A femme fatale ( // or // ; French: [fam fatal] ), sometimes called a maneater or vamp, is a stock character of a mysterious, beautiful, and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, deadly traps. She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to enchant, entice and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural; hence, the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, witch, having power over men.
In Virginia Allen's opinion, one of the most common traits of the femme fatale includes promiscuity and the "rejection of motherhood", seen as "one of her most threatening qualities since by denying his immortality and his posterity it leads to the ultimate destruction of the male". [ dead link ] Femmes fatales are typically villainous, or at least morally ambiguous, and always associated with a sense of mystification, and unease.
In American early 20th century films, femme fatale characters were referred to as vamps, in reference to Theda Bara, who played a seductive woman referred to as a "vampire" in the 1915 film A Fool There Was.Many female mobsters (especially members of the Italian-American Mafia or Russian Mafia) have been known to be femme fatales in many films noir as well as James Bond films.
The phrase is French for "fatal woman". A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, or sexual allure. In many cases, her attitude towards sexuality is lackadaisical, intriguing, or frivolous. In some cases, she uses lies or coercion rather than charm. She may also make use of some subduing weapon such as sleeping gas, a modern analog of magical powers in older tales. She may also be (or imply that she is) a victim, caught in a situation from which she cannot escape; The Lady from Shanghai (a 1947 film noir) is one such example. A younger or underage version of a femme fatale is called a fille fatale, or "fatal girl".
The femme fatale archetype exists in the culture, folklore and myths of many cultures.Ancient mythical or legendary examples include Lilith, Mohini, Circe, Medea, Clytemnestra, Lesbia, and Visha Kanyas. Historical examples from Classical times include Cleopatra and Messalina, as well as the Biblical figures Delilah, Jezebel, and Salome. An example from Chinese literature and traditional history is Daji.
The femme fatale was a common figure in the European Middle Ages, often portraying the dangers of unbridled female sexuality. The pre-medieval inherited Biblical figure of Eve offers an example, as does the wicked, seductive enchantress typified in Morgan le Fay. The Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute shows her more muted presence during the Age of Enlightenment
The femme fatale flourished in the Romantic period in the works of John Keats, notably "La Belle Dame sans Merci" and "Lamia". Along with them, there rose the gothic novel The Monk featuring Matilda, a very powerful femme fatale. This led to her appearing in the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and as the vampire, notably in Carmilla and Brides of Dracula . The Monk was greatly admired by the Marquis de Sade, for whom the femme fatale symbolised not evil, but all the best qualities of women; his novel Juliette is perhaps the earliest wherein the femme fatale triumphs. Pre-Raphaelite painters frequently used the classic personifications of the femme fatale as a subject.
In the Western culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the femme fatale became a more fashionable trope,and she is found in the paintings of the artists Edvard Munch, Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck and Gustave Moreau. The novel À rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans includes these fevered imaginings about an image of Salome in a Moreau painting:
No longer was she merely the dancing-girl who extorts a cry of lust and concupiscence from an old man by the lascivious contortions of her body; who breaks the will, masters the mind of a King by the spectacle of her quivering bosoms, heaving belly and tossing thighs; she was now revealed in a sense as the symbolic incarnation of world-old Vice, the goddess of immortal Hysteria, the Curse of Beauty supreme above all other beauties by the cataleptic spasm that stirs her flesh and steels her muscles, – a monstrous Beast of the Apocalypse, indifferent, irresponsible, insensible, poisoning.
She also is seen as a prominent figure in late nineteenth and twentieth century opera, appearing in Richard Wagner's Parsifal (Kundry), Georges Bizet's "Carmen", Camille Saint-Saëns' "Samson et Delilah" and Alban Berg's "Lulu" (based on the plays "Erdgeist" and "Die Büchse der Pandora" by Frank Wedekind).
In fin-de-siècle decadence, Oscar Wilde reinvented the femme fatale in the play Salome : she manipulates her lust-crazed uncle, King Herod, with her enticing Dance of the Seven Veils (Wilde's invention) to agree to her imperious demand: "bring me the head of John the Baptist". Later, Salome was the subject of an opera by Strauss, and was popularized on stage, screen, and peep-show booth in countless reincarnations.
Another enduring icon of glamour, seduction, and moral turpitude is Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. While working as an exotic dancer, she took the stage name Mata Hari. She was accused of German espionage and was put to death by a French firing squad. After her death she became the subject of many sensational films and books.
Other considerably famous femmes fatales are Isabella of France, Hedda Gabler of Kristiania (now Oslo), Marie Antoinette of Austria, and, most famously, Lucrezia Borgia.
One traditional view portrays the femme fatale as a sexual vampire; her charms leech the virility and independence of lovers, leaving them shells of themselves. Rudyard Kipling took inspiration from a vampire painted by Philip Burne-Jones, an image typical of the era[ citation needed ] in 1897, to write his poem "The Vampire". The poem inspired the 1913 eponymous film The Vampire by Robert Vignola, sometimes cited as the first "vamp" movie. Protagonist Alice Hollister was often labeled as "the original vampire" at the time.
Like much of Kipling's verse it became very popular, and its refrain: "A fool there was...", describing a seduced man, became the title of the popular 1915 film A Fool There Was that made Theda Bara a star. The poem was used in the publicity for the film.[ citation needed ] On this account, in the American slang of the era the femme fatale was called a vamp, short for vampire.
Femmes fatales appear in detective fiction, especially in its 'hard-boiled' sub-genre which largely originated with the crime stories of Dashiell Hammett in the 1920s. At the end of that decade, the French-Canadian villainess Marie de Sabrevois gave a contemporary edge to the otherwise very historical novels of Kenneth Roberts set during the war for U.S. independence.
For film audiences, too, the villainess often appeared foreign, usually either of indeterminate Eastern European or Asian ancestry. She was the sexual counterpart to wholesome actresses such as Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. Notable silent-cinema vamps included Theda Bara, Helen Gardner, Louise Glaum, Valeska Suratt, Musidora, Virginia Pearson, Olga Petrova, Rosemary Theby, Nita Naldi, Pola Negri, Estelle Taylor, Jetta Goudal, and, in early appearances, Myrna Loy.
During the film-noir era of the 1940s and early-1950s, the femme fatale flourished in American cinema. Examples include Brigid O'Shaughnessy, portrayed by Mary Astor, who murders Sam Spade's partner in The Maltese Falcon (1941); manipulative narcissistic daughter Veda (portrayed by Ann Blyth) in Mildred Pierce who exploits her indulgent mother Mildred (portrayed by Joan Crawford) and fatally destroys her mother's remarriage to stepfather Monte Barragon (portrayed by Zachary Scott); Gene Tierney as Ellen Brent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), and the cabaret singer portrayed by Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946),narcissistic wives who manipulate their husbands; Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) in Double Indemnity (1944), Ava Gardner in The Killers and Cora (Lana Turner) in The Postman Always Rings Twice , based on novels by Ernest Hemingway and James M. Cain respectively, manipulate men into killing their husbands.
In the Hitchcock film The Paradine Case (1947), Alida Valli's character causes the deaths of two men and the near destruction of another. Another frequently cited example is the character Jane played by Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears (1949); during her quest to keep some dirty money from its rightful recipient and her husband, she uses poison, lies, sexual teasing and a gun to keep men wrapped around her finger. Jane Greer remains notable as a murderous femme fatale using her wiles on Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past (1947). In Hitchcock's 1940 film and Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel Rebecca, the eponymous femme fatale completely dominates the plot, even though she is already dead and we never see an image of her. Rocky and Bullwinkle's Natasha Fatale, a curvaceous spy, takes her name from the femme fatale stock character.
The femme fatale has carried on to the present day, in films such as Body Heat (1981) and Prizzi's Honor (1985) – both with Kathleen Turner, Blade Runner (1982) with Sean Young, Blue Velvet (1986) with Isabella Rossellini, Fatal Attraction (1987) with Glenn Close, Basic Instinct (1992) with Sharon Stone, Damage (1992) with Juliette Binoche , The Last Seduction (1994) with Linda Fiorentino, To Die For (1995) with Nicole Kidman, Lost Highway (1997) with Patricia Arquette, Cowboy Bebop (1998) with Wendee Lee, Devil in the Flesh (1998) and Jawbreaker (1999), both with Rose McGowan, Original Sin (2001) with Angelina Jolie, Femme Fatale (2002) with Rebecca Romijn, and Jennifer's Body (2009), with Megan Fox. In 2013, Tania Raymonde played the title role in Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret . In 2014, Eva Green portrayed a femme fatale in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Rosamund Pike starred in Gone Girl .
Academy Award-winning actress Marion Cotillard has frequently played femmes fatales, in such films as A Private Affair (2002), A Very Long Engagement , The Black Box , Inception , Midnight in Paris , The Dark Knight Rises and Macbeth . Nicole Kidman has also played a few femmes fatales in films as To Die For , The Paperboy and Moulin Rouge! .
The archetype is also abundantly found in American television. One of the most famous femmes fatales of American television is Sherilyn Fenn's Audrey Horne of the David Lynch cult series Twin Peaks . In the late night Cinemax TV series, Femme Fatales, actress Tanit Phoenix plays Lilith, the host who introduces each episode Rod Serling-style and occasionally appears within the narrative. In the Netflix TV series, Orange Is the New Black , actress Laura Prepon plays Alex Vause, a modern femme fatale, leading both men and women to their destruction. On the second season of Dexter , actress Jaime Murray portrays Lila Tournay, an obsessive arsonist smitten with the titular character.
Femmes fatales also appear frequently in comic books. Notable examples include Batman's long-time nemesis Catwoman, who first appeared in comics in 1940, and various adversaries of The Spirit, such as P'Gell.
This stock character is also often found in the genres of opera and musical theatre, where she will traditionally have a mezzo, alto or contralto range, opposed to the ingénue’s soprano, to symbolise the masculinity and lack of feminine purity. An example is Hélène from Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 .
The term has been used in connection with highly publicised criminal trials, such as the trials of Jodi Ariasand Amanda Knox.
Salome was the daughter of Herod II and Herodias. According to the New Testament, she was the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas who demanded, and received, the head of John the Baptist.
Theda Bara was an American silent film and stage actress.
Vamp or vamps may refer to:
Enchantress most commonly refers to:
Salome is a tragedy by Oscar Wilde. The original 1891 version of the play was in French. Three years later an English translation was published. The play tells in one act the Biblical story of Salome, stepdaughter of the tetrarch Herod Antipas, who, to her stepfather's dismay but to the delight of her mother Herodias, requests the head of Jokanaan on a silver platter as a reward for dancing the dance of the seven veils.
Natasha Fatale is an antagonist of the 1959-1964 animated cartoons Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show, collectively referred to as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. She was voiced by June Foray.
Vampire films have been a staple since the era of silent films, so much so that the depiction of vampires in popular culture is strongly based upon their depiction in films throughout the years. The most popular cinematic adaptation of vampire fiction has been from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, with over 170 versions to date. Running a distant second are adaptations of the 1872 novel Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. By 2005, Dracula had been the subject of more films than any other fictional character, save for Sherlock Holmes.
A femme fatale is an archetypal character of literature and art.
A Fool There Was is an American silent drama film produced by William Fox, directed by Frank Powell, and starring Theda Bara. Released in 1915, the film was long considered controversial for such risqué intertitle cards as "Kiss me, my fool!"
Pomba Gira is the name of an Afro-Brazilian spirit evoked by practitioners of Umbanda and Quimbanda in Brazil. She is the consort of Exu, who is the messenger of the Orixas in Candomblé. Known by many names, or avatars, Pomba Gira is often associated with the number seven, crossroads, graveyards, spirit possession, and witchcraft.
Black Widow, is a "Film Noir Musical" written by David Mortin and Patricia Fogliato and directed by the former. It is loosely based on the trial of Evelyn Dick for the murder of her husband. The film stars Martin Tielli, Mary Margaret O'Hara and Sarah Slean as Eve Hardwick, the character that is based on Evelyn Dick.
The Vampira Show was an American television show that broadcast vintage horror films presented by horror host Vampira. The series aired on the Los Angeles ABC television affiliate KABC-TV from April 30, 1954, through April 2, 1955. The weekly series was produced and created by Hunt Stromberg, Jr., and featured the Vampira character created by Maila Nurmi.
Vamp nail polish, created in 1994, is a dark red and black nail polish made by Chanel. It was at one time Chanel's best-selling cosmetic and was, at the turn of the century, the fifth best selling nail polish in the world. Vamp has been credited with bringing dark, non-traditional polish colors into the mainstream of late twentieth century cosmetics.
Mary Ann Doane is the Class of 1937 Professor of Film and Media at the University of California, Berkeley and was previously the George Hazard Crooker Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. She is a pioneer in the study of gender in film.
The Kreutzer Sonata is a lost 1915 American silent romantic drama film directed by Herbert Brenon and costarring Nance O'Neil, Theda Bara, and William H. Shay. The film was based on the 1902 play of the same name by Jacob Gordin, which was based on Leo Tolstoy's 1889 novella. Produced by Fox Film Corporation, it was shot at the company's studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
La belle juive is a recurrent motif with archetypal significance in art and literature, most prevalent in 19th-century Romantic European literature. The belle juive is commonly portrayed as a lone, young and beautiful Jewish woman in a predominantly Christian world.
The Apparition(French: L'Apparition) is a painting by French artist Gustave Moreau, painted between 1874 and 1876. It shows the biblical character of Salome dancing in front of Herod Antipas with a vision of John the Baptist's head. The 106 cm high and 72,2 cm wide watercolor held by the Paris Musée d'Orsay elaborates an episode told in the Gospel of Matthew 14:6–11 and Mark 6:21–29. On a feast on the occasion of Herod Antipas' birthday, the princess Salome dances in front of the king and his guest, pleasing him so much he promises her anything she wished for. Incited by her mother Herodias, who was reproved by the imprisoned John the Baptist for her illegitimate marriage to Herod, Salome demands John's head in a charger. Regretful but compelled to keep his word in front of his peers, Herod fulfills Salome's demand. John the Baptist is beheaded, the head brought in a charger and given to Salome, who gives it to her mother.
The Blue Flame is a four-act play written by George V. Hobart and John Willard, who revised an earlier version by Leta Vance Nicholson. In 1920, producer Albert H. Woods staged the play on Broadway and on tour across the United States. Ruth Gordon, the main character, is a religious young woman who dies and is revived by her scientist fiancé as a soulless femme fatale. She seduces several men and involves them in crimes, including drug use and murder. In the final act, her death and resurrection are revealed to be a dream. The production starred Theda Bara, a popular silent film actress who was known for playing similar roles in movies.
Women are depicted in film noir crime movies in a range of archetypes and stock characters, including the alluring femme fatale. Film noir directors tried to fulfill specific constructions of gender roles in this aesthetically driven cinema style, creating very specific false archetypes for women within the ongoing history of film noir. According to Andrew Spicer in “Film Noir,” the articulation of the patriarchy in film noir is understood as one of the style's most consistent features, no matter the decade of the film.
The Vampire is an American silent film drama, directed by Robert G. Vignola, based on the 1897 eponymous poem by Rudyard Kipling. It stars Alice Hollister and Harry F. Millarde. It is generally considered the first recognized film depicting the vamp character, also known as femme fatale.