Out of the Past (1947)

This film was “blah” to me mostly because I couldn’t follow the details of the plot very well.  But I understood that there’s a woman who tricks a detective guy and yadda yadda.  What I was paying attention to was the female characters and how they are shown in this film noir genre.

In film noir there are mainly two female figures, the “spider lady” who is the negative character and the maternal “good girl”.  In this film the “spider lady” character is Kathie and the maternal “good girl” character is Ann.  Kathie and Ann share the same appearances and personalities that most film noir women have.

What stands out most is their hair color.  Kathie has dark brown/black hair and Ann is blond.  For some reason in our culture dark represents evil and light is the opposite so when we see their hair color we associate the darkness or the lightness of the hair to some specific meaning.  Next to show that both women are different from one another is their clothing.  We see Kathie wear low neckline fitted dresses and even though it is cold in “current” time where Ann is, I can’t imagine her wearing what Kathie wears.

As I mentioned earlier, their personalities are polar opposites from each other.  Kathie reminds me of Jean from Lady Eve.  She is deceitful and dramatic.  There is a popular line that I notice in film noirs that the “spider lady” characters say which is “Don’t you believe me!?”  That is the funniest line ever because whenever a woman in a film says that, you know that you shouldn’t believe her. So if you didn’t know she was the “spider lady” before, it’s obvious now.  Ann is an innocent woman who believes in the best in others.  When told that Jeff killed someone, she doesn’t believe a word of it not even if Jeff confessed to it.

You can also tell the difference between the women by how men treat them.  In most film noirs the main male character treats the bad woman like she’s a joke.  He’s unapologetic towards her.  He can be violent towards her like shaking or shoving.  He doesn’t give into her demands.  If he does, it’s only because he’s stringing her along and once he has no more use for her, he’ll leave her behind.  The same male character is a whole different man when around the good girl.  He thinks she’s special.  He is gentle towards her.  He tries to not make her worry but she always does; and in the end wants to stay with her.

The last thing that distinguishes the “spider lady” from the “good girl” in this film and in some other film noir films is the female characters’ ending.  As we saw in this film, Kathie died in the end which is like punishment for what she’s done.  In other film noir films the bad girl can end like this or go to jail.  Either way, she does not get a happy ending.  But the good girl doesn’t get a complete happy ending.  Sure she is not dead or in jail but she could have lost someone close to her at some point in the film.

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Posted by cjenkins   @   21 October 2010

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Oct 24, 2010
4:09 pm

It’s very interesting. I also talked about the differences between the “spider lady” and the “good girl” in my blog entry for “Out of the Past”, but I only focused on lighting. I never would’ve thought to think about their hair color and their endings. Very good observation.
There’s just one thing: The “spider lady” in “Out of the Past” was named Kathie, not Daisy.

Oct 24, 2010
9:37 pm
#2 cjenkins :

oh scheisse, ur right. i dont know where i got daisy from, i wrote it in my notes. editing now. thanx.

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