Re: RARA-AVIS: blonde vs. dark haired

From: Donna and Fred (
Date: 11 Jan 2008

I've read that Cooper in turn was influenced by Sir Walter Scott's IVANHOE, in which the blonde is Rowena and the brunette is Rebecca. For Scott and Cooper, the dichotomy was not so much Blonde = good and Brunette = bad, as Blonde = pure and Brunette = tainted (not tainted with an evil nature but "tainted" with some forbidden racial or ethnic heritage that simultaneously suggests a passionate personality but also precludes a happy romantic liaison with the hero). Rebecca is a Jewess, which makes any idea of romance and matrimony with Ivanhoe impossible in 12th Century England. Cora (in LAST OF THE MOHICANS) had an Afro-Caribbean mother, while her half-sister Alice had a white mother.
 In the Cooper novel, it was blonde Alice who eventually won and wed the romantic hero, Duncan (not Hawkeye, the Randolph Scott and Daniel Day-Lewis movies to the contrary), while dark-haired Cora rejected the overtures of Magua and perished tragically with Uncas.

Reading between the lines in the novels, it's probably Rebecca and Cora who would have given the hero a better bounce in the hay.

 The example Mark mentioned, from MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, seems consistent with the Scott and Cooper dynamic. Chihuahua, the fiery Mexican saloon girl, is the "right" match for the brooding, dangerous Doc Holliday (and she's also the object of lust by John Ireland's bloodthirsty Ringo, as I recall); they're both pariahs from Tombstone's
"decent" Anglo community. Virginal blonde Clementine is the "right" match for straight-arrow Wyatt.

I don't recall offhand how blonde vs. brunette plays out in various noir or hardboiled works. I suspect the dynamic is more along the lines of blonde = good and brunette = bad. That doesn't negate the fact that you can trace some Cooper influence on hardboiled/noir in the lineage of the
"stoic American killer" from Hawkeye to Wyatt Earp to Philip Marlowe.
 Dunno about Walter Scott -- maybe by stretching things a bit, a line of descent to Allan Guthrie and Scots Hardboiled?

I've been lurking here for a few weeks. Interesting exchanges.

Fred Blosser

Ed Lynskey wrote:

> --- <> wrote:
> > Has anyone else paid more attention? Is this typical?
> >
> >
> IIRC, Cooper did this in LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Cora was the
> dark-haired sister and Alice the fair-haired. Maybe he was a
> prelude to what the noir writers did.
> I read Brewer's THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN recently but didn't pick
> up on the hair color code. Intriguing idea, though.
> Ed
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