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A voice with hormones: the singer, the diva, and the femme fatale in 'A Woman's Secret'

Haworth, Catherine (2011) A voice with hormones: the singer, the diva, and the femme fatale in 'A Woman's Secret'. In: The Diva: An Interdisciplinary Conference, 5-8 July 2011, Liverpool Hope University. (Unpublished)

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1940s Hollywood crime and noir films often draw close associations between the figures of the diva
and the femme fatale, using diegetic performance by female characters to communicate ideas
about criminal or sexual immorality as well as facilitating the more conventional eroticisation of female musicality as spectacle. This link between female criminality and musical performance is particularly apparent in films that feature femmes fatales who are nightclub singers, which commonly draw upon existing stereotypes surrounding popular and 'non-Western' musical styles to articulate their difference. Although most commonly acting as a means of fetishisation and containment, this difference can also be celebrated as a means of resistance to dominant ideologies and as a site of audience engagement with subversive female characters.

These issues are examined in relation to 'A Woman's Secret' (d. Ray; c. Hollaender, 1949). Marian(Maureen O'Hara) and Susan (Gloria Grahame) are musicians, and moments of public and private
performance are used to explore their complex relationship to other characters, each other, and the near-fatal shooting that is the focus of the narrative. Whilst both women are singers, only Susan, in her heavily constructed and artificial guise as 'Estrellita', is a diva; a star persona that is used to reveal the femme fatale lurking beneath her surface allure.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Catherine Haworth
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 13:44
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 11:11


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