Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know – Femme Fatales

femmefatals-01Salome by Pierre Bonnaud, Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946), Mermaid by John William Waterhouse & Anna Chapman (the Russian spy)

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know
French: femme = woman
+ fatale = deadly
= Deadly Women

Femme Fatale
1. An irresistibly attractive woman, of great seductive charm who leads men into compromising or dangerous situations.
2. An alluring, mysterious woman.

femmefatals-04Jessica Rabbit, Theda Bara as Cleopatra (1917), Kali (the Goddess of death & empowerment), Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in Sunset Boulevard (1950)

A femme fatale is a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare the men around her, often leading them into compromising, dangerous and disastrous situations. She uses her feminine wiles such as beauty, charm and sexual allure for her own ends. Her ability to entrance and toy with her victims is almost supernatural – they are ‘under her spell’ or mesmerized by her overtly feminine powers. And thus often described as an enchantress, seductress, vamp or witch.

The Femme Fatale is etched into our psyches in a myriad of ways. She can be found at the very beginning in the bible and in myths, she is both worshiped or revered. Found in art and paintings, in literature, comic books, pulp fiction and films. But, she is not just an archetype, she is very real we can find her in our history books or in modern political scandals.  So here is my compendium of Femme Fatales…

femmefatals-03Lucrezia Borgia by Bartolomeo Veneziano, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) in Basic Instinct, The Postman Always Rings Twice ‘Hard Boiled’ pulp & Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) from the new TV Sherlock

Mistress Sidonia’s Compendium of Femme Fatales

Mythology: Pandora, Sirens & Mermaids, Vampires, Morgan le Fay, Circe, Clytemnestra, Medea, Yuki-onna, Ishtar, Kali
Biblical: Eve, Salome, Delilah, Judith, Jezebel, Lillith
Historical: Cleopatra, Lucrezia Borgia, Mata Hari, Maggie Meller
Literary: Sidonia von Bork by Lady Wilde; Black Venus by Angela Carter; Salomé by Oscar Wilde; Brides of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Rebecca by Daphine du Marrier; Marguerite in La Dame aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas fils; Cora in The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
Opera: Violetta in La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, Delilah in Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saëns
Film Noir Leading Ladies (known for playing femme fatales): Barbara Stanwick, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner, Betty Davis, Rita Hayworth, Vivian Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, Theda Bara, Glenn Close, Ava Gardner, Kathleen Turner
Comic Characters: Jessica Rabbit, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Electra, Devil Girls, Harley Quinn, Mystique
Alternative Art (often drawn by): Coop, Vince Ray, Sardax
Kinky Models: Betty Page, Tana Louise, Tempest Storm
TV Characters: Emma Peel (The Avengers 1961), Irene Adler (Sherlock 2010), Catwoman (Batman 1966)
Cinema (classic femme fatale films): Double Indemnity 1944, Basic Instinct 1992, Sunset Boulevard 1950, Poison Ivy 1992, Body Heat 1981, The Crush 1993, The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946 & 1981, Bound 1996, Wild Things 1998, The Wicked Lady 1945, Dangerous Liaisons 1988, Fatal Attraction 1987, Gilda 1946, The Blue Angel 1930, The Killers 1946 & Murder, My Sweet 1944.
Animal: The female Black Widow spider
Political: Kola Boof, Anna Chapman

Catwoman (Julie Newmar), Barbara Stanwyck from Double Indemnity, Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) from The Avengers & Devil Girl by artist Coop

About Mistress Sidonia

Supreme Ruler of The English Mansion. Leather clad 'n' booted bitch, highly sexed, cruel male slave owner and trainer.
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7 Responses to Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know – Femme Fatales

  1. Comfortface says:

    Interesting list. I would have added some more to the Opera list: Turandot, Ortrud (Lohengrin), Venus (Tannhäuser), Salomé, Klytemnestra (Elektra), Musetta (La Boheme)…

  2. robphillack says:

    I like your steal from Byron.

    I think you would enjoy Ceres, by John William Waterhouse, and perhaps you could add it to your collection.


    • Yes, Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses, is beautiful. Actually, we made a film last year titled ‘The Sisters of Circe’, you’ll have to take a look.

  3. robphillack says:

    I meant Circe, not Ceres. 🙁


  4. robphillack says:

    How about Jael and Sisera (Bible), or Judith and Holofernes (Ditto), or indeed Salome (Bible and later – including Oscar Wilde)?

    “Mad, bad and dangerous to know” was a woman’s description of Lord Byron – as I am sure you realise. It would be good to have a neat caption for a wicked woman. I’ll ponder.


  5. drake says:

    A valuable list that provides with many references to explore the subject of the Femme Fatale, Mistress. I’m curious to know what your thoughts on 1993’s Body of Evidence are, especially since it wasn’t included in your list…

    “…she is very real we can find her in our history books or in modern political scandals.” Or at the English Mansion, of course.


  6. Iany says:

    For a modern noir femme-fatale icon check out Linda Fiorentino’s Bridget in the Last Seduction.

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