The Greatest
Femmes Fatales

in Classic Film Noir


Greatest Femmes Fatales in Classic Film Noir
(chronological by film title)
Introduction | Picture Guide | 1941 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946-1 | 1946-2 | 1947-1 | 1947-2
1948 | 1949 | 1950-1952 | 1953 | 1954-1956 | 1957-1959

Written by Tim Dirks

Greatest Femmes Fatales in Classic Film Noir
Movie Title Screen
Film Title and Director, Femme Fatale and Description

Angel Face (1953)
d. Otto Preminger

Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons)

Otto Preminger's dark noir of murder, a love/hate relationship and betrayal (similar to The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)) starred Jean Simmons as the gorgeous and sensual but insane 20 year-old Diane Tremayne. She was a scheming, psychotic 'angel of death' femme fatale, advertised with the film's taglines:

  • "She loved one man ... enough to KILL to get him!"
  • "The men she loved she destroyed"

One night, an ambulance was called to the hillside Tremayne estate, driven by working class Beverly Hills resident Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) and his partner Billy (Kenneth Tobey), to treat the 'accidental' mysterious gas inhalation-poisoning of Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O'Neil), the American stepmother of English stepdaughter Diane (Jean Simmons). The question was - was it suicide or attempted murder?

The disturbed and spoiled heiress Diane immediately became infatuated with Frank when she met him during the distress call. Frank noticed her playing the piano in another room during the incident to calm herself. He approached her, but when she became hysterical, he slapped her, and she slapped him back - but then apologized. He told her: "I've been slapped by dames before."

After following Frank's ambulance in her own sports car and meeting up with him in Harry's diner, Diane came onto him, and he postponed his dinner plans with his steady blonde girlfriend, hospital receptionist Mary Wilton (Mona Freeman), to go out to dinner with Diane instead. As he drove her sports car to dinner at a fancy club, she learned about his past as an ex-race car driver, and his dream to raise $5-6,000 dollars in finances to fund his own garage-shop. After dancing with him, Diane became even more determined to sabotage Frank's relationship with Mary and shake her faith in him.

Diane Following Frank to Diner and Afterwards Driving Her to Dinner and Dancing - Inching Her Way Into His Life

Over lunch, Diane intimated to Mary that she had dinner with Frank - in order to make Mary jealous. Her efforts paid off when Mary started to date Frank's partner Bill. Diane offered Frank to drive her sports car in the upcoming Pebble Beach Road Race (Frank: "Make it a lot easier for me to get backing for the shop"). She also hired Frank as their family's chauffeur, and arranged for him to live in a small apartment over the garage, while encouraging him to attain his future plans to invest in his own car repair shop - with co-owner financial help from Catherine. He was beginning to fall in love with Diane.

Then she entered into a full-blown love affair with Frank before executing her diabolical scheme. It was evident that Diane had been thoroughly spoiled by her father, well-respected, henpecked novelist Charles (Herbert Marshall), and she wanted to have him all to herself. The deceitful Diane proceeded to tell a series of lies to Frank - she claimed that Catherine had reneged on her earlier promise to finance Frank's dream, and began to drive a wedge between Frank and Catherine. Diane asserted that Catherine refused his proposal, and would fire him as chauffeur if she learned of their affair. She claimed her stepmother was manipulative and would take it out on her doting father: "If I try to fight her, she makes him pay for it, and she knows I can't stand that."

In the middle of the night, Diane also told Frank that Catherine had tried to kill her by turning on her gas fireplace. Frank began to suspect that Diane was lying - and asked: "If she's trying to kill you, why did she turn on the gas in her own room first?" He accused her outright of lying: "I'd say that your story was as phony as a $3 bill." Then, Frank delivered a famous prophetic quote about her and rightly cautioned himself:

"I don't pretend to know what goes on behind that pretty little face of yours. I don't want to. But I learned one thing very early - 'Never be the innocent bystander.' That's the guy that always gets hurt. You want to play with matches, that's your business. But not in gas filled rooms. It's not only dangerous, it's stupid."

Frank checked out where Mary was in her relationship with Bill by asking her point-blank: "What's the score, Mary? Has Bill taken over or do I still rate?...Yes or no? Bill or me?" When told he was on "probation" and that she didn't want to answer him directly until he was sure what he wanted, he told her he was going to leave his job as chauffeur.

When Frank threatened Diane: "I never should have taken this job...You have your world, I have mine," she piteously begged for him to stay ("All I want is you. I can't let you go now. I won't") - and promised to pack up and run off with him and sacrifice everything to keep him. He prophetically realized how dangerous she was in regards to Catherine: "You hate that woman and someday you're gonna hate her enough to kill her." Diane confirmed her intense hatred for Catherine - arguing that the "rich widow" had poisoned her father's ability to write:

"He hasn't written a line since she married him...She's humiliated him and destroyed him. There's never been anything in my life that she hasn't begrudged or spoiled somehow."

Frank was temporarily convinced to remain romantically entangled with her, although he knew her main secretive objective was to murder her wealthy and controlling step-mother, in order to acquire Catherine's inheritance for herself. After convincing Frank to stay, Diane walked to the cliff's edge of the estate's driveway, picked up a piece of litter (a cigarette pack), and dropped it over the edge - an ominous and tragic foreshadowing of the future.

Frank's Indecision About Leaving Diane
Frank's Decision to Remain - Sealed with a Kiss
Diane's Ominous Release of Litter Over the Cliff's Edge

The plan to eliminate Catherine was supposed to work smoothly after both of them tampered with the Tremayne car. It was rigged to crash and kill Catherine by suddenly accelerating in reverse. However, unexpectedly, the day of Catherine's planned drive to Santa Barbara for a bridge tournament, Charles asked for a lift to Beverly Hills for an appointment, and both he and Catherine drove off in the car. The resultant car crash at the end of their driveway sent both Tremaynes over a nearby cliff and killed the two of them.

The crash scene dissolved to a view of the female mastermind sitting impassively and playing at a grand piano, about to suffer a nervous breakdown. Delirious and devastated by her father's unexpected death, Diane was imprisoned in a prison hospital-infirmary where she kept insisting that she had planned and executed the car accident-murder by herself ("I did it all by myself. Not Frank"). However, Frank was also implicated since her suitcase was found in his bedroom and it appeared they were planning to flee together.

To exonerate themselves from charges of murder, Diane's defense lawyer Fred Barrett (Leon Ames) urged Frank and Diane to marry, so that they couldn't testify against each other ("You have a much better chance together than separately"). It would also look more plausible since they were in the midst of an affair and were planning to elope. The prosecuting district attorney Judson (Jim Backus) during the trial called their marriage a shameless tactic to gain sympathy and beat the charges:

I say the word 'love' is profaned when applied to their unhealthy, shameless passion! And their marriage, under these circumstances, is a travesty.

After their defense attorney Barrett argued: "If love is a crime, Diane and Frank Jessup are guilty. But this is the only crime that can be, or has been, proved against them," the newly-married couple was ultimately acquitted. But Frank was ready to give up on Diane and divorce her. She remained jealous of Frank's continuing contact with Mary and threats to end their marriage, but Mary refused to leave her current boyfriend Bill: ("You can't just walk in the door and say, 'I'm getting a divorce' and expect me to fall into your arms").

Shortly later during a wordless four minute sequence, Diane wandered through the empty rooms and hallways of the mansion and throughout the grounds, contemplating what to do next. She awakened the next morning wrapped in Frank's coat and cuddled in a chair, and rushed to the office of her lawyer Barrett, where she confessed that she alone had killed her stepmother. Without Frank's knowledge, she explained how she had tricked him into showing her how the car's transmission worked so that it could be tampered with to cause a malfunction. The lawyer tore up her written confession of guilt, stressing that the double jeopardy rule prohibited a re-trial: ("Once you've been tried for a crime and acquitted, you can never be tried again or punished for it").

Diane Begging To Go to Mexico with Frank
Sitting In the Car Ready to Go to the Bus Station
The Shocking Finale: A Second Car 'Accident'

Fatefully in the surprise, ironic bleak ending, as Frank was packing to permanently leave for Mexico by bus, Diane begged him to take her too: ("I can't let you go, darling. I just can't"), but he adamantly refused ("It's all over. It's finished"). She offered to drive him to the bus station rather than take the taxi he had ordered, and he reluctantly agreed. As they sat in the car in the driveway ready to drive off, she produced a bottle of alcohol and two glasses. Just when he poured them drinks, Diane - in retaliation - gunned her car in reverse over the embankment and killed them both - the same cliff where the Tremaynes were killed. The film ended with the taxi-cab driver coming up the driveway and honking his horn to alert his passenger.

Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) - Ambulance Driver

Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) - Troubled

Diane's Love For Her Father Charles (Herbert Marshall)

Diane At Lunch with Frank's Girlfriend Mary Wilton (Mona Freeman)

Mary Now Dating Bill, Frank's Partner

Frank Offered the Tremayne's Chauffeur Job and Lodging

Frank Calling Out Diane's Lying: "
I don't pretend to know what goes on behind that pretty little face of yours. I don't want to"

Diane's Deviousness

The Tremayne's Tragic Car Crash Scene

Diane's Stone-Faced Reaction to the Crash at a Grand Piano

Diane in Prison Infirmary

The Married Couple During their Court Trial

Their Court Case Acquittal

Frank's Intention to Divorce Diane After The Trial Ended

Diane Waking Up, Cuddled in Frank's Coat

The Big Heat (1953)
d. Fritz Lang

Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame)

Fritz Lang's bleak, dark, very brutal and violent film noir crime classic and expressionistic melodrama-gangster film explored the seamy underworld of American organized crime.

The film opened with the apparent suicide of veteran 41 year-old Kenport Police Dept. cop Tom Duncan at his desk at 3:15 am in the morning. His evil, conniving and greedy widow Bertha (Jeanette Nolan) saw his handwritten case notes (with damning evidence) that were to be mailed in an envelope addressed to the local DA in the Hall of Justice, took them, and soon after secured them in her bank safe-deposit box.

Opening: Suicidal Death of Tom Duncan
Widowed Bertha Duncan
(Jeanette Nolan)
Tom Duncan's Incriminating Letter to DA

Bertha immediately phoned big-time, ruthless, meglomaniacal kingpin and local mob boss Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby), to tip him off - presumably because she planned to use the notes to extort his criminal gang for lucrative payoffs and to seek protection via blackmail. He in turn called his brutal, sadistic, reflexive, cold-blooded henchman Vince Stone (Lee Marvin), who was in the company of his vainly narcissistic, brassy, free-spirited femme fatale girlfriend/moll Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame) in tow in a sado-masochistic, abusive relationship.

Police Sergeant Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford), an iron-willed, driven, and unrestrained honest homicide cop, investigated his colleague's suicide. He spoke to newly-widowed Bertha who claimed Tom had been ill with a strange health problem. Bannion questioned Duncan's barfly mistress Lucy Chapman (Dorothy Green) at the Retreat Bar, who completely refuted Bertha's version of events about Tom. Lucy was expecting to marry the very healthy officer after Bertha had recently consented to a divorce. Lucy was contemptuous of Bertha, and called her a "leech" and a liar, and also made a comparison: "The only difference between me and Bertha Duncan is that I work at being a B-Girl. And she has a wedding ring and a marriage certificate."

Shortly afterwards, Lucy was found thrown from a moving car on the parkway (off-screen) - she had been brutally beaten and tortured (with cigarette burns) and murdered (by strangulation). The county medical examiner dismissed it as a "sex crime." Bannion became suspicious when other compromised individuals in the police department wanted no more questions about Duncan's sudden suicide or Chapman's murder, including Department Head Lt. Ted Wilks (Willis Bouchey) and Police Commissioner Higgins (Howard Wendell).

Bannion felt compelled to question Lagana personally about Lucy Chapman's "old-fashioned" murder, but aggravated the kingpin when he visited his home during an night-time social party: (Lagana: "This is my home. And I don't like dirt tracked into it"). Bannion sarcastically lambasted the corrupt crime boss' dwelling: "No place for a stinking cop. It's only a place for a hoodlum who built this house out of twenty years of corruption and murder....You couldn't plant enough flowers around here to kill the smell." Bannion also didn't like intimidating phone calls that his wife had answered, and before leaving, slugged Lagana's bodyguard George Rose (Chris Alcaide) when he was manhandled.

The next day, Bannion was again warned by Lt. Wilks to stop pestering Lagana: "You're just begging to go back into uniform, pounding a beat in the sticks." Bannion spoke to his beloved young wife Katherine or 'Katie' (Jocelyn Brando) about his determined doggedness to get answers: "What am I supposed to do, hold onto my job by just stringing along? Afraid to look to the left or to the right because I might see something that they don't want me to see?" She encouraged him: "Just keep leading with your chin and don't you compromise."

The Syndicate decided to intimidate Bannion by retaliating against him. There was a shocking scene of a car bombing (with a blinding explosion outside Bannion's house) that accidentally killed his wife Katie as he tended to his young daughter Joyce (Linda Bennett) inside. Moments earlier, Katie had proposed to drive over and get their teenaged baby-sitter Maxine ("Be back in a minute"). After the explosion, Bannion rushed outside, pulled open the driver's-side door and pulled his wife to safety, but she was already dead.

Deadly Car-Bombing Sequence:
Death of Bannion's Innocent Wife Katie

The frustrated Bannion was essentially suspended and then resigned from his position at the police department to pursue justice on his own. The crusading, vigilante rogue cop/hero went on a "hate binge" - he was forced to erode his idealistic, law-abiding principles when he took it upon himself to run a one-man embittered crusade against suspected corruption. He resorted to the unlawful tactics of the hoodlums after the tragic car-bomb murder orchestrated by sadistic, viperous gang members. He moved into a hotel room.

In the gangsters' penthouse, Vince met up with his moll girlfriend Debby Marsh, who was mixing drinks and had just returned from shopping: ("Six days a week she shops. On the seventh, she rests. All tired out"). The dizty female bragged about her new perfume: "Something new. It attracts mosquitos and repels men" - except for Vince. Lagana arrived to chastize Vince and his pretty-boy assistant Larry Gordon (Adam Williams) for bungling two jobs: the murder of Lucy and the car-bombing ("I can't afford people who make mistakes").

Stone's Moll Girlfriend Debby (Gloria Grahame) in Penthouse

Later at the Retreat bar, Debby watched as Bannion resisted Stone's brutal attack on a blonde woman cheating at dice (by burning her hand with a cigarette). He confronted the thug: "You like working girls over, don't you?...Maybe you're the one that worked over Lucy Chapman." Debby was impressed by his courageous fortitude, and offered to buy Bannion a drink, but he declined: "With Vince Stone's money? I'd choke on it." She pursued after him on the street, and then visited with him in his Marland Hotel room, where she commented on the stark room: "Say, I like this. Early nothing." She also told him about her relationship with Vince: "You gotta take the bad with the good" - and that the good meant an expensive lifestyle:

"Clothes, travel, expensive excitement. What's wrong with that?...The main thing is to have the money. I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, rich is better."

He wasn't interested in romance with her and sent her away, causing her to remark: "Oh, well, you're about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs. Didn't you ever tell a girl pretty things? You know, she's got hair like the west wind, eyes like limpid pools, skin like velvet?" He denounced her: "I wouldn't touch anything of Vince Stone's with a ten-foot pole."

Afterwards, the jealously-vindictive Stone was told by Larry that Debby had met up with Bannion. He suspected that Debby had divulged information to Bannion and cheated on him: ("I thought maybe you and Bannion played footsie while my back was turned"). He meanly grabbed her tightly and then tossed a pot of scalding hot coffee (off-screen) on the left side of her face and disfigured her. Her painful screams were heard from the adjoining room, as he yelled at her: "You lyin' pig!...I'll fix you and your pretty face."

Coffee Pot Face Scalding Scene

Realizing that her days were numbered, Debby joined forces with the homicide detective for revenge. She told him what had happened and then thought of her future: "I guess a scar isn't so bad, not if it's only on one side. I can always go through life sideways." She identified Larry Gordon, one of Stone's associates, as the individual who arranged for the dynamiting of Bannion's car. During intense questioning in his Wilton Apartments room by Bannion, Gordon revealed that Tom Duncan was on Laguna's payroll for years, and also suggested that Bertha Duncan was blackmailing both Laguna and Stone with his papers in her safe deposit-box (for $500/week). Bannion left with a threat: "I'm gonna spread the word that you talked. You're out of business, thief." When word got out that Gordon might have provided damning information, he was shot twice fleeing at the airport and deep-sixed in the river.

Bannion also confronted Bertha Duncan at her home - she refused to confess or divulge any complicity. He was disgusted by her glee about her husband's suicide ("You were even happy when your husband blew his brains out"), and he was tempted to strangle her for her collusion with the Syndicate that had set up Lucy Chapman's death (to keep her quiet): ("A city is being strangled by a gang of thieves and you protect Lagana and Stone for the sake of a soft, plush life...With you dead, the big heat follows - the big heat for Lagana, for Stone and for all the rest of the lice").

After his visit, Debby also went to Bertha Duncan's place, where she noticed that they were wearing similarly expensive mink coats - uniting them as victims of a spreading disease: ("I've been thinking about you and me - How much alike we are. The mink-coated girls....We're sisters under the mink"). They were both symbolic badges of ugly corruption and signified the 'good-life' that they had both bought with dirty money. The scarred femme fatale cold-bloodedly murdered Bertha with three gun shots, as she was phoning Lagana.

And then after returning to the penthouse, Debby also vengefully splashed Vince's face with hot coffee to scald it ("It'll burn for a long time, Vince") and taunted him with her own scarred face: "Look at it. It isn't pretty, is it?" She then admitted:

"Bertha Duncan is dead. No more insurance for you and Lagana. The lid's off the garbage can, and I did it."

As she walked away, he fatally shot her twice in the back. Dave burst in, arrested Stone and took him into custody - for her attempted murder, and learned that Debby had admitted to killing Bertha. Bannion suggested that the police now had all the evidence they needed to jail the entire corrupt Syndicate, including Laguna, Wilks and Commissioner Higgins. Debby had avenged Bannion's wife's death and tried to change and adopt a decent life, but lost her own life (like Bannion's martyred wife) in bringing the gangsters to justice.

During her moving death scene, the sympathetic Sgt. Bannion cradled Debby's head with her mink coat. Although she was attended by a doctor, she realized that she was dying, as he knelt at her side; she pulled up her mink coat to hide the disfigured, hideous left side of her face in its pillow - he regarded her from her 'good side'. She longingly looked to Bannion for assurance and approval, and commiserated with him: ("Dave, I'm gonna die...I don't want to die").

The Tragic Death of Debby Marsh

In response to her curiosity about his wife ("What was she like?"), Bannion eulogized Katie with an embellished description, speaking of her quick temper and loving nature, their close marital relationship, and how they had led a loving life together - often sampling each other's drinks, or plates of food. As she died, Debby peacefully referred to Bannion's murdered wife: "I like her. I like her alot," although Bannion continued to lovingly describe his wife and didn't realize that Debby had expired. He smiled as he idealistically remembered more about his wife, his "princess" daughter, and their blissful family life:

"Sometimes when I came home from work, she'd have the baby dressed up like a, oh, like a little princess. One of the most important parts of the day was when I came in and saw her looking like something that just stepped down off a birthday cake. I guess, I guess it's that way with most families."

The film ended with Bannion's return to his duties in his homicide department job after indictments were brought against Lagana and his corrupt Syndicate.

Crime Boss Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby)

Lagana's Henchman Vince Stone (Lee Marvin)

Sgt. Dave Bannion
(Glenn Ford)

Bannion's Wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando): "Be back in a minute" Before Deadly Car-Bombing

At the Retreat Bar, Debby Took Notice of Sgt. Bannion

Debby Marsh with Sgt. Bannion in His Hotel Room

Vengeful Vince Angrily Manhandling Debby Before Disfiguring Her

Debby With a Scarred Face Meeting with Bannion

Bannion Questioning Mrs. Duncan Again - His Temptation to Strangle Her

Debby and Mrs. Duncan - The "Mink-Coated Girls"

Debby's Cold-Blooded Murder of Mrs. Duncan

Debby's Retaliation Against Vince

Vince Shooting Debby in the Back Twice

Debby to Bannion: "I killed Mrs. Duncan"

Indictments Announced

Niagara (1953)
d. Henry Hathaway

Rose Loomis (Marilyn Monroe)

Director Henry Hathaway's Techni-colored melodramatic noir provided the perfect star vehicle for curvy sexpot Marilyn Monroe (advertised as a "tantalizing temptress whose kisses fired men's souls!"). It was a tale about the destructive nature of a femme fatale's alluring, out of control sensuality and lust as she plotted to kill her husband.

There were two memorable hip-bouncing walking scenes with Marilyn, first briefly in a light blue dress, and then another scene of Rose's backside in a tight black dress and red top, walking away from the camera. She was compared to the metaphoric ever-present roar of the famous Niagara Falls in one of the film's taglines:

"A raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control!"

The film's main setting was at the Rainbow Cabins (modern housekeeping units) within sight of the landmark, famed Niagara Falls vacation spot, where tension quickly developed between a married couple who were vacationing together (on the Canadian side):

  • Rose Loomis (26 year-old Marilyn Monroe), a beautiful, voluptuous and young sexy blonde woman who was a sinfully-wayward, unhappily married woman and trashy femme fatale
  • George Loomis (Joseph Cotten), a depressed and emotionally-unstable shell-shocked Korean War veteran
Rose Loomis (Marilyn Monroe)

In the film's opening, the sensual, adulterous Rose was lounging naked in her bed sheets in her cabin next to the Falls.

Two others (on a 'delayed' honeymoon after two years of marriage) who arrived at the Cabins from Toledo, Ohio were pretty Polly (Jean Peters, who later married Howard Hughes) and clean-cut Ray Cutler (Casey Adams). They became friends with the Loomis couple, but soon suspected something was wrong with the troubled pair.

During a trip to the scenic tourist tunnel under Horseshoe Falls, Polly spotted Rose kissing a man not her husband - she told Ray: "Didn't that Mrs. Loomis say she was going shopping?...Well, she sure got herself an armful of groceries." The trashy Rose was cheating on her husband, and engaged in an affair with Ted Patrick (Richard Allan), her secret young lover. Rose and Ted had together arranged to murder George and make his death look like a suicide, to collect on George's life insurance policy.

Rose's most flaunting appearance was in a tight-fitting, low-cut pinkish-red dress at an outdoor teenaged dance party at the Cabins, where she asked that the DJ play the record, "Kiss" (the illicit lovers' theme song) and then sat closeby and listened, telling Ray and Polly: "There isn't any other song." She sang along:

"With all your heart's protection, This is a moment of thrill. Thrill me, Thrill me, with your charm, Take me, Take me in your arms, And make my life perfection, Take me, Darling, don't forsake me, Kiss me, Hold me tight, Love me, Love me tonight."

Sexy Rose Loomis (Marilyn Monroe) Openly Flaunting Herself

Her angry and crazed husband interrupted the romantic musical interlude by racing from their cabin and destroying the LP with his bare hands (and cutting himself). Later, George provided information to Polly about how he had become mixed up with Polly. He was a failing sheep rancher who met Rose in a Duluth, MI beer hall where she worked as a waitress. He described the reason for his rage against her:

"Parading around, showing herself off in that dress, cut down so low in front you can see her kneecaps...She'd like to wear that dress where everybody could see her, right in the middle of Yankee Stadium. She's a tramp! I tell you now so you won't have to ask."

Rose had a provocative conversation with her husband who suspected that she was scheming and plotting with another man against him:

George: "You smell like a dimestore. I know what that means."
Rose: "Sure. I'm meeting somebody. Just anybody handy as long as he's a man...Anybody suits me, take your pick."

George followed after Rose and confirmed his suspicions. Ted had written her a message on the back of an unmailed postcard: "If everything OK you'll hear the Bell Tower play our song - See you in Chicago." After Ted had killed George, he would request the Rainbow Tower Carillon to play Rose's special song ("Kiss") to signal that George was dead. Soon after, George was reported as a "missing person" - and a pair of George's unclaimed shoes were discovered at the exit to the scenic tourist tunnel under Horseshoe Falls. The Bell Tower carillon played, causing Rose to believe that Ted had murdered George.

Murder Plot
George's Unclaimed Shoes
The Shock of Seeing Ted's Body at Morgue

In reality, George had killed Patrick in self-defense and thrown his body into the Falls, and then decided to "stay dead" to start his life over (by collecting Patrick's shoes at the exit instead of his own). At first, Rose believed that George was dead until she visited the city morgue, where she was called upon to identify a retrieved body from the Falls. She was shocked that the dead man was Ted, not George - she fainted and collapsed.

Sleeping in the Loomis' cabin, Polly was frightened when she momentarily glimpsed a view of the supposedly-dead George in her room (he had come to kill Rose) - it was interpreted as a nightmare. Shortly later at the falls, George confronted Polly privately and explained his predicament, and pleadingly begged: "Please, I'd do the same for you if it meant as much. Let me stay dead."

George conducted a revenge killing in the film's most suspenseful sequence. Rose's jealous and incensed husband stalked and pursued his scheming and trampish wife who was trying to flee. He followed her up a shadowy, carillon clock-bell tower before murdering her by strangulation (in a striking overhead shot). Then he told her corpse: "I loved you, Rose. You know that."

George: "I loved you Rose. You know that"
George's Revenge Murder of Rose

In the exciting and climactic finale, Polly and George (who hijacked the boat that she was on) were adrift (the boat ran out of gas) and heading toward the waterfall precipice. A desperate George tried to submerge and scuttle the boat, but went over the falls to his death, while she was rescued by helicopter from a rock outcropping.

Two Rear-Views of Rose

The Torrential Niagara Falls

George Loomis
(Joseph Cotten)

Other Honeymooners at the Cabins: Polly and Ray Cutler

Polly Spotting Rose's Adulterous Rendezvous with Ted Patrick

Enraged George Destroying "Kiss" LP Record

Trampish Rose: "Anybody suits me, take your pick"

Polly's Fright at Seeing the "Dead" George in her Cabin

George to Polly: "Please... let me stay dead"

Kidnapped Polly on Boat with George, Heading Toward Falls

George Saving Polly

Polly Watching George's Death Before Being Rescued

One Girl's Confession (1953)
d. Hugo Haas

Mary Adams (Cleo Moore)

Hugo Haas who was this low-budget B-film's director known for his "Fate and Irony" themes, also served as the film's writer, producer, and actor. The crime drama's three taglines characterized the film's femme fatale:

  • "I confess I'm the kind of girl every man wants - and shouldn't marry!"
  • "Men and Money and Me... Go Together!"
  • "Maybe I'm bad - BUT WHAT MAKES YOU SO GOOD!"

The main character was statuesque and voluptuous blonde bad girl/femme fatale Mary Adams (Cleo Moore). She had grown up in an orphanage and convent until she was old enough to slave away as a waitress in a run-down waterfront cafe. One of her female customers asked why she didn't capitalize on her sex appeal: "What do you work so hard for? You've got a beautiful face and a wonderful figure."

One night, Mary snuck into the bedroom of her abusive, selfish, and crooked boss Gregory Stark (Leonid Snegoff), her aging father's ex-business associate, and vengefully stole $25,000 (illegally acquired) concealed in a tin box under his pillow. She was "getting even" because she knew that Stark had financially cheated her father out of his money, leading to his early death. She then hid the tin box (by burying it in the ground) that night. The next morning when police arrived at her front door, she immediately turned herself in and admitted that she had committed the crime to the DA - with every intention of retrieving the money after being released. However, she refused to reveal where it was hidden:

I took that money, and I'm ready to take the rap for it. So, let's go!...Mr. District Attorney, I confess the robbery. But, of course, I can't say how much it was. I didn't have time to count it...I confess, and I'm-I'm ready to accept my punishment.

She was sentenced for one to ten years in the California Institute for Women, but because of good behavior, she was released from jail on parole after about three years of serving time ("If you keep out of trouble, you're a free person"). She returned to her job in another seaside restaurant, now run by Balkanese womanizer Dragomie Damitrof (Hugo Haas) since Stark had fled to South America and his building was condemned.

She began to date one of the admiring customers, fisherman Johnny (Glenn Langan) who told her about his big dreams for the future by buying a high-powered motor boat for his fishing business: ("I just got a cranky old boat now, but I put in for a loan, and when I get it, I'm gonna start really big"). She pondered giving him the "cursed money" as a loan - her recovered $25,000 would help purchase a boat and bring increased income of $700-800/month. As she stood in her sexy lingerie in her apartment, she thought to herself - in voice-over:

He's nice. His eyes are so honest and his voice, soft. And his fingernails are clean. From all that salt water, I guess. Maybe it isn't a bad idea. $700 to $800 a month. If I could only get that money. No, I must wait. I'll wait.

As they spoke lovingly to each other, Johnny proposed sharing profits with Mary if she provided him with a loan of $5,000 - and he teasingly kept increasing her share of the profits: "'Course, for you, I might go 50-50. Maybe even 60-40....Maybe even 70-30. 80-20. 90-10" - as he kissed her. She breathlessly answered: "It's a deal!"

But then, she also considered offering her gambling-addicted boss Damitrof the stolen funds when he lost heavily at card-gambling. He told her about his predicament: "I lost my business, my liquor license, my policy, my cash." He had also written a bad check for $5000, and was facing jail and the sale of his diner. As she told Damitrof the exact location of the buried tin box and specifically instructed him: ("Don't open it. Bring it to me, and I'll give you your share"), he realized her notoriety: "Sure, it's you. The girl who robbed old Gregory."

Then later, after digging for it, he claimed he couldn't find the money, and blamed her for deceiving him: "Made a fool out of me....I knew it right away that you quickly made up a story, with your five trees to the left, five trees to the right. And, l, idiot, believed you."

Then, by coincidence just a few days later, Mary learned the cafe was upgraded and under new management and was reopening in a few days, but was still owned by Damitrof who had moved to a new swanky Shangri-La apartment. She thought to herself that Damitrof - a double-crossing "cheap crook" who was suddenly rich, had swindled her out of her money ("They're having a good time with my money. For my three years in jail"). She confronted him after his drunken housewarming party and yelled out: ("What did you do with my money? Give me back my money!"). She struck him over the head with an empty champagne bottle - but then feared that she had accidentally killed him. His girlfriend Judy or "Smooch" (Ellen Stansbury) entered the bedroom and accused her: "You killed him!"

Mary to Damitrof: "Give me back my money!"
"Smooch" to Mary: "You killed him!"

She then became distraught when "Smooch" informed her that Damitrof hadn't used her funds at all, but had experienced a lucky card-gambling streak instead and had won $48,000 from a rich Turkish fur merchant: ("You fool! That wasn't your dough. I know, I was there when he got it...It was like a miracle. He took every hand. Took that Turk for 48 grand, just like that. Now that's the truth, you fool").

Mary ran off and frantically searched for the money herself, and was relieved that the stolen $25,000 money was still buried in the forest (but had moved because of root growth). She took the money in the tin box and impulsively (and anonymously) donated it to the Sacred Heart Orphanage by pushing it through a locked gate. She then crossed the street to turn herself into the police for the crime of murdering her employer Damitrof. In another of the film's twisting plot developments, with a simple phone call, the police (and Mary) discovered that Damitrof was alive: (Mary: "So he's alive, and I, a fool, gave away the money. The money! My money!"). Mary decided that she wouldn't try to retrieve her generous charity donation to the orphanage.

Back at the beachfront, Damitrof apologetically offered to rehire her to work in the redecorated restaurant as a hostess once it reopened in a week, which she gladly accepted. Afterwards, she agreed to join Johnny on his fishing boat for a day of sailing when he urged: "I've got fresh hamburgers, cold beer, a phonograph with beautiful records and a shawl to put around your shoulders when the wind starts blowing. I love you."

Opening Scene - Mary Adams Sunbathing on Beach

Mary Scheming to Steal Money

Voice-Over Thoughts About Johnny

With Fisherman Boyfriend Johnny: "It's a deal"

Mary Offering Money to Bankrupted Damitrof

The "Cursed Money"

Mary's Sacred Heart Orphanage Donation

Mary's Confession to Police: "I Killed a Man!"

Rehired by Mr. Damitrof

Fishing Trip Ending

Pickup on South Street (1953)
d. Sam Fuller

Candy (Jean Peters)

Director Sam Fuller's action-packed film was a raw, hard-boiled, Cold War-era, crime-noir thriller. Due to a chance encounter, the plot became embroiled involving distrust, violence, and a fateful sexual attraction between the two lead characters. The film became known for its savage brutality against the femme fatale - from both her snarling future lover and ex-lover.

In the opening scene set on a crowded New York subway during rush-hour, tough-minded pickpocket Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark), a recently-released ex-con known as a "cannon," edged flirtatiously close to femme fatale Candy (Jean Peters) to make her his latest petty-theft robbery victim. He stole/fingered (symbolically filmed like a violating rape) sensitive government/military microfilm in an envelope (bound for Communist spies with her as the unsuspecting courier) from her opened purse as two other FBI agents who were conducting surveillance, FBI agents Zara (Willis Bouchey) and Enyart (Jerry O'Sullivan), looked on helplessly. McCoy didn't realize he had inadvertently obtained stolen US microfilm to be smuggled out of the country by Communist spies.

When Candy notified by phone her shady ex-boyfriend/loverJoey (Richard Kiley) about the theft and then met with him, he falsely told her he was selling classified business secrets to a rival firm ("a new patent for a chemical formula"). Unbeknownst to the mistreated Candy, Joey was actually an exploitative courier-contact working for the Communists. He had asked her for a final favor to deliver an envelope with the microfilm. He was upset about the loss and convinced her as an ex-prostitute with seedy connections ("You know people who know people"), to locate the pickpocket and retrieve the microfilm.

Skip was then identified as a possible suspect by stool-pigeon police informant Moe Williams (Oscar-nominated Thelma Ritter), an embittered, elderly, world-weary, necktie-seller and information street peddler, for a reduced fee of $38.50.

Moe Williams (Thelma Ritter) Acting as Police Informant to Captain Dan Tiger

A recent ex-con released from prison, McCoy was called in to be questioned by Police Captain Dan Tiger (Murvyn Vye) and government agent Zara. It was revealed that FBI agents had been trailing Candy for six months to identify and apprehend the organization's mysterious ringleader, nicknamed "Mr. Big." After Skip professed his innocence to the authorities and denied stealing the microfilm, they pressured him with patriotic appeals:

McCoy: "You boys are talking to the wrong corner. I'm just a guy keeping my hands in my own pockets."
Zara: "If you refuse to cooperate, you'll be as guilty as the traitors that gave Stalin the A-bomb."
McCoy (retorting): "Are you wavin' the flag at me?"

He was indignant about his label as a "three-time loser" by Tiger::

"I know you pinched me three times and got me convicted three times and made me a three-time loser. And I know you took an oath to put me away for life. Well, you're tryin' awful hard with all this patriotic eye-wash, but get this: I didn't grift that film and you can't prove I did! And if I said I did, you'd slap that fourth rap across my teeth no matter what promises you made!"

McCoy realized he had stolen a strip of valuable microfilm after viewing it in the NY Public Library. He hid it (knowing it would be worth alot in exchange). Through her underworld connections, Candy was led to speak to "stoolie" Moe and for $50 bucks (her second tip payoff), she was directed to the location of Skip's hideout.

In a night-time sequence at his run-down waterfront shack, Skip found Candy with a flashlight searching through his possessions. He punched Candy unconscious and then searched her purse before reviving her with cold beer. When she came to, he asked: "Wanna beer?" She responded: "I want my wallet....I gotta find that wallet." Skip told her that he knew what the film was and demanded money for it. He lovingly rubbed her sore jaw for a few moments and then after a few kisses, Skip remarked:

"You look for oil, sometimes you hit a gusher."

Skip Lovingly Rubbing Candy's Sore Jaw and After Kisses:
"You look for oil, sometimes you hit a gusher"

Candy reported back to Joey that she had no success with Skip: ("He's shaking you down. That tells the story"). When Joey refused her suggestion that he take a chance and make a deal with Skip, she became suspicious of him: ("Maybe there's something about that film that you haven't told me"). He demanded that she keep pressing McCoy to acquire the film, and gave her $500 bucks as bribe money ("You've gotta come back with it, Candy").

Skip and Candy developed a sweaty, rough and tumble, sado-masochistic love relationship during her second visit. After hot kissing and an embrace, she restated his earlier claim: "Look for oil and you hit a gusher." Then, he stole the bribe money from her purse, pushed her away and riskily demanded a huge payment of $25,000 in exchange for the prized microfilm from the "Commie" syndicate - although she was puzzled when accused of being involved with the Communists:

"You tell that Commie I want a big score for that film, and I want it in cash, tonight....Come on. Drop the act. So you're a Red. Who cares? Your money's as good as anybody else's...I know what you're after. I know what it's worth...I'll do business with a Red, but I don't have to believe one (she slapped him)....Get out of here! Now tell your old lady I'm shakin' down you Reds for 25 grand."

When Candy reported back to Joey about her lack of success with McCoy and his new demands, Joey's contacts informed him: "Delivery must be made tomorrow night. (Joey was given a gun) Get that film!" To stall for time, Candy riskily gave Joey a fake address for McCoy, and then she briefly conferred with Moe to warn her - and to urge her not to identify McCoy to Joey: "You wouldn't sell him to a Commie." Shortly later, Moe notified Skip to stay away from his shack to avoid someone gunning for him. She also advised him to take Candy seriously: "That muffin you grifted, she's okay. Stuck her chin way out for you...The kid loves you."

The film's most downbeat scene was Moe's death - she had always wanted to make enough money to avoid being buried in Potter's Field. In her dingy rooming house, she told Commie hitman-killer Joey that she refused to reveal the pickpocket's whereabouts even though he bribed her with $500. She said she would face the consequences, since she was old and tired and ready to give up anyway: "I know you Commies are looking for some film that don't belong to you....(Joey cocked his gun) So I don't get to have the fancy funeral after all. Anyway, I tried. Look, Mister, I'm so tired, you'd be doin' me a big favor if you'd blow my head off." The camera panned to the left and a gunshot was heard - with the final image of her bedside Victrola's needle reaching the end of the 78 rpm record (the popular French tune "Mam'zelle").

Joey's Murder of Informant Moe Williams
Joey Shaking Down Moe
"'d be doin' me a big favor if you'd blow my head off"
Skip Reclaiming Moe's Body From Tugboat

In the subsequent scene after learning of Moe's murder, McCoy reclaimed her body from a tugboat (and took her in coffin # 11 to Potter's Field) in order to give her a proper burial with a tombstone and plot in a cemetery: ("I'm gonna bury her") - fulfilling her sole wish in life.

When McCoy returned to his shack-hideout and found Candy there (who was blaming herself for Moe's death), he told her that he was willing to deal with Joey and return the strip of microfilm in exchange for the 25 grand. She gave him Joey's address, but then thinking that she could clear Skip's name and involvement, Candy knocked him unconscious and took the marked microfilm strip to Zara and Tiger ("the pickpocket squad"). They directed her to go back to Joey (a "Communist agent") in order to apprehend him and detect the king-pin of the organization.

Then, there was a remarkable scene in which Joey entered Candy's apartment - (she was wearing a white robe with a hood straight from the bathtub). He was astonished she had the microfilm but noticed a frame missing (Skip had taken one of the frames for himself). He brutally knocked her around for not divulging Skip's address a second time - the commotion broke lamps, picture frames and tables - before he shot her and left her seriously wounded. Joey found Skip's address in her purse before leaving through a dumb-waiter to evade police.

Skip paid a hospital visit to see the bruised Candy, when he realized that she really loved him because she wouldn't tell Joey where he lived - and suffered a beating for it. She also said she was sorry for betraying him, and for spoiling his "big score":

"I'm sorry I spoiled your big score. I know it sounds corny to you, but I'd rather have a live pickpocket than a dead traitor."

He kissed her. Evading capture at his shack by Joey and his partner, Skip overheard that the film strip was to be delivered in 30 minutes. With no time to spare, Joey's partner told him: "You better deliver what you've got," while he waited there for McCoy to return (to seize the one missing frame). He also instructed: "Tell him I'll meet him at the airport with the other frame, but not to wait."

Skip followed Joey to a subway station, and then in a thrilling and violent fight and chase sequence, Skip chased Joey into a subway station where he pickpocketed the gun from Joey's coat on a subway car, and then observed the microfilm being delivered to a Communist agent in a restroom. He beat up the agent, and also retaliated against Joey - he brutalized him mercilessly on the subway platform and then next to the tracks, and turned him over to authorities.

Pickpocketing Joey's Gun on Subway Car
Beating Up Joey in Restroom
Brutalizing Joey Next to the Tracks

In the film's ending set in the police station, Skip was released - and vowed to resume his relationship with Candy. They were about to leave to start a new life together. He turned to Candy and told her: "Honey, you look as good as new. Did you miss me, muffin? Come on. Let's get outta here." As they departed from the office, Police Captain Tiger predicted that Skip would soon be apprehended again for criminal activities:

Tiger: "You'll always be a two-bit purse snatcher. I give you 30 days before I pick ya up with your hand in somebody else's pocket."
Candy (disagreeing with a smile): "You wanna bet?"

Opening Crowded Subway Pickpocket Sequence

Joey (Richard Kiley) - Candy's Ex-Boyfriend - A Communist Spy

McCoy Questioned by Police - His Retort: "Are you wavin' the flag at me?"

Candy with Moe Who Directed Her to McCoy

Candy Knocked Unconscious by McCoy in His Shack Hideout

Candy Pressured by Joey to Return to McCoy With Bribe Money

Skip's Sado-Masochistic Love Affair with Candy

Candy's Upset at the News of Moe's Murder

Candy Beaten Up and Shot by Joey

Hospital Visit

Skip Reconciled with Candy

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