless Moment, which is not so much the suffering wife as maybe the long suffering mother. And this is where noir kind of crosses into the woman's melodrama like Douglas Sirk. This was Max. Ophuls. But the sense of she's so suburban and she runs the house, she takes care of the kids, she manages the budget while the husband is away. And in this particular film, she has to deal with blackmail and murder.

CLIP Reckless Moment

BETH ACCOMANDO

So it's like she seems very constrained by these domestic duties. And yet she's thrown into a situation kind of out of her depth. But she still manages. She's like doing her budget to figure out how to pay blackmail.

NORA FIORE

And she can't get a loan because it's all in her husband’s name. That film is so tense. I mean, that scene where she's trying to get a loan and just you can tell it's not going to work out for her the way all the minutiae of her life become this chain. That makes it all the more challenging for her to fix this problem. The typical issue of just I got to get the money. I got to pay off the blackmailer, which for a man he could do that in a day. All of these obstacles in her way, and the way Ophuls films it with all the tracking shots and the way she's constantly emotion and bouncing from place to place. And the simplest thing becomes this huge, bigger mess for her to clean up because of the prison of her respectability. I love that line.

CLIP Reckless Moment You don't know how a family can surround you at times.

NORA FIORE

I think how it is in the sense that she loves her family and the family that she is going through all this for is such a constraint on her ability to solve this problem. That is just a tremendous performance from Joan Bennett. Just a real underrated, I think underrated noir dame. I mean, I don't know. It's hard to call Joan Bennett underrated because she does still loom so large. She's so incredible in Scarlett Street. But again, another one of these women who can inhabit multiple kinds of roles within noir. She could be the same Patel. She'd be the mother. She could be kind of more the woman in Peril, like in Secret Beyond the Door. She's tremendous in the Reckless Moment, her tension and her frustration and the combination of grace. And yet the fear you can see under the surface. It's just grabbed you by the throat. It's just astonishing.

CLIP Reckless Moment

NORA FIORE

I feel like that film just is still a little underseen, given how phenomenal it is and the mother is, I do think maybe a little bit less a part of more than you might expect. Like you said, it's kind of more the realm of melodrama. But, of course, Mildred Pierce, that's a great on the absolute Borderland of noir or melodrama, whichever one you want to call it is that and Joan Crawford as the classic maternal figure and how dark is that she's not only exploited by her husband, another one of the bad husband noirs,

CLIP Mildred Pierce

NORA FIORE

but she also exploited by her child in this tremendously insidious way.And another one I want to mention, while we're on the subject of mothers is Allotment Wives, which combines a lot of the themes we've talked about because it's Kay Francis as a lady gang boss.

CLIP Allotment Wives lady boss

NORA FIORE

So she's kind of a female fatale there. She's a vamp. She's using her Wiles to get what she can. She's a mother of a daughter who is drifting into some bad company. So it's got the maternal noir element. She has to kind of figure out what's happening. So there's mystery from both sides of it and that she is being investigated. But she also has to investigate. It's just really interesting noir in terms of the strong female characters, this racket that is largely composed of women and also this maternal element of it. It's like Mildred Pierce if Mildred Pierce were a gang boss, and it was just a fascinating film, Allotment Wives highly recommended for anybody who is a Kay Francis fan or just kind of a fan of these because it's a poverty row noir. It has some of these crazy twists that are a little implausible and weird and wild.

CLIP Allotment Wives murder

NORA FIORE

So don't go into it expecting that it is going to be Double Indemnity. It's not tight like that with this kind of masterful construction, but it is a wonderful example of the poverty renewal, but with a terrific leading role for Kay Francis, one of her last films, and she's magnificent, and it makes you wish she played a lot more roles in noir. Kept on going.

BETH ACCOMANDO

All right, that's going right on my list because I have not seen it. So thank you.

NORA FIORE

No, I hope you love it. It's a lot of fun. Now.

BETH ACCOMANDO

The final category you have is the self rescuing damsel. And who are some of the classic examples of this?

NORA FIORE

Well, the one that comes to mind, first of all, is Nina Foch, and My Name is Julia Ross.

I know some people debate that this is more might call it a little bit more women in peril, but I think the way in which the ordinariness is perverted to become something twisted and dangerous. I call it noir the fact that Joseph H. Lewis directed it that Burnett Daffy shot. It the whole sense of imprisonment and fear. If you want to expand the I would certainly consider it part of the noir movement. She's kind of a little bit of a girl sleuth character, and she has to figure out what happened. So the story, the set up is that Nina Foche goes to a job interview. She's hard down on her luck. She really, really needs this job to become this wealthy woman's Secretary. And she goes to the house to be taken to the position. Will they drug or take her to a mansion by the sea where she is now told that she is not who she thought she was. She is not Julia Ross, but she is married to George McCraney, and she's not. Well, she's sick. She's mentally unbalanced. So it's in many ways more chilling for me than Gaslight, because it's like everybody's in on it for the gas lighting. And it's not just, oh, that you didn't see that thing you thought you saw. You're not who you think you are.

CLIP My Name is Julia Ross

NORA FIORE

And in a typical movie, it might be somebody just coming to save her. But all the ways in which she resists this identity that has been imposed on her and finds ways to try to escape. And ultimately, I won't give it away. But it's a really short film. It's a gem from Columbia's B unit really kind of was a bit of a breakout picture for Joseph H. Lewis, who'd go on to do Gun Crazy, The Big Combo, great noir director and neo fascists central performance. I just think is again, really wonderfully understated, and that she's able to convey this fear and this anxiety, but without overplaying it in the situation. So that's an example of a woman who was able to rescue herself and keep her presence of mind in a situation that might drive many of us to actual insanity.

NORA FIORE

I think she's a real underrated Noir dame, and the threat is maybe Virginia Gray at her best. She's just able to convey such desperation in the right points. And then when the tides turn her way, when she seizes an opportunity, the cool composure that she suddenly exhibits is a revelation. I love that film, and I love Virginia Gray in it.

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, Nora, I want to thank you so much for talking about the noir Dames and hopefully opening people's eyes to the wide diversity of women that exist within the film noir world.

NORA FIORE

It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for letting me Yammer on about the many performances and films that I love. I hope that there's a new one for everyone out there, because I have been watching film noir since I was a teenager, probably before. And one thing that continues to delight me is even within American noir, how many films there still are to see, how many obscure ones to dig up the web larceny and all these ones that are just kind of making it to Bluray and all the work the film Laura Foundation has done to bring films out of the shadows.And this entire conversation is obviously focused on American film noir, but in other countries, there's so much to delve into there, so it really is just a continual delight. And I'm happy to be able to have talked about it with you. Thank you so much for having me on.

BETH ACCOMANDO

That wraps up another edition of KPBS listener supported Cinema Junkie. I want to thank Nora Fiore, the Nitrate Diva for joining me and sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for film noir and noir dames. You can follow her on Twitter at the nitrate diva where she will also dazzle you with her hobby of tracking down recycled props and costumes in classic Hollywood films.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion and more importantly I hope it inspires you to seek out these films. To make it easier to start down the dimly lit street of noir I have put together a YouTube playlist of many of the films we have discussed that are available for free, although the quality varies radically. But you can find gorgeous restorations of some of these films at Eddie Muller’s Film Noir Foundation and elsewhere with a little searching but some are hard to find.

Cinema Junkie will be taking a holiday break and be off season for a few months. I’ll be sprinkling a few bonus episodes along the way and be back before you know it.

Remember to check out Cinema Junkie’s companion videos from the Geeky gourmet because I’ll show you how to make some noir desserts in glorious black and white and how to serve up the perfect crime scene.

You can find the videos and more podcasts at kpbs-dot-org-slash-cinema-junkie.And while Cinema Junkie is on break I urge you to explore some of the archives featuring guests such as David Cronenberg, Clive Barker, Sir Ian McKellan, Jen and Sylvia Soska, and film editor Thelma Schoonmaker and topics such as Black Films that Matter, screwball comedy, queer horror, and Zombies for Humanity. And please share the podcast with a friend because your recommendation is the best way to build our audience.

I’d like to acknowledge the talented team that makes Cinema Junkie happen: podcast coordinator Kinsee Morlan, technical director Rebecca Chacon, and director of sound design Emily Jankowski.

Till next year, I’m Beth Accomando your resident Cinema Junkie.

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Columbia
Rita Hayworth represents The Glamorous Victim in "Gilda" as Cinema Junkie discusses the diversity of women in film noir.
Meet The Glamorous Victim, The Lady Sleuth. The Redeeming Angel and more as Cinema Junkie explores the diversity of women in film noir.

Cinema Junkie extends Noir-vember because one month was not enough time to explore the spectrum of women found on the shadowy streets of film noir.

Nora Fiore, the Nitrate Diva, returns for part two of Noir Dames, a look beyond the usual suspects of femme fatales to check out some additional intriguing female characters including even the good girls of noir. Yes, believe it or not film noir offers up some admirable dames who challenge expectations by providing, as Fiore says, "a guiding light for men in dark places."

In Part One of Noir Dames, Fiore and I shared our favorite femme fatales and discussed Jane Greer's Kathy in "Out of the Past" and Lizabeth Scott's Jane Palmer in "Too Late For Tears," who do come up again in this discussion. Then we teased you with a glimpse of the women who exist beyond those lethal ladies.

As I mentioned in part one, there’s been a lot of discussion and scholarship about the types of women you find in noir so we are not breaking any new ground here but we’re adding our own perspective and citing our favorite examples.

We discussed The Self-Reliant Entertainer in Part One and now we tackle the Lady Sleuth, the Glamorous Victim, the Redeeming Angel, the Suffering Wife, and the Self-Rescuing Damsel.

And here's a YouTube playlist of films available for free. Quality of prints varies greatly but on the plus side you can watch without signing up for anything.

Also check out the Geeky Gourmet video about how to make a black and white noir dessert to die for.

Geeky Gourmet: Noir Dessert To Die For