Facts, not feelings, right? Wrong. The film’s biggest antagonist, Juror 3 (Lee J. Cobb) is a loud-mouthed, bad-tempered bully who is not used to having his authority questioned. One by one, he tries to intimidate the other jurors and ends up clashing with Juror 8 in one of the film’s most iconic scenes. Eventually, we learn that his feelings about the defendant (‘rotten kids!’) are really a reflection of his feelings towards his estranged son, whom he hasn’t spoken to for some years. After a fiery monologue fuelled by his denial, he crumbles and finally changes his vote from ‘guilty’ to ‘not guilty’, the last juror to do so. One of the film’s flashier roles, Juror 3 serves as a cautionary tale about what happens when people aren’t challenged when in a position of (some) power. He is also a testament to the need for conversation and open-minded discussions about feelings that so many people refuse to acknowledge.
The coolest named screenwriter of them all is our SCREENPLAY BY star for Noirvember! Born in Samsun, Turkey in 1908, Albert Isaac Bezzerides emigrated with his family to the United States, settling in Fresno, California when he was two years old. During his time at the University of California, Berkeley, he published a short story, Passage into Eternity, in the Story Magazine, before writing the novel The Long Haul, which he adapted himself into They Drive By Night (1940, dir. Raoul Walsh). What followed was a streak of films noir, including Desert Fury (1947, dir. Lewis Allen), Thieves’ Highway (1949, dir. Jules Dassin), based on Bezzerides’ own novel Thieves’ Market, and On Dangerous Ground (1952, dir. Nicholas Ray). In 1955, came what is perhaps his greatest achievement. Based on Mickey Spillane’s novel of the same name, the screenplay of Kiss Me Deadly (dir. Robert Aldrich) was a turning point in the film noir universe, with its apocalyptic, allegorical and nihilistic style, as well as one of the first examples of ‘the great whatsit’ motif in the form of the glowing briefcase, which is still a beloved trope to this day (lookin’ at you, Quentin!). Ten years after this, he created the Western series The Big Valley with Louis F. Edelman. A prolific and underrated writer, A. I. Bezzerides died in 2007 at the age of 98.
The Femme Fatale is one of the most iconic tropes in film noir, but what about their male counterparts? Granted, the very creation of the femme fatale is deeply rooted in attributes that we associate with female characters and while we’d be hard-pressed to find a film noir that explores the ‘homme fatale’ as thoroughly as a femme fatale, with similar motifs and as instantly recognizable, who’s to say that some of those qualities aren’t applicable to male characters in certain films? After all, aren’t Gilda and Johnny equally ‘fatale’ to each other? Here are 5 hommes fatale you may not have realized are hommes fatale.
Steve Cochran in Private Hell 36 (1954, dir. Don Siegel) – When I covered this incredibly underrated gem last year, I referred to Cal Bruner as the slyest, smoothest of hommes fatale and I stand by that. One of the noir’s most corrupt cops, Bruner charms his out of trouble, seducing everyone in his path, from his girlfriend Lily (Ida Lupino) to his best friend, fellow cop Jack (Howard Duff). He is also one of noir’s most underrated villains.
Dennis O’Keefe in Raw Deal (1948, dir. Anthony Mann) – From using his girlfriend Pat (Claire Trevor) to help him get out of prison to kidnapping his other girlfriend Ann (Marsha Hunt) before going on the run with the two of them, Joe Sullivan is easily one of the caddiest hommes fatale of the bunch. The lack of backstory makes it even harder for us to sympathize with him, like we probably would with so many femmes fatale.
Alain Delon in Purple Noon (1960, dir. Rene Clement) – In the first adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr Ripley, the outrageously beautiful Alain Delon is Tom Ripley at his most devious, scheming and irresistible… Probably one of the best examples of a homme fatale, he seduces the audience as well as Marge (Marie Laforet)… and how could he not?
Glenn Ford in Gilda (1946, dir. Charles Vidor) – Perhaps the most electric of all film noir couples, Johnny and Gilda (Rita Hayworth) are equally toxic and bad for each other and oh so desperately in love. And while she’s easily one of the most iconic femmes fatale (and characters, period) in film noir, we can’t ignore the effect Johnny has on her (and her husband) throughout the movie…
Richard Conte in The Big Combo (1955, dir. Joseph H. Lewis) – One of the few hommes fatale who, like a femme fatale, literally uses sex at one point to get what he wants. When the villainous Mr Brown fears that he may be losing Susan (Jean Wallace), he, uhm, goes down on her… Yep, that’s right. It is one of the most erotic, sensual and sexual scenes in all of film noir…
And on that note, happy Noirvember!