Tag Archives: Femme Fatales

Femme Fatales | Jean Harlow

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatales Jean Harlow Red-Headed Woman

Harlean Harlow Carpenter (March 3, 1911 – June 7, 1937) (via doctormacro.com)

“When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

Jean Harlow, commonly called ‘the Blonde Bombshell’ or ‘the Platinum Blonde,’ was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter on March 3rd, 1911. So much has been said about her illustrious career and iconic sex appeal that I won’t claim this article to be an exhaustive biography– But! I would like to dwell for a few paragraphs on some of (what I found to be) the most interesting aspects and intricacies of her incredible life. I hope you’ll appreciate the reflection and forgive me the authorial liberty I take in ignoring broad strokes of her history.

In retrospect, the commanding presence of this little blonde lady from Kansas City Missouri during the 1930s is indeed remarkable. At that point in American Film, she was undoubtedly the most sexually magnetic actress on the silver screen– and having achieved this reputation at such a young age her future had the appearance of all the worldly splendor fame provides. Sadly renal failure at age 26 robbed her of this, and robbed the clamouring masses likewise. (Renal failure, for those curious, is when your kidneys no longer adequately filter waste products from the blood).

As a child in Kansas, she was nicknamed “The Baby,” and this sobriquet stuck with her until her death. Oddly enough, she didn’t learn that her name was Harlean and not “Baby” until she was five years old when she was enrolled in finishing school. When her mother and father divorced in 1922, “Baby” moved with her mother Jean to Hollywood (who hoped to become an actress herself, but was considered too old). Although she bounced back to Kansas, then Michigan, then Illinois, she would return to Los Angeles as a married woman in 1928. Her husband, Chuck McGrew, was heir to fortune, and she embraced the life of a socialite in LA (I’m told she did quite well for herself).

She made friends with an aspiring actress and was spotted and approached by Fox executives while sitting in her car outside a casting. Rather against her will, she was roped into auditioning and accepting several minor roles by her persistant mother (who at that time lived nearby). These films were not wildly successful and she struggled to gain traction, and it was during this time period that she was divorced from McGrew but everything changed in 1931 when she was cast with Loretta Young in Platinum Blonde.

In a stroke of marketing genius Howard Hughes publicity machine coined Harlow’s hair color ‘platinum’and created a bleaching craze accross the nation. As a result, “Baby’s” personal appearances were packed, excited affairs (and all this in spite of critical disgust for her acting ability).

Superstardom arrived at MGM– when she was signed for a contract and given the leading role in Red-Headed Woman (again with the hair, right?) She began to star opposite powerful leading men; six films with Clark Gable, a few with Spencer Tracy and William Powell. Apparently she even helped a few up-and-comers get started: Robert Taylor and Franchot Tone.

Let’s talk femme fatale appeal– MGM tried to change her public persona, they were angling for a more mainstream ‘apple pie’ look, but they couldn’t quell the nation’s hunger for the brash, poised, and sexual Platinum Harlow.

Her second husband, Paul Bern, was found shot dead in their home, and there were rumors that Harlow had committed the crime herself but none of the accusations stuck. The scandal only propelled her further into stardom.

She began an illicit affair with a married boxer named Max Baer (any of this starting to sound torn from the pages of the pulp rags?)– she was even censured in their divorce proceedings as an adultress. To save face, MGM arranged a marriage between Harlow and Harold Rosson (a cinematographer)– it worked, and Harlow and Rosson were able to discreetly divorce several months later.

During these subsequent scandals, Harlow was still acting prolifically and James Stewart (who was opposite her in Wife vs. Secretary) shares one of my favorite “Blonde Bombshell” stories:

“Clarence Brown, the director, wasn’t too pleased by the way I did the smooching. He made us repeat the scene about half a dozen times…I botched it up on purpose. That Jean Harlow sure was a good kisser. I realized that until then I had never been really kissed.”

In 1937 her health took a serious dive that ended with her in a coma. She never woke up. Like the beautiful sirens of Poe’s visions, she was stolen in the full flush of youth. Thus she’ll will remain in her beauty forever, whilst we are steeped in woe.

I’m proud to add her to the side-bar line up of immortal dames on noirwhale.com

“My God, must I always wear a low-cut dress to be important?”

Jean Harlow George Hurrell 1933 Dinner At Eight

by George Hurrell (Dinner At Eight, 1933) (via doctormacro.com)

Femme Fatale Jean Harlow

(via doctormacro.com)

Actress Jean Harlow

12th August 1932 by Clarence Sinclair Bull (via doctormacro.com)

American actress Jean Harlow

15th June 1932 (via doctormacro.com)

Hells Angels Jean Harlow

by Margaret Chute, Hell’s Angels 1930 (via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Blonde Bombshell

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Platinum Blonde

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Jean Harlow femme fatale

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Jean Harlow Actress

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Jean Harlow film noir

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Jean Harlow Smokes

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Jean Harlow Swim Suit

1934 (via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Clark Gable Red Dust 1932

with Clark Gable in Red Dust 1932 (via doctormacro.com)

Femme Fatale Jean Harlow

(via shhshesabombshell.tumblr.com)

Jean Harlow Femme Fatale

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*All biographical details obtained from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Harlow

*Quotes obtained from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jean_harlow.html

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Femme Fatales | Bette Davis

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatales Bette Davis

Bette Davis. April 5th, 1908 to October 6th, 1989 (via womenoftheperformingarts.tumblr.com)

“I’m the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived.”

Ruth Elizabeth Davis, simply ‘Bette’ to those of us who recognize her, was born on April 5th, 1908. As potentially the greatest American actress of all time, books are filled with her film exploits (she appeared in more than 100) and other professional accomplishments– culminating in her tragic battle with breast cancer which ended her life at age 81.

She was the first actor/actress to ever reach ten Academy Award Nominations, and she won the award for Best Actress twice. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her as the 2nd greatest female star of all time (she was second only to Katharine Hepburn). She was also the first woman ever to receive the Lifetime Achievement award from the same organization.

Stylistically, she’s known for intensity and perfectionism– characterized by a penchant for confrontation. Costars, studio executives, and film directors frequently ‘locked horns’ with the starlet, who was unflinching in sharing her opinions and issuing demands. Her candid approach, curt tone, and signature cigarette became recognizable trademarks, neatly folded into the femme fatale archetype by the hard-boiled authors of the era.

“My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.”

Bette didn’t arrive in Hollywood until 1930, and was greeted by a surprising amount of failure. She was told she didn’t “look like an actress,” and failed her first screen test. Hilariously, she relates in a 1971 interview with Dick Cavett, “I was the most Yankee-est, most modest virgin who ever walked the earth. They laid me on a couch, and I tested fifteen men … They all had to lie on top of me and give me a passionate kiss. Oh, I thought I would die. Just thought I would die.” Her break arrived in the mercy of George Arliss, who gave her the lead in The Man Who Played God (1932) after her disappointing flops in many unsuccessful films. The success of the picture earned her respect, and more importantly a contract with Warner Brothers Studios.

She had to fight the unforgiving press, who teased her first husband Harmon “Ham” Nelson for earning only a tenth of her income (he took home $100.00 per week, she $1000.00). Ham refused to allow her to purchase a house until he could afford it himself. (During this period, Bette had several abortions).

Famously, Bette took Warner Brothers Studios to court in order to free herself of her contract. She felt that they had consigned her to mediocre films and were ultimately halting her career. She lost, but the trial was important to the development of Hollywood as we know it today.

She was cast in several memorable films, Marked Woman (1937) and Jezebel (1938) particularly, and it was during this period that she began to cheat on her husband (with Directors William Wyler and Howard Hughes). They were soon divorced. She collected 4 husbands before her death, though each marriage didn’t last; three ended in divorce and one made Bette a widow. Sadly, as she declined in her late years her reputation as a ‘bitch’ became the popular refrain. ‘Bitch’ or not, she was one helluva talent.

Her feud with Joan Crawford is legendary, and whether the hate was sincere or exaggerated its certainly entertaining. I’ve appended a wonderful anecdote about the inception of their catfight:

A little investigation shows that these two cinematic giants were reduced to duking it out over, what else, a man. Namely, the slightly less legendary, Franchot Tone. Bette starred alongside Franchot in the 1935 film Dangerous, a part for which she won her first Academy Award. Tone played a handsome architect to Bette’s alcoholic actress and she was soon smitten.

Said Bette  “I fell in love with Franchot, professionally and privately. Everything about him reflected his elegance, from his name to his manners.” It’s a pity this debonair actor inspired decades of tit-for-tat cat fighting.

Joan Crawford, at that time, was MGM’s reigning sex symbol. Newly divorced and on the prowl, she invited Tone over for dinner, only to greet him naked, in her solarium. Whether it was the nudity or the possibility of free tanning sessions, Franchot was hooked and Joan made sure Bette knew about it.

(visit : http://www.queensofvintage.com/bette-davis-vs-joan-crawford/ to read more)

Bette Davis is inseparably attached to the femme fatale archetype, and is possibly the most recognizable film noir starlet of them all. Her success is hardly measurable, the reach of her films universal. There is nothing I can say about her that hasn’t already been said, so I won’t try. Thanks for the memories Bette.

“In this business, until you’re known as a monster you’re not a star.”

Femme Fatale Bette Davis

(via sharontates.tumblr.com)

 Bette Davis Now Voyager 1942

for Now, Voyager 1942 (via bogarted.tumblr.com)

Bette Davis Life Magazine

(via completelyunproductive.tumblr.com)

Bette Davis Whatever Happened to Baby Jane 1962

in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) (via camberwellfoxes.tumblr.com)

Bette Davis Autobiography

Promoting her Autobiography (via christopherniquet.tumblr.com)

Film Noir Bette Davis

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Bette Davis Film Noir

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Bette Davis Femme Fatale

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Bette Davis Actress

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Actress Bette Davis

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Bette Davis Femme Fatale

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Bette Davis Smoking

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Smoking Bette Davis

(via mysilverscreendream.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatale Bette Davis

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Old Bette Davis

(via julia-loves-bette-davis.tumblr.com)

Bette Davis and Falcon

with a Falcon (via robertpina99.tumblr.com)

Bette Davis Hairstyle

getting her hair done (via pollypocket3674.tumblr.com)

Bette Davis Backstage

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Femme Fatale Bette Davis

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Bette Davis

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Ann Dvorak Joan Blondell and Bette Davis Three on a Match 1932

with Ann Dvorak and Joan Blondell. Three on a Match (1932) (via miss-flapper.tumblr.com)

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis

with Joan Crawford. (via i-love-old-hollywood.tumblr.com)

Femme Fatales Bette Davis

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Bette Davis Femme Fatales

(via pollypocket3674.tumblr.com)

*ALL biographical details were obtained from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bette_Davis

*ALL quotes were obtained from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/b/bette_davis.html

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Noir Art | Jean-Gabriel Domergue

The “Noir Art” segment on NoirWhale.com is intended to showcase the artistic abilities and contributions of significant individuals in the noir genre. These men and women create the vibrant backdrops our beloved anti-heroes and dames inhabit, and lend character to the settings that have come to define noir.

Noir Art Jean-Gabriel Domergue

(via linse-rose.tumblr.com)

Jean-Gabriel Domerge was born in the city Bordeaux, which may be found in Southwestern France, on March 4th, 1889. As a young man, he studied art at the world renown École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (National School of Fine Arts) in Paris, which was founded in 1648. The school’s central instruction program was based upon a series of anonymous tests and competitions which culminate in the Prix de Rome. The winner of which would receive a bursary (a grant) and be sent to the French Academy in Rome for a season to practice their art. Jean-Gabriel, in 1911, won for the painting category. Thus he was given a rare opportunity to practice and enhance his art at an earlier stage of his career.

“Domergue invented a new type of woman : thin, airy, elegant, with a swanlike neck and wide seductive eyes which gaze upon the world with longing.”

From 1920 onward, his work revolved almost exclusive around the female portrait. He even famously claimed to be the inventor of the ‘pin-up’– an art-form very closely tied to much of the noir genre, as the covers of ‘pulps’ perpetuated it into the main stream. Late in his life he was the curator of the public museum, Musée Jacquemart-André, and he organized several high profile exhibitions (Van Gogh, Goya, Toulouse-Lautrec, among others). He died on November 16th, 1962 on a sidewalk in Paris.

Domergue’s strokes are as delicate as the women he paints, their skin warm, flawless, and inviting. Their men serve as props only, each an incomplete cardboard cutout or piece of dark/bland scenery behind an intoxicating palette of soft color. As convicting as their lips may appear, it’s their eyes that draw the viewer into the canvas; squinting softly, Domergue paints them as windows into the empowered female– she lives in a world of certainties, and the viewer is barely worthy of her gaze. These women are femme fatales, dames of luxury, worshiped for their beauty and fragility– when in reality their perceived weakness is as fake as their crimson pout.

Jean-Gabriel Domergue

(via diabolique-mon-ange.tumblr.com)

Jean-Gabriel Domergue Portraits

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Jean-Gabriel Domergue Woman

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Jean-Gabriel Domergue Women

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Painter Jean-Gabriel Domergue

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French Painting Jean-Gabriel Domergue

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French Painter Jean-Gabriel Domergue

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Walk to the Folies Bergeres Jean-Gabriel Domergue

Walk to the Folies Bergeres (date unknown) (via artaddictsanonymous.tumblr.com)

Noir Art Jean-Gabriel Domergue

(via worldpaintings.tumblr.com)

Portrait of Madame O-Deril 1930 Jean-Gabriel Domergue

Portrait of Madame O’Deril, 1930 (via tender-isthe-night.tumblr.com)

Noir Artist Jean-Gabriel Domergue

(via pollysonne.tumblr.com)

Woman with Greyhounds 1930 Jean-Gabriel Domergue

Woman with Greyhounds, 1930 (via agence-kilt.tumblr.com)

Noir Art Jean-Gabriel Domergue

(via floodedgus.tumblr.com)

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Femme Fatales | Lana Turner

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatales Lana Turner

Lana Turner (February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995) (via listal.com)

“A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.”

Lana was born Julia Jean Turner in Wallace, Idaho. As a girl, she was lovingly called “Judy” by family and friends, but changed her name when she became a professional actress at 16. Her father, John Turner, was a miner from Tennessee who was murdered at age 27. Money problems had forced the family to move to San Francisco, and John had started gambling in an effort to bring home extra earnings. It’s believed that on December 14th in 1930, he won a bit of cash at a traveling craps game and stashed it in his left sock. He never made it home. Later, his body was found on a street corner, left shoe and sock missing. Tragically, the murder was never solved.

Famously, Lana caught her big break at a Hollywood drug store. She was skipping a typing class and decided to stop into the Top Hat Cafe located on Sunset Boulevard for a Coca-Cola. She was spotted by William R. Wilkerson (The Hollywood Reporter), who then referred her to Zeppo Marx. Lana was signed and cast quickly in her first film: They Won’t Forget (1937). Her form-fitting attire in the film earned her the nickname “The Sweater Girl”– a nickname which she hated.

Ms. Turner became wildly famous in the 1940s and 1950s due to her roles in such films as: Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Johnny Eager (1942), and Slightly Dangerous (1943)– her popularity and extreme beauty casting her as a favorite pin-up girl for our servicemen overseas. But Lana didn’t truly become a femme fatale until after the war.

She co-starred opposite John Garfield in the immensely successful film noir, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) (a James Cain adaptation). Even though she received critical praise as an actress for the first time, she famously complained about Garfield’s appearance, saying “Couldn’t they at least hire someone attractive?”

In 1957, Lana began a relationship with mobster Johnny Stompanato, a man known for his good looks and ties to Mickey Cohen in the L.A. criminal underworld. She tried several times to end their affair, but Johnny wouldn’t have it. They argued incessantly, and he frequently beat her up.

“In the fall of 1957, Stompanato followed Turner to England where she was filming Another Time, Another Place (1958) costarring Sean Connery. Afraid that Turner was having an affair with Connery, Stompanato stormed onto the set brandishing a gun. Connery punched Stompanato’s jaw once and took away his gun. Stompanato was soon deported by Scotland Yard for the incident.”

On an infamous night in April 1958, Johnny and Lana had an especially violent argument at her house in Beverly Hills. As it escalated, Lana’s 14 year old daughter Cheryl began to fear for her mother’s life. Hefting a kitchen knife, Cheryl ran to Lana’s aid, stabbing Mr. Stompanato–killing him. The event was tabloid fodder overnight, but the courts ruled it justifiable homicide in light of Lana’s dramatic testimony. Observers have said, “her testimony that day was the acting performance of her life.”

Notoriously, Turner was married eight times to seven different husbands: Artie Shaw, Joseph Stephen Crane, Henry J. Topping Jr., Lex Barker, Fred May, Robert P.Eaton, and Ronald Pellar. She said late in her life, “My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around.” (Joseph Stephen Crane is the father of her daughter Cheryl). Sadly, in 1982 Lana’s memoir revealed that she had been through three stillbirths and two abortions. She also acknowledges her struggle with alcoholism and attempted suicide.

In true femme fatale fashion, Lana Turner was a heavy smoker, and it eventually killed her. She died of complications from throat cancer in 1995.

Tragically, Lana didn’t only act in noir films, she lived a noir life. She added to the genre immensely with The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), but she couldn’t escape the genre in her personal life.

“A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.”

Lana Turner in Color

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner in Red

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner in Pink

(via stirredstraightup.blogspot.com)

Lana Turner Femme Fatale

(via magicmonkeyboy.blogspot.com)

Actress Lana Turner

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Smoking

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Smoking Lana Turner

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Femme Fatales Lana Turner

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Lana Turner Pin-up

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Lana Turner Pinup

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Lana Turner

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Sweater Girl Lana Turner

“The Sweater Girl” (via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Stephen Crane Cheryl

Lana Turner, Stephen Crane, and Cheryl

Lana Turner Ava Gardner

Lana Turner lights Ava Gardner’s cigarette (via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Clark Gable

Lana Turner and Clark Gable (via lanaturner.org)

John Garfield Lana Turner

John Garfield and Lana Turner (via listal.com)

The Postman Always Rings Twice Lana Turner

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) (via listal.com)

Lana Turner Johnny Stompanato

Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato (via latimesblogs.latimes.com)

Lana Turner Femme Fatale

(lanaturner.org)

*All biographical details were obtained from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lana_Turner

*All quotes were obtained from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/lana_turner.html

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