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FLM 34 — Film Noir: The Femme Fatale in 1940s and 1950s Film

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 6—Jun 8
Time: 6:30—9:00 pm
Drop Deadline: Apr 19
Units: 2
Tuition: $435
Instructor(s): Mick LaSalle
On-campus course
6:30—9:00 pm
Apr 6—Jun 8
10 weeks
Drop By
Apr 19
2 Units
Mick LaSalle
America in the post-World War II era was a time of fear, new terrors, and moral uncertainty. Out of this malaise came the kind of cinema that we today call “film noir”—crime pictures that presented a despairing portrait of modern life. They showed an America in which the open road had become a dead end, in which the traditional hero found himself besieged and compromised, with no faith in a benevolent universe, and with darkness crowding in from all sides. Suddenly everything was dangerous, whether following a dream or falling in love with the girl next door.

This course will introduce you to the lurid crime films of the 1940s and 1950s, a world of dark alleys and long shadows, tawdry seductions, and evil sirens luring men to destruction. The course will focus on the noir films featuring ruthless, evil women. These characters were played by some of the most forceful and alluring women of the period—Jane Greer, Ava Gardner, Gloria Grahame, Lizabeth Scott, and others— starring opposite such male icons as Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum. Through film clips and feature films, some popular and some rare, we will explore the meaning of this 20th-century femme fatale, her roots in 19th-century art, and her origins in early cinema. We will see how she thrives in eras in which sex is associated with danger, as the embodiment of two distinct ideas, one paranoid and one romantic: sex can be fatal, but that it’s probably worth the risk.

Mick LaSalle, Film Critic, Hearst Newspapers

Mick LaSalle is the author of three books: Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood, Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of Modern Man, and The Beauty of the Real: What Hollywood Can Learn from Contemporary French Actresses. He writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, and other Hearst newspapers.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.