Dangerous and enigmatic women have fascinated people for centuries. In the
United States, the femme fatale emerged during the post-war era as one of the most
common archetypes in crime fiction and noir film, both genres which often perpetuated
extremely masculine ideologies. Many scholars have examined the role that traditional
male notions of the femme fatale play in popular culture, but what happens when these
notions are complicated because the archetype materializes out of a woman’s pen? In
Vera Caspary’s 1943 detective novel Laura, the role of the femme fatale is obfuscated.
Who is the femme fatale in this piece? The woman who embodies the traditional
characteristics of this character but is ultimately harmless, or the feminine male who
turns out to be the murderer? This question is explored again, and in new ways, in Otto
Preminger’s 1944 film version.
"Dames Are Always Pulling a Switch on You": The Disruption of the Femme Fatale in "Laura".
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