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The List: Famous femme fatales, seductive and dangerous
Question of the Day
It’s the week of the femme fatales. On Monday, actress Glenn Close, who scared the wits out of us in “Fatal Attraction,” celebrated her 65th birthday. Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the film “Basic Instinct.”
This week the List looks at 15 notable femme fatales, those mysterious and seductive women whose charms ensnare their lovers, often leading them into compromising, dangerous and deadly situations.
- 15. Kim Novak (“Vertigo,” 1958) — Kim Novak’s hourglass figure flummoxes James Stewart in the film “Vertigo.” Miss Novak plays the dual role of both the suicidal trophy wife of a rich San Franciscan and a morose working woman victimized by her participation in an elaborate (and arguably preposterous) criminal deception.
- 14. Greta Garbo (“Flesh and the Devil,” 1926) — It was the movie that turned Garbo from an unknown to a star. It was the “Body Heat” of 1927. Garbo’s destructive allure and slinky effects drive men to ruin. Her star in the film was John Gilbert, the most popular romantic star of the period.
- 13. Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard,” 1950) — As faded and demented silent-screen star Norma Desmond, Swanson lures aspiring young screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) into her bizarre world of delusions in Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard.” Swanson utters one of Hollywood’s most memorable lines, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” while descending a grand Gothic staircase after fatally shooting her much younger companion.
- 12. Ann Savage (“Detour,” 1945) — She made a lot of films — many B quality — but she is remembered best as Vera, the cigarette-puffing femme fatale in the critically acclaimed film noir “Detour.”
- 11. Ava Gardner (“The Killers,” 1946) — Gardner is quite brilliant as the lustrous siren in suspense master Robert Siodmak’s noir film, which also starred Burt Lancaster, in his film debut, as a doomed ex-boxer targeted by ruthless hoods in a tale drawn from an Ernest Hemingway story.
- 10. Joan Crawford (“Possessed,” 1947) — The former chorus girl evolved into the ultimate femme fatale in “Possessed.” Crawford plays an unstable woman obsessed with her ex-lover (Van Heflin). Crawford said the part was the most difficult she ever played.
- 9. Joan Bennett (“The Woman in the Window,” 1944) — In this classic film-noir thriller, professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) becomes enamored with a memorable young femme fatale, Alice Reed, played by Joan Bennett.
- 8. Jane Greer (“Out of the Past,” 1947) — Jane Greer, an icy brunette, plays a heartless femme fatale intent on manipulating both elusive sleuth Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas for suckers in the tough triangle drama “Out of the Past.” The role cemented her reputation as a noir vixen.
- 7. Rebecca De Mornay (“The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” 1992) — She’s a vengeful and deranged nanny out to destroy a naive woman and steal her family. Miss De Mornay’s performance as a schizo is one to cherish, right up there with Anthony Perkins in “Psycho” and Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.” The film revitalized Miss De Mornay’s career.
- 6. Theresa Russell (“Black Widow,” 1987) — Miss Russell plays a women with a history of marrying rich men who soon die and leave her lots of money. Debra Winger plays a detective out to stop this black widow.
- 5. Sharon Stone (“Basic Instinct,” 1992) — What did she do with that ice pick? Suspicion falls on a beautiful novelist, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), who writes stories about bizarre murders in this scary thriller. “Basic Instinct” was a huge hit for Miss Stone, who plays a rich and smug (and probably homicidal) vamp.
- 4. Kathleen Turner (“Body Heat,” 1981) — With her rich, raspy-sounding voice, Miss Turner kept the temperature high in this tale of murder and star-crossed, sultry lust.
- 3. Lana Turner (“The Postman Always Rings Twice,” 1946) — Married seven times, Turner made even more headlines with her private live as with her acting career. The glamorous blonde, who was discovered sitting on a drugstore stool, entices drifter John Garfield into her husband’s roadside cafe and into her web of deceit and murder.
- 2. Glenn Close (“Fatal Attraction,” 1987) — No discarded film lover has ever matched the revenge Miss Close exacted on philanderer Michael Douglas in faking a pregnancy, kidnapping a child and stewing a beloved pet bunny, among other things. Consider her the ultimate embodiment of that old saw, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Miss Close also was pretty nasty as Cruella de Vil in two “101 Dalmatians” films.
- 1. Barbara Stanwyck (“Double Indemnity,” 1944) — Stanwyck smolders as the temptress Mrs. Dietrichson. With wit and sex appeal, she lures Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), the insurance salesman who lets lust run away with his good judgment. “Double Indemnity” was a hard-boiled sensation. As a result, MacMurray and Stanwyck nailed down a piece of movie immortality, playing lovers corrupt beyond redemption.
Sources: The Associated Press, The Washington Times and Wikipedia.
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