'Touch of Evil' and Redemptive Dames

Kristen Dunst in "Touch Of Evil" videoclip from The New York Times, December 2012

A video gallery of cinematic villainy, inspired by nefarious icons and featuring the best performers from the year in film. Source: www.nytimes.com

Marlene Dietrich as Tanya in "Touch of Evil" (1958) directed by Orson Welles

"Perhaps the most extreme variation on the redemptive femme fatale, however, occurs at the end of the film noir cycle in 'Touch of Evil'. When corrupt police chief Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) is pursued by UN narcotics agent Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston), he finds temporary refuge in a brothel that he used to visit regularly.

There, Marlene Dietrich's madame — like the good woman of earlier noir films — represents for Quinlan an idealized and unattainable past. Tanya has all of the surface characteristics of a mysterious spider woman: long, dark hair, earrings, a foreign accent, heavy makeup, and an ever-present cigarette trailing smoke that obscures the jaded expression on her face. Yet, as each of Quinlan's friends abandons him, Tanya alone remains true to Quinlan and at least for a moment - helps him escape both from Vargas and from his own self-created demons. The film implies that she loved him, and indeed she is the only person who appreciates the tragedy of his fall and seems moved by his death. In contrast to Dietrich's redemptive prostitute,

Suzy Vargas (Janet Leigh) embraces her traditional role within the status quo family.

But in this film, as in Pitfall, D.O.A., The Big Heat, and Kiss Me Deadly, the traditional woman has become a source of danger, vulnerability, and restraint rather than redemption. Source: www.lib.berkeley.edu

Quinlan: Come on, read my future for me.
Tanya: You haven't got any.
Quinlan: Hmm? What do you mean?
Tanya: Your future's all used up.
– "Touch of Evil" (1958)

John Garfield, Janet Leigh, Gene Kelly and Joseph Cotten in a photo issued as publicity for the 'Hollywood Players' radio show (1947)

John Garfield and Shelley Winters in "He Ran All The Way" (1951) directed by John Berry

Norman Lloyd plays John Garfield's partner in crime in "He Ran All The Way" (1951). Lloyd worked with Orson Welles and John Houseman and later with Hitchcock. He was twice nominated for an Emmy and his film credits include "Saboteur" (1942) and "Spellbound" (1945). John Berry, "He Ran All The Way"´s director, got his start working with Orson Welles and John Houseman and was active in the late 40s. Shortly before making this film he made "Hollywood 10" (1950) about the persecution of actors and directors by HUAC, and this earned him a place on the blacklist and virtually ended his career in the US.

John Garfield entertains a USO show at the Hollywood Canteen

"All he (John Garfield) cared about was acting and dames." -Actor Dane Clark

President Roosevelt invited John Garfield back to the White House early in 1944 to thank him for his efforts in support of the country's war drive, from his bond-raising tours to the formation of the Hollywood Canteen. Though the meeting lasted for less than a halfhour, Garfield was honored. "There I was, a kid from the Bronx, meeting with the President," he later recalled. "That's democracy -that's wonderful." The State Department had cleared the way for a USO Tour of North Africa and Italy. Garfield signed on to emcee the tour, which included comedian Eddie Foy Jr., dancer Sheila Rogers, accordionist Olga Klein, and actress Jean Darling. The group called themselves the USO Camp Show Troupers.

John Garfield and Phyllis Thaxter in "The Breaking Point" (1950) directed by Michael Curtiz

Garfield's willingness to join the tour was due to more than just patriotism. He still had that need to prove himself; the same need that stoked his desire for women. The tour was scheduled to depart New York in February 1944.