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Spiders or Virgins: Portrayals of Women in the Noir Films Laura, Out of the Past, and Double Indemnity

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  1. Introduction
  2. The character Laura's
  3. Lydecker's apology
  4. The rendezvous of Laura and Shelby
  5. Laura's introduction as an innocent young woman
  6. Neff's second visit
  7. The close up of the solitary Lola
  8. Kathie attempt to convince Jeff that she did not steal Whit's money
  9. Conclusion
  10. Works consulted

In her article ?Women in Film Noir? Janey Place states that women characters in noir films are divided into two archetypes: ?the spider woman, the evil seductress who tempts man and brings about his destruction? and ?the virgin, the mother, the innocent, the redeemer.? This essay will examine and interpret the construction of three female characters in three noir films in terms of the visual motifs used in the presentation of the characters' actions and dialogue. The characters examined will be Laura (Gene Tierney) in the film Laura (1944), Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) in the film Double Indemnity (1944), and Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) in the film Out of the Past (1947). Does Place's judgment hold true for these three characters? Can these characters be divided into two archetypes? This essay will show that Laura, Phyllis, and Kathie embody at times both of Place's archetypes?each character changes from innocent virgin to spider woman. And it will be shown how these characterizations are achieved using cinematic techniques. Laura, however, is the only character of the three films to change back to innocent virgin by the end of the narrative.

[...] The two stand side by side as Shelby jokes about his unemployment, and then the camera shifts to focus on Laura?with Shelby in the left foreground out of focus, looking straight ahead off camera. Laura is smoking a cigarette again and eyeing Shelby over and her tone of voice becomes serious and strong as she says, really want a The aggressiveness in her voice and command on the camera's focus suggests that she has ulterior motives for wanting Shelby to work for her; she seems almost wicked and the insinuation is made that she desires Shelby for the reasons that Lydecker later speaks of. [...]


[...] The young male employee's surprised expression suggests he is thinking of a question along the lines of, are you to approach Laura in such a manner?? In this scene and compared to her peers, Laura is presented in a highly dignified manner. Following Lydecker's apology, a montage shows that Laura's relationship with Lydecker flourishes, as does her career?we are shown brief scenes of Laura succeeding at work and socializing at parties. The montage is the point in the film at which Laura first exhibits the ?spider woman? traits Place describes: a voiceover by Lydecker states, read my articles to her; the way she listened was more elegant than speech,? while we are shown Lydecker and Laura sitting together. [...]


[...] In an eerie shot, Kathie's shadow creeps across the wall as it precedes her entrance on screen. She stalks quickly from out of the background?her reentrance is not as graceful as her initial entrance in Acapulco?and she is lost off screen as Whit and Jeff move to the right. There is a tense moment as Kathie is lost off screen, as if she were so dangerous that she needs to be seen on camera at all times. Later, Jeff sneaks into Meta Carson's apartment just before Kathie does. [...]

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