Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ann Savage (1921-2008)


Christmas 2008 saw the passing of a legendary film noir femme fatale, Ann Savage. Best known for her role in the 1945 noir classic, Detour, Savage died at the age of 87.

When Megan Abbott edited Busted Flush Press's 2007 female noir anthology, A Hell of a Woman, she added a 50-page appendix of essays by authors, booksellers, critics, and aficionados of the genre, in which they were asked to pay homage to their favorite noir writers, characters, and performers. Critic /crime writer Tribe contributed a short piece on Ms. Savage, and with his permission, it's reprinted here:

"From her first appearance at the side of the road in Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour (1945) you know Ann Savage is why hitchhikers have a bad name. All skin-tight sweater, wind-swept hair, an icy look that should freeze over the hellish desert landscape, venomous sneer, she plays Vera with all the subtlety of Kali, the Hindu Triple Goddess of fertility, death and regeneration. When she suddenly turns to face schmuck Al Roberts (Tom Neal) for the first time in the middle of his soliloquy, you fully expect her to sprout another set of arms, stick her tongue out to her navel, rip his head off, and have her way with the corpse. That’s the mojo she radiates in Detour. Sex and death. Robert Graves knew it. Once in proximity to the Queen Bitch, you're touched forever. Besides, Kali ultimately kills everyone in the end. Is it really a surprise that actor Tom Neal would shoot his real-life wife in the back of the head with a .45 twenty-years later?"

[In the author's own words: "Tribe fancies himself a critic and writer, but obviously does neither terribly well. Tribe has had short stories published in various print and internet sources including Plots With Guns."]

We also asked noir novelist Christa Faust (author of Money Shot) to say a few words, too: "Ann Savage was a brilliant, beautiful actress with amazing talent and range, but to me she will always be Vera in Detour. Sweaty and disheveled, venomous and ferociously sexual, Vera was less of a constructed, conniving femme fatale than an unstoppable force of nature. Savage imbued that character with a raw, aggressive and almost masculine power that evokes the same kind of dangerous, unpredicable animal magnetism exhibited by Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill. She was, unquestionably, a hell of a woman."

[Christa provided an essay in A Hell of a Woman on 1950s pulp writer Helen Nielsen, as well as an original noir story, "Cutman."]

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