Femme Fatale Series: Joan Bennett in “Scarlett Street”

Next up, Joan Bennett plays Kitty March in Fritz Lang’s “Scarlett Street”. Kitty is in the racket with her boyfriend Johnny (Dan Duryea) of playing older men, for money. This time Kitty sets her sights on wanna-be artist, Chris Cross played by, Edward G. Robinson (who never was nominated for an Oscar! Ever..!). Cross is a mild-mannered man, that’s already married to a bully of a woman, but when he meets Kitty, like any femme fatale, his whole world turns upside down. Chris is a gentleman..sweet, and kind and begins to steal, lie, cheat, and is ultimately driven to murder. When the unattainable becomes within these men’s reach, they’ll do anything to keep it…or keep others from having it. In films noir, the unattainable is usually a sexy, dangerous woman. This is surely the case in, “Scarlett Street”. All of Kitty’s undesirable traits are overlooked, until she laughs in Chris’s face and realizes he never had her to begin with, that he was a mark. It is the ultimate shake-down of any man’s dignity. “The Woman in the Window” was also directed by Fritz Lang, and also starred Bennett and Robinson. This movie was released a year before, in 1944. Both are mind benders and include characters who change dramatically, for a femme fatale. Both are great films noir. Joan Bennett is one of my favorite, dark cinema actresses. In real life, she was as fast-talking and quite spiteful, as her movie counterparts. The climax is at the end of the film, when everything becomes unraveled and unlike other characters that commit heinous crimes, Chris seemingly goes unpunished…except in his own, tortured mind. “Scarlett Street” AND “The Woman in the Window”, are must-see films, directly influenced by the original French noire.

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