Mary Astor : Film noir's #1 femme fatale

Film noir's #1 femme fatale

I plead guilty to not having seen most of her movies, but her role in The Maltee Falcon is enough to make her a strong contender for the title. The thing is that she doesn't have the coyness and sultriness of a Veronica Lake or a Lauren Bacall, but she makes up for it with her sheer carrying off one lie after another, so smoothly slipping into each new prevarication and delivering it so that even Bogey wants to believe her. The final scene between her and Bogey is the culmination and it takes a Bogey to resist the temptation to believe her.

Of course, you know this has to be my favorite movie with her, but I do need to see more.


Where am I from, you ask? "Pomona, Glendale, ((Fullerton, La Habra, Anaheim)), whatever."

Re: Film noir's #1 femme fatale

I remember Robert Osborne introducing The Maltese Falcon, and he believed one could argue Mary Astor being the greatest femme fatale. Though I can't rank her higher than Ann Savage, Barbara Stanwyck, Claire Trevor, or Joan Bennett (to name a few), I do believe Mary should be considered among the best of them. Her performance in The Maltese Falcon is fantastic.

I'm dying to see her Oscar-winning role in The Great Lie. She's said to be a vicious woman in that film. Mary also has a very sexy role in The Palm Beach Story, one of my favorites.

"Sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand."

Re: Film noir's #1 femme fatale

I think that Astor is a great actress (she was so good in a small role in the fearlessly mature Dodsworth) but I've never been impressed with her performance in The Maltese Falcon (along with Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, she may be the poutiest femme fatale). Part of the problem is that the fatale prototype wasn't clearly set up, and noir was still just beginning. I consider Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve the greatest femme fatale.

I also want to bring attention to Gloria Grahame, whom I know both csu16387 and Alan Squier both love from In a Lonely Place. She was always the complex fatale, beautiful enough lead anyone into temptation but so damaged she's also a victim. An incredibly underrated actress–anything she touched was watchable.

Did he train you? Did he rehearse you? Did he tell you *exactly* what to do, what to say?!

Re: Film noir's #1 femme fatale

I think you mean Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. The Lady Eve is screwball comedy. I also consider Stanwyck in that picture the best. You're right that Astor doesn't really fit the femme fatale prototype, but I think she's in a class all by herself. The screen's greatest pathological liar.

Re: Film noir's #1 femme fatale

Hehe yeah c-hash, I was about to bring that up. Even though The Lady Eve isn't remotely a film noir, you could make a case for Stanwyck's character being a type of femme fatale.

I've always loved Jane Greer in Out of the Past, but that movie is my favourite film noir so I'm biased.

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Re: Film noir's #1 femme fatale

Ida Lupino in They Drive by Night is tops of all femme fatal Film Noir category..

Mary Astor didnt make The Maltese movie for me.. Bogart did.. Not saying she was bad.. but merely average in my book..

– A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz. Humphrey Bogart

Re: Film noir's #1 femme fatale

Mary Astor gets my vote for best femme fatale in a film noir.

Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity" is a close second.

Just my opinion. But I can't argue with the many other wonderful performances mentioned in this thread.

Re: Film noir's #1 femme fatale

For me it's either Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Jane Greer in Out of the Past, Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, Mary Astor in the Maltese Falcon, or Claire Trevor in Murder my Sweet or Born to Kill.

And of course there's Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

And let's not forget Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction.

And what about Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven?

And Sharon Stone is terrific in Basic Instinct, even though the script is frankly pretty stupid.

Too many wonderful femme fatales to count, but those are the ones that occurr to me off the top of my head.

Re: Film noir's #1 femme fatale

Not yet mentioned:

Rita Hayworth in Gilda, The Lady From Shanghai
The girl from Detour
Lizbeth Scott in Too Late For Tears, Pitfall
Susan Hayward in Deadline At Dawn, They Won't Believe Me
Helen Walker in Impact and Nightmare Alley
Yvonne DeCarlo, Criss-Cross
Audrey Totter, The Set-Up, High Wall, Postman
Linda Darnell, No Way Out, Fallen Angel
Patricia Neal, The Breaking Point
Virginia Mayo, White Heat, Red Light, Backfire
Jan Sterling, Ace In The Hole, Mystery Street, The Harder They Fall
Rhonda Fleming, Cry Danger, Out of the Past
Jane Russell, Macao, His Kind of Woman
Marie Windsor, The Narrow Margin, The Killing
Jean Simmons, Angel Face
Joan Fontaine, Born To Be Bad, Beyond A Reasonable Doubt

Lotsa great performances - admittedly, not all are strictly femme fatale roles, but some great ones nonetheless.
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