Dreams twisted into nightmares! Love turned to hate! Passion simmering into violence!

Join Arena Cinelounge as they shine a spotlight on the forgotten underworld of ‘femme noir’ with Dynamic Dames, a series of screenings featuring fascinating wonder women of the 1940’s.

Think women kicking ass on screen is a new trend? Think again.

During World War II, while many of Hollywood’s leading men were fighting with the Allied Forces, the city’s leading women were their own force to be reckoned with, particularly in the dark, crime-ridden underworlds of film noir.

Though normally associated with ‘tough guys’, close to 30% of film noirs made between 1940-1950 featured strong female leads and were written or co-written by women, a shockingly high number for what is considered a male-oriented genre.

Hollywood luminaries like Joan Crawford, Ingrid Bergman, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine, and Lucille Ball triumphed in the genre as more than mere ‘femme fatales’ or arm candy. They were the dynamic main characters in dozens of noirish ‘women’s films’, an overlooked back alley of classic film we call Femme Noir.

These thrilling melodramas were aimed at a war-empowered female audience hungry to see the full spectrum of their experiences on the screen. Femme Noir allowed women to be strong and controlling, weak and vulnerable, sane and psychotic, sexually repressed and wildly promiscuous. And every shade in between.

Unlike most ‘chick flicks’ of today, Femme Noir had equally dynamic men supporting the female protagonist. Titles like Rebecca (1940), Gaslight (1944), Mildred Pierce (1945), Leave Her to Heaven (1945), The Spiral Staircase (1946), and Beyond the Forest (1949) typify some of the most famous Femme Noir classics. There are over sixty more that history has largely ignored.

Screening in the Dynamic Dames series will be accompanied by guest speakers.

Here are the first films scheduled for the Dynamic Dames series:

November 18, 2017
Film noir/Crime.
Directed by Douglas Sirk.
Written by Leo Rosten. Based on a story by Jacques Companeez, Ernest Neuville and Simon Gantillon.
Produced by James Nasser.
From United Artists. (Black-and-white, 1947, USA, 102 minutes, not rated) Starring Lucille Ball, George Sanders, Boris Karloff, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Charles Coburn, George Zucco. A serial killer in London is murdering young women he meets through the personal columns of newspapers. He announces each of his murders to the police by sending them a cryptic poem. After a dancer disappears, the police enlist an American friend of hers, Sandra Carpenter, to answer advertisements in the personal columns, and lure the killer.

November 25, 2017
Poster - Don't Bother to Knock Marilyn MonroeDon’t Bother to Knock
Film noir/Mystery.
Directed by Roy Baker.
Written by Daniel Taradash.
Based on the novel Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong.
Produced by Julian Blaustein.
From 20th Century Fox. (Black-and-white, 1952, USA. 76 minutes, not rated) Starring Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark, Anne Bancroft, Donna Corcoran, Lurene Tuttle, Jeanne Cagney. One night in a New York hotel, airline pilot Jed Towers gets the air from his chanteuse girlfriend. Meanwhile, the Joneses, guests at the hotel, need a baby-sitter, and elevator operator Eddie recommends his shapely niece Nell. Jed sees Nell through his window, gets acquainted, and becomes increasingly aware that this disturbed, spooky woman is the last person Mrs. Jones should have entrusted with her daughter…

“Marilyn’s acting chops shine like a crazy diamond….”—Through the Shattered Lens

December 2, 2017
Leave Her to Heaven
Film noir/Romance.
Directed by John M. Stahl.
Written by Jo Swerling.
Based on a novel by Ben Ames Williams.
Produced by William A. Bacher.
From 20th Century Fox. (Color, 1945, USA, 110 minutes, not rated) Starring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Mary Philips, Ray Collins.
Writer Richard Harland meets the stunning and self-assured Ellen Berent on a train and she takes him to meet her family. She sweeps him off his feet with the force of her love but he does not understand how obsessive her love actually is. His writing, her family, and his family are all objects of her jealousy. She will go to any length to have him to herself – with consequences that he does not understand until it’s too late.

Winner- Academy Award ® (Cinematography, Color)

December 9, 2017
Woman on the Run
Film noir/Crime.
Directed by Norman Foster.
Written by Alan Campbell and Norman Foster.
Based on a story by Sylvia Tate.
Produced by Howard Welsch.
From Universal Pictures. (Black-and-white, 1950, USA, 77 minutes, not rated) Starring Ann Sheridan, Dennis O’Keefe, Robert Keith, John Qualen, Frank Jenks, Ross Elliott. Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott), sole witness to a gangland murder, goes into hiding and is trailed by Police Inspector Ferris (Robert Keith), on the theory that Frank is trying to escape from possible retaliation. Frank’s wife, Eleanor (Ann Sheridan), suspects he is actually running away from their unsuccessful marriage. Aided by a newspaperman, Danny Leggett (Dennis O’Keefe), Eleanor sets out to locate her husband. The killer is also looking for him, and keeps close tabs on Eleanor.

Photo credit (above): Tracey Paleo
Article images provided by Arena Cinema