By David Greven
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Extra resources for Representations of Femininity in American Genre Cinema: The Woman’s Film, Film Noir, and Modern Horror
Further noticing a note pinned to her dress, Jerry asks her if someone has been playing a joke on her. “Unpin it, please,” tautly comments Charlotte. ” “So your wings are borrowed,” responds Jerry, not quite as adept at smoothing over awkward moments as he attempts to be. He reassures her that the dress suits her no less well, but Charlotte will have none of it. “Someone is playing a joke, only it’s far funnier than you conceive,” she tells him, with barely contained emotion. Transformations of the Woman’s Film O 33 Through its employment of a deeply familiar, obvious symbol of change, this scene openly acknowledges the centrality of the theme of transformation to the woman’s film.
The widowed Mrs. Vale simultaneously wants Charlotte to marry well (she approves of Charlotte’s eventual suitor Elliot Livingston, dull but well born) and to keep her daughter all to herself—“No man is ever good enough,” Charlotte observes. The mother’s simultaneous desire to marry off and to preserve her daughter in this film evokes the Demeter-Persephone myth, especially in that Mrs. Vale’s most urgently felt motive appears to be holding onto Charlotte no matter what the costs. At the start of the film, Charlotte crawls downstairs from her room, her secret lair, where, locking the door behind her, she barricades herself from the world, from her mother’s pitiless gaze and endless need as well as the unceasing barbs of her young, caustic niece June (Bonita Granville).
Her first words in the film, spoken to Jaquith, slyly and challengingly alert him to her awareness of the psychiatric proclivity for jargon, with its implications for sexist power relations; she satirizes his role as her would-be savior. While there is a suggestion that Charlotte is attracted to Jaquith (the way Bette Davis delivers the line in which Charlotte compliments Jaquith on his hands after he has been self-deprecating about them, and then gives him one of the ivory boxes she hand carves), the film will treat the relationship more and more skeptically.