Veiled Looks

Claire Trevor’s unique brand of toughness/vulnerability makes her perfect for RAW DEAL’s good/bad girl, one of the few female leads in Mann’s work, and one of the few noir heroines to be granted a VO.

Mann doesn’t really have a particular type of woman he favours, although despite or because of the toughness and violence of his world, he finds plenty of room for strong female characters. But if his leading ladies vary a lot, one thing seems kind of consistent — Mann likes veils!

Flame-haired former cheesecake model Arlene Dahl is a million miles away from Trevor, but she gets a prominently featured veil in REIGN OF TERROR/THE BLACK BOOK. Mann even films her POV as she lifts the veil for a better look at Robert Cummings. Dahl could be a wishy-washy presence if her natural strengths were ignored — Mann emphasises her kittenish sex appeal to the max, and during the early interplay with ex-lover Cummings, real sparks fly.

In STRANGE IMPERSONATION, Brenda Marshall has a strong, plot-motivated reason for her veil, after a chemistry experiment goes wrong, disfiguring her. The crazy plot, probably the least satisfactory Mann ever had to work with, can be laid partially at the door of W. Lee Wilder, Billy’s less smart brother, and a man with a long history of lunatic storylines. Mann complained that his B-movie days were plagued by “actors who could not be made to act,” but Marshall does her best with the nonsense she’s given.

If Mann’s love of veils was influenced by another filmmaker, one supposes it would have to be Josef Von Sternberg. And, obvious differences aside, the master of sadistic violence and the master of tormented masochism would seem like suitable partners in crime.

9 Responses to “Veiled Looks”

  1. The nastiest veiled lady would have to be Macha Meril in Aldo Lado’s NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS. (Thinking of the killer in WHO SAW HER DIE?, it seems that Lado rather liked mixing veils and sadism.)

  2. David Boxwell Says:

    Allan Dwan gets a career-capping performance out of Dahl in the Alton-lensed Technicolor noir SLIGHTLY SCARLET (56). She plays a “nimpermaniac” (as we used to call ’em here in Tennessee Williams country . . .)

    STRANGE iMPERSONATION: of course it’s a crazy plot–it’s all in her subconscious! What divided lab scientist/pretty “girl” in the 1940s would NOT have had troubled dreams about “keeping a man”–even one as dull as William Gargan?

  3. I like William Gargan because his name is William Gargan. All though he ain’t so Gargan-tuan.

    Strange Imp‘s dream sequence is so heavily signposted, and the plot so insane, the best surprise would have been for it to turn out to be real. That would have blown my mind!

    Love the two redheads in Slightly Scarlet. Didn’t love Night Train Murders, but it admittedly was impressively horrible. And I like Aldo Lado because his first name is an anagram of his second name. And vice versa. How did he got from AD-ing on The Conformist to making an Italian splatter remake of The Virgin Spring? (His Short Night of Glass Dolls is a head-scratching masterpiece!)

  4. Here’s Arlene Dahl’s son in my all-time fave “Guilty Pleasure” (TV division)

  5. And speaking of veils. . .

  6. NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS is indeed a nasty piece of work and, as in SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS, the greatest source of evil is always for Lado the upper classes. In the extras, he comments on the symbolic importance of Macha’s veil. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT rip-offs were all the rage in 70s Italy – Bava’s RABID DOGS and David Hess’ work for Pasquale Festa Campanile (co-writer on ROCCO and THE LEOPARD) and (inevitably) Ruggero Deodato all spring to mind.

    And Irene Miracle lived up to her name. Debuting in NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS and then making it through MIDNIGHT EXPRESS and Argento’s INFERNO. What a trooper! Apparently she’s a budding director nowadays.

  7. In happier A-Movie days, here’s Brenda Marshall (Mrs Bill Holden) crooning a little Korngold for Dame Flora’s pleasure (starts 06:25).

  8. L’Armata Brancaleone looked so amazing (costumes by the chap who did Juliette of the Spirits) I immediately went after a copy. No luck with subtitles though!

    I love the sepia-tinted section of The Sea Hawk!

  9. “It’s my turn to entertain you” — Has someone been listening to DON GIOVANNI? (cf. the Commendatore to Don Giovanni)

    I love the Korngold song, which (according to IMDb) was dubbed by Sally Sweetland.

    *Schadenfreude*, late-Romantic music on the soundtrack, Art Deco set designs … ah, ’30s Warners!

    In the meanwhile, here’s the Veil Song in Verdi’s “Don Carlo,” sung at the Met by Tatiana Troyanos. (Me, I prefer Shirley Verrett in the role, but this was the best version I could find).

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