RARA-AVIS: Re:blonde vs. dark haired

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 12 Jan 2008


Re your comments below:

"I'm in the middle of Gil Brewer's 13 French Street. The narrator is torn between two women, his blonde girlfriend at home and the dark haired wife of his old Army buddy. Brewer really plays up her dark hair, clearly symbolic of a greater blackness within her. It reminded me of what had been pointed out to me in a college class on westerns, how the blondes usually represent purity (for instance, Doc Holliday's girlfriend back east in My Darling Clementine) and the fallen women are dark haired (Holliday's Mexican girlfriend in Tombstone). I must admit, I haven't really paid much attention to the hair color of femmes fatales in vintage noir lit, but Brewer makes suc a big deal about the ontrast. Has anyone else paid more attention? Is this typical? Seems to me a lot of these femmes were blonde or redhaired in film."

It works the reverse at least as often. In the western example you named, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, while it's true that Cathy Downs's Clementine is lighter-haired than Linda Darnell's Chihuahua, she's not blonde, just not as dark-haired as te Hispanic Chihuahua. Further, though Chihuahua is't virginal, she's not evil, and she redeems herself before she dies.

In MURDER, MY SWEET, it's blonde Claire Trevor as Velma who's the villainess, and redhead Anne Shirley as Ann Grayle (who's hair looks dark in B&W) who's the pure-hearted sweetie-pie.

In both the book and film versions of I THE JURY, it's the blonde temptress who turns out to be the murderer, while Hammer's virginal brunette secretary, Velda, waits patiently for Mike to come to his senses.

In DOUBLE INDEMNITY, Barbara Stanwyck's Phyllis, is the blonde murderess and seductress who leads Walter into mortal sin, while Jean Heather's dark-haired Lola, Phyllis's step-daughter, is the "nice" girl.


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