FILM COSTUME - WOMEN IN FILM NOIR
Series in 5 parts
5 - A kiss is just a kiss: LAUREN BACALL in DARK PASSAGE
MASCULINE FEMININE GIRL
Delmer Davesí film DARK PASSAGE, 1947, forms the post-war type of the MASCULINE FEMININE GIRL. A womanly image - emancipated and independent, clever and everlasting sympathetic. Unlike the stereotype of the GOOD GIRL, this woman expresses her interest in sex openly. Without falling into too many emotions, her motto is: ĄA kiss is just a kiss!ď
Nobody else than Hollywood-Beauty LAUREN BACALL was the ideal personification of the attractive MASCULINE FEMININE GIRL. The unpretentious costumes come from BERNARD NEWMAN, a costume designer with an unusual career. Beginning at Bergdorf Goodmann in New York, the talented Newman advanced from a window-dresser to chief designer. Later he moved to Hollywood, designing film fashion for Warner Brothers in the years 1946/47.
The MASCULINE FEMININE GIRL is an active buddy-type with an implicit tendency to motherliness. Consequently sexuality has to play only a subordinate role. This can also be seen clearly in the dress code - there is no use of erotic variants whatsoever. Simple elegance and clear lines determine the appearance. Two-part combinations for the day (blouse and swinging-out skirt) and a universal dress for home dominate. The silhouettes as well as the striking shoulder accentuation of the costumes correspond with the forms of the 40sí years fashion.
Already LAUREN BACALLís first appearance is characteristic of the structure of the iconographic sign system. As an escape agent, Irene Jansen, she wears a two-part day ensemble: narrow blouse, with black bow, of black/white large-squared material, swinging out knee-length skirt of light-gray wool jersey. An outfit already referring to the ambivalence of availability/independence, work, seriousness, and a tendency towards passive willingness.
DESIGNS TELL MORE - THE SQUARE
Above all, the massive use of a geometrical design is remarkable at Matrix 2 (cf. part 1). Four times (total number of costumes 8) the square connotes features like work, activity, seriousness and independence. Squares usually imply hard work and refer to people who take life seriously. Seeing the characteristics of the iconographic sign system in conjunction with the contents of the scenes, a specific vestmental message is shown. Mostly the outfits of the MASCULINE FEMININE GIRL visualize reliable-looking security - an unproblematic female partner -, especially when the male protagonist (Humphrey Bogart) is dependent on LAUREN BACALLís help. By using designs constantly various possibilities for the characterization of femininity arise - cf. INDEPENDENT GIRL, part 3 of the series.
The styling is decently reserved but feminine. The hairdo flatters: the brunette sholderlong hair is mostly worn openly. The few accessoires and the rare jewelry remain inconspicuous. The court shoes are mostly flat (considering the size problem Bacall-Bogart) and combined with skin colored stockings.
Photos: DARK PASSAGE, Delmer Daves, Warner Brothers 1947, 106 min
© Rosa Burger, MA 1997
Tel. +43 1 535 94 09
FILM COSTUME - WOMEN IN FILM NOIR
Masterís thesis, University of Vienna, 1993.
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